Turning Pain Into Purpose
Written by Heidi Philip
When I think back to my teenage years, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I had an amazing family, fantastic friends and I was going places… I was headed off to university to get the business degree that was going to ignite my career. Nothing was going to stop me.
Except something did stop me. My denial, or more precisely repression, stopped me dead in my tracks in my late 40’s. On the outside I had the perfect life - a booming C-suite career that led me to start my own business with my dear friend and yoga teacher, a husband and two kids, a privileged lifestyle and a close knit family. Yet on the inside, I was a ticking time bomb.
I was a ticking time bomb as I’d put all my energy into fabricating a life that I felt I should live, instead of connecting with who I am and how I needed to live. I had grown up in a family that was very good at pretending - especially pretending that everything is good, covering up the bad. I followed suit. I swept all the oppression, the marginalization and the abuse of my childhood under the proverbial rug. But the problem of course, is that even if the dirt’s under the rug it’s still there.
Now some might say, well that’s ok isn’t it? Out of sight, out of mind! And it feels like that at first, but if there is enough dirt under there, as we live our lives the rug wears down, holes form and the rug becomes ugly and unusable.
My childhood dirt started poking holes in my life, slowly wearing me down overtime. In my early 30’s I began treatment for both anxiety and depression. In my early 40’s the panic attacks started and sleep stopped. In my late 40’s it was all I could do to get out of bed each morning to greet and attempt to mother my teenage boys. In my early 50’s my digestive system began malfunctioning and my weight dropped alarmingly low. When I walked into my new psychotherapist’ office four years ago, he asked me why I was there. I said that I didn’t want to just feel better, I wanted to get better. And so my journey back in time and inside began.
Over the past four years I’ve been on a painfully revealing journey digging up all the dirt hidden in my system. Like the dirt under a rug, for us humans, our early painful experiences live on in our system, both in our subconscious and in our bodies doing damage we’re often unaware of.
That damage thankfully is not irreversible. Bit by bit, the less I denied my early experiences and the more I allowed my system - mentally, emotionally and physically - to process them, the happier and healthier I became. And so important to me, I also became a conscious parent - a parent that understood how my early childhood experiences were influencing how I was parenting my kids. I was then able to bring awareness, for myself and my kids, to their early childhood experiences and how those experiences shaped their own limiting beliefs about themselves.
So now you may be wondering if I’m one of those people we love to hate because they have no regrets in life? Yes! I am truly grateful for my personal pain and how that lived experience has shaped me as an individual, as a mother, and now as a co-founder of the InsideOut Initiative guiding teens in turning their pain into their personal purpose. I am living my personal purpose - to end the marginalization of self and others. When we hero every ‘me’, we create a better ‘we’.
In one segment of the great Apple TV series Ted Lasso, someone says something like the truth, while it will hurt like hell first, will set you free. I couldn’t agree more.
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