Glow Up 2.0 🦋 Second Reinvention, Second Fight: Mental Health & Happiness

I am reinventing my life for the second time.

My first reinvention happened exactly a year ago, when I looked at my life and said “This isn’t it”.

Instead of fighting and writing, I had chosen a competitive career in sales to fill the void of what my younger self had given up as a junior national wushu gold medalist. I hadn’t healed from the emotional trauma of competing – the verbal abuse from my Dad and body-shaming from my Mom. I had stayed in a toxic relationship, because generational trauma conditioned me to believe that love meant abuse. As I let go of the man I once loved, I met the loves of my life – myself and martial arts – and said “I will never give up on you again.”

So I left it all behind.

I quit my career in Silicon Valley, left my first boyfriend of 8 years, and self-recovered from binge eating disorder + lost the weight I had gained at my heaviest.

As the life I never wanted came to an end, the life I chose had finally begun.

3 months later, I flew to Thailand, where I fought my first Muay Thai fight and traveled solo – for the first time – for 6 months.

I’ve lived an extremely painful, beautiful, liberating, and magical year.
I’m ready for another one….

I’m in a pivotal chapter of life and spilling the tea today, but saving the juicy bits because…drumroll…

I’m writing a memoir about reinvention. You can sign up here to receive my book launch announcement + freebies!

Reinvention is a truth-seeking journey

Let me be very clear:

My journey is entirely about martial arts, and entirely deeper than that. I’m on a truth-seeking journey of reinvention.

The rules of quest physics goes something like this: If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth seeking journey either internally or externally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared most of all to face and forgive some of the most difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Rebirth begins with death

Rebirth beings with death, followed by unimaginable beauty. It is the life-altering choice of taking responsibility for your mental health, healing, and happiness.

Since June, I have constantly lamented that I don’t belong in one place (I don’t) and questioned why I am not yet back & fighting in Thailand.

The truth is not linear; it is a cyclical, circular, and inward journey of going deeper. As it turns out, these last few months have taught me to discover the deeper truth of what I had to heal from throughout my first reinvention – binge eating disorder + toxic relationship.

As always, the truth was within and right in front of me. I did not notice it. All along, my pain had been trying to show me how to become a better fighter and return to Thailand. I tried fight my pain by overachieving, because it’s my been my default mode of survival for as long as I can remember. I’m proud to say that I did not relapse to food, my former “good girl drug” (Sunny Seagold) and coping mechanism, since my recovery.

But I couldn’t outpace my pain. The harder I pushed and hustled, the harder I crashed. I tried to write about my first reinvention + first fight in a docuseries and train for my second fight, but I couldn’t. I kept being triggered. I kept being wiped out, physically + emotionally + mentally.

Someone has to jump first

I choose to tell the truth, because there is too much falsification. It’s everywhere. I refuse to tell a perfect story. Instead, I lay myself bare.

Trigger Warning: eating disorder, body dysmorphia, domestic violence, abuse, suicidal

What happened in June?

4 months ago, I came home from Thailand. I experienced my first ever suicidal episode. Separately and coincidentally, I was also diagnosed with PCOS.

On my last day in Thailand, a toxic family incident triggered my suicidal ideation. I spent 15 hours on a plane, wishing it would crash without killing anyone or anything else, while contemplating the horror and guilt of leaving my younger brother. Numerous such incidents followed.

Rewinding to last October, I went off birth control when I left my relationship and began having irregular periods. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) was suspected and an ultrasound deemed that it should not be ruled out.

In June, my face erupted painful, oozing, cystic acne. The diagnosis was confirmed to be PCOS, a condition of excess androgens (male hormones) in females, where the patient shows at least 2 of 3 categories of symptoms: irregular periods; acne and/ or hair growth; and cystic ovaries.

PCOS & Fighting

As it turns out, PCOS is linked to all of my mental health conditions: depression, anxiety, and (previously) binge eating disorder. Birth control is the only solution for my irregular periods and painful cystic acne, so I restarted it after a year.

The same girl who had the energy to fly 48 hours through Toronto-New York-Bangkok-Chiang Mai + train Muay Thai 2-4 hours per day (6 days per week) in Thai heat + create content + solo travel for 6 months…

…was unable to function for 2 days this week due to crippling fatigue. My birth control gave me the worst depression, followed by the most extreme fatigue I have ever experienced.

The fatigue caused me to have little to no energy, which put me under immense pressure. I only have the means and flexibility to travel + fight + create content because I work for myself. As a freelancer & bootstrapped solo entrepreneur, I work longer hours than any reasonable person. I do not have sick days or benefits. I don’t get paid the same if I move a deadline. Everything I produce relies entirely on me. I have to hustle in order to survive.

As it turns out, I have had nothing to lament about. I am exactly where I need to be, which is in no condition to travel and fight, until I heal my PCOS.

I have now been prescribed anti-depressants. Both birth control and anti-depressants include weight gain as a potential side effect, which is highly concerning for 2 reasons:

Muay Thai Weigh-ins

I compete in a sport where an athlete’s eligibility is directly based on her weight. I have to make weight in my class in order to compete, but what if the weight gain puts my walking weight at – let’s say – 10lbs heavier? This is significant given that I walk between 118-125lbs, one of the lowest weight classes. If my opponent is at her natural state during weigh-ins, then I’m basically competing at a 10lbs disadvantage, and I don’t know how any fighter would feel about that.

Past Eating Disorder + Body Dysmorphia

I was at my heaviest last year due to binge eating disorder. After my recovery + glow up, I was left with body dysmorphia. Even though I had lost all the weight, I couldn’t see how small I was. For months, every time I saw myself in the mirror, I would see the body I had during my eating disorder, not the body I had come to heal & love.

There are no ideal solutions

  1. If I do not take birth control for PCOS, I will have painful cystic acne and irregular periods.
  2. If I take my birth control, it will give me the worst depression + fatigue.
  3. If I take anti-depressants, it will cause potential weight gain.

There is no known cause of PCOS. Birth control bandaids it. Anti-depressants would be bandaid-ing the depression + fatigue, in which the depression wouldn’t be the actual depression I normally experience, but rather an extreme side effect of birth control.

Trauma & Fighting

Rewind to a year ago.

1/3 of my life had collapsed in my first relationship. I had devoted myself to the narrative of a conservative, Christian, Chinese “good girl”, and I felt like I had utterly failed.

In the sobriety and solitude of solo travel, I spent months angry at myself. Why did I stay for nearly a decade? How could I have let this happen? Wasn’t I smart enough to know better? What the fuck was wrong with me?

I couldn’t forgive myself, so I accepted my anger as a teacher. It showed me the patterns I formed in childhood and how I was conditioned to accept abuse as love.

As I found forgiveness for myself, I was brought back to anger. I had left an 8 year toxic relationship only to wake up to the deeper toxic relationship of my entire life, and I wasn’t willing to leave.

After my first suicidal episode, I wasn’t on speaking terms with my mom, and every moment with my dad felt tense. He said that my first fight wasn’t good enough, but also he was very impressed with my sparring. I wished I had to courage to say:

“You were the first person to teach me martial arts, my greatest love and purpose. You were the first person to give me trauma, my deepest pain. I fought these demons all the way to Thailand. I want to forgive you, but I can’t, because I don’t know if you can face your own demons, and I’m scared to ask you to try.”

I stayed because I was willing to sacrifice my mental health to protect to my younger brother.

Every warrior needs to put their sword down before their next battle

A few weeks ago in October, I was screaming back at the person who was berating me after exploding in uncontrollable anger. As a child, he had created my earliest memory of my mother being physically beaten, and I was being re-traumatized at this very moment.

JUST HIT ME. JUST KILL ME. I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.

I packed everything into a suitcase and left. I ended up on a friend’s couch, with zero financial stability.

(*I am writing a follow up post on finances & reinvention)

I had left home to overcome and I had come home hoping to heal – only to end up wanting to die.

So I let myself. I realized it was time to let myself die, in order to experience rebirth for the second time.

I confronted my abusers. After the exorcism, I felt numb and traumatized. It didn’t help that this was coincidentally when I had restarted birth control for PCOS.

After our phone call, my mind kept replaying my father’s sobbing and my mother’s silence. I realized that this was why I never wanted to confront them. In the past, I had secretly hoped that my love and devotion as a daughter could magically redeem our past, so that they wouldn’t feel the inexplicable pain and see the horrifying truth of their own mistakes.

I learned – for what I hope to be the very last time – that I will never sacrifice my own mental health for anyone’s bliss. Trauma made me a butterfly who didn’t know she could fly.

I can finally fly.

Second reinvention, second fight

It’s happening, just as my first fight and first reinvention came to be. Even though I’m a Leo, October feels like my real birthday, for the second time.

Healing PCOS for my mental health

Today, for the first time in weeks, I smiled and felt like the goddess I am. I have stopped birth control and started acupuncture + Chinese medicine.

I do not know if it will work. I do not know if I will go back on birth control. I do not know if I will take the anti-depressants.

Healing trauma for my nervous system

I have forgiven my abusers, #thankunext. I can finally pursue everything I have ever dreamed of as a fighter & writer without being triggered. I no longer need to outpace the pain, because I have risen above and transformed it into beauty.

I am healing my nervous system so that I can thrive as an athlete and artist. MDs are talking about how codependence and childhood trauma profoundly impact our physiology.

I swear this book by Christiane Northup, MD could have been easily written about me. She explains her observation of a phenomena and offers healing advice to overachieving and empathic women who constantly feel drained despite having perfect nutrition, training, blood work, and overall health on paper.

 

Another great + timely read:

“If you want to be the sun, you first have to burn”

Reinvention is about choosing to be courageously free. The truth will set you free, but it is within you and only you have the power to seek it.

We revere groundbreaking moments, but do we really honour the magnitude of the earthquakes in our hearts?

The last few months leading to the beginning of my second rebirth have been groundbreaking. The ground beneath me kept disappearing, because it was time for me to rebuild it.

It felt like my life was over again, but this time for real. At my darkest temporary moment of existence, I found my eternal promise of sunshine. It said:

Since you always tell people that the best comes after the worst, how badly do you still believe in that?

To which I can finally reply:

I believe in every word I share with the world. I believe in my own story, more than I ever have before.

Sometimes your life is falling apart because it’s time to create one that supports you who truly are.

I have regained financial stability + exciting new opportunities + returning to Thailand in 2020.

As mentioned, I will be writing about the finances behind my reinvention — super excited to share this one, sign up for my newsletter to be notified!

Connect on Instagram @beccathesun + share this with 2 friends.

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