Turning forty took its toll on me. For whatever reason, my body, mind and spirit decided to wait until the big 4-0 to tell me to fuck off. Although I have always been health conscious and alternative in my beliefs about health and wellness, I struggled like many other people, with food and other addictions. I was a smoker since I was 15 (I quit while pregnant and breast feeding but then started right up again as soon as I was done), I put drugs and alcohol into my body and I harboured self hatred and guilt. All things that will eventually catch up to you… I mean, me…
I get why older people would often berate me for abusing my body by smoking, or staying up for days on end and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I get how retrospect is incredibly enlightening but always a little late.
Yes, if I COULD go back I definitely would have never smoked. I would respect my body more, be a little more of a prude…. And on and on.
But we can’t go back. What we CAN do is look in the mirror and take accountability for our situation, our bodies, our health, our relationships and our overall self.
My biggest weakness in life has been that I don’t ask for help. I can go in to a long explanation of why and dissect all of the situations that have presented themselves throughout my life and how I might have made healthier decisions but the reality is I simply never wanted to be a bother and frankly, a lot of the time, I didn’t trust others to do things as well as I would.
But when you boil it down, asking for help is actually a very empowering ability. It builds self worth and creates healthy bonds with those around you.
I will save it for another blog, but one of the worst things that not asking for help does is make people close to you, like partners and spouses, feel insignificant and helpless. Not a good feeling, especially when that spouse is a man. I actually went through an entire marriage taking on everything myself which ultimately was completely emasculating for my husband. Although it ended for other reasons, in hindsight I was able to take full responsibility for it.
What I have learned only recently about the ability to ask for help is that it might actually save your life.
I had my first child when I was almost 37. Willow is an outstanding child and she has always demanded the attention of those around her. I breastfed her until She was two and co slept until, well, recently. I also worked full time since a few days after she was born. My son, Michael, was born 20 months later. For some reason, throughout the hardest time of my life I was unable to ASK for help and worst of all I had this belief that a part of my strength came from acting as of I didn’t need any help.
Through this time, as sleep became a novelty, my resentment grew. I suppose I was resentful towards my husband for simply not being able to read my mind and his inability to shake me out of my self inflicted DIY coma. I was resentful towards myself for not being a normal person with a normal career who could take a real maternity leave and spend meaningful time with my kids. I had so much guilt and anger and resentment and I just couldn’t ask for help.
As it turned out, during the peak of my drowning in these terrible feelings and an enormous amount of work, a feature film that I’d been developing for several years was finally ready to be made. So I decided to dig myself a deeper hole and bury myself with a massive project in addition to the full time as producer of Indspire and my efforts as a parent.
It was during this time that I did ask my husband for help, he knew how much this film meant to me and basically said he would do anything to make my life easier. DESPITE his efforts to take on the kids and the sleep training and the meals and such, I still couldn’t give it all up. Throughout the making of the film, my feelings of guilt compounded as I raced home after a 16 hour day just to prove that I COULD do it all and get home to snuggle with my kids and take on some night time duties.
Basically I was a fucking idiot with a Wonder Woman complex.
As my self esteem dwindled and my world seemed to fall apart at the seams, I began wondering what it is all for. Somehow I had lost sight.
I became blind to my own purpose and begged for a sign to remind me of my purpose.
Several months went by and I still could not GIVE IT UP, I couldn’t SURRENDER!
I was stuck.
My film ended up doing very well (critically) at TIFF in 2013 and even as I stood in front of adoring audiences during our Q & A’s, or as I raced around on a press day or schmoozed from party to party, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of utter exhaustion and unhappiness.
I just. Couldn’t. Do. Any. More.
I had nothing left.
It was early November and my right leg started to hurt. I went to the doctor, then the hospital and nothing. Over the next few days it got worse, to the point where I was completely disabled and couldn’t event get to the bathroom.
I had no choice. I desperately needed help.
As I sobbed in my husbands arms, I admitted that I needed him badly, that I couldn’t live another moment without his help. I needed to be supported, carried and our children needed to be cared for.
I felt useless.
The first thing I did was pray. I went deep inside to begin the long process of releasing emotional toxins. So much came out. Every day I would cry for at least one hour as an exercise in grieving and forgiveness.
I’ve the past several months things have gotten better. I’m still struggling physically and still experience pain and swelling, and the specialists still don’t know what it is, but the most incredible thing has come out of it.
First, I’ve overcome my fear of being needy and my inability to ask for help. My husband has stepped up to the plate in a major way and for the first time in my life I have allowed myself to be supported.
Even though I still release the garbage I’ve been holding onto for many years by meditation and good old tears, I feel more grounded than ever.
I don’t know if it is because I thought I was dying or what, but I’ve experienced a wake up call that has provided me the opportunity to be kinder to myself and open up my ability to receive love in a big way.
I still work hard and remain committed to all of my projects, I still travel a great deal (but less than ever) and I still volunteer and mentor. The difference between now and then (before my disease), is that my spirit is supported in a way that I’ve never allowed it to be and man — it makes a world of difference.
Even as I write this, my ankle is severely swollen and it hurts to move it. My mobility is limited and I walk slow and take the stairs one by one. I live with pain but I continue with my day as normal because right now I feel more alive than ever and because I found the courage to ask for help.
To me, that is true self love.