by Panney Wei
What does it mean to live your life on purpose? What is it that motivates you to rise in the morning, and tackle the day? What does your inner voice say? What is your passion? What makes your heart sing?
When I was a little girl, I knew I was destined for something meaningful and something profound in this lifetime, and that my life would have a sacred purpose. I didn’t know what that was at the time, but I knew I was going to achieve something significant and powerful, and I was meant to give it back to the world. I could feel it in my heart and sense it in my bones. It was an inner knowing, deep inside, that sometimes life would be challenging, but I would have guidance from God and the Universe to light my way, and the lessons I learned from this lifetime would be my legacy for my children, my fellow man, and for the world.
Little did I know that this gift I would give back to the world would be my novel, The Jade Princess Warrior. It is an inspiring account of my coming of age, of how I overcame dominating social issues that young women face, like poor self-esteem, body image, men, fitting-in, pleasing your parents, and finding your bliss, and is an entertaining mother-daughter story about my relationship with my mother, who projected all of her frustrations on me as a result of the trials and tribulations of her loveless arranged marriage and how that colored my life. It is a universal story about our mutual search for identity, self-worth, and love, but more importantly, it’s about my coming home to who I am.
When I was a young woman, I was faced with a life-threatening illness, a monumental eating disorder called bulimia nervosa which stems from dis-ease not only in the mind and spirit, but results in detrimental effects to the body. The disease triggered when I was a young teenager facing the overwhelming pressures of my environment in being perfect, staying thin, and being a champion figure skater, while adjusting to American life and trying to stay true to who I was as a young Asian American woman, fighting the social and academic pressures of school and being a perfect child and student, and fighting the issues common to many Asian cultures: of saving-face, of silence, and of duty to family before oneself. In my childhood, I was a high achiever, a champion figure skater competing nationally at my peak by the age of 11. Ice skating was my passion, my greatest joy, and my escape from the demands of life. When I was skating, I felt like I was contributing to the world through my talents, my vision, my artistry, and my soul. I felt I had a purpose, and because of that, my life had meaning. But my mother, who lived through me unconsciously, would always pressure me to perform, pressure me to win, pressure me to be perfect, and pressure me to give her everything I possessed to fulfill her need, her unfulfilled dreams to please her, where I basically lost myself in the process, and lost the joy in performing. At a very young age, I learned what it was like to sacrifice oneself for another’s happiness. It was a feeling common to many young women I often meet today. Back then, I felt trapped and alone. Daily I would hear tauntings such as “You’re too fat. Don’t be stupid. You’re not going to win.” Talk about negative reinforcement that’s so typical of Asian families! What our parents thought would build mental strength, instead, over time, could plant the seeds to low self-esteem, hopelessness, and the feeling of never being fully satisfied in life. Ironically, in my case, I won first place in all of my competitions. I guess I felt I had something to prove.
The twist in my story is that because of financial stress and pressure from family members, my parents decided to clip my wings and pulled me off the ice in the blink of an eye, without my consent, shattering my Olympic dreams faster than I could finish my triple salchow. One day I was ice skating. The next day I wasn’t. Imagine if somebody taught you how to walk, and the next day, they took your legs away from you. I was devastated. Somehow, I had to cope. I was only 14 years old. If I didn’t listen to my parents, who else would give me food and shelter? I’d be out on the street! As a young teenager, I felt voiceless, helpless, and inadequate, all ingredients to a modern-day bulimic, and in my little head, thought the downfall of my career was due to my not being good enough as an ice skater, not good enough for my family, not good enough for my career. Nobody told me otherwise.
This sent me into a deep depression which I battled daily with my natural sense of humor, faith, and never-ending optimism, but bulimia had already planted its ugly seed within me and was breeding a life of its own. Upon the end of my high school career, where I graduated with Honors and was also a class officer, varsity athlete, and cheerleader, and all throughout college, where I was still highly functioning as a young adult, bulimia became a monster that controlled my life. To the world, I looked like the perfect person and student, but in reality, my world was crashing beneath me. My eating disorder was not so much about how I felt about my body, but how I felt about myself. I missed my days as an ice skater, which always brought me breathless joy as a human being. But now, all I could feel was a sense of loss, of being voiceless and misguided, like something was missing in my life. When I was skating, my spirit was soaring, my heart was full, and I was happy, and I wanted to find that feeling again. It’s what I know now as an adult as being called living your life on purpose, or living your life on the highest vibration possible that matches your soul’s truest expression. In my case, it was the desire to express myself in body, mind, and soul.
I had heard about girls throwing up in the high school bathroom, in the gym, and especially at the ice skating rink before competitions, and innocently fell into this prevalent social disease and epidemic that affects so many young women in this country and abroad, the U.S. having the highest percentage of young adults suffering from bulimia, and some of them may be you. Bulimia became a way for me to control the pressure and stress in my life, to control “something” when everything else was out of control, and to find solace in myself. I catapulted into a downward spiral of binge-eating and purging, and fell into inappropriate methods of weight control. I ate to try to fill a hunger and a void. But once I was full, the emptiness was still there. I was searching to feed my soul of what it had lost: It’s purpose in life; it’s will to live.
The binging and purging became an obsession, both in body, mind, and soul. Eventually, even if my mind wanted to stop, my body just couldn’t. Where once I thought I had control over the disease, now the disease controlled me. But I was very lucky, and I know some women aren’t as lucky as me. The Universe had another plan for me, and one day, in the middle of my purging, I fainted alone in the bathroom, and in this small but significant moment of darkness where nobody was around, I had a powerful near-death experience that changed my life forever. I caught a glimpse of what my life would be if I continued down this path, and when I snapped out of this experience, I knew I had to change my direction in life. I had to choose the one thing I had been avoiding: LIFE. I had to take steps to insure my health and happiness again, and to heal myself from this illness. It was then that my life and life purpose was back on track.
It began with one decision: the decision to LIVE, to get back my life, to rediscover who I was. Making the decision to live started me on the most powerful journey back on the road to true health, wealth, and happiness. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Traditional forms of medicine were not an option for me as my parents were ashamed or scared if I went to a psychiatrist and revealed the truth about my eating disorder. What would our friends think? Would they think I was crazy? They fell into complete denial, so I had no choice but to fight this battle alone. I made a clear-cut decision that I would heal myself from this disease using alternative medicine, without the help of doctors, but with the help of God, an inner fire and faith in myself, and the power of prayer. To save my life and heal myself, I immersed myself in books, and embarked on the journey to self-healing and knowledge acquired through countless hours of study in natural and alternative forms of medicine, meditation, religions and philosophies, and even energy work and psychology. Anything that would save me from this disease. It became a spiritual quest for self-healing that has led me full circle to where I am now. I became a Merlin, a shape-shifter, a Warrior Princess, to slay this disease, this terrible dragon, and finally put it to rest.
What I endured was an invaluable experience, and what I learned from this powerful experience of healing myself was that your mind, body, and spirit can self-heal and achieve anything it desires to accomplish in life, even rise above your own physical body, and that this ugly dragon, bulimia nervosa, can be overcome. If I can do it, anyone can.
It was incredibly liberating to know that I beat this disease and healed my relationship with my mother, who was my first glimpse of the Goddess in my life and in myself, with the medicine of optimism, self-reflection, faith, hope, and humor, combined with the art of forgiveness and compassion, and not to forget, a little sass to keep things interesting. Writing about my experience with my mother, how I survived, and how I battled and healed from my life-threatening illness, has now become my gift to the world.
Bulimia took six years of my precious life, and although I was a fighter, it took me a long time to get where I am now. During my extraordinary experience with my mother and family and battling this disease, I meandered into different careers such as politics, financial services, entertainment marketing, fundraising, and even acting, in my continual search for self-healing and what would make my heart sing again. Nothing gave me the feeling of complete wholeness, or passion; every job reflected just an aspect of myself and my soul. There were times I felt completely lost, but I think that’s just a part of life: to feel lost in the rat race, disappointed, and disjointed, and then to feel the satisfaction in finding your heart and life purpose again.
Bulimia was my biggest lesson, my biggest enemy, and my biggest gift in self-love and self-healing, and it is the reason why I dedicate my life now to helping others, to lead by example, and to continue the journey to heal myself. Now I am an author, a future wife and mother, a spiritual teacher and motivational speaker, a hypnotherapist and Doctor of Naturopathy candidate, an activist, performance artist, and the subject of an upcoming documentary about my current life path. Now I am finally fulfilling my life’s purpose to entertain, empower, and inspire people to live better lives, to bring comfort and transformation to them through my writing and healing practice, and to take those steps in sharing my knowledge to help heal nature, the world, and its precious human beings, from the inside out, one amazing person at a time.
People often parallel my career and life purpose now with my career as a young figure skater. But there is a difference…..I am fulfilling my life purpose now because I love and enjoy it, because it makes my heart sing and gives my soul complete expression: body-mind-and soul, because it’s my passion, and most importantly, because I am doing it for myself, without anyone holding me back. I can now be my own person with everything I’ve overcome, be the person I was meant to be, and experience my achievements as my own. This is what I would love to inspire young girls and women to achieve for themselves. It is my desire to prevent them from tumbling down the same road I unfortunately fell into and had to endure. I want to let them know that they’re loved and not alone. I want to prevent them from wasting precious time spent binging and purging in the bathroom in secrecy, from hiding from who they really are, when they could be outside in the world falling in love, achieving their dreams, or living their beautiful and rich lives. Every woman has the ability to change the world, to live your life on purpose, to taste the richness of life, to trust your intuition and clearly hear the murmurs of your heart, to live your best life possible, and turn every challenge you face into an amazing victory. Now that’s what I call living in divine abundance. Doesn’t everyone deserve that? Nobody is born by accident. Everybody has a true life purpose. But it’s up to us to have the courage to go and find it. And it can be fun! When you live your life on purpose, and not unconsciously or at the mercy of others like I did as a child, doors and a world of opportunities open for you that you could never have dreamed possible, and your life is transformed instantly. This is what the universe desires for you. Believe it. Dream it. It can happen. Everybody deserves the amazing life they were meant to live, and it is my hope and belief that you will achieve it too, as I have.
Only by healing the universe within ourselves and our own body are we then able to heal the universe outside of us, and eventually, heal the world. the writing of and my profound experience in overcoming my life-threatening illness and my personal struggles as a young Asian American woman have been the start to that journey for me. Now I write to heal my heart, to change the world, to connect with you. To give a voice to the voiceless so they’re not alone.
Panney Wei is a TV/Radio host, writer, and motivational speaker, whose mission in life is to teach, heal, empower, and inspire others to live more forceful lives, overcome blocks, and manifest their dreams into reality. "Be the Star of your Life" is her motto, and she currently has a successful hypnotherapy based in Los Angeles. Tune into her radio show, "Positive Changes with Panney Wei" by logging onto her website, www.panneywei.com.