Unknown Me: A Fasting Klinik || Uberlingen, Germany
First, allow me to explain.
Technically speaking, Buchinger Wilhelmi is a fasting clinic. People arrive here to cleanse their bodies under the supervision of doctors, nutritionists, nurses, and a holistic, homeopathic food and wellness program. It is, in a sense, a total body detox. However, it is also, a place for a soul detox, should one choose to access the readily available treatments, activities, and overall environment that is the quaint town of Uberlingen, in which the Klinik resides.
I know what you’re thinking. Fasting? Alyonka…umm, you’re in Recovery for Anorexia Nervosa. Yes, you’re right. Perhaps not obvious to you — I want to be clear: I was not fasting. I was detoxing; my mind, my heart, my body, my soul.
Fasting, or purging, doesn’t necessarily have to mean a restriction of food. Sometimes, proper nutrition, provides just enough stability for one to access the same sort of ‘high’ or ‘a-ha’ that one would feel while fasting. Plus, that high — the fasting high — I’ve been there, done that. I know all the demons I was able to access from that high. I also know how highly addictive it can be. And destructive if not done under supervision (something Tim Ferriss preaches, the “kids do not do this at home”). During my Buchinger process, I was balancing out my bodily systems so that I could be clear, fully present, and still. It was from THERE that all of my Truths arrived and boy did they come…like a steady stream.
Shall we begin?
AN EXCERPT FOR CONTEXT
Oct. 5, 2018
I did just meet with dr. I can tell that she is very excited by my progress made. I myself can sense this process. Things feel different for me. I feel that there is a future even if that future doesn’t exactly look the way I had envisioned. The one I had envisioned my entire life was one that was accumulated by my desire to meet everyone else’s expectations. That’s how one gets lost in their journey. I feel that right now i’m in this place where i’m exercising certain freedoms that I’ve always had but have been too fearful to exercise. Will would be proud. I do recognize, as i said to Dr., that at some point I will need to make some decisions to ensure that there is some sort of stability and perhaps place roots somewhere, but i do not know what that means or what it looks like, or where that will be. And so instead of filling my brain with thoughts on how to get there or what that will look like, adding stressors and anxieties, i’m just going to enjoy all the things that are occurring for me in the moment.
WHAT’S CHANGED? || A review
I’ve written about this before but I think it’s important to remind you that the invisible process is the most important process. Meaning, it’s not necessarily invisible it just takes that much time where it seems like nothing is happening…but it is, and it’s only understandable once enough time has passed. That is something Recovery has taught me: things take proper time to heal, to change, to get better, to solidify, and one cannot rush the process. Which is why patience is everything.
Last year I was WINDED, FOGGY + CAUTIOUS.
I remember sitting in my doctor’s office trying hard to concentrate. I was only 6 months into my recovery and my brain was still struggling to keep up with challenging conversations and a lot of stimulation. I was foggy. There was a permanent brain fog that I couldn’t see then because I was IN it. I was also, constantly, in fear of my body shutting down. I couldn’t take long walks into town and went extremely slowly when walking up hill. I’d think twice before continuing a minute longer in yoga. Everything was lived in caution.
This year I was CLEAR, FAST + BOLD.
Upon sitting down with my Doctor I immediately said “wow, I can see, hear, and feel everything…it’s so clear”. A full 12 months later, alongside an insanely dedicated recovery, and I was finally able to live out the results. The fog is gone. My head is clear. I walked to town and steadily climbed back up the hill, then flew up the stairs, and gingerly pressed my legs into the ground on the incline. Yoga? Just deep commitment to the pose. I was living bold.
Last year I was inundated with CHARACTERS.
I spent 22 days in Germany. This means, 3 meals a day with 3 table mates who’d continuously rotate as they transitioned in and out of fasting, and in and out of the Klinik. In total, I had 66 conversations. Not once did I sit alone at my rotating table.
Mr. Monk who nudged me into a deep dive to understand my inability to feel loved, aka unloveable, and changed my perspective on the mind-body relationship in terms of react vs. response
Mr. Doctor who despite all of his successes globally maintained an imperative kindness to everyone around him, including myself and opened my eyes to see the width of the human intellect
Mr. Egypt who encouraged me to drop all my doubt and to begin living today and now
Mrs. Designer who spent nearly every meal with me indulging in my incessant questioning of her and how she built her business empire — I soaked it all in, then asked where she finds the strength to do it all, to which she said “cancer changes everything”
Mr. Writer who spent majority of his adult life writing books which no one would publish until the one got published and is now being made into a movie — “i would have never believe that I’d start living this way in my 40’s”
Mr. and Mrs. J Date an elderly couple who met on J Date and excitedly exclaimed that love is always possible
Mr. Silicon Valley who talked about the olden days in the way I always assumed they were; simple, with values, hard-working, and good
This year I was inundated with SELF.
I spent 10 days in Germany, and aside from the first 4 days where I sat grouped with Russians (one of which happened to know my Father since their 20’s), I sat alone at my table, meal after meal, with the occasional pop-in from a friend. Solo-eating (sans phone) is something we all should take a minute to discover. After breakfast, I’d take two hours to write whether that was on my laptop or in my notebook. After, I’d go for a long walk to process. Meditation was part of my routine, too. Often I’d head to the art room during closed hours and stay until I was spent. It was QT with me.
Last year I DISCOVERED ART.
I picked up a paintbrush and pastels for the first time since high school. It was a huge step for me to peer into my creative Self just enough without scaring it back into it’s comfort zone. My paintings were timid, safe, and colorful — outside of a Chagall I painted which surfaced unfinished healing with a Man in my life. Most of the credit is due to Ms. Gertrud the art therapist who knew there was something deeper in there but nudged only as far as I could handle
This year I ARRIVED in ART.
I was bold, open, courageous, vulnerable, aggressive, loud, and totally in-sync with whatever it was that was coming out. Simply put, it was pouring out of me and I trusted every molecule which worked it’s way onto the canvas. Ms. Gertrud gave me that tap to ruuunnnnnnnnn.
Last year I OBEYED THE RULES.
I’ve always been an obedient child which transitioned into a people-pleasing adult and a need to seek out validation. Based on the schedule implemented by my Doctor and the Klinik, the rules consisted of 3 meals a day with nutritional restrictions, a certain grounds curfew, suggested therapies, etc. but, unlike most guests, I sprinkled in my own personal militaristic and extremist rules: no phone, no music, no film, no tv, and under no circumstances, no falling off track of what is expected of me.
This year I CREATED MY OWN RULES.
Restricting is something I’m really, really good at. For the first three days I was finding myself in discomfort from the regimented schedule which was created for me and self-imposed (the latter being the keyword). The meal plan wasn’t working for me and I wasn’t doing well without caffeine ( both resulted in a migraine). There were certain therapies I didn’t want to do, etc. On Day 3 I said, FUCK IT and walked to town to get a latte, filled up my bag with treats I could munch on in my room for when I was hungry, purchased a lunch of my own desire, and sat in the park (alone) eating and drinking to my heart’s desire. I wasn’t there to restrict or to learn how to follow the rules. I’ve already done that. I was there to learn how to live, to enjoy, to be. I was learning to be ME. Unapologetically.. always with kindness, of course :)
The point in my writing this out in this way is to give YOU perspective.
1) that we’re always able to change 2) that sometimes we’re unable to see the changes being made because we’re in the thick of it.. don’t give up, things are happening 3) It builds confidence 4) It showcases lessons and takeaways from both experiences. Neither is more right or wrong. Both were important 5) it’s important to write things out in this way, it highlights the progress made or steps taken back, reviews are imperative for self-actualization
Frida Kahlo mirrored me
It doesn’t have to be art therapy that does it for you. It can be talk therapy, or group therapy, or writing, walking, meditating, etc. but I do think it should be something that forces you out of your comfort zone — perhaps IN THE UNKNOWN. Why? Because when we face discomfort and surrender into it, we are able to access places and things we hadn’t been able to before because comfort often times equals control.
For me, most therapies do not cause me much of a discomfort including guiding my Workshops. Writing is like brushing my teeth..I could do it in my sleep. Meditation does bring up buried memories but it’s an internal experience therefore “safe”. Art, however, is different. How? It’s SEEN. For someone like me whose battled the lines of being seen vs. being invisible, standing in front of a blank canvas is terrifying. I don’t know what will come out, if anything, and if it does, what if it’s no good. What if it’s scary or creepy, or vulgar, or socially unacceptable? What if it reveals something within me. You know, it’s that same voice of “be a good girl…don’t rock the boat” I had gotten so used to. The truth is that if you don’t let it out it will eventually consume you and the alternative — being judged — should take last priority, if make it on the list at all.
It is an exercise of the Soul — a true “safe” space. Harmless. Cathartic. Revealing. Ironically, what brought me here was doing a bit of research on Frida Kahlo and falling in love with her fearlessness. I too want to be this way. And I too will not be trapped in my limitations whether real or self-created. FREEDOM is what I need.
an excerpt for context
OCT. 14, 2018
I’m getting sad. Really sad. Sad to miss the friends i’ve made and the community i’ve built of interesting individuals living lives outside of these walls in totally different fields. It is within the art world where we collide and find common language to fully understand one another for deeper reasons than what we see or what we read on paper. This is all due to the energy Gertrud creates in the room. Everyone feels seen. Everyone matters. Everyone belongs. It is an important lesson for me to remember the greater cause. If this is how people feel within the walls that I provide then I am on the right track because the way I feel today is wonderful and terrible all at the same time. Wonderful for the freedom of expression granted, for the friends made and the community. Terrible to have to leave it all. Art week only augments the feelings because there is a place to be - a purpose - everyday. I must find a community like this for myself somewhere.
Woman, 50’s, Russian. A table mate who spoke of relationship and love at length. She is a single mom and grandmother, and after a long description of her life she concluded with this statement: “life is utterly unpredictable. What seems to be closed can open in an instance. It is all about timing.” This arrived after her confession that she is newly in love with a man whom she knew when she was in school but hadn’t seen in decades.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
And I’m the star of this movie. Scene for scene, outside of the location. The details I’m not yet willing to share but the experienced mirrored something very important to me: my ability to be open, candid, vulnerable with someone because I knew it would never become anything, and my inability (and/or fear) of doing the same with an available person. There is an important distinction. It is a pattern. A large one, a recurring theme in my life but one that hasn’t surfaced in quite a while.
In the last few years I have successfully done the latter — present parts of myself — one foot in, one foot out — because it was with potential partners. But it’s been a long time since I was presented with someone whose status was completely off-limits but proximity allowed for a relationship to develop, only under the circumstances we found ourselves in. Once out of the walls of the retreat there was not a single step we could take further. And so, I was open, I was honest, I was vulnerable, I was annoying, I was difficult, I was sad, happy, in-between. I was everything. ME. Because it didn’t matter: it wasn’t going anywhere anyway. I saw the end in sight.
Once I left, only then did it hit me that all of those qualities are always within me but that I am constantly in fear of sharing them with someone with whom I CAN take the next steps, no matter how small and casual those beginning steps may be.
MIRRORS — THEY SHOW UP EVERYWHERE.
an excerpt for context
OCT. 14, 2018
let me say that the mirror side of him has suddenly become clear. It’s his unavailability and the knowing that I will not see him again which provides me freedom to be exactly me and not a percentage less than. Although, there were moments where I was afraid to be too much. Today, in sending a message. I do not want to overwhelm. Perhaps do not want to continue. The point being that even when there’s slim chances of something occurring in a world where it cannot, I still put up a slight barrier .. but in the real world, I put up walls.
A LIST OF TAKEAWAYS
Here are some of the things that I learned, accomplished, observed, and came up for me:
LEARNED // Burnout takes 7 years to properly heal and recover
OBSV // On the weekend, there is a market which opens in the main square of Uberlingen. I like to walk through it to observe the locals. I noticed two things: 1) couples; old, young and in between .. all walking together, all holding hands, all in sync. It’s not that I don’t see couples in NY for example — but when I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I saw couple after couple walking the streets of New York, and all of them holding hands 2) cell-phone free families; three generations, walking, standing, eating together and not one of them on their phones. Not in the way we’re used to seeing it; group of people sitting together while on their social media. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in Uberlingen but it was hard to find
LEARNED // Or better yet, reminded, that Meditation, even an unsettling one, is better than not meditating at all. I cannot emphasize the importance of sitting once a day even if it’s only for 10 minutes. If nothing at all, it gives rest for the body to recalibrate some of gunk it’s accumulated over the years which will eventually lead to a recalibration of mind, too. The mind just takes longer because we’re so used to feeling good about being busy. But as my latest pod guest Dan Doty said ‘busyiness is laziness’ and I couldn’t agree more. Stillness is WORK! But it’s worthwhile — try it for a week and see what it does for you, and then email me if you’d like to share your experience (good, bad or indifferent).
CAME UP // An ex who made me feel small because his affection and attention were based on convenience. His convenience ie; when it looked good for him, or he needed something, or he felt alone. I say ‘he made me feel small’ lightly because it takes two. And what that brought up for me is that I didn’t stand on a solid foundation of knowing my worth, therefore this behavior + relationship continued until it was forced shut.
Oddly enough I am reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and this excerpt is a perfect example:
“Now and then, however, he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take a real delight in giving me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament fora summer’s day.” Again, it takes two.
LEARNED // It’s okay to get lost in your thoughts. Just make sure you jot them down, otherwise they get sticky.
OBSV // People who speak of their opinions and observations with spite are not to be trusted, as was proven by a conversation I overhead in the dining hall where one woman couldn’t contain her hate for every country except for her own. Sure, she sounds educated on each country’s politics, but to make a blanket statement like ‘spaniards are spoiled’ is ABSURD. Hush, woman. Learn some empathy.
LEARNED // Psychosomatic and our brain’s power to recall trauma and to put it into action. This is something I’ve been reading on very lightly but was confirmed by my Doctor in Germany that our brains have more power than we’d like to allude to. For example; with my migraines because my body is trained start the process of migraine once I feel certain triggers (sensitivity to light, headache right side of head, etc.) it brings about the same sort of physiological reactions from the last episode. The key is to work with this and to use the power of our mind to move the pain. So, if the pain begins in my head and I know from the past that it would grow into a migraine, the goal is to speak to the pain and to move it elsewhere, perhaps my big toe, and to focus on it deeply. Brain scans show that parts of the brain light up which showcase that we have the ability to move and release pain, and break traumatic cycles.
AN EXCERPT FOR CONTEXT
Oct. 14, 2018
I did have a thought in taxi this morning that from these experiences there is a certain deep happiness which is growing from within me. I feel superbly content and without a lack of fear that everything will be okay. In fact, this energy feels more accessible and sustainable, and probably, more impactful. I am very much looking forward to what will come about in my learnings and experience upon the end of this trip(s). What will I know? Who will I be? Where will I be? Where will I be going? And what will I do next? I will believe new things and understand more and feel even more grounded in my foundation. Even with these migraines — I do not fear you anymore. You come and you go but you do not own me. I am the owner of my truth and my story…and I will write it according to my needs.
MOMENTS OF AWE
As I write this, I am back in Moscow. I arrived with a smile on my face and returned to my Grandfather. I will be with him for a few days. Then I will reunite with my Sister who’s flying in town for my Father’s restaurant opening. This will change Moscow a bit for me in terms of the pace. On my own, I do as I please within the constraints of my Grandfather’s schedule. With my Father’s arrival we become busy. It will be interesting to see the contrast and what this brings up for me. So far, I have zero desire to return to the States — we shall see how long this will continue.
I am considering opening up IN THE UNKNOWN via online video sessions but this is unconfirmed. Perhaps, I’ll begin with the one-on-one’s as people have reached out to book. I will keep you posted.
Later, I will begin traveling again which will continue my exploration of different cultures. I am soaking all of it in, people.
an excerpt for context
OCT. 14, 2018