In an effort to connect deeply with herself and the world around her, our favorite recovering people pleaser, Tatum Fjerstad, is embarking on a 3-month journey around the U.S. to teach people to use writing and meditation as a healing process. On the way, she will be sharing stories of triumph, loss, joy, and growth from Actual Humans of Yoga. Or, as we like to call it: #AHOY! Help Tatum along her journey or email her to share your story.
Andrew Bathory is a beautiful human being. Like, really beautiful. As in, if he were straight, he would probably need to file for a restraining order because I would be stalking him around Canada like it was my job. Just look at him! He’s also very kind and smart, and a very intuitive old soul. I met Andrew through an old friend and we became social media pals. I didn’t meet him IRL until Wanderlust Tremblant 2014. You better believe I lingered in that hug a little too long.
Andrew’s Actual Human of Yoga story was particularly meaningful to me. Like me, Andrew is a fixer. He sees the light in others well before they can see it in themselves. This is a very powerful skill as a teacher. But without proper boundaries in place, this skill can do more damage than good—especially when it comes to partners and friends.
Andrew realized the full meaning of this a few years ago when he was cleaning blood off the ceiling of his apartment.
Yes. The ceiling.
Two years prior, Andrew met Phil after returning from his first teacher training in India. He came home to Toronto with an open heart. He was ready to give and receive love. Phil was a very electric, handsome man who turned heads in every room he entered.
Phil was also verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive to himself and others.
When they met, Andrew saw something special. He saw what others could not yet see. Andrew saw passion where others saw anger. He saw a man who needed a safe space to be himself. He saw a man who needed to be protected and nurtured and loved.
It’s important to note that Phil ignited something special in Andrew, as well. He encouraged Andrew to pursue his art as a musician and actor. This made Andrew feel seen and needed. Tell me: What’s better than that? (Answer: an unlimited supply of chocolate.)
As time went on, though, Andrew watched the abuse of others increase in volume and severity. While Andrew had never been the victim of any physical abuse, he’d been exposed to the verbal and emotional side. He knew it wasn’t right. But he, like many domestic abuse victims, struggled with walking away.
“I knew I needed to leave.” Andrew said. “But I was so worried. I was his safe place. What would happen to him if I left?”
Then, two years into the relationship, after a series of bad fights and rough bouts, Phil went missing for a week. When he turned up, he was on drugs and clearly in pain. So, of course, Andrew the Safe Place welcomed him back.
“I am learning how to stay on my own path and not veer off in order to excuse other people’s behaviors.”
That night, Phil passed out with his head resting on Andrew’s chest. Andrew stared at the ceiling, running through all the reasons to stay and all the reasons to leave. As he made his mental list for the hundredth time, Phil’s phone kept lighting up like Times Square. So Andrew decided to take a look.
He saw The Text Message.
You know the one.
The one from the Other Guy.
Andrew shook Phil awake and demanded an explanation, and things escalated quickly from there. Shouting transformed into screaming, which erupted into a full-blown physical fist fight between two people who, at one time, had never considered hurting the other.
When it ended, and Phil was gone, Andrew was left with the mess. As he swept up the broken dishes and wiped the blood from his ceiling, he finally realized that he had let Phil’s path become more important than his own. The anger was no longer passion. It was toxic.
It’s at this point in the story that half of you are saying, “Ugh. I’ve been there. So hard.” while the other half is saying, “Jeez, dude. How could you not see that coming?”
Like many victims of abuse, Andrew felt the shame that accompanies that second question for a very long time.
“All I could think about was that my love wasn’t enough to save him. That I wasn’t enough for him.”
I’ll let you take a minute to let that settle in.
Let’s make something perfectly clear:
People can change. But it’s not your job to change them.
As shitty as it was, and as much as it physically hurt, Andrew needed that experience. He needed that low moment of pain and shame. He needed to fall that hard on his own path so he could stand up, look around, and go, “Oh, no. This is not what I want.”
Important note: This is not to say that all victims of abuse “need the experience.” That is not the case. This is, however, Andrew’s story, as he told it. If your story is different, you get to own that.
Andrew decided to begin the never-ending work of forgiving himself and learning the importance of boundaries. And while he has since met a wonderful man to whom he is now engaged, Andrew isn’t cured of being a Fixer. This lesson will be learned and relearned throughout his entire life.
“I am learning how to stay on my own path and not veer off in order to excuse other people’s behaviors,” he said. “I realized, I am not a healer, I am a guide and teacher. And the best way to teach healing is by leading by example. I’m healing myself, which shows people how to heal themselves.”
Preach, Andrew. Preach.
Tatum Fjerstad is professional napper who can’t handle that Justin Timberlake loves another woman. When she’s not imagining what her life would be like with JT, she is mostly a human being teaching other human beings how to be okay with being human. She does this through movement, meditation, and writing. Tatum is here to be helpful, honest, and make you laugh, obvi. To learn more about how she does this, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and at tatumfjerstad.com.