- 2016, Wow! Just, Wow. So Many Endings and Beginnings
2016, what a year you've been!
This year I found out that not everyone knows the story of my body. As a personal trainer of 15 years, I had lazily begun to believe that most people knew at least a few of the the reasons why I became a personal trainer. Much like our political awakening this year, and quite like the fact that we can never assume that we know why others say the things that they say; I cannot possibly think that people will empathize with me, and be compassionate towards me, naturally. They simply don't know the story of my life, and the history of what my body has been through.
Bodies reveal lessons to us that we aren't always prepared to learn, and they help us to admit the truth to ourselves and to others.
- My 1st Failed Attempt at Healing my Body
My body started to encourage me to be an honest woman in college. From 1992 to 1996 I tried to stop throwing up. I had been bulimic since the age of 12 and deeply in denial. Somehow it became apparent to me in college, that my secret double-life was inhibiting me from forming deeper bonds with my new friends. I thought that simply by stopping the process of binging and purging I would grow up, learn to trust people and form intimate and intricate understandings. I did not. Instead, I became quite depressed and gained 30 pounds. Hello 178 pounds, hello to a deeper feeling of isolation.
I ended up living in a small, rural town in Vermont where I moved in with my boyfriend, David. Once he asked me to go get Chinese food with him in town. I said yes, and grabbed my car keys. David stood at the door, looking at me perplexed, and earnestly said, "But town is only 3 blocks away. We can walk there." It was a revelation for me. I had seen, 'The Gods Must Be Crazy,' growing up. Driving 3 blocks didn't seem bizarre. I had privacy in the car. I was civilized.
- Exercising in Private, a Step Up
David got me to go hiking in the woods, where there was no need to feel self-conscious. (That is one of the reasons why Pongo Power is not plastered with mirrors. There is no need to make people feel self-conscious.) Soon, we were jogging up the hill and walking down as a reward. And towards the end of my time living in Vermont, I was jogging with two 2 pound stones, one in each hand, and performing something called, "Heavy Hands," where I'd jog with my hands either by my sides or overhead.
- Returning to Good Ole' NYC & a Sad Return to the Pain Cycle
Two years later, I moved back home to New York. Come to find out, jogging with two rocks in Central Park didn't feel quite as normal as it did in the mountains of Vermont. Instead it felt mortifying. The embarrassment dawned on me in slow horrifying motion as I once again imploded. After signing up for the NYC Marathon in 1999 with the Team in Training, I realized that I was strong but I had more issues than I could have imagined.
My knees had begun to swell up like balloons. My neck was so, so tight at that point, from all the heavy-handed jogging (pun intended) that I had a chronic pain in my neck and couldn't turn my head. On top of everything else, my jaw was beginning to lock because throughout all of this I had still not made it to therapy. I was bulimic, quite incapable of expressing my feelings by putting them into words. Lock jaw and a pain in the neck: what a perfect metaphor.
Let us add to this formula, the physiological effect of refusing to share my true feelings with people. Behaving in a manner that I thought to be acceptable (in order to please people) was unfulfilling because it was not genuine. I was trying to counterbalance all of this meaningless communication by controlling my food through binging and purging, and controlling my body with exercise. The lack of control that I had over my emotions became so palpable, due to all of the overcompensating, that I ended up with severe migraine headaches... oh, about 5 to 6 days a week. In fact, if I didn't get a migraine headache, it was an exceptional day.
It was 2001, and I was quite certain that I had a brain tumor. I started going to every type of doctor possible. I had officially become suicidal but I really didn't want to die. No one could help: no brain tumor. Going to a family therapist with my mom was helping a bit (she didn't want me to die either). My body and my brain were hurting. I was in severe pain and felt like I was on death's door. It was like being 107 years old, at age 27.
I finally realized that I needed to devote myself to sharing my truth with others, in order to heal, and also to start exercising in a way that was less compulsive and more about wellness. If you've ever wondered why Pongo Power is as amazing, as safe, and as supportive as we can be, it is because I know first-hand how each teacher, each body-worker, and each personal trainer helped to save my life along the way. I enrolled in acting school, and asked my local gym if I could get a job as a personal trainer. I did this even though I was 20 pounds overweight, my knees were killing me, my neck hurt so much that I wanted to take a sledgehammer to it, and I was worried that I had a brain tumor. Even though I was bulimic, it was a meaningful job where I could re-wire my brain to trust in science and in others.
Fortunately for me, I was quite good at being a personal trainer. Come to find out that I truly love teaching people. Also, it turns out, I am a terrible actor. I got kicked out of acting school, but stuck with personal training. About 2 years into being a personal trainer I learned the corrective exercises and neurolinguistic skills that I needed to re-train my brain and undo my pain. By listening to my body I was able to make the changes that I needed in my life to save myself.
I started going to therapy once a week and began seeing a nutritionist 2 days a week. I told all of my clients that I was bulimic. I was terrified, but they all congratulated me and told me that they were proud of me.
I am no longer bulimic. I think the last time I threw up was in 2006. Wow! One decade ago! I now share my feelings freely and I work to build healthy relationships that are quite rewarding. My knees are fine now. Both my rotator cuffs have healed. I no longer get headaches, nor lock-jaw, and I don't exercise compulsively.
I just completed my first Olympic Distance Triathlon this 2016, the NYC Triathlon. I swam in the Hudson River, biked up the West Side Highway, and ran through Central Park. I enjoyed every minute of it.
In fact, I've completed 3 NYC Marathons without any injuries in the last 15 years. I've also completed 6 Half-marathons, internationally; also without injuries. I own Pongo Power. We are a team of 19 people here. I love my dog very much. I am ready for my next stage of life. I am ready to leave the old me behind. She'll always be a part of my stand-up comedy routine, and my business; but now I can celebrate my emotions through my deep understandings with people, and through my art. I am very pleased with my personal and professional development. I am open and ready for change. I look back on that woman from 2001 and she really feels like a different person to me.
We take great pride in sharing the lessons that we've learned at Pongo Power with everyone we meet. We're here to create a safe space to undo compensation patterns and to help others to save themselves. People speak poorly of 2016, but I cannot. I am grateful for every day that I'm alive, because I almost didn't make it here. I am grateful for all of the people in my life, and I am more certain than ever before, that through listening carefully to one another, we can help to save each other from the terrible pain and hardship that ignoring our bodies ensures. We can do this. We need to listen to our bodies and to each other, in order to not only survive, but also to grow beyond the old limitations. It is time to share our truth. It is the only way we can be free.