I have lived most of my life in shame. Deep shame. Ashamed to be who I am. Ashamed that I have come from where I have. Ashamed for my life and my existence. Ashamed to be Grace Van Berkum. When you feel shame like that, you might as well be dead. Today I am going to share something with you that I have never really shared before. Ever.
I was severely abused as a child. It was all I knew because it started so young. I did what I could to survive it all. I became tougher than nails as early as I can remember, probably 3 years old. By 4 years old, I was already an adult. There was no time, nor even opportunity, to be a child. Playing with dolls? Never happened. Playing with friends? That was forbidden. My most frequent childhood game was refusing to cry, show pain, or defeat. At 6, I was in my 1st foster home, which would become a regular occurrence of my childhood.
Tommorrow, I turn 40. There were so many times in my life where I didn’t think I would make it to this point. The abuse that I endured as a child carried over into my teens, and then adult life. Unresolved issues of pain turned into severe sugar and food addictions, then turned into years of out-of-control binge eating, which turned into years of bulimia and starvation tactics. Eat, puke, starve, eat, puke, starve. Food was my drug and food was a way to control my life that was so out of control. After 9 years of binge eating followed by throwing up my food to feel good and to feel safe (sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!), my pain management strategy then transferred into out-of-control substance abuse. My obsession with food stopped but I now had a new obsession. Anything that I could drink, swallow, snort, or smoke to FORGET. Alcohol and drugs numbed my mind and became a temporary vacation from childhood memories that paralyzed me with fear, hatred, and self-loathing. Being blasted out of my head was an opportunity to disconnect from my reality and let go. Debauchery became relaxing and fun. I was at ease for the first time in my life. I never wanted my highs to end for then I would have to deal with my pain again, so I just kept going. Taking more. And more. And more. In essence, getting wasted and high as an adult was the childhood I never had. Sad…but true. This went on for years until my liver started back lashing. My body became more toxic and sleep was becoming non existent. I was slowly killing myself. Yet again.
It had to stop or my body was going to stop things for me.
Somewhere in my 30’s I knew that it was time. Time to be honest. Time to get real. Time to deal with my broken heart and broken soul. I was tired of being a victim. I knew that I couldn’t continue to live like this…slave to patterns and thoughts that were killing me. I knew that I had to step up to the plate and take responsibility for my pain and suffering. I didn’t know how, but I knew it it was time. I also didn’t know if the outcome would be positive. I just didn’t know. But I had to try. For this, I feel most feel grateful. That I had the courage and will to try to live another way.
After years of self-introspection, self-help books, and failed attempts at therapy because I was just too scared to open up to anyone, I realized that it wasn’t about the addictions. It wasn’t about food, it wasn’t about alcohol, it wasn’t about drugs. Those were just symptoms of something much deeper. It was about numbing myself. Distracting myself. I realized I lived with tremendous amounts of shame. I hated myself. I was disgusted with myself. I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer the world. I didn’t feel like I had any right to live. I was stupid. I was ugly. I would never amount to anything. I ruined peoples lives. I didn’t deserve to live. These were the words engrained in me as a child. Continually. And now these words had become my own personal mantras. My mind and body had become programmed to believe all the lies that I was brainwashed with.
“Once you say ‘I want to find Truth’, all your life will be deeply affected by it. All your mental and physical habits, feelings and emotions, desires and fears, plans and decisions will undergo a most radical transformation.” ~~Nisargadatta
My 30’s have been dedicated to my healing. DEDICATED. Every breath I take, every thought I have is centered around how can I be better, how can I be happier, how can I be free from pain. Perhaps I haven’t always made the best decisions, but I know now that I did the best I could at that moment in time and I try not to see them as mistakes. Falling is learning. I try to see them as opportunities for growth that are taking me where I want to go. Freedom.
I have learned that forgiveness heals. Sometime it is hard, but everyday I deligently work on forgiveness. This is how I stop the negativity that sometimes still lingers in my brain. I know that when I can forgive someone who has wronged me, I can also forgive myself. Forgiveness is a form of love. I realize that what I put out into this world, comes right back to me. To hate someone is too hate myself. I can’t live that way. Honestly, sometimes I wish I could.
I don’t hate many things. But I can’t stand the feeling of hate. And I have spent most of my life hating. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with wrong doings, or let someone walk all over me, but I believe in karma and know that they will get what they deserve and I have nothing to do with that. So I let it go. This is the best way for me to be free.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~~Martin Luther King Jr.
I have also learned that happiness takes work. People see my photos all over facebook and assume that I am just happy all the time. Here’s the thing: I AM happy most of the time! BUT, I work hard at it. I know that I need to surround myself with life giving, positive, situations, people, food. I know that if a feeling that comes up for me, based on the negative programming of my childhood (fear, anger, jealousy, judgement, criticism, etc) it is not real and that I can change it. Those feelings are based on past programming that I wasn’t good enough. That I didn’t deserve love. What I have learned is that when I can take a moment to refocus and remind myself that I AM WORTH IT, THAT I COME FROM LOVE….THAT I AM UNIVERSAL ENERGY….then my feelings of broken-ness dissapate. I have learned I can change my thoughts and reactions, right here, right now. I have that power. I don’t have to be a victim to negative thought patterns. I don’t have to be attached to past dramas. I can change it. And guess what…slowly and steadily this is working. I am not the person I once was. My thoughts are now more positive than negative. And my current life is reflective of this. You attract what you project.
“The outward garden is a reflection of the inward garden.” ~~Rumi
I have learned that when my beliefs about myself change, my reality changes. My perception of life is a direct reflection of the perceptions I have of myself. The more I work on becoming whole, becoming positive, I raise my vibrations. When I raise my vibrations, I attract the same vibrational situations and people into my life. Einstein said: everything in life is a vibration. I have experienced this time and time again in my own life. The more I work on loving myself, the more love I attract into my life. To actually be so broken and to watch the miracles life gives you when you start to heal and open your heart, is truly an amazing (and often surreal) experience. I am in control. I know this now. My life is now mine and for me to choose how I wish to mold it.
“You are a born creator. You are always creating, you can’t help it. You were given the power of choice. Other animals rely mostly on instinct, but you have the power to choose how you will direct your thoughts. Therefore you have the power to choose what you create. When you understand how you are getting the results you are getting, you can take back your power and start to live your life on purpose.” ~~Kelly Ellzey
I have learned that much of my own personal healing comes from sharing my lessons with people who need it. Whether it’s about food, body awareness, self-expression, living your truth, connecting to your real self through yoga, meditation, high vibrational plant-based foods…all of these things continue to help heal me, and sharing these gifts also continues to help heal me. My healing is directly correlated with guiding others towards their own healing. To serve is to heal. This is a big step for me that I am sharing this today. (On the frickin’ web, yo!) It’s actually very difficult, but I feel I need to do it. I am doing this for me and I am also doing this for you. I know this will help the right people.
Tomorrow I turn 40. Wowwwwwww. I say this because I honestly feel like I am 20. Truly. As a child I was forced into maturity. In my 20’s, I was on my way to my grave. And now, officially as as an adult (40 is official, right?), I have never felt so young, free, and playful! I cherish each moment so much! I really feel so much gratitude to be alive. Like I am a brand new person with a brand new life.
Another lesson I have learned….gratitude, along with forgiveness, (for there would be no gratitude without forgiveness), will raise your vibrations and free up space in your body and mind ….for love. It takes more energy to hang on to resentment, hostility, and blame. The energy it takes to hold onto negativity will hold you back from living the life of your dreams.
Today, I am grateful that I am still alive.
I am grateful for each breath.
I am grateful that with each breath I can now find joy, bliss, laughter.
I am grateful that I had the courage to fight this battle of pain and suffering. I am grateful that I am able to access strength and hope. I am grateful that I have used all the lessons I have learned about enduring a negative relationship with food, and transferred into a path that helps others connect to the lifeforce that food offers them. There was a time when food was my worst enemy and was killing me, and now I teach people about food and how to heal oneself physically and spiritually with food.
I am grateful that I have found my voice. The voice that was non-existent as a child because I was too small, power-less, too scared, has surfaced. Slowly. It has been a painful ride to find that voice, and I still work at speaking my truth everyday. I know that it is imperative I find my own voice, not only because it is so empowering, but also because finding my voice helps others find their voice.
I am grateful for all the love that is in my life. When I took myself out of tough, survival mode, and opened my heart, I began to let people in. The more my heart opens, the more love I receive. The more love I give, the more love I receive. The more love I give to myself, the more my life becomes filled with love. You can go through your life filled with fear. Stuck. Unhappy. Suffering. Or you can choose to disengage from the stories in your head, the lies you tell yourself, the lies you live, and realize that you are love. YOU ARE LOVE. You come from love and you are going back to love. Anything else that is not love is not the life you are supposed to live. This is my truth.
Today, I am so grateful that I can actually say to myself “Happy 40th birthday Grace” with respect for who I have become. I have persevered my life thus far. If I can do it, you can, too. I am determined to chip away at the notion of enlightenment every single day. Because it feels right. Because I have tried every other route and this is the only way that brings me lasting peace. Because the universe affirms for me that this is the route to take. Because expansion feels so good.
I am grateful for the continual opportunities that life gives me to be able to share my lessons and personal truths with all of you.
I am grateful for the moment of courage I have right now to publish this post.
Live a life of expansion.
Choose love over fear.
Health and happiness is your birthright.
It’s your choice.
You are worthy of love, and more importantly, you are love.
Change your mind, change your life.
NOW is all that matters.
You are what you eat.
You are what you think.
~Gracious Living Lifestyle XO