Transforming Adversity into Life Purpose [Podcast with Nafsheen Luhar] - PCOS Diva
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Transforming Adversity into Life Purpose [Podcast with Nafsheen Luhar]

“The wound is where the light enters you. In your deepest, darkest times is when you find inherent strength that you never knew existed, but it’s always been there.” – Rumi

Are you ready to be inspired by the courageous story of my former client Nafsheen Luhar? I know this podcast will open your heart and help you rediscover hope that you, too, can have a happy ending. 

Like so many women with PCOS, Nafsheen experienced a traumatic childhood that led to weight issues, low self-esteem, self-harm, PCOS, and uterine cancer – her final wake-up call.

But Nafsheen didn’t remain a victim for long. 

In her darkest despair, she found an inner power that led her out of pain. 

And she learned to love herself, partner with her body, and move beyond limiting beliefs to access her creative center.  

She came to understand that the suffering was precisely what she needed to fulfill her purpose.

Now she expresses her soul’s work as a respected photographer, transformational coach, self-love advocate, and speaker.

You don’t want to miss our conversation!

All PCOS Diva podcasts are available on:itunes-buttonitunes-button

Resources:

Nafsheen Luhar’s Website
Nafsheen Luhar’s Facebook
Nafsheen Luhar’s Instagram
PCOS Diva podcast #121: Childhood Trauma & PCOS

Complete Transcript:

Amy:

I like to think of the mission of PCOS Diva as helping women to reclaim their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness so that they in turn can go and live the life and complete the mission that they are supposed to do here on this earth without PCOS holding them back. Today’s guest is somebody who has done just that. I met Nafsheen Luhar back in 2015, she completed my jumpstart program, and then we went on to work together in my private coaching program. She has since gone on to truly live the life that she was meant to live as a transformational speaker, life coach, an artist, and I’ve invited her on the PCOS Diva podcast to talk to us about how we can change the way we see the pain in our life as a pathway to our purpose. I’m so excited to welcome Nafsheen on the PCOS Diva podcast.

Nafsheen:

Hi Amy. Thank you so much for having me here. It’s been such an honor to have you be a part of my journey and to be able to be in a space where I can give back to you and your community.

Amy:

I would love for you to start by sharing your story with listeners, because you have a very powerful story to share.

Nafsheen:

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Amy. My story starts out where I was born and raised in Kenya and I was the youngest out of four girls. My second sister didn’t grow up with us. She grew up in a different household and from the age of four till the age of 12, I was severely molested by two of my cousins and they were not living with us, but they were well in their late twenties to early thirties. So it’s not like they didn’t know what was happening, but it’s just something that I went through at the time.

Then when I was 12 in Kenya, we only had about two channels that we used to get. I was watching Oprah one day and she was talking about molestation. That’s when I realized that what was happening wasn’t really supposed to be happening. It wasn’t normal. I started to keep distance from these people and then they instilled a lot of fear in me. So I didn’t have an avenue or place to speak about this. If I tried to speak, these are things in our culture that are very much put under the rug and it’s nobody wants to hear about it. So I couldn’t really speak to anyone.

From a young age, I started to gain a lot of weight, especially in the lower part of my body, because those were the areas that tend to keep us safe. I started to gain a lot of weight and I used food as a survival mechanism and also it was my best friend. I became addicted to food because we didn’t have access, coming from the culture that I’m in. We didn’t have access to all the, any other kind of drugs. Otherwise I would probably been addicted to something else. As the weight kept coming on, it was a way for me to numb out. As I got into my teenage years, I started self mutilating because I had no idea on how to deal with the emotional pain and the shame once I realized what was happening was wrong and bad and all of that. For me to be able to associate my pain with some kind of a wound, I had to inflict physical wounds on my body to be able to identify with a physical wound because I couldn’t identify with the emotional wounds. So I had a reason to feel pain, like physical pain. I continue to do that for a number of years and as graphic as it sounds, it kept me alive in some way shape or form, being able to feel that physical pain kept me alive.

There was a time where I was on the dining table and my dad saw some scratches on my hands and cuts. He asked me what happened. I was very afraid to say what happened. So I didn’t, I made some kind of story up, but then I realized that I continued to do this, then they would find out and I would be in more trouble than I am. So I stopped doing that.

My dad was the closest person to me in my life. In 98 he passed away due to a cardiac arrest. So we were moved from Kenya to the US because my mom’s side of the family lived here. She, we all migrated here because my grandparents sponsored us and living in Kenya, you hear all these wonderful things about the US and that there are so many people like me because obesity is not, by this time I was pretty obese and obesity is not something that you, that is common in Kenya.

So I got teased a lot and I judged a lot. I always heard that there’s people here just like me, people are going to love me and support me. I’ll find so many options and ways on how to deal with the weight. But I was pretty much numbed out on life by that time, because I had not known how to grieve my dad or, or let him go. I still held into so much of him. As soon as I got off the plane, my family here was like, “Hey, how come you gained so much weight?” And I’ve just gotten off the plane. So I felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t belong in Africa with my family and friends there. I didn’t belong here. The people who are supposed to accept you exactly how you are or not. Because growing up, I was also always told that you’re not considered beautiful if you’re not skinny or light skinned and so the standards of beauty in my culture are you have to be skinny otherwise you’re never going to get married. So, my self-esteem was completely nonexistent, even in school growing up, my self-esteem was nonexistent because the sister, my older sisters went to the same school I did. They were straight A students and I had a lot of learning disabilities and I was an artistic student, not an academic student. So I never brought in the grades. My teachers always said, “Your sisters are so much smarter than you. What happened to you?” So I always grew up with this like mentality of not being worthy, not being good enough, just like this little person who was just existing. 

As we moved here, my older sister, I moved here with my mom, my older sister and myself, and she got married and she went to Los Angeles and I ended up staying with my mom for the last 23 years. I felt like my job was to be the good, the good Muslim daughter and to get the good job, graduate from college, get a good job, buy her a home and do everything I needed to do to take care of mom, to my mom. I proceeded to do all of those things. I was always living outside of myself as a young child to be accepted despite the way that I looked just so I would be liked and accepted. That was my way of living life. I did the same thing here with all my cousins and all my friends in college.

I was just always living outside of myself for other people. As I graduated college with a degree in designing photography, it was very hard for me to get a job in those fields where I lived. I ended up getting a job at Apple and it was a very technical job. Grateful for the job because it brought a lot of good in my life. I was able to buy the home for my mom and secure her life and all of that. This is the time where I had reached about 350 pounds. By the time I graduated from college and started my job at Apple. This is when, I met somebody that really changed and transformed my life. Her name is Lorraine and she goes by talks and she was a personal trainer. She taught me that giving up on myself was never an option that every dream I ever saw, I could dream 10 times bigger than a million times or a hundred times bigger than that.

Nafsheen:

She taught me how to dream my biggest dream and she always taught me to do it for you. I never really knew what that meant. I never really knew what self love meant or do it for you meant or whatever. I just wanted to be validated outside of myself. Because of her, I started boxing and I started doing races and I did like 20 something races in one year. I did two half marathons, even though I had surgery in my arm and all of that. She really taught me, one, how to be an athlete at any size. Two, how to be comfortable in my own skin to wear colors and to love life and to really live from within. Even though I learned all these things, at the end, I was always doing the exercise and accomplishing these goals because at the end of the day, I had somebody to tell me you’re doing a good job.

Like it was all for this validation of, “Oh my God, if I do all of these, I’m going to be worthy and validated by somebody at some point. So let me do all these things.” I was still not doing it for me. I didn’t really understand what that meant. As I was going through these hurdles, I also had to have surgery in my right arm because I, because working at Apple, I got repetitive strain due to typing. This was a semi wake up call for me because if I lost mobility of my right arm as an artist, I would never be able to create again. So I had to have surgery and I went. I went a whole year with this nerve pain and after it healed and I was ready to go back to work.

Then once I got ready to go back to work, soon after that, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. This was my really, really, really huge wake up call. This is where I was diagnosed once and they gave me treatment and then it had gotten better. And then I was diagnosed the second time. The second time I was diagnosed, I was in shock because they didn’t know, because it came back pretty fast after the first time. They didn’t know if, what stage it was at, unless they would operate and remove my uterus. At this point, it was after my second diagnosis, there were six weeks left. At this point was where I was sitting in bed one night and I had four weeks towards my surgery and I was crying and really sick to my stomach.

I’m like, I don’t know what’s going to happen with my life. I don’t know if I’ve made a difference to anybody in the world. I have nothing to show of my life. I came and what if I die at this age, I have done nothing to change anyone’s life. I’ve always known from a young age that I’m here to help people in some way, shape or form to cause some kind of healing to make some kind of a difference, to impact someone’s life. I’ve always known that as a child. Even maybe from the earliest time that I was maybe six, I’ve always known that this is something that I have to do in my life. I was sitting in bed that night and I don’t know, I got this insane amount of strength. I always quote Rumi on this. 

This quote is, “The wound is where the light enters you on your deepest, darkest times is when you find inherent strength that you never knew existed, but it’s always been there.” I was sitting in bed and I was like, “Okay, I’m you, you have four more weeks to your surgery. How do you want that to play out? Do you want to be sick and make yourself miserable for the rest four weeks, if that’s all you have left or are you going to change that for yourself?” And then, I don’t know if it was a voice that I heard inside of me or what it was, but something just told me you’re going to be fine, it’s like this happening for your biggest and highest growth.

I don’t know what that voice was, but it was probably my inner knowing. I just listened to that voice and I also heard this other voice within me saying, “I need you to love me.” And that was my body. That was my body screaming, “I need you to love me, and I need you to not be abusive and I need you to not judge me. I need you to just show up for me in all and every way that you can.” because with all the weight that I have, I was very abusive towards my body. I used to do six hours of cardio at the time, or have a lot of diet tea and be really sick to my stomach. You name it. I did all the things that anybody with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia would do.

At that moment, I was like, “Oh my God, my body is like screaming at me.” And I told myself that if I make it through this, I’m going to do something to help the world with my art. In some way, shape or form. I’m going to use my art in a transformative way for people. I went through my surgery and everything great. It was contained within my uterus and they just took out my uterus and I didn’t have to go through chemo or anything. And then I started to heal myself and work with eating disorder programs and trying to build my relationship with my body and my food. There was this place where I went to where they had a TED Talk and the TED Talk was about how women with early childhood issues end up having heart disease or cancer in their reproductive organs.

At this moment, although I had healed and forgiven these people in my life, I never thought that carrying all that stress in my life from that childhood would result in me, manifesting it as cancer in my body. A lot of anger came up at that time. As I healed and worked through that, I also attended a food addict recovery program, which really helped me identify my patterns and why I’m eating and when I emotionally eat. I left that program, at this point I’ve lost a total of 120 pounds. I’m still on my journey. I still have quite a ways to go before I get to a healthy body weight. But it’s really not about the weight anymore. It’s about just showing up for myself authentically on a daily basis. As I continued my journey, I was in a relationship with this really amazing individual, which I thought, who I thought I was going to marry. But he also came into my life and left to be able to return me back to my true self.

With all the painful situations that I’ve encountered within my life, I always was seeking for something outside of myself to fulfill me emotionally and to fulfill me within myself. But the more I sought outside of myself, the more unfulfilled I was. I realized that there were so many patterns that kept repeating, repeating, repeating people would come into my life. I would give them my all, and then they would leave, making me feel completely like I didn’t matter and I wasn’t worth it. But with each person I learned more and more about myself until the last relationship I had, it made me completely break down who I thought I was and get rid of all the patterns I was going through in my life to be able to evolve and come together as who I am, to be able to do the work that I’m doing.

After this breakup, I really isolated myself. I worked a lot, a lot on my mind, my body, my soul, and really dissecting who I was from childhood up until now. One thing that really helped me was listening to Wayne Dyer. This was my light bulb moment. I was listening to one of his talks one day, if you guys are not familiar with Wayne Dyer, he’s an amazing motivational speaker. You should definitely check him off, out on YouTube. He was talking about, he grew up from, he was born and then his dad left and he grew up from foster home to foster home, to foster home from the age of like maybe three to 11 or something like that. As he grew up later in his life, he went on to become this motivational speaker who taught people mainly about self-reliance.

 Most of his teachings are how to learn and get and receive and survive in this world, completely relying just on yourself without needing anything from anyone outside of yourself. He said that when we know what our purpose is going to be, life is going to give us the experiences we need to have in order for us to fulfill our purpose. If he going to grow up from foster home to foster home as a little kid, he would never have learned self-reliance because nothing is going to teach you self-reliance like being in a foster home by yourself is going to teach you. His soul already knew what it would later have to do in life to be able to accomplish what it needs to accomplish. So it gave him those experiences his entire life. He could be able to teach what overcoming going from all this going from foster home to foster home is like, and how to be self-reliant.

 That there’s always something within us that doesn’t require anything. As I reflected on that, I was like, I’ve always wanted to be a healer in some way shape or form. The experiences I had as a childhood were very, very difficult. I healed and I overcame from them. Those were just tools in helping me prepare myself to be the healer that I am today. That completely took away all the resentment I had for those people. It made me forgive. It made me have compassion, and it made me have gratitude because, one, forgiveness is for ourselves. It’s never for the other person and hurt people, hurt people. So I began to realize that whatever they did to me probably is something that happened to them.

 And then I detached from all the stories that I told myself my whole life that, “Oh my God, I’ve been molested. I have PCOS, I, blah, blah, blah.” I had blame for all these things outside of myself that were telling me that you are not where you need to be, because of all these things that happened outside of yourself. Then I just decided to detach from that story to come where I am today.

Amy:

I was just going to say, you were playing the victim, which is,

Nafsheen:

Correct.

Amy:

A huge shift that PCOS Divas have to make. That mindset shift from being that victim to kind of taking charge of your life, which is a difficult thing to do. It’s easy. It’s much easier to stay in that pity party victim place.

Nafsheen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah. I stayed in that space for a long time, until I realized that I just want to take responsibility for who I am and how I feel. Nobody really is responsible for how we feel, except us. Like nobody hurts us. Nobody does anything to us. Life in fact, is always happening for us is what I have learned to see for myself because every so-called painful, traumatic, dramatic, or adverse situation I’ve been through has just gotten me to my true, higher, more resilient, stronger self in order to be able to do the work I’m supposed to do here in the world.

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I want you to tell us about that work, but I wanted to just back up in the work that I’ve done over the years with PCOS, it’s often that women who have had some type of childhood trauma, like you, it manifests in some way as PCOS or maybe it’s like rejection of the feminine or it’s the some type of disease in the reproductive organs.

Nafsheen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy:

I just wanted to point people also to podcast number 121. I did that podcast with Dr. Keesha Ewers and we talked about childhood trauma and PCOS. That’s another powerful podcast to listen to if any of what Nafsheen has kind of saying is bringing up some things for you as well. But I loved what you were saying, Nafsheen, about self-love and realizing that you needed to partner with your body instead of punishing it. I think that that is a huge aha and breakthrough that a lot of women find they need to make in order to truly heal.

Nafsheen:

Yes, absolutely. I feel like when we’re against our body, we’re in resistance to the wisdom of our body. Our body is wise beyond words and the thoughts that come into our mind about our body that it’s big, or it’s not good enough, or I don’t want to be where I want to be, or we judge it every single day. That’s what the body listens to and it’s going to give you more of that.

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nafsheen:

If you, if we’re just in complete acceptance for exactly how it is. And then we do the things that we do to it to nurture it and take care of it in a healthy way and feed it the foods it needs to feel to thrive and to feel nourished. Then we let go of the outcome. We exercise and move our body and we feed it healthy foods without expecting it to change or look a certain way.

It will just automatically let go of what it needs to let go of that’s not serving it anymore.

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nafsheen:

I can’t say that I’m in all honesty, I can’t say that I’m fully there myself, but I’m on the journey of embracing that as well. Because I’ve been on a weight loss journey for a long time and I’ve been through the judgment and the working out really hard and the restrictive diets and all of that. Now I just want to really choose the path of least resistance. I’m doing what I need to do for my body. I’m showing up for myself, mind, body, and soul every day. And then I’m going to let the wisdom of the universe and my body take over from there.

Amy:

I love that. I like to think of weight loss as a byproduct of bringing your body, mind and spirit into balance.

Nafsheen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think if you’re internally happy with who you are and doing what you’re doing and serving your purpose, then your body just naturally lets go of whatever it’s holding onto.

Amy:

Yeah. It’s almost like having that experience of being in love and the love itself sort of feeds you and food just doesn’t become as important and that.

Nafsheen:

Correct.

Amy:

When you lack something to be passionate about, I think often we replace that passion with food or other things that may be harmful to us.

Nafsheen:

Right.

Amy:

I think for you and for a lot of women with PCOS, we are really highly creative women. I find that when we’re suffering and struggling, we’ve lost touch with our creativity. And that was something that I think you had, you could really speak to is kind of rediscovering. I mean your artwork is amazing and I hope that listeners will check out your website and see the work that you do. But, finding that passion and creative expression was a real way for you to heal. I’d love for you to talk about that.

Nafsheen:

About my work?

Amy:

Yeah. Well, about getting back in touch with your creativity working at Apple, like why you said that that was wonderful for providing for your mom and for yourself? But it was something that really didn’t feed you on a deeper level.

Nafsheen:

No, exactly. My soul was dying. I mean, I’m a highly creative individual, well with the degree in design of photography and I was stuck in a cubicle for nine years. After I healed from cancer the second time, and I started working back and taking calls and answering and doing technical support, there was just one day I woke up and I’m like, I can’t do this for one more second. I cannot do this for one more minute because I was at a point where I would accumulate two vacation hours and I would take them because I just could not sit on that table anymore. My physical body couldn’t, my mind couldn’t, my soul couldn’t and I didn’t have much in savings, but I knew that if I don’t take the step now to quit and leave and follow my heart and my passion, that I’m never going to do it and I’m going to be stuck in this circle.

 So I took the leap of faith and I quit that job. I started doing my photography and my art. I just surrendered to the universe and I’ve been taken care of since then. It’s not been easy. It’s not been like a regular paycheck that you have to rely on every month, but I’ve never been homeless and I’ve never been unfed. I just continue to trust that the work that I’m doing in the world is going to be sufficient. I didn’t want to just do art. I wanted art to make some sort of a difference in the world. As I’ve learned and grown and healed through this time there’s so much that I have accumulated in my little plethora of all the things that I can do for people and with people in order to, for them to get to their higher place of healing and connection with themselves and freedom from themselves.

 Because, really what we are seeking is complete unconditional love for ourselves because you cannot receive or give out what you are not and what you don’t have within you. We’re always seeking love. We can’t seek love or receive it unless we fully embody unconditional love for ourselves in every aspect. I realized that my gifts in life are, one is effortless connection with human beings because I feel like I’ve always had that ever since I was a kid, I make friends anywhere. I’m able to connect, people always approach me and they tell me their life. So I feel like I just have easy, it’s easy for me to connect with people. And then I have the gift of creativity. Now having done all the work that I’ve done, I have the gift of healing. I combined all three of my gifts into an art meditation and healing program that I do with individuals.

 It’s an eight week course. I always teach an intro class for people to see if they would be interested in the eight week course. The courses are for different subject matters having to do with the things that I’ve worked on and healed with on my own.

 The first course is to just get conscious and let go of your ego and get more into your soul, connect more with who you are and your true self that makes you happy. Let go of all your old patterns, connecting with your inner child and healing with your inner child. It’s an eight week course that helps you do that.

 And then there’s one that’s just about women and bodies and loving our bodies regardless of how they are.

 And then there’s one for women or men, men and women who want to overcome molestation.

 The way the course works right now, it’s on virtual. I would love to a space one day that I could teach them in person, but we all come together once a week. It’s a two hour class we meet and give them a little spiritual lesson about a particular subject we’re going to talk about that day. Some of the lessons are based on the poets and the mystics of the 18th centuries, who I grew up with reading and listening to. Then we do a meditation based on the subject. After the meditation we write, we journal to whatever came through in our meditation and then we paint about it. It’s a way for us to heal and to express what is within us on a two dimensional surface. We’re actually taking out what’s inside of us and putting it on a canvas.

Surprisingly, this is not for anybody who, if you have never held a paint brush in your life, you can still attend this. Actually those are the people who come up with the most phenomenal paintings at the end of the class, because you have completely let go of your mind. You’re painting solely from your soul and your heart, which is all feeling, your mind is completely detached from the process.

Other than that, I do Reiki Healing. I do one-on-one transformational coaching and I do personalized meditations. This is what I’m working on right now and creating, and this is the work of my life, hopefully that I will continue to do.

Amy:

Being a wonderful example to us to transform that pain and suffering of PCOS and pain that you’ve experienced in life to your, really, to your purpose and living your passion and making a difference in the world. If you were to condense down your journey and ways to move beyond that pain and suffering, I’ve heard through your testimony today. That self-love is so important. Partnering with your body, moving beyond those limiting beliefs and stories that you tell yourself, connecting with your, and expressing yourself creatively. What else am I missing?

Nafsheen:

I think it’s letting go of all the things you thought you were to be who you’re truly supposed to be, because we attach ourselves so much with the story, like I attached myself with, I was molested my whole life. I have PCOS, I don’t have support in my life. I can’t do ABC. Those are all just stories we attach to ourselves. If you want to do something in your life, you have everything in the now moment to be able to accomplish that.

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nafsheen:

You have everything that you need, work with what you have. I don’t have a space where I can host things in person. So I do it online. I don’t have a space where I can do Reiki Healing professionally, but I have a meditation space in the back of my house. So I do it there. There’s always a way that you can work with things and in truth, it’s not your environment that’s going to help you accomplish what you accomplish, it is the energy with which you authentically want to be of service or pursue your passion that you want to pursue.

Amy:

Mm-hmm. I love that. Well, I think we’ll stop there. That was a great way to wrap up this PCOS Diva podcast. I am so thankful that you came on and inspired us with your amazing story. Where can listeners hear, learn more about your work and learn more about your classes?

Nafsheen:

Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much, Amy, for this opportunity and for having me, it’s been, it’s been really wonderful. They can connect with me on Facebook, on my main page, which is Nafsheen Luhar, or they can connect with me on Instagram at Luhar Creative, or they can connect with me on my website, which is luharqreative.com.

Amy:

We will put all of those links in our show notes. Again, Sheena, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

Nafsheen:

Thank you so much. It was wonderful.

Amy:

And thank you everyone for tuning into this episode of the PCOS Diva podcast. I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye bye.

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