Stories of Resilience: Faye Lawand

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I didn’t know how to be not okay. I didn’t know that it was okay not to be okay. So every day was a struggle. I couldn’t get things done, and then I’d beat myself up for that. It was a scary, lonely confusing time.”

I was born in the Middle East – in the small Mediterranean country of Lebanon just a few years before the Lebanese Civil War of 1975. The Middle East is a very beautiful, but very conflicted, part of the world. Even though we left the area of conflict early on, I took the patterns of internal conflict with me as we moved from country to country, from one part of the world to the other.

“We were some of the lucky ones,” “We got out early,” and “We were unaffected by the War” were things I heard all the time growing up, so I believed it. Kind of. I knew there was much to be grateful for, yet I wasn’t able to feel it or to access any of the positive internal states that come with gratitude.

One of the countries I lived in was the exotic island of Curacao, in the Dutch Caribbean. I moved there for a teaching position at one of the top International Schools on the island.

This was the early 2000’s.

I was a party girl, living the fun-filled life of a single gal. Living where others come to vacation. It was a chapter in my life that was infused by fun, mirth, pleasure and friendship. I loved every minute of it!

In 2006, I became an aunt for the very first time to a gorgeous nephew in Lebanon. I planned a trip there over the summer vacation to meet him and to be with the family. I hadn’t been back in a number of years and hadn’t spent any considerable amount of time there since I was a child.

It was a beautiful family reunion.

I fell in love with my nephew, with Lebanon and with the warm and welcoming lifestyle of the Levant. I didn’t want to leave and started planning a return to live and work in the country where I was born.

A Trip To Istanbul Goes Badly Wrong

Early during my stay in Lebanon, I had planned a little side trip to Istanbul, Turkey. I was going for four days and then returning to Lebanon for another 4 weeks of vacation.

I packed for 4 days.

I had an early morning flight and didn’t want to wake up the family. I didn’t kiss any of them goodbye. I’d see them in a few days’ time was my thinking.

I never made it back to Lebanon that summer.

The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon in 2006 happened while I was on my short getaway to Istanbul. Airstrikes were everywhere. The airport shut down. There was no way of getting back in. I tried the impossible to get back in. All options – land, air and sea failed. I was desperate to go back home. I couldn’t fathom the idea of not saying goodbye to the family.

My heart broke with sadness and loss.

I was forced out and away from my country – my sense of belonging – by conflict and chaos. It wasn’t the first time either – this had been a repeating pattern throughout my childhood.

I ended up buying a new one-way ticket from Istanbul, back to my home base of Curacao. I had no luggage, no house key and no car key. Everything was left behind in Lebanon.

I was not okay. I was anxious and sick with worry all the time. It was hard to sleep. I couldn’t put the news or my phone down. I was attached to both 24/7.

Every morning, I’d wake up with a sense of dread, a tightness in my chest, a pressure in my head and tension in my body.

Most days, I could function but it was becoming obvious that the way I was feeling was affecting other areas of my life.

Things Get Really Bad

I didn’t know how to be not okay. I didn’t know that it was okay not to be okay. So every day was a struggle. I couldn’t get things done, and then I’d beat myself up for that. It was a scary, lonely confusing time.

Every day, I’d put on my best outfits, my best smile and tell anyone who asked that I was GREAT. Smiling on the outside while I was bleeding on the inside. Of all the internal struggles going on at the time, that was the most painful for me.

I struggled every single day.

My stomach was always in knots.

It seemed like my heart had moved from my chest, and was permanently in my throat.

I had pounding headaches on most days and was popping Advil pills every couple of hours just to make it through the day.

I had non-stop nausea and vertigo, and it always felt like my world was spinning out of control.

I had chronic back pain, so the doctors had me on anti-inflammatories and pain killers.

I developed a nasty respiratory infection and lost my voice for days.

I was losing weight rapidly, none of my clothes would fit and my collarbones and shoulder blades were starting to pop out. My face was looking sullen, the eyeballs popping in the socket, and I was not looking well.

My skin was playing up. I had chronic adult acne that I just could not treat. That made me feel unattractive, unwanted and unloveable. The doctors put me on antibiotics – for months at a time!

Even though my diet was ok, my digestion wasn’t. My tummy was consistently bloated and sore. I had so many allergies that I was unaware of at the time. I constantly felt uncomfortable in my body and in myself.

I was oversleeping, but still waking up feeling really tired every day. I had no energy whatsoever. I used caffeine to get my day going, sugar to keep my day going and wine to wind down my day.

I had all sorts of crazy thoughts. It was non-stop. Incessant. Self-critical, negative self-talk. Constantly comparing myself to others, constantly doubting myself and overthinking every little detail of my life. I felt like I was living in the past, ruminating on everything that had happened. I wanted to switch it off, but I couldn’t – and didn’t know how!

I felt lost and directionless. I was drained and depleted. I wanted to get on with my life, but I couldn’t. I was stuck and felt blocked.

The worse I felt, the more stuck I became, and the more stuck I became, the more I’d beat myself up. The more I’d beat myself up, the worse I felt about myself and the cycle went on and on like that.

From Bad To Worse

As time went on, things got worse – not better.

I remember a scary time when I was driving to work, passed out at the wheel and totally lost control of the car. It was terrifying. I had no explanation for what had happened. I hid it from everyone around me.

When I eventually made it to the doctor’s, I was convinced that there was some neurological damage that was creating the fainting spells, crippling vertigo and the host of health ailments I had been experiencing.

Test after test came back negative. I wasn’t relieved. If the test results were showing that I’m healthy, why wasn’t I feeling well?

For the first time in 36 years, I stopped to think about health. I stopped to consider my health and what it means to be healthy. It started to dawn on me that my unprocessed mental and emotional conflicts were impacting my physical health.

The diagnosis was this: PTSD + Depression. I resisted the diagnosis.

How could I be depressed? “I’m positive, optimistic and cheerful. People like me don’t suffer from depression,” I thought to myself.

PTSD? I had never heard of PTSD before! And like the depression diagnosis dismissed that too. “Nothing traumatic happened to me. I’m one of the lucky ones. I got out!.”

I was skeptical of both diagnoses. And the prescribed treatment: Anti-depressants and Talk Therapy.

I went to TWO therapy sessions and felt worse after each one. I refused to take the anti-depressants from the get-go.

There Must Be Another Way

The doctor at the time – extremely caring and well-meaning – urged me to reconsider because of “risks of long-term imbalance of serotonin and other hormones to the brain” etc, etc, etc.

He very caringly asked what I would do instead to get better.

“I’m going to exercise, eat well, manage my stress and have positive thoughts,” I replied.

That surprised me just as much as it surprised him.

I was a party girl at the time, living the party life. I had no idea about the mind-body connection, no idea whatsoever. Yet, at that moment, I intuitively knew that health and well-being were not just about the physical. What we think, what we eat, how we feel and how we live all have an impact on health and wellbeing. This seems so obvious to me now. Back then, I was a total novice in all of the above!

Without knowing, I knew what I needed to do.

I knew I wanted to get better and I knew I had it in me.

I wanted to do it in a way that was natural, that didn’t involve medication and its nasty side effects and a solution that that got to the root cause of the issue, and didn’t involve repeatedly talking about the problem over and over and over again!

I just didn’t know HOW to.

I was afraid that the non-conventional approach wouldn’t work for me and afraid that the medical establishment might be right about making things worse if I didn’t go on medication.

I was determined.

I wanted more for myself and more for my life. I knew I had it in me.

I just had no idea how to get started. I didn’t have any mentors or any guides to show me the way. What I wanted more than anything else was a structured step-by-step approach to my problem, but there wasn’t one.

So I dabbled, and I experimented. I was left to figure it out for myself. No one there to hold my hand, to save me from making mistakes, to encourage and support me along the way.

One Step Forward, A Few Steps Back

My plan to exercise, eat well, manage my stress and have positive thoughts was working.

I was noticing some improvements. Many of the symptoms that led me to the doctor’s office were improving. The fainting spells stopped, and so did vertigo. My sleep was better and my mood was improving too.

I learned about and started applying the traditional techniques for self-care and stress management, such as diaphragmatic breathing, Epsom salt baths, walks in nature, journaling, gentle exercise, adaptogens and adrenal tonics.

I was still anxious a lot of the time. Unable to really relax. Not happy. Not feeling fulfilled. My life still felt lacking and out of balance.

My relationships were not very good. They were unfulfilling and it wasn’t easy to connect with others in meaningful ways. I was still living with lots of self-doubt and internal limitations. Still talking myself down, and struggling to deal with my emotions in a healthy way.

Around the time I turned 40, my life caught up with me in a very real way.

There I was living in Dubai– a 40-year-old Arab woman, unmarried, with no kids and no prospects. A career in limbo.

This was definitely not the way that I had imagined it would be. Nothing was working out. I felt like a failure. I felt like there was something seriously wrong with me. There had to be, otherwise, my life would be on the track, like everyone else’s. I was in constant comparison mode – and this was before Instagram!

A Breakthrough Moment

It was around that time that I heard about this thing called the “subconscious mind,” and this other thing called “hypnosis” to access the mind and reprogram outdated and unwanted patterns of behavior. I booked myself in for a session.

During my very first session, the hypnotherapist instructed my subconscious mind to go back to the root cause of the struggles in my current life. My mind went back in time to a night 35 years earlier when I was 5 years old, and my family and I were fleeing the warzone in Lebanon. We were all crammed into the backseat of a car, making our way to the airport to escape the conflict. We could hear sniper shots overhead and bombs falling in the distance. In an attempt to keep us children safe, my mom kept pushing our heads down below the seats. I couldn’t breathe, I was petrified, and I was profoundly affected from that moment.

I left that first session thinking it was the biggest load of bullshit! I was so identified with the earlier story I was running on autopilot, the one that said that “were the lucky ones, we were not affected,” that I dismissed this form of therapy, just as I had the earlier prescriptions of anti-depressants and Talk Therapy.

“How could something that happened when I was 5 years old have anything to do with where my life is now?” I kept saying to myself.

The Insights That Changed Everything

I soon realized that there was no way that what happened in the past wasn’t affecting what was happening in the present.

It was becoming clear to me that even though I had no conscious awareness of the earlier stresses in my life, my body and my nervous system were a different matter.

They definitely understood stress, overwhelm and fear. The memories from the life of the 5-year-old remained stored – not forgotten – and unprocessed for decades. She carried around all those old feelings of fear, stress and worry her entire life. Her nervous system definitely understood overwhelm, and her body kept score of it.

After the initial skepticism faded, I went on to do a lot more of the internal work.

I studied yoga and yoga philosophy, meditation and mindfulness, the Mind-body Connection, Clinical Hypnotherapy and all about the powerful human mind.

I came to realize that what happens on the inside is 100% responsible for what happens on the outside. When the inside is overwhelmed, the outside cannot be calm. When there’s conflict and worry on the inside, there can’t be calm and fulfilment on the outside. Conflict and calm cannot co-exist.

I came to realize also that we all have internal struggles that keep us from living our full potential.  It’s not the external environment that determines our quality of life. It’s the internal reality. It became obvious to me that while I had left an environment of trouble and conflict behind a very long time ago, the internal patterns remained with me throughout my life. And it’s always the internal patterns that determine the direction of our life.

What Happened Next

I can describe the healing that followed as a deep cleansing of body, mind and self. A purging and release of all the old, outdated unresolved internal conflicts that had robbed me of my joy, health and vitality. For the very first time in my life, I was feeling peaceful and relaxed, calm and happy. I started to enjoy life once again, instead of just pretending that I was.

You know all those symptoms and ailments that I’ve been telling you about?

The chronic headaches, back pain, PTSD, anxiety attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, compromised immunity and adult acne … GONE … ALL GONE!

Naturally and without any medication, without any of the side effects that come with prescription drugs.

Gone because I managed to get to the ROOT CAUSE of the tension and the stress and to resolve that internally.

It was at that moment that I came to realize what I now teach and preach – STRESS IS NOT THE PROBLEM. And when you just treat the stress – like I had been for years – the underlying cause persists, grows and eventually escalates into an undeniable moment of crisis.

Resolving those internal conflicts was the best, the hardest and the most important work I’ve ever done in my life.

Life Today

Life has never been the same since!

I recently turned 50, and I can easily say that life has never been better.

I’m the architect of my own life, living life on my own terms.

I live in New Zealand, one of the most beautiful, most peaceful countries and most progressive countries in the world.

I’m in a happy and fulfilling marriage with the man of my dreams.

I feel better in myself and more comfortable in my own skin than I have in my entire life.

I have work that I’m passionate about, a sense of mission and a purpose that makes a real difference in the lives of others.

I have mentored countless professionals across numerous industries to resolve their internal conflicts and transform their experiences of stress. I’ve been invited to speak at workplaces, wellness centers, schools, universities, yoga studios and NGOs in several countries and several continents around the world and have supported hundreds of busy professionals to feel more calm and purposeful.

All the pieces and chapters of my life seem to be coming together seamlessly and effortlessly.

There’s nothing really special about me other than applying what I learned since that initial diagnosis in 2006.

Since that time, 14 years, countless hours, and over $165k in models, mentors and methods of wellbeing and resilience. I pulled and pieced together each of these and applied them in my own healing journey. I coded everything I learned and that worked into a proprietary system that takes busy professionals from conflict to calm, from internal conflict to full potential.

I am now able to do for others what I needed someone to do for me after my initial diagnosis in 2006. I’m able to provide the system, the support and the sense of community that I so desperately needed during my darkest days.  

I feel I’m making a difference.

I finally feel I’m living up to my potential! There’s no better feeling in the world.

The party has finally come to the party girl!

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.

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