My Story..so far

Originally Published: THURSDAY, JULY 4, 2013

Thriving Through Chaos and Dancing Into Bliss

In May of this year I spent two weekends working as guest speaker, culinary nutrition expert, and yoga teacher with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, as part of their "wellness weekend" events for staff. The theme of these getaways was focused on how to achieve and maintain life balance even during the hairiest of times. I was honoured to be able to not only host one of my raw food culinary workshops and lead some vinyasa yoga classes with the groups, but I was also selected to speak for two hours about my life. The title assigned to my "talk" was Thriving Through Chaos and Dancing Into Bliss, a title that so well describes what I have lived the last few years, and where I am heading now. Having left a twelve year career in television production just over sixth months ago after a series of life altering events, I am thrilled to be able to share my experiences and hopefully inspire more loving kindness in people I reach, and perhaps help instigate even a tiny shift in people's perceptions and reactions to stress in life. Whenever I meet new people, they always seem curious about why and how I got to where I am today; what happened in my world to motivate such massive shifts in my life's direction. So today I want to share the Cole's Notes version of my journey. So, lets start at the beginning. Bulimia. In my teens, as early as fourteen, I was spending a lot of time with the older, cool kids in school, and had taken up smoking, drinking and drugs. I was drunk every weekend, and often skipped class to get high or sneak a few beers before study hall. I wrote exams high on acid and was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day by fifteen. I felt great pressure to fit in in every way, and had my first experience with binging and purging in grade ten. That initial euphoric moment in the bathroom at my girlfriend's house led to an abusive relationship with food that I have now spent more time with, than without in my life. I got things together enough by the end of secondary school to be able to head off to college and train for a career in media, a course that I excelled in and helped land me my first job in Toronto with Global TV at age twenty. I spent much of the following decade bouncing around in the biz, working various jobs directing and producing at every major network in the city, never satisfied, never really content, always in search of the next promotion that would make me enough money to land me the bigger flat, allow me more travel, grant me the freedom to be happy. All the while I numbed myself with too much booze, most nights not recalling crawling into bed; whether solo or with a strange unnamed man I met while leaving the bar that night. And I was racking up massive debts at the grocery store with my ongoing bulimic binges to support my eating disorder during the day, and my alcohol binges at night. And then in 2009 I met the man that would eventually (well, right away actually) sweep me off my feet. He was older. Wiser. More aware. Within three months we were living together, planning our future. We decided that if we were to meld our worlds together via the act of marriage, then I needed to clean the slate. We did not want to bring my accumulating debts into our union, and so we made the decision, together, that I would file for bankruptcy. And on December 3rd of 2009 I did just that. At this point in time I was in another job transition, having just quit my post as director with one of the city's top morning news shows in favour of a less stressful nine to five gig with a satellite TV provider. Things were looking up. Then, in February 2010, everything changed. I received an email from my mother explaining that she and my father had been to the doctor several times, and that what we thought was just a hearing problem affecting dad as he moved into his sixties, was in fact something much more serious. FTD. Or, frontotemporal dementia. Dad's brain with failing him, degenerating slowly, and eventually, that new label, that four letter acronym, was going to prematurely take his life. In my panic (manic?), I quit my new job, unable to control the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and terror I felt every day after that. My man, witnessing my downward spiral, decided we should rent a car and travel down to Florida where my parents vacationed every March, and spend what might be one of the last they could have there, with them. At this point my dad had lost much of his ability to speak, and it was clear the FTD was robbing him of many of his skills as an eloquent, mannered man. As we dealt with these changes, my man, the fixer that he was, also decided we needed to even further distract from this new reality of my father's fate, and so two days after we arrived home from the south, we were on a plane to Costa Rica. A trip that ended up being our "promise trip", a trip where he committed to one day proposing to me. April 2010. Our next trip as a couple brought us to NYC. The romantic trip to end all romantic trips. We did it all; Tiffany's, dress shopping, fancy dinners out, Central Park carriage rides, and champagne at the boathouse that ended up in an engagement ring on my finger. Bliss. Over the next few months, I realized I needed to venture back into real life, and eventually found a job running admin for a vegetarian restaurant chain as we began planning our nuptial celebration. We decided to put a rush on things, to guarantee that my father would be able to walk me down the aisle. But the stress of coordinating a venue, choosing a guest list (it grew from 27 to 75 all to quickly), deciding on a menu and seating charts, and designing invitations, eventually did us in. It was on a sunny July weekend during a trip to wine country that we called it all off. After an explosive argument (that I think started out as a simple disagreement, and eventually turned into the inherent issue of our age difference), we went our separate ways, police involved and everything. What transpired over the following months was a lot of heartbreak, self-destruction, and the eventual disintegration of our co-dependent, obsessive and addictive