I always thought that I had escaped my past years ago, at the age of about 15.
As it turned out, yes, I had escaped the physical pains and chains of that era of my life. I no longer was subjected to the abusive behaviour and criminal activities that were so frequent in my childhood home. I had also broken free from the words that had already played a part on the development or should I say, lack of development of self-esteem. Physically I was no longer there but mentally and emotionally I was still that little girl, until very recently.
I went through my whole life with this feeling deep in my core, that I was ugly, fat, unintelligent and the lowest that society had to offer, until very recently. Yes, I really carried those thoughts around with me for years, they dictated my choices in jobs, men and the general direction of my life.
These constant feelings of worthlessness, guilt and shame that sat on my shoulder, like a little green monster, reminding me never, absolutely never, to rise above my station but at least I had not followed the path of my mother. I had a marriage, two beautiful girls, a home and I wasn’t a drunk criminal. And, I was going to hang onto all that I had gained and the way to do that, in my mind, was to keep my past a secret. I never shared the darkest of activities that I had experienced as a child, they were hidden deep within my soul, in a place that I allowed no-one to venture, ever.
Instead I went through life pretending everything was fine. If anyone ever mentioned my childhood, I always just put a gloss over it, I’d sprinkled a little glitter on it, gave the ‘turd’ a little shine by saying,
“Oh, my childhood was very bohemian”
Not only was I trying to kid everyone around me but it was how I coped with the memories and the pain that I carried around.
Little did I realise that the coping strategy that served me so well at a time when there was little understanding, let alone counselling for children from homes of addicts and that lived a life of chaos, would eventually cause me more harm than good and stop me from growing.
I started to realise after several health issues that I was a shell of who I should be, that I wasn’t the woman that I could be and I had allowed others to treat me badly because of how I viewed myself.
That called for me to look deep into my own belief system and where that came from. Luckily at the time I was receiving counselling from a truly wonderfully in-tune lady, due to some issues within my marriage. With her I felt safe, under no judgement and at last able to open up. Until that point, I had told only my husband little snippets of my truth. This was the first time with anyone, stranger or friend that I had felt able to delve deep into myself and why my life had taken the twists and turns that it had. It was during these sessions that I learnt a truth that really has been my saviour, it was what took me from a woman who believed that she was so worthless to who I truly am. A woman who yes, started life a lot different to other children but survived it. However even with this knowledge, there was something stopping me moving forward, chasing my dreams, actually even having a dream and I knew that something had to change.
My light bulb moment can when I realised that my real escape from Bohemia came when I said these words, to my counsellor.
“My childhood was truly shocking, desperately dark and full of pain.”
These words, as they left my mouth seemed to free me. I literally felt the chains break and fall from me. That might sound extreme and dramatic but that’s exactly how it felt. I had told one person some of the darkest moments from my life and guess what I didn’t sudden burst into flames and hell didn’t swallow me up. I knew from that moment, that I had to share my story, I had to show people my vulnerabilities and what had contributed to the moulding of my personality. I knew if only for my own growth and well being, I needed to share my journey. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and I didn’t want to bad mouth anyone involved, most of the players in my childhood have already passed away anyway but it was still important to me that I wrote in a way that told my memories, in my words without to much ‘woe is me’.
The process of writing my story and sharing a little of it, wasn’t easy at all. I nearly gave up several times and particularly just before the publication of the book The Girls Who Refused To Quit that I co-authored with 13 other ladies, in which we all wrote a chapter, a snippet of our full story. The absolute dread that I felt of being judged was all consuming for me. I played out how I thought others would response, in my mind, over and over.
“Oh my God, how could she share her story, is she not embarrassed to share that?”
“Look at her spelling, her grammar, she’s just so thick.”
“Who does she thinks, she is?”
It went on and on, my feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome and basically.
“Shit, what have I done?”
Luckily it was too late for me to back out and as I was part of a team, I had to play my part. Letting down the other ladies was not an option, for me. So I just had to get on with it!
To my surprise as soon as the book was released and part of my story was out in the world, for all to see, it felt like I had taken off a huge backpack that I had been wearing for 48 years. A backpack that was full of shame and guilt. It made me question why I had felt shame or guilt for things that occurred in childhood, when I had no control over what was going on.
Not only that, as my story flowed out into the world, my friends didn’t drop me like some kind of leper, even though they now know the real me. In fact its had the opposite effect, I have had loads of messages from friends and strangers thanking me for sharing the painful memories that I have tried to hide for so long.
I truly became free and I escaped, not when I was 15 but this year at the ripe old age of 48, by admitting that my life as a girl was a whole lot more than Bohemian and that’s fine! Yes, I am the daughter of a alcoholic addict who spent time in and out of prison but I am also a whole lot more than that.
I once survived my story and now I choose to thrive because of my story!
Part of my chapter in the above book is a letter written to my younger self. Let me share a little with you, because its as appropriate for me today as it was then and maybe for you.
“Sweet child, know that you are stronger than you believe that you are. Your strength will carry you and others through times of darkness. Embrace your true self and feel free to follow your path, your dreams are yours and they are yours for a reason. No one has the right to squash your views, beliefs or dreams, live your life, your way. You should never feel like you need to change or hide from who you are. Remember always, choice is one of your greatest weapons.”
If I can shed my skin of shame, the sad little girl who always felt full of fear and confusion, then others can also not allow their past to control their future.
By talking about issues that cause all kinds of pain and mental health problems we can help to heal ourselves and each other. No one should wait 48 years to feel alive, fully alive. I believe every day is #timetotalk day. If I had felt that it was ok to talk all those years ago, I would not have suffered and hidden for most of my life. No one should suffer alone or feel that no one cares. Let’s always #bekind and #listen.
I always available for a chat to anyone who needs it.
When I’m not writing, I can be found behind the camera lens, as I’m a portrait photographer based in Kent. I enjoy #tellingastory through my photography. You can view my work and contact me here.
My full childhood story, Escaping Bohemia has already been written and will be released at some time in the near future, I’m just looking for the correct avenue so keep your fingers crossed for me and keep your eyes peeled.
The Girls Who Refused To Quit is already available on Amazon and other bookstores as a paperback and you can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. We ask all of our readers to please leave some kind words on Amazon.
It’s is my wish that as we go through 2020 we remember to help those around us who maybe struggling with memories and painful issues that we have no idea about. It’s time for a kinder world and only we can make it that way. Let’s make a positive change each and every day!