The revered Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote:
“We turn poison into medicine and our sorrows into blessings”
I’m thankful for many things. I live a wonderful life, surrounded by loving friends and my beloved husband, Richard; I have the privilege of doing work which I love, and I’m thankful (yes, really) for being diagnosed with diabetes this year. Why am I thankful? Because it finally solved a problem I’ve been struggling with for seven years – a lot of extra weight, gained as I went into menopause, and Richard simultaneously had cancer surgery (He’s been cancer-free since, which is something to be thankful for on a whole other level) and during his recovery I was working two jobs, with a long commute and eating to comfort myself.
After that ordeal was over, I began exercising five days a week, and thought I was eating healthy, but couldn’t budge the weight. I was mystified, because I’ve accomplished everything I ever set out to do in life by overcoming obstacles and figuring out problems, but I was stuck on this. Still I knew from personal experience that standard low-calorie diets didn’t work. I also knew that forcing myself to do things I hated would lead to destructive backlash. I thought back to what had worked for me to overcome problems in the past, and so around the beginning of 2008, it occurred to me to develop an affirmation:
I, Tina, am now creating a healthy body
In easy and natural ways.
Divine Love is healing me now,
And I thank Thee for receiving
That which I need to know,
That which I need, and
That whom I need to know,
And the courage to act upon it,
And the energy to follow through.
In easy and natural, healthy and balanced ways.
Abundance and joy, peace and love.
I repeated it 10 times during each of my swimming sessions, five days a week, and any other time I thought of it.
I believe the energy and focus I gained from this led me to a wonderful hypnotist: Sheri Zampelli of www.donateyourweight.com The hypnosis sessions really reduced my anxiety about food and weight. I felt much better and more relaxed about food, but the weight still didn’t budge. Nikki Ostrander, of www.naonutrition.com helped me cleanse and feel better.
Then, I added an extra line to the affirmation, so the first line read “I, Tina, am now creating a healthy body in easy and natural ways. I know exactly what and how much to eat. ” That’s when the miracle happened; although it didn’t feel like a miracle at first. (Next year, I’ll write a newsletter about why writing down your goals works.) On July 15 this year, blood tests showed I had just recently entered into diabetes II levels. This was devastating news, and it took a while to understand what it meant and what to do. I took Kaiser classes, which were somewhat informative yet not very helpful for a vegetarian diet like mine. But, I did learn about counting carbohydrates and the “plate method” of eating, and began changing my diet. The results were amazing. By limiting starch (carbs), I began losing weight. It was amazingly easy. Even though I was still confused, I learned to take my blood sugar (Kaiser nurse Dorothy Lopez gently showed me it was not nearly as painful or scary as it seemed) and I then found Registered Dietician Sylvia Hernandez, who understood both diabetes and a vegetarian diet. With her help, my blood sugar is coming down, and so is my weight. So far, I’m able to do both without medication.
This is how I turned my poison into medicine.
1. After the poison, flush your system: When something devastating happens, or you get bad news, allow yourself to feel bad about it. Give yourself at least a little time to be upset, to wail and moan, and to feel your feelings. But, don’t get stuck here – wallowing in self pity solves nothing. It may take you a while to begin to confide in friends, but do it – caring friends help you gain perspective.
2. Be an apprentice: Wisdom traditionally has been passed down from teacher to student, so be open to learning and taking in new ideas. Converting poison to medicine is an art, and a tricky one. Don’t try to do it without information and help. It may take reading, Googling, and talking to friends and to experts to find the information you need to safely change your toxic situation into growth and healing.
3. Seek encouragement: Look for comforting and encouraging signs. Learn from your own past, and repeat what was healing and hopeful before; whether it’s prayer, information, love from family and friends, or support from a group with similar issues.
4. Let go, give in: You may need to surrender before you can heal. Often going through a ‘dark night of the soul’ is necessary to let go of preconceived notions (i.e.: that will never happen to me; or I can fix it by myself) and open up to a new dawn of a better attitude, the humility to allow yourself to be helped, and the courage to do what you thought you couldn’t. This is what’s behind the twelve step “Admitted we were powerless over....”
5. Don’t give up: It can be really discouraging and mystifying to struggle with an evil you can’t seem to vanquish. You may need to give in many times, but don’t give up. Keep searching for the solution. Believe in “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Sometimes the process of turning poison into medicine is complex, complicated, time consuming and difficult. But, it is always worth it. Go the next step, the extra mile; and ask the next question, seek the next teacher.
6. Picture your success: What will it look like when you’ve reached your goal or solved your problem? How will you know when you get there? Make a mental picture (or a lot of them) to help you achieve your goal. The other day I told nurse Dorothy Lopez about my significant weight loss and she said “Isn’t that wonderful: just think how many millions of fat cells are now gone, and no longer blocking your insulin!” Picturing myself getting rid of those fat cells is a great image to motivate me. Don’t worry about setbacks and discouragement. You can feel bad, complain and cry, and still keep trudging toward your goal.
7. Celebrate: As I frequently tell my clients: Celebration + Appreciation = Motivation. Celebrate every small victory, every tiny accomplishment. Give thanks to God or your Higher Power for every helping hand you receive. Be thankful for your healing or solution even before it happens. Appreciate the potential that is you. Consider being grateful to what the problem is teaching you. You are learning, being strengthened in soul if not in body, and growing in wisdom. Celebrate those around you who can help with information, love, caring and energy.
May you have much to be thankful for in this season of harvest, and may your life continue to bless you, and carry you through the hard places.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. http://www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books are Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and The Commuter Marriage. She publishes “Happiness Tips from Tina”, an e_mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. Online, she is “Dr. Romance” with columns at Divorce360.com, Healthapalooza.com, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC news. Follow her on www.twitter.com/tinatessina or www.facebook.com/tinatessina