I’m a survivor, wife, mother, daughter and friend.
I’ve a varied work history in advertising and marketing, but after my partner was killed (in a workplace accident) in 1998 I realised marriage wasn’t a good retirement plan so I went to University and studied to become a Teacher.
In 2015 I was thrown a huge curve ball, I ended up in hospital with what was thought to be a stroke; but instead turned out to be a major mental health breakdown – the culmination of a slow and quiet breakdown over a series of sleep-deprived years. This, it turns out, was rock bottom.
With the exception of the notes I have from journals I wrote, I don’t have much memory of what happened – perhaps it has a lot do with having acted so far outside my own values that it’s too painful to talk about.
It was so bad that I lost my job, I was close to facing police action for my actions at work, and because of some stupid financial decisions, we almost lost everything we owned.
It was definitely the most challenging time of my life, but there’s never been a time I didn’t take responsibility for my actions – I was always prepared to face the consequences.
Even though I struggle with what happened, and I simply can’t believe the words on the pages as I read them, I had far more love and support than I could ever have imagined – even my employers, who I never expected to support me, understood I was going through some major health issues and were incredibly supportive.
I’m in a strange (and blessed) position these days – I have the ability, and time, to recreate who I am and what I want my life to be about. It’s exciting, but it’s also scary.
I’m working with a team of health professionals to help me better understand what happened so I never let things get that bad again. It’s been a difficult process – especially the forgiveness and self-compassion, but one that I trust will lead me to the right path.
I‘m learning that it’s not weak to ask for help, in fact sometimes it’s vital for our survival and while I’m usually the one others reach out to, I’m finally reaching out to others – it’s not been easy, in fact it’s been incredibly difficult, overwhelming and humbling at the same time.
I’ve spent most of my life being tough on myself – always making myself wrong, not valuing who I am and my worth, not acknowledging my accomplishments and undermining my own strengths – but I’m now finally focussed on how I can have the same amount of compassion and kindness for myself.
My thirst for kindness started in high school, when for years I had no friends and I desperately wanted (just) one person to show me kindness. I developed a belief that “I’m not valued and the only reason they’re hanging out with me is because I’ve got lollies (which I bought so they would hang out with me)”
Over the years, it evolved into giving gifts for no reason, making things for others, never arriving empty handed to friends houses and always making sure I’d be offering to do something. Even in a work environment I’d go above and beyond taking on far more than I needed to.
All these patterns, of not believing I was enough, lead me down an incredibly self destructive path.
From the bullying at school and addiction to various vices through my 20s’ to the grief and loss of family and friends – having attended 28 funerals in a period of 8 years, I’ve come to realise these experiences have helped me understand that when we scratch the surface of anyone’s life, just about anyone who looks like they’ve got it together, has something painful going on.
There’s not doubt that my greatest accomplishment (to date) has been my three children – children I was told (by the doctors) I would never have.
I’m forever telling my kids that’s never important to be right, but it’s always important to be kind – so now more than ever, it’s important for me to live my life as a role model for my children and to practice what I preach.
Being kind to others is easy, being kind to myself is harder, though this is what I need to show to my children is just as important – I practice this by forgiving myself of my mistakes, living a life that is true to my values and ensuring that I make me a priority in my life.
When you look back on your life, who (or what) has been a source of inspiration in your life?
The women in my family who have gone before me – quietly working away at making small changes, they all inspire me to do more.
My mum went to uni in her mid 40s and achieved her Bachelors Degree while working full-time. I am so proud of all that Mum has achieved in her life. This inpsires me more today than it did when she actually undertook the study. Mum only had a basic education and had to work incredibly hard at her study. Through this Mum showed that re-invention is possible if you want it enough.
My grandmothers who quietly went about supporting their families – After living through the war years in England and not knowing whether her husband would return from the war, raising their first child, burying two babies at birth from unknown causes (we now know was Rhesus incompatibility) adopted my aunt, had my mother (& my uncle after arriving in Australia.) My grandfather suggested they pack up their family of 5 and move to Australia, leaving behind everything she knew. To me the resilience that she had to do this is amazing. She was a strong woman and and inspiration to me with her courage and tenacity.
My other grandmother was a very quiet achiever. She was a bus driver at a time when that was most certainly not the done thing. She raised two children during the war and a third after the war. Nan faced religious prejudice when they married and didn’t ever let that define her. Nan lived and breathed kindness and compassion I am sure that is where I learnt that they are integral parts of the human experience.
I’m proud of the woman I am. I know I’m stronger than I feel and thanks to the incredible women in my life, I know I have a lot more to give.
As for what’s next for me, I have a big dream of making a difference in the lives of women and helping them be the very best they WANT to be in life.
My story is one of addiction, poor choices, loss, and much more. I’m not shying away from that, but rather accepting it for what it is and learning from the mistakes I made so I can help other women who may face similar challenges. My future is not written yet neither are theirs.
I’ve decided to work with an addiction specialist on a book about Women and Addiction. It’s not a sexy title, but I know that exploring the reasons why women race to numb the feelings of life through alcohol, drugs, exercise, gambling, money, sex, work and many more, is an important topic.
If I had a magic wand and could grant everyone a superpower, I’d want everyone to have the gift of courage – with courage we find compassion, with courage we find the confidence to make our dreams happen, with courage we have the wisdom to ask for help, with courage we can make a huge contribution to situations that require us to step outside our comfort zone, and with courage we can keep going when we just don’t think we can keep going at all.
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