This guest post from Natalie Gaul reminds us that experiences of compassion and empathy – and conscious self-acceptance – can help us find our home and a more wholehearted life.
This is the third guest post in our Wholehearted Stories series on Quiet Writing. I invited readers to consider submitting a guest post on their wholehearted story. You can read more here – and I’m still keen for more contributors if you are interested.
Quiet Writing celebrates self-leadership in wholehearted living and writing, career and creativity. This community of voices, with each of us telling our own story of what wholehearted living means, is a valuable and central part of this space. In this way, we can all feel connected on our various journeys and not feel so alone. Whilst there will always be unique differences, there are commonalities that we can all learn from and share to support each other.
I am honoured to have my special friend, Natalie Gaul, as a ‘Wholehearted Stories’ contributor. Natalie and I met as fellow trainees, now graduates, of the Beautiful You Coaching Academy life coaching program. We made an instant and intuitive heartfelt connection, recognising in each other a deep focus on the practice of being whole, working to embrace all aspects of our personality.
My sincere thanks to Natalie for the contribution of her deeply felt personal story, including the stunning images she has created especially for this piece. Natalie’s story is a journey through the shadow and light of personality. It highlights the sheer relief of finding solutions and experiences that enable self-compassion and taking personal responsibility – read on to find out more!
The weight of my world
For as long as I can remember, I felt an unease deep inside of me. Like I was living in a body that didn’t quite fit my bones and there was a pulling… to where and what, I had no idea, but it was always there.
I was the little girl who was desperate for approval, constantly wondering and whispering, “please don’t be angry with me”, “I’m sorry if I’ve done something wrong”, “I hope you still love me”. I was the classic over-achiever, the “good girl”, you know the type. The one who never questions anything, the one who does as she’s told, the one who could be pulled into line by a glance or the slightest change in the tone of your voice. I was the little girl who entered this world completely and utterly terrified of it, and most of all, of everyone in it.
I was the teenager who never quite fitted in. Who, upon just witnessing an unkind word being said to another felt it on a level so deep that it kept me awake at night, wishing I could take it and make it happen to me instead. I was the teenager who couldn’t rest or sleep. I was the teenager who still felt that pulling and I wanted it to go away.
I was the young woman in her 20’s, clinically diagnosed with a major depressive illness… or maybe it was bipolar? One thing was for sure, I was far too emotional. I didn’t quite fit into any box, under any label and even in my sadness, I didn’t fit in. And still, that pulling was there, getting stronger and stronger and I pushed back at it harder and harder… I wanted it gone.
I was the woman who met her 30’s with the divine gift of a loving husband and two beautiful children. Children I had fought for with my life, as my own body let me down. A life on paper that was picturesque, but in my internal reality, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Falling into the darkness
It was at this time, everything I had ever thought about myself manifested into words from the outside world … you are so ungrateful, you should help yourself, you are so selfish, there are so many people in worse situations, what do you have to be unhappy about? And so… I stopped fighting. I stopped pushing against the life-long pull and went with it. The pull I had felt for so long was into my own darkness. A place built on generations of extreme pain, hate and hurt. Finally, I was at the place I thought I belonged. Finally, I reached the place I thought was my home.
Words can’t really describe the depths of pain I experienced. I was used to pain, it was my normal but this was at a whole new level. To many, I was still a high functioning woman, a loving wife, and beautiful mother but inside, there was a war at play and it was dark and dangerous.
It was the culmination of 32 years of pretence and now finally I gave myself permission to treat myself how I always felt I deserved. The physical and mental self-abuse was violent and cruel but somehow it was satisfying. I was home, I was right where I thought I should be. I sat in the darkness, welcoming it, letting it consume me, all the while the emotional turmoil increasing in its intensity until finally, I was at my end. I couldn’t live like this anymore, I had to make a choice. I asked and pleaded for help, from whoever created me simultaneously cursing them for making me so broken and abandoning me. What followed, some may label as coincidence. However, on reflection, I know it was the outstretched arms of the universe, waiting for me to ask for a light out of this darkness, all along.
A glimmer of hope
I stumbled across Cathartic Breathwork, having no idea what it was but trusting that deep calling inside of me to find out more. I enquired about an up-coming live-in retreat and to my surprise, I wasn’t made wrong for how I was feeling but rather met with compassion, empathy, and kindness. That was a completely new experience! I left my family six days later, consciously deciding, if I could not find any peace or relief by the end of the program, I would find it with my maker and I wasn’t coming home.
You hear people say experiences change their life. That week not only changed mine but saved it. For what may have been the first time in my life, I actually had hope that I could survive in this body, I could survive on this planet. I subsequently committed to 3 years of intense breathwork facilitation and training. My learning curve was vast and steep and my eyes were opened to a whole new world. I was guided and held in process after process, allowing me to unequivocally and unapologetically be me. As my self-relationship deepened, I started to understand how to relate and work with my physical, emotional and energetic body.
An insatiable hunger for this knowledge grew, intrinsically knowing it was the key to unlocking and unpacking my truth. To say it was challenging is an understatement. It was one of the most difficult times of my life but yet, somehow nothing on the pain of before. Taking personal responsibility for my life empowered me beyond belief as now, rather than being a victim of circumstance, I had choice. I was in the driving seat of my own life.
I was experiencing pure emotions for the first time. My own emotions, my own truth. I finally came to the understanding that doing this conscious work wasn’t about becoming somebody else, but rather being able to stand and hold myself with love, exactly as I am. To find true acceptance of me as a whole.
Stepping into my purpose
The natural progression was starting my own breathwork business. This was a monumental leap of trust and faith, however, I struggled with the concept of it for many years. Who was I to think I could hold space for others? After all, I was still on my own healing journey and I didn’t have all of my own answers. I pushed against this for years. The self-doubt, the lack of self-worth, the slipping into relating to myself with unkindness. Yet each time I pulled away, I somehow ended up coming back. This service and space I was holding was bigger than my thoughts, it was bigger than me. It was my purpose.
My study and exploration of the human mind, body, and spirit continued and my relationship with myself deepened. I learned that I am an Empath (oh my goodness! – how this freed and allowed me an understanding of why I feel everything so much). I learned of energy and intuition and what that “ping” in my body is when something doesn’t feel quite right. I learned to work with it and trust it. I studied massage therapy to acquire a greater understanding the physical body. I worked and continue to work with a Core Energetic, Mind and Body Psychotherapist, developing and expanding my relationship with my inner child. I became drawn to investigating my shadow side. Experiencing, that upon allowing myself to bring light to this shadow, there was gold to be found. It was another key to true self-love and acceptance. I studied life coaching and grounded my knowledge of the power of intention and action.
Every snippet I would uncover and integrate had a flow-on effect, not only in my own life, but that of family, friends, and clients. I was creating an ever-deepening space of empathy, compassion, and understanding. I discovered what resonated with me and what didn’t, I realised that I was actually trusting myself and feeling a level of safety like never before. I was becoming aware and confident of my boundaries and I wasn’t trying to please everybody else at my own expense… I was actually becoming clear and stepping into my truth.
So here I am now, in my 42nd year on this planet – a concept that ten years ago seemed utterly impossible. I am a woman who reflects on the years I have lived with a sense of gratitude, knowing in my heart that everything I experienced has been for a higher purpose, even if in my head I don’t understand it. I am a woman who, when asked how I work with people and their feelings all of the time, can honestly answer that it is the place I feel most energised and comfortable because masks are left as the door, defences are down and one’s truth is uncovered. It is real and true. I am a woman who is committed to working with my inner child, growing and deepening and healing my relationship with her. I am a woman who, in my personal and business life has unwavering fundamental pillars of personal truth and integrity.
I am a woman who craves, honest and true human connection but acknowledges that it is still one of the things I fear. I am a woman who is saying “yes!” to my god and universe and flowing with the plan for me with the least amount of resistance. I am a woman who is learning to accept my humanness and meet these parts of me with love and compassion. I am a woman who views my vulnerability as my greatest gift to this world as it provides a permission and space for others to do the same. I am a woman who now knows that I am the perfect person to hold space for others seeking self-connection as I have what cannot be learned in any book – empathy and a lifetime of experience. I am a woman who is quirky, disorganised, insanely witty, emotionally messy and imperfectly perfect in all of it.
I am a 41-year-old woman who finally feels like I am meant to be in this world and this actually is my home.
About Natalie Gaul
Natalie is a Conscious Life + Shadow Coach, Breathworker, Creative Artist, Group Facilitator, Writer and Published Author and Artist. She is living a quiet, conscious, and connected life with her family on the New South Wales Central Coast, in Australia, beautifully balancing her client work with her creative artwork. You can find Natalie online at www.nataliegaul.com or on Facebook and Instagram as @natalie.gaul
Ask for help, talk to others
Pieces like this are not easy to write and I thank Natalie for her courage and honesty. They need to be written as there is too much silence. And they highlight the importance of connecting with others. I am aware it may not have been easy to read for some people. If anything in this post triggers anything for you, I encourage you to reach out to others for support. Talk to a trusted family member or friend. Or contact organisations set up especially to provide support. In Australia, key organisations for support are Beyond Blue and Lifeline. International support organisations can all be found here.
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