Bullied by my fears, my journey to happiness.
Tormented as a child
From the ages of seven to fourteen I was the victim of verbal violence. Because the people committing this violence were adults and were really close to my father, I believed the things they said to me were true. During this time, I also saw my mother attacked by the same people who were harassing me and the resulting shame I felt festered.
At the age of seventeen I decided I hated myself and I was convinced I was unfit for life. I saw myself as stupid and ugly, a usurper, a fraud who was responsible for all of the misery around me. It didn’t take much to convince me that things would have been better if I’d never been born.
My Grandparents, Papi and Miman
My Grandparents’ house in Northern France where I spent half of my vacations was the only one place in the world where I felt safe and wanted. Papi and Miman offered me unconditional love. Their home was a place of kindness and joy where I could be the innocent, happy child I wanted to be. Here, I was free to say what was in my heart without fear of retribution, and could exist as a person instead of as a shadow trying to hide myself from the verbal I could endure.
Unfit for Life
Around the age of nineteen I had to face becoming an adult and found myself frozen by fear. The words that had bullied and plagued me most of my life had become overwhelming, suffocating, and I felt a hopelessness settle into my way of thinking. The words were right, I couldn’t handle adulthood. Once this idea had insinuated itself into my thoughts, a violent panic took over my very core and I lost everything. Even my ability to receive my grandparents’ love and joy, the only true peace I’d ever experienced in my life, was gone. I was adrift.
Living in constant terror of a life at which I was unfit to succeed and without the hope of ever being happy again, I chose to give up. I stopped being able to eat. What followed was a sense of relief. I told myself this would be easier than life, something at which I would succeed. I no longer had to think about the future. Instead, losing weight, starvation, the pain in my stomach, and the hope of a quick death consumed me.
My mother tried to get me to eat, but as a teenager I invoked my right not to listen to her.
Papi and Miman Saved my Life
I was finally proud of myself. I was succeeding in something I had set out to do and everything was perfect. But this false pride didn’t last.
At the time, I was living with my mother in the South of France. I told my therapist I missed my grandparents and wished I could be with them, to which she immediately responded with surprise, “Why aren’t you going, then?” Why wasn’t I? There was no good answer to that question, so that same night I boarded a train to Northern France, to Papi and Miman. However, my life there was not what I had expected it to be.
Papi and Miman were not shy about discussing my eating disorder, especially my grandfather. For weeks, the walls of their house vibrated with our screams, his as he courageously confronted me and tried to get me to eat at every meal, mine as I denied and rejected his help. He wasn’t put off by my aggression though, even when I left the room and slammed the door in his face.
When we weren’t fighting, Papi and Miman made it clear they would never give up. They loved me like their own daughter, and seeing me in this much pain was unbearable for them. It was seeing their hurt and determination that finally touched my heart. Slowly--very slowly--I started to eat.
Years of Depression
My decision to stay alive wasn’t one I had made for myself, or because I felt a renewed taste for life, it was one I had made for my grandparents. Even though I began to look more alive on the outside, on the inside I felt dead. The way I viewed myself and my life had not changed and my mind continued to bully me with thoughts of unworthiness and ineptitude. My ability to surrender to my grandparents’ love was gone.
For years, I tried to reestablish this connection to them, but in doing so I made a lot of bad decisions, which only further convinced me the traitorous voice of the bully in my mind was speaking the truth. During this time, I loathed myself for not having finished my anorexia. I compared my attempt at it to other girls who were dying of it, and the only thing I felt was envy.
The inner voice of fear and depression grew larger as time went on, and to me, it always sounded like the voices of the adults from my childhood.
A New Start
In the summer of 2009 I told my mother about a psychologist I was seeing who had introduced me to the tool of meditation. This made her think of a book she had just read and thought I would enjoy called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. So I read it. Actually, I devoured it, and from that day on my life has never been the same.
The subject of the book was fairly abstract and I didn’t understand everything I read, but the words seemed to vibrate with a truth I had been searching for forever. As a child, I asked many questions about existence (Who are we? Why are we on this planet? What is our purpose? Where does the universe stops and what’s on the other side of it?), and was excited to discover that someone else had put into words exactly what I had always felt; I was more than just the reflection I saw in the mirror.
Eagerly, I began to practice Eckhart Tolle’s idea of being in the present moment to connect to who I really was, but as so often happens, the initial charge of euphoria didn’t last. I discovered the difference between understanding the meanings of words, of feeling the hope they offered while reading them, and experiencing their truths in the real world. Eckhart Tolle made it sound easy to live in the present moment and be happy, but for me it wasn’t.
For the first time, though, I was determined not to let this stop me. I would find a way to reach this inner wellbeing Eckhart Tolle described in his book!
A Long Journey to my Inner State of Joy
The Power of Now was only the first book on my path of recovery. I read many more, attended workshops, and found that many, like me, were suffering emotionally. I also found that surviving a harsh childhood wasn’t a prerequisite for pain and met many people who had endured the most unimaginable traumas. Yet, they had found a way to let go of the negativity to find their own inner happiness and they inspired me to keep my hope alive and keep trying.
Slowly, I began to understand that my differences, which had always been the source of ridicule as a child, were actually my own unique expressions of life which we all possess. Rather than be ashamed of these and try to rid ourselves of them in an attempt to fit someone else’s idea of what we should be, I learned we should express them fiercely and proudly.
Little by little, my inner state of being began to change.
It started as glimpses of joy here and there seen between long periods of doubt and struggle as my negativity continued to try to force its way back in. These moments were frustrating, but I didn’t give up. I continued to meditate and work on changing the way I perceived life and myself, by changing both the way I thought and the words I used. Gradually, those brief glimmers of joy came more often and stayed longer. Then one day while meditating, I suddenly experienced intense, euphoric flutters in my belly and my life changed again.
This beautiful, ticklish joy was the same I had felt with my grandparents as a child, and I came to a realization: even if it was my grandparents’ unconditional love that had helped me to achieve this intense state of happiness, it had always been up to me to kindle it and keep it alive. I was (and still am to this day) utterly grateful to my grandparents for taking my hand and showing me the way.
The Birth of Mystic
This realization made me feel powerful. I alone owned my happiness and no one could take it away. It became easier to quiet my fear when it attacked, and, more often than not, I found myself living the life I was meant to. At the same time, an intense desire to share with others what I had learned and practice every day arose within me. As if fated, I came across an amazing illustration of an elephant sitting in quiet companionship on a bench with a cat, and my mind began to work.
Mystic and the Secret of Happiness was born.