We're kicking off 2017's loss(t) convos with an interview with Giulia Halkier, a 28 year old Life Coach, Spin Instructor and Leader at Lululemon. Giulia is a wise soul well beyond her years and is committed to helping others help themselves (a woman after my own heart). Head over to her site Life By Giulia and peep her coaching offerings.
What is the most significant loss (and grief) you've endured?
I have experienced many losses in my 28 years, they all bear heavy significance for me, and have taught me so much about the person that I am and these two feet that I am proud to stand on.
A lot of people have to go through tremendous pain in order to create change in their life. It was through this journey that I was able to get from my head back into my heart.
I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, the kind of anxiety that would dominate 90% of my mental capacity in any given moment. I grew up in an alcoholic home and we had a family history of anxiety. My mind was so powerful at inventing scenarios that weren’t actually happening that I could barely understand what was real, and what wasn’t. Tortured by this prison, my life was ruled by interpretations. I would analyze and analyze what other people thought about me, how they looked at me, whether what I had just said pissed them off, whether the fact that someone hadn’t texted me back right away meant that they were mad at me, whether everyone would drop me out of their lives tomorrow. In any given moment, I couldn’t understand reality from fabrication - I had zero control over it and it touched every single area of my life. This mental torment is a large contributor of what lead me into a serious eating disorder and many years of subsequent body image issues. I was a slave to this world that my anxiety would create for me, and I didn’t know how to get out. My friends all saw it, and couldn’t understand it. No one understood, no one could even begin to understand what it was like to be inside my head for even a minute. Confused, ashamed and lost - I was very good at keeping this closely guarded secret all to myself.
This particular memory is so sharply etched in my mind…
I was walking home from University in London, Ontario my mind filled with crippling anxiety, my body overtaken by my rapid heartbeat, sinking stomach, and chest that felt like it was filled with water. I could barely breathe and was struggling to take one step further. This feeling had become all too familiar for me in my battles with anxiety, and in this particular peak year I had experienced reoccurring suicidal thoughts hoping to rid myself of this prison in my mind. Incapacitated by this mental torture, I finally gave up. I had decided in that moment that I would rather end my own life than subject myself to one more second of it. By some miracle, my hand reached for the phone and dialed the crisis line instead - my voice was met by that of a woman who helped me walk into a nearby crisis center for support. It was then that I knew that I had lost myself.
Through the crisis center I was assessed, put on anti-depressants and started receiving cognitive behavioral therapy for my anxiety and depression. I continued my journey with therapy for many years experimenting with different kinds to really understand what was going on, and how to best cope with this world I so desperately couldn’t understand. I turned down the anti-depressants after a year and a half because I knew I wanted to understand how to beat this illness on my own. I wanted to feel the confidence of gaining a deeper level of knowledge about myself and the power to get out of this hell.
While therapy supported me immensely in understanding my brain on a cognitive level and techniques to support myself in episodes of anxiety, it was the ability to share my vulnerabilities with others that truly started to heal me. I was in the solitude of my own prison for many years – and once I had finally freed myself of this isolation, I started to find myself again. It has been close to 8 years since that happened, and I feel like a completely different person.
What did your loss and grief teach you?
We are all afraid or uncomfortable on some level in sharing our weaknesses and voicing our pains out loud. The idea that someone else could see or hear my deep insecurities, pain or vulnerabilities was absolutely terrifying for me.
What will they think? What will they say? No one will want to look or talk to me ever again. There’s something really wrong with me. These are further fabrications we create in our mind based on what our society falsely projects to be true. The reality as we all know is the following: true connection is based on being seen and being heard. Think about your best friends or loved ones and ask yourself why you feel so connected to those people. Chances are it’s because they share themselves intimately with you in a way that shows you who they really are. And you love them because of it.
In sharing my insecurities, my weaknesses and my vulnerabilities with others, I have opened the door for them to share their experiences with me. I have been truly blown away by what I have learned about others through my own courage to show myself. This beautifully honest exchange has created an escape to my isolated prison, and many incredibly profound and rewarding relationships. This is truly how I have healed.
What is your advice for others facing similar loss and grief?
If you are struggling, challenge yourself to express yourself with others. Share your story, and use your voice, do not hide. You are not alone in your struggles, and the more people that share their truths, the more readily we can reduce stereotypes, develop better treatments and most importantly, open our arms to heal others.
We are here and together we can support and heal each other.
Be brave. All it takes is one conversation to bring yourself into the light.
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light” – Brené Brown
Mad love to Giulia for sharing her story. For more kick-ass tips, tools and resources including the FREE e-book The Shit You Need to Know About Grief sign up for loss&found below.