Out of the darkness and into the light

Since opening up about the difficulties I’ve faced, I’ve had so many people ask me how I do it. How do I get through the grief of losing 3 babies? How do I get through the heartbreak of having my partner walk out on me through that stage of our lives? How do I get through each day fighting to see my daughter? How do I find the motivation to keep training and focused on my goals? How do I keep moving forward when finally facing the trauma’s I went through as a child? And how am I doing this all at once?

 

I’ve been pretty flippant about it all and I guess haven’t really thought about it much. Doing my usual “oh it’s not that hard, anyone could do it.” Trying to downplay the struggles that I’ve faced and fought through, instead of being proud of getting through another day without giving up. I recently said this to a friend and she replied very despondently “I can’t even seem to get through minor things, I wish I had your strength.” 

 

It hit me that by downplaying how I’ve dealt with things, was making someone I care about, doubt herself. And that made me feel like shit. I started this blog and decided to share my journey, to help and inspire others, not to make them feel crappy. 

 

So I want to say here and now, it has been incredibly tough. Every step of this journey has been a struggle and I’m definitely not anywhere near the end of my journey. It’s been the longest 8 months of my life and I have come through so much, but there are still parts of my life that are a total mess. I still have days where I cry numerous times and feel like giving up. I just don’t have them as frequently anymore. But they still definitely happen. 

And most days I put on a brave face and hide the struggles because I feel like such a burden on people in my life. I accept I’m difficult to be around right now. That’s just part of my journey. Opening up old wounds and facing my fears makes me even more irritable and frustrated than normal. I’m changing and it’s hard for people to get used to. But I don’t like the old me so I focus on pushing forward.

 

It’s really hard to explain how I have tackled each step but I really want to share the things that have helped me, and also the many things I’ve tried that have pushed me back a step. 

 

I think the main thing I needed to do was accept each step of the way for what it was, a step that I tried to take. Sometimes the step took me forward, sometimes it took me backwards. And to start it was really difficult to accept that I had gone backwards, but I found it really helpful to focus on the fact that I had tried to go forward. Because making an effort, is always a better result than not trying at all. 

Again, I didn’t succeed at accepting this every time. Sometimes a step back would send me into feeling like a failure and I’d end up taking even more steps back. But most of the time I could accept what had happened and allow myself to feel sad for a few minutes and then move forward and try again. And it is getting easier with time. 

 

It really has been about forming new habits. I always have beaten myself up whenever I perceive myself as failing. And I needed to form a new habit of not doing this anymore. Which, like in attempting to form any new habit, it’s difficult and seems impossible to start, but gets easier with time and the more you practise it. 

Another thing that has helped me form these habits, is relating my coping techniques to my physical training. I know in depth how my body works and what I need to do to make it stronger and faster and fitter. I applied these practises, and this belief, to coping with grief and anxiety and it made me see it in a whole new light. To get fitter, faster and stronger. You practise. You train. You fuel your body to perform at its best. You set goals.

 

In applying this to my mental health, I practised acceptance. I trained in not beating myself up over every step back. I fuelled my mind by starting self-care every day. My brain became stronger, my coping techniques became faster. I set goals each time I faced another difficult situation, to handle it a little better than last time. 

 

Even in doing these new practices, I faced setbacks and I tried things that didn’t work. I started off doing meditation each day and to start with I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of the feeling I got from it. I felt grounded and full of energy and also more peaceful. Over time though these feelings lessened and I realised I wasn’t finding it as useful. I just wasn’t feeling the same benefits anymore. 

 

When I realised this, instead of getting disappointed like I normally would. I accepted that it helped me through some really difficult times and that I could find another method of reducing my anxiety. I related it again to my physical training, if a certain type of workout isn’t giving you the results you were after, you try something new. 

 

What I tried next and what is currently working for me is listening to a guided sleep mediation with positive affirmations. Not only is it helping me sleep better but I’ve noticed I wake up feeling fresher and more positive. 

Other things I tried that didn’t work for me at that particular time, was repeating positive mantras, looking in the mirror and saying affirmations and countless other ways that I looked up on Google. These techniques didn’t work for me, however I’m happy to try again when the time is right.

My secret, if you could call it that, is beginning to take the time for self care. I’ve always shied away from this thinking I don’t have time for bubble baths or relaxing massages etc. But what I realised is that it doesn’t have to be a huge task or a special event. Self care can and should be done every day and looked at as necessary, not as a treat.

Self care for me, is taking even just 5 minutes to sit and look at the ocean, or to have a cup of tea and focus on taking deep breaths. It’s about being “selfish” and giving yourself a few minutes a day that are all yours and you focus on nothing but yourself and grounding your energy.

Again this was a difficult task to start with as I felt like I was wasting time and had to keep rushing to get things done. But the more I practised it and started to stop and relax, I really started to enjoy it and look forward to my time. Some days I might only be able to spare 5 minutes, but I make every minute count and make sure I focus 100% on myself.

I also love audiobooks at the moment. I set myself a goal to read a book per week this year and was struggling with hitting my goal due to time constraints. So I started listening to them while I run and when driving. Even when I’m just cooking or washing up. My favourites so far are Normal Gets you Nowhere – Kelly Cutrone. The Operator – Robert O’Neil. Girl, wash your face – Rachel Hollis. And Get your Shit together – Sarah Knight.

Very different books but with the same no-excuses approach to putting on your big girl pants and stepping up to face your fears and stopping self doubt. I loved them and definitely recommend getting them.

All of these things put together have helped me take tiny steps forward in reaching my goals. Some days I’ve barely moved an inch, others I’ve gone backwards and some I haven’t moved. But the main thing is that when I look back and average it out, I’ve taken more steps forward. And the most important thing, is that I keep trying. I refuse to give in.

 

Making changes is so hard but I just keep leaning into the difficult times and tell myself that it’s short term discomfort for long term gain. Every time I‘ve moved forward in my journey, the joy I get out of it far outweighs the sadness and frustration over the set backs.

I feel like I still have so far to go. But I’m starting to also recognise how far I’ve already come. And I’m starting to get so much joy out of this journey rather than it feeling like a weight on my shoulders.

Finally, after living in so much darkness and self hate, I’m starting to see a tunnel of light. Finally feeling hope for my future. Finally starting to see my strength. Finally accepting that I am becoming the person I always wanted to be.

I hope some of these ideas resonate with you and can help on your journeys. Please don’t get despondent if one doesn’t work for you. Just keep trying. Remember that your journey isn’t a solid object, it will move and change with you as needed. Keep taking those tiny steps. You’re stronger and braver than you think you are.

 

Wishing my life away.

During my last long run I was listening to an audio book and the author was talking about how we compare ourselves so harshly to others. Especially females. Yet as we are sitting there wishing we were like someone else, they are sitting there wishing they were like us. 

 

That friend of yours that you wish you had their life because they are happily married with kids, is secretly wishing they had your life because you’re successful in your career. That colleague of yours that you get jealous of because they are skinnier than you, is secretly wishing she didn’t have to go to the gym so much and had more free time on her hands like you. That family friend that you wish you could be more extroverted like her, is secretly wishing she could be more introverted like you. 

 

It made me realise that lately I have been thinking about my age and where I thought I’d be in my life by now. I thought I would have found ‘the one’ by now. I thought I’d be in a career I love and that I’m advancing in. I thought I’d be living in a home that I have purchased. I thought I’d have more money in the bank. I thought I would have travelled more. I thought I would feel successful. I thought I would feel in control of my life. Basically I’ve always held certain expectations of how my life should look, and it’s definitely not meeting those expectations. 

 

I kept focusing on what I feel I haven’t achieved and I stopped and thought, hang on a minute, what have I managed to achieve already? My first thought, lots actually. I joined the Military at 18 and served nearly 6 years. In that time I did overseas deployments and received 2 medals and a Commendation. I’m raising a beautiful little girl who is compassionate and funny and kind. I’ve completed a half marathon after battling depression and severe anxiety that was causing panic attacks and I’m training to complete a second one. I bought my first home by myself at 25 years old. I’ve endured significant traumas including being first responder to a young man that had been hit by a train and killed, had the shit beaten out of me while protecting an elderly man, had 3 miscarriages; and through all that I’ve managed to find a way to keep moving forward. I’ve started this blog and my readers are increasing each week. I’ve travelled to 8 different countries. I raised $2500 and shaved my head for cancer research. I cooked for and met George Bush and how wife. There is obviously so much more and it made me realise I really have done a lot in 35 years.

 

So many achievements yet I regularly focus on what I don’t have yet and where I thought I’d be by now. I focus on what others have achieved and wish I had done that too. I feel like as humans we always get distracted by what we want instead of being grateful for what we have and being proud of what we have achieved. 

 

I also realised that I’ve had so many comments since starting this journey from people saying they wish they had my strength. They wish they had my motivation to train like I do. They wish they were brave enough to share their stories like I do. They wish they could stand up and ask for help when they are struggling, like I have. So much amazing feedback and so many people reaching out with compliments, yet I feel discouraged that I haven’t achieved what I perceived my life should look like. 

 

I was in a pretty shitty headspace after thinking all of this as I felt disappointed in myself and also because my knees and hip were aching and I was hating on my body for not being like it was 6 years ago when I was training for my last half marathon. I was whining to myself thinking why can’t my joints work better, why can’t this be easier, why me??? To be blunt I was being a sook! Totally feeling sorry for myself….then I looked up and saw a man in a wheelchair. 

 

This was one of those life changing moments where you feel that life actually slows down around you. The synchronicity of this event literally felt like a slap in the face. I felt so incredibly selfish and guilty. And to say I got a dose of reality is an understatement. Here I am complaining about pain in my legs, when this man has no feeling at all in his. He would probably give anything to feel the pain I’m going through so that he had the ability to run again. To even walk again.

 

It really was a massive reality check and made me realise just how much I take the simple things for granted because I’m chasing this expectation of a certain type of life that I created in my head. I put so much pressure on myself to be this certain type of person when at the end of the day, I have achieved a huge amount in my life already and have been fighting the biggest battle the last 6 months just to get through each day, yet am still managing to take tiny steps forward. 

 

It made me think even deeper to the fact that I really am wishing my life away in hope of being like others. Wishing I was settled down with ‘the one’ like so many of my friends. Wishing I had progressed further in my career. Wishing I was more in control of my life and felt more settled. I’ve even been thinking lately about what I can do after running the half marathon. Because somewhere in my mind it’s apparently not enough to train solidly for a year and achieve something that many others wish they could do….in my mind I still need to achieve more. 

 

It blows my mind that I still expect so much of myself and can’t seem to celebrate what I have achieved.

If someone had of said to me a year ago that I’d be single, fighting to see my daughter, moving to Brisbane, seeing a Therapist, that I wouldn’t have another baby, I’d be writing this blog and inspiring so many people or that I’d be training my ass off every day….I would have literally slapped them and told them to wake up to themselves. 

 

My life wasn’t meant to be like this. I was meant to be with my partner who I loved for 6 years and had fought so hard to get back to the Gold Coast to spend more time with. I was meant to be with my little family and seeing my daughter every day and being like that for the rest of my life. I was meant to have given her a sibling by now and back to diapers and sleepless nights. I was meant to spending the rest of my life in that little bubble that I always wanted. 

 

The thing is even when I was in that bubble where I had my little family I always wanted, I didn’t feel settled. I always felt like I wasn’t enough. Like I was a bad partner and bad mother because my shift work stopped me from attending so many family events, even though it provided us with a beautiful lifestyle. I felt like it wasn’t enough because we didn’t have our own home yet, even though I was busting my ass working 16 hour days to get us ahead. And for the last 18 months I felt like I’d failed my partner and my daughter because I couldn’t carry our babies to full term. I kept ruining the life that we dreamed of. I kept adding extra stress by continuing IVF and fighting for one more go. 

 

Even back then when I had everything I wanted, I was still wishing my life away. Pushing myself for more. Expecting more of myself. 

 

After that slap in the face of seeing someone in a wheelchair,while sooking about having sore legs and realising how much I take for granted and spend so much time wishing my life was different; I’m taking the approach that if my life was really meant to be how I’d expected it to be, it would have happened that way. As harsh as that reality is, it’s true. It obviously wasn’t meant to be the way I had envisioned it. My life as it is right now, is how it’s meant to be. And after the roller coaster of this journey the last 6 months, if you told me that in a years’ time I will have found someone that loves me just as I am, and have 3 dogs and I’m working as a Social Worker….. I’d sit here and go OK, if that’s how my life is meant to be, then that’s what I accept. 

 

I’m no longer going to expect my life to head in any direction. I’m no longer going to waste time wishing it was different or wishing I had achieved more. My only focus is to be proud of what I have achieved and to relish in the joy of my accomplishments. I’m obviously still going to set goals around things I want to achieve, but I’m going to enjoy each step of those goals and celebrate properly when I achieve them, not go racing onto the next one. 

 

Time to stop and smell the roses and enjoy my life rather than battling to make it different because of a preconceived idea I created in my mind! 

 

 

Taking my power back

*Warning – sensitive trigger subject*

This will be the hardest blog I release. Opening up about the moment I had my power stolen from me.

But I feel like it’s going to be my most important one too. This week I took my power back and it’s the most amazing, and, well the most powerful feeling in the world.

It’s hard to even type the words as I’ve carried this burden for so long. The shame and the guilt. The feeling of powerlessness. I know I just need to spit it out… at 10 years old I was sexually abused.

I’m not going to go into details obviously. No one needs to read that.

25 years ago someone took my power from me. He took my innocence. He took my confidence. He took my ability to feel comfortable saying no. He took my trust. He took my feeling of safety. He took the feeling that humans are inherently good and kind.

He took everything good from me and replaced it with everything shit. Guilt. Shame. Self blame. Confusion. Mistrust. Fear. Defiance. Anger. Pain. Over bearing emotions that I could never find a way to cope with.

I truely feel that the person I was originally born to become, died that day. From that moment I was never going to be the same. He fundamentally changed my personality, my heart and my soul.

This is so difficult because I don’t want to talk about the fact that he’s had a lasting impact on me for 25 years. I don’t want to open up about the fact that even now when people I love touch me, it sometimes makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to admit that I still have nightmares. I don’t want to tell anyone that up until a few months ago I couldn’t accept compliments because my first thought was always “what do you want from me?” I don’t want to fess up that even hearing his name makes me feel sick. I don’t want to share the details of how I sometimes get a bad gut feeling around certain men that makes my heart race, my hands shake, I start to sweat and feel the walls closing in like I can’t escape.

I don’t want to share any of this. But this is the reality of my life. And the reality for so many others that have been through the same trauma. This is the lasting impact that this has on our lives.

But as of a few days ago when writing this, all of it changed. And I feel like a million pounds of weight have been lifted off my shoulders.

I was talking to my therapist about how I feel so powerless right now because my ex has total control over my life. How it sends me absolutely crazy every time she takes even more power from me. How I get so emotional about it and feel like I can’t find my way out. How I’ve always been triggered when people take my power away from me.

She asked if there was a time when I was a child where I feel I lost my power. Obviously the abuse came straight into my mind. I did try to stumble my way through a few other minor things because I was scared to step up and face my demons.

I stopped myself and there was silence for what felt like an eternity. I knew I had to face it. I knew this was my moment to deal with it. I knew I couldn’t carry it any longer.

I took a deep breath and said the words. The flood gates opened.

She suggested a few options we could try and I felt that the imagery work we’d used before sat best with me. A quick description of what happened was that I visualise up to the point where I started to know something was wrong. I then visualise “Adult Jess” stepping in and taking “little Jess” out of the situation and comforting her until she’s feeling ok and safe. Then “adult Jess” and my therapist walk back in and get everything off my chest that I’ve wanted and needed to say to him my whole life.

The entire experience was so difficult, yet so healing. Especially the point in which my therapist says to him that it’s his fault not mine and that it’s his guilt to carry for hurting me and for choosing to hurt others.

The feeling that’s burdened me the most is the guilt that I feel because I didn’t stop him and because I shut down to try and cope and didn’t tell anyone, he hurt others. And I have blamed myself for that my whole life.

Hearing those words that it’s not my burden to carry anymore, broke down so many walls I’ve had up. It shattered the weight I’ve always carried. It transferred all of the shit he gave me, and returned it back to him.

In that moment I felt that I took back all the good he stole from me. I took back my innocence. I took back my confidence. I took back feeling comfortable to say no. I took back my ability to trust. I took back my feeling of being safe. But most importantly, I took back my power.

I walked out of that office feeling like a new person. I barely recognise myself. I feel entirely different. It’s like I actually see the world differently. I can’t find the words to explain it properly. But it feels good. It feels amazing actually.

And by no means do I feel that I just walk away and forget it happened. Like I’m magically better and won’t ever think about it again. I will always carry the scars from this trauma. I will always remember. I’ll probably always get the random flash backs and the nightmares. But I’m hoping that these things will lessen over time now that I’ve faced it and feel myself healing.

For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like a victim anymore. I feel like a survivor. And that is incredibly important to me. I faced one of the most horrendous things a child can face, and today I stood my ground and took my power back!

I’ve been going back and forth in deciding whether to write a blog on this. I don’t mind sharing these details with the hundreds of people that read this that I don’t know and never will. But it’s especially hard to share such a traumatic event with people I know. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Or to look at me with pity. Or to feel uncomfortable around me because they don’t know what to say. No one can say or do anything to take away the pain so please don’t feel that you need to “fix” anything. I’m sharing this because I know the worst thing about being abused is that you feel like you’re the only one.

So I want to stand up and say, you’re not alone! If we’ve never met, or if we’re best mates, or if we work together or if we fell out years ago and have never spoken since, I don’t care… you’re not alone in this. If you need to reach out then I’m here. You’re not alone.

The other emotion you carry is the guilt and self blame.

So I want to stand up and say, it wasn’t your fault!

The only person to blame in this situation, is the perpetrator. No one else. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my parents fault. It wasn’t society’s fault. It wasn’t his parents fault. He alone made that choice to hurt me. Him. No one else.

I also wanted to share this as I made a promise to myself when I started this blog, that I was always going to be open, raw and honest. And this is the most significant trauma in my life and has impacted me so much. So standing up and facing it, will have an enormous impact on my journey.

And hiding what happened is a way of him still holding power over me. So I’m standing up now and saying no more.

“You, you piece of shit, no longer hold any of my power.” It’s mine!!!

Guilt, shame and self-blame

I read an article recently that if you’ve been in relationships where difficult things were hidden or not spoken about, this causes you to feel shame and loneliness about struggling through difficult times. That also 90% of my generation grew up in a family structure where children should be seen and not heard, has caused us to try and mask our emotions instead of release them.

 

It seems to be, that the common perception of society these days that showing emotions makes you weak, especially for men. I don’t understand this concept at all because opening up and showing emotions is one of the most difficult things you can do. You leave yourself vulnerable and open to judgement and criticism. How is that being weak? I have been doing this more than ever these last few months and it has been the most difficult process I’ve faced. 

 

I’ve just come out of a relationship where I was belittled almost every day for being “weak” and “too emotional.” I was laughed at. Told I was being ridiculous. Told I needed help. She even said that the only reason she started dating me was because she thought I was broken and she wanted to fix me. Wow what a confidence boost that is. If I had a dollar for every time in that relationship I heard the words “There’s no point getting upset over anything, just have a bottle of wine and get over it” I’d be a millionaire.

 

Looking back and knowing that I’m so much stronger now than I was then, I know I’d never stand for such disrespectful words to be spoken to me. But when you’re in that cycle, it’s so hard to stand up for yourself and get out. When someone literally laughs in your face when you get upset, it makes you feel so utterly worthless.

 

A few days after we found out I’d miscarried the first time, she saw me upset and her exact words were “Urgh what are you crying for now?” My response “I’m upset because we lost our baby.” Her response “Well crying won’t change that so get over it and we can try again.”

 

After our second loss I was sitting on the kitchen floor bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t believe it happened again. My oh so loving and supportive partner walks in “I don’t want our daughter seeing this so I’m taking her over to Mums so you can be alone and have some space.” So now we’re teaching our daughter too that it’s not ok to show emotions??? And tell me who in the world would want to be alone after finding out such news?

 

After our 3rd loss I cried in front of her once. Then I shut down and hid my emotions because I couldn’t cope with being made to feel worthless and stupid again. So I didn’t grieve properly. I just blocked it all and threw myself into running.

 

I can see now that her way of blocking emotions and not dealing with the difficult parts of life, is the easy and “weak” way of getting through each day. I found that blocking the grief was so much easier than dealing with it. 

 

I used to do that before I learnt to express my emotions and having a lifetime of built up shit that I didn’t deal with, led me to a point in my life where I felt I could barely cope. I had such a back log of emotions that I had blocked, that when I finally started releasing them it was incredibly overwhelming.

 

When starting to release these emotions and deal with them, I realised just how much shame and guilt I carry for even feeling these emotions. And that makes it so much harder to deal with. The feeling that there is something wrong with me just because I wear my heart on my sleeve. The feeling of guilt and that I’m a burden on the people in my life. The feeling of shame that my life isn’t “perfect” like certain others that put on a front pretending that their life is perfect.

 

No one’s life is perfect. Everyone feels emotions. Everyone has bad days. Everyone feels sad sometimes. Everyone cries. So why it that the people that are real and show these emotions is are labelled as weak??? And the people that hide these emotions and are “fake” about their lives, are celebrated???

 

Again it just seems like society is going backwards. We value people being fake over people being real. We belittle people for showing emotion rather than celebrating their courage to be vulnerable. We give more credence to materialistic goods rather than time with people we care for.

 

The self-blame that I have always put onto myself is something I struggle with every day. I’ve found it easier to take responsibility for other people’s shitty actions, rather than having the courage to stand up and say no it’s not ok that you treat me that way. When you carry so much shame and guilt, it almost feels better to take the blame on yourself, because your self-worth, and self-confidence is non-existent. You feel like you deserve to be treated that way. And when you’ve also done this your whole life, it’s hard to break the habit. 

 

What I’ve realised very quickly that there is three ways people react when you finally step up and start voicing that you don’t like being treated a certain way. 1. They fight back and try to put the blame back on me by bringing up my faults and trying to bring me back down again. 2. They defend their actions and try to blame others or make excuses for shitty behaviour. 3. They reflect on the situation and will take responsibility for their actions and apologise whole heartedly without making excuses. 

 

What I’m working through with my therapist is how to accept that all 3 responses are ok. That some people aren’t ready to admit when they have hurt someone and that is ok. That is just the place they are in right now. It doesn’t make it ok that their actions hurt me, but its ok that they aren’t ready to take responsibility yet. It’s really difficult to find a healthy balance between recognising that their actions were not ok, and accepting that it happened and moving forward, but it’s something I’m slowly working through and getting used to. 

 

This journey is teaching me so much about myself, about others and about life in general. I’m experiencing every emotion under the sun, from pure bliss to absolute heart break and endless despair. What I’m realising is that even though making changes and leaving yourself vulnerable is the hardest thing I have faced, I would rather face it and conquer it and go through all of these difficulties, than staying the way I was. I’m sick and tired of not being true to myself. I’m sick and tired of letting people walk over me. I’m sick and tired of taking on all the blame from others. 

 

Making changes is hard, but you know what’s even worse? Staying the same!!! 

 

 

The Masks We Wear

I have a million different masks that I slide on and off. I’ve been doing it my whole life and have done it so much, each transition is absolutely seamless. I wear these masks for many reasons, none of which are probably healthy, but they get me through each day so they can’t be entirely bad. Right???

 

I wear a mask to try fit in in social situations. I wear them at work as I’m in a law enforcement role so that doesn’t really suit my personality. I wear them to protect myself from people judging the real me. To be honest I wear them sometimes just because it’s easier to put on a front and pretend I’m someone different. To pretend I’m confident. To pretend I’m coping.

 

It’s actually quite scary that if you ask 5 random people in my life to describe me, their descriptions would be startlingly different.

 

Ask a work colleague that has seen me in action when someone is being disrespectful. They would say I’m strong, confident and brilliant in conflict situations. That I don’t take any amount of shit from anyone.

 

Ask one of my oldest and closest friends and they would tell you I’m the life of the party. Extroverted. Would fight the biggest person to protect them.

 

Ask one of my ex’s and they’d tell you I’m stubborn and fiery. Another ex would tell you I’m overbearing and love too much. Another would tell you I’m deeply loyal and always put others first. One would say I’m too emotional. One would say I’m not emotional enough.

 

Ask someone who has seen me with my daughter. They will tell you I’m sweet and soft like a teddy as I sit and sing to her to calm her down when she’s upset.

 

Ask someone that has just met me and if I’m in a new environment, they would tell you I look rude and unapproachable. The whole resting bitch face thing again. I’m not rude I’m just shy and overwhelmed from being in a place I don’t know with people I don’t know. 

 

I’ve realised recently I wear so many masks to cope with so many scenarios in my life, that I don’t even know the real me anymore. I’ve hidden the true me for so long that if you ask me to describe myself, I couldn’t even give you an honest answer. I’d have to reply, well what situation do you want me to describe myself in???

 

I can’t recall when I started putting these masks on. Started changing my personality to suit the people I’m with or the situations I’m in. But I know for sure I was definitely doing it before I hit my teens and was realising there was something ‘different’ about me.

 

My friends started talking about their interest in boys. I didn’t understand what they were on about. There was a feeling of unease inside of me and I know for sure I started wearing a mask then so no one realised I wasn’t ‘normal.’

 

This was 23ish years ago and I’ve realised recently that I’ve still been wearing a mask when it comes to my sexuality. I’ve spent my whole life worrying about being judged, when the only person that has been judging me, is myself.

 

I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve never had to endure more than a few minor homophobic comments. But I’ve heard horrific stories of others suffering and I’ve always been terrified of it happening. So I’ve been living my whole life as that 12 year old girl, scared to be ‘different.’ Wearing a mask to try and protect myself from harm that never comes. 

I’ve spent my whole life desperately trying to appear ‘normal’ and not be seen as an outsider. Now that I’m going through this journey of learning to accept who I am, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being ‘normal.’

 

I want and need to release this mask and embrace myself for who I truely am.

 

Another mask I wear constantly is one to cope with social situations. I don’t like having attention on me and I’m more than happy to sit back and have quiet, meaningful conversations with one person at a time. However it seems at every social gathering there’s that one dick that has to be the life of the party and feels it’s his/her duty to force everyone to have a ‘great time’ like they are.

 

They completely lack the ability to understand that people have different personalities and that not everyone has to be up shouting and dancing and being overly enthusiastic about the tiniest of things. They completely lack the ability to understand that the 2 quiet people in the corner that were having a meaningful conversation, were actually having a ‘great time’ in their own way.

 

Because of their lack of understanding they then butt in and try and get you to stand up and join in with them in their overt enthusiasm. When you decline they try and shove a drink in your face saying oh you need to get drunk so you can have a good time. Um no you asshat we were having a wonderful time until you came along so please get out of my face so I can go back to enjoying myself.

 

Those kind of situations are so awkward and uncomfortable that I learnt to put on a mask and attempt to be overly enthusiastic with that person. It would work most times and they’d get their fix and move onto the next person. But I’d always feel like a fool afterwards. Hating that I couldn’t naturally just be like that person so I could fit in easier. Hating that I don’t feel comfortable to just be my true self in every situation I’m in. 

 

Again this is a mask that I want and need to release.

 

I don’t want to wear these masks anymore. I want to feel comfortable being me. I want to feel confident enough to not change myself to suit other people. I want to feel like I’m not being judged for being ‘different.’ 

 

I feel as a society we’ve grown to expect certain ‘norms,’ certain behaviours from people. Society seems to look up to those that are out there making a noise and demanding attention. Society also seems to look down on those that are quieter and don’t like attention drawn to them. 

 

I’m realising such a common theme in everything I write lately. And that is that as humans we all seem to judge each other for our differences instead of embracing our uniqueness. Instead of celebrating and learning from our dissimilarities, we criticise and belittle them. This is probably the founding factor in why so many of us wear masks to hide our true selves. 

 

It’s from this pressure to perform and be someone I’m not, that I judge myself so harshly. How I constantly put myself down and tell myself I’d be so much better if I was like her. How I’d fit in so much easier if I was like him.

 

It’s been so eye opening since I started publishing my journey. I’ve had so many people contact me and say that they have had similar experiences as mine when it comes to feeling like they don’t fit in just because they are introverted. Or they have an inner critic too that harshly attacks them for being ‘different.’ That they have felt lost and alone even in a room full of people because they feel that no one understands them. 

 

It makes me so frustrated and truly sad that humans are having this effect on other humans that they are meant to care about. You’d think after millions of years of so called ‘progress’ that we would have figured out by now that not one of us is the same as another. You’d think we would have all accepted and embraced each other’s uniqueness. 

 

If anything can come from this blog I hope so fiercely that even just one person can turn around and change someone’s life by not judging them. By accepting them fully for who they are. By giving a random compliment to someone. By smiling at a stranger. By saying something kind to someone that serves us at a restaurant. 

 

Let’s make a pact here and now to do one thing out of the ordinary per day to make someone smile. In a world full of cruelty, let’s choose to start spreading kindness. 

 

 

 

How running saved me

In 2013 I completed a half marathon and I was fitter and healthier than ever. I had just left working in the fitness industry and was in a new relationship. Within a few months of feeling on top of the world after reaching such a huge goal that meant the world to me, I was 10 kg heavier and wasn’t training at all. This carried on for the next 5 years. I had periods of really feeble attempts at getting back into training but always made excuses and would fall back into laziness again. 

It wasn’t until after my last surgery where I was laid up in bed and couldn’t move and I hated myself so much, that I finally got the burning urge to train again. It was actually killing me to not be able to do anything and as each day passed I got more and more frustrated. I was busting at the seams to get started but I knew that I would have to take it easy and start back very slowly or I would injure myself and end up giving up again. 

My very first ‘training’ session was literally a 10 minute walk. Not only was it painful and uncomfortable as I was 2 weeks post-surgery and I still had glue holding my belly button and 2 other cuts together, but it was also uncomfortable mentally. I was feeling so depressed and grieving from the miscarriage and didn’t want to leave the house. So getting outside was a real struggle and was totally overwhelming. But I did it!!!

It was hard to not put pressure on myself and push for more but I made sure to only focus on the positive. That I completed my first session and had taken a step forward. I had to keep reminding myself that it didn’t matter how slow I was going, but I was finally going. It was around this time I set myself the goal of completing another half marathon. I had 10 months before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon was happening. Game on. 

I didn’t tell anyone for a few months that this was my goal. Fear of failure was making me keep it a secret and I didn’t want to add any pressure to what I was already feeling. My training was still going very slowly but I was loving it. I was finally feeling like me again. I was looking forward to training and would actually feel “itchy” when I had a rest day and normally ended up going for at least a walk. 

My first “run” was around the block when I was still living in Runaway Bay. 3.2 km that took me 34 minutes!!! I could have actually walked it quicker but I set myself a goal of running the whole way without stopping so I didn’t care how long it took me, I just couldn’t stop. The feeling I got when I arrived home was like euphoria. I was so proud of myself. And it really enforced the fact that you have to set little goals along the way and be proud of each of those steps you take. 

It was around this time the rest of my life started to fall apart and running has literally saved me and pulled me out of some seriously dark places. It felt like hitting this goal was the only thing I had to look forward to, the only thing I could control. Every other part of my life it felt like I was a puppet on a string, I was having to do what everyone else wanted. But running was my thing. No one could take that away from me, no one could control that part of my life. I was training every day without fail. I couldn’t stop. And I was loving every second of it. My body was starting to change. I was feeling so much fitter and stronger and was feeling a lot of pride in myself for sticking to it and staying focused. 

During all of this I was strict with taking care of my body, mainly out of fear of getting injured because I knew that running was the only thing keeping me going, but also because I wanted to get the best out of my body. I was stretching each night, using a foam roller, taking magnesium, eating good nutritious meals and I ending up adding yoga into my nightly stretching routine as well just recently which I actually really love doing and am seeing the benefits already. This doesn’t mean I didn’t treat myself. I’d started drinking alcohol again after 5 years of barely drinking at all, and I’ve had a few pretty big nights. Plus I was doing a bit of comfort eating too but I never allowed myself to feel guilty for it. I was training hard and as a whole was eating well so I definitely deserved some treats too. Taking the guilty thoughts away from treating myself made a huge difference. Normally I’d beat myself up thinking how I’ve ruined my progress, and would comfort eat even more. 

At this point in time I’m up to 16km runs. It’s still a pretty challenging time in my life, and I’m battling every day to keep my head above water. I’m also trying to find a way to manage the not so positive comments that always seem to follow when people step up and achieve something.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had some amazing feedback and have been truly humbled by some of the comments of people reaching out and sharing their journey with me and saying that I am inspiring them to start training again. These comments have led me to actually start this blog and be more open about my journey and I’m doing my best to focus on them as I deeply appreciate them.

Unfortunately these days there is always negative comments thrown in as well and I do my best to not think about them but some days they get the best of you and bring you down. I don’t believe any of the comments are thrown at me to intentionally cause harm, but it’s just the usual of people not thinking before they speak and not realising how hurtful certain things are. Being called a skinny bitch by ‘friends’ because I’ve lost weight and being told I need to start eating KFC….. it hurts. Being told oh you have it so easy because you were born fit…. it takes away from the hard work I’ve put in. 

Maybe I’m just super sensitive at the moment, but I really believe if you see someone stepping up achieving something and you don’t have anything nice to say about it, then don’t say anything at all. I’ve even had someone tell me I won’t make my marathon goal by going vegan. Apparently eating meat is the only thing that lets you run these days?!?!?

I’ve lost weight because I’m training a lot which obviously naturally occurs. I’ve also not been able to stomach meat for the last 8 weeks or so after reading an article on live animal exports so I’ve completely changed my diet to almost Vegan (I still indulge in chocolate now and then). I’ve also been struggling to eat because my stomach is in knots from the stress I’m under. The last 2 weeks I’ve also spent 3 nights throwing up, again I think from stress. So calling me a skinny bitch and telling me to go and have a big feed, really doesn’t help people!!! It also doesn’t help by telling me you wish you had it ‘easy’ like me. Trust me, none of this journey has been easy. Every fucking day has been an absolute battle. Every step I’ve taken has been through enormous effort and willpower. I wasn’t born fit. I am fit now because I have shown up for myself every day without fail for the last 7 months and I have busted my fucking ass running and training. This is not fucking easy. 

And I know it appears I’m naturally motivated so it’s easier for me than most. But it’s come to a point where running is saving me from all the shit I’m dealing with. It’s the one thing I can control. The one thing that manages to shut up my inner critic for awhile. That’s where my motivation actually stems from. Which isn’t a very pretty place.

As of right now there is 109 days and 19 hours until the run starts. I’m so excited and keep wishing that I could do it now so I can achieve my goal now instead of waiting. But I know something like this is about the journey of getting there, not just the accomplishment at the end so I’ll be patient and keep working hard and keep showing up for myself. I also know that the struggles I face will make the finish line so much more meaningful. 

Just the thought of crossing that line makes me tear up already. It’s going to be one of my greatest achievements to pull myself out of the hardest and darkest place of my life and to turn it into something positive and life changing. 

To everyone that has passed on positive feedback, I thank you for your kind words and I love sharing this journey with you and knowing that you’re starting to change your life too. To the few that have been not so positive, I thank you for putting that fire in my belly to fight harder.

Finding my pride

So someone recently asked me what Star Sign I am and I said Leo. She responded oh so you’re loyal, proud, caring and stubborn. 

 

I’m not a believer in Star Signs but I thought, you couldn’t really describe me any other way. 

 

I’m incredibly loyal to those I care for. Often to my own detriment as I remain loyal to those that aren’t loyal to me. 

 

I’ve always seen myself as caring. I’m empathetic and compassionate and I like taking care of those in need. 

 

And I’m definitely stubborn. Especially when it’s something I’m passionate about or involves someone I care about. 

 

I started thinking about pride. I realised I am a very proud person, but only when I achieve something out of the ordinary. I never sit there and think about how proud I am of the person I have become.

 

I had another friend today tell me I should be proud of how far I’ve come on this journey and my immediate thought was “well I’m not proud, I should be further, I should be better.” That inner critic was at it again.

 

I want to change this. I want to be proud of who I am at a base level, not just when I go out and achieve something. So I’ve made a list of everything I’m proud of. It’s actually quite difficult as I’m so used to finding “faults” in myself rather than seeing the good in me. 

 

Firstly, I am proud of how far I’ve come on this journey. Looking back 6 months, I was a broken shell. I couldn’t see a way out. I had no hope. No motivation. I’m at a place now where I’m stronger mentally and emotionally and I’m very proud of this. 

 

I’m proud that I don’t allow my anxiety and emotions to completely take control like they used to. 

 

 

I’m proud of my training. I’m motivated and fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been.

 

I’m proud of being a great Mum. My daughter means the world to me and I feel so much pride when I look at her. 

 

I’m proud of this blog. Releasing this to the world was the scariest moment of my life. The fear was crippling. I couldn’t look for hours after I posted as I was scared there would be negative comments and people laughing at me. But I faced my fear and I haven’t looked back. And I feel pride for every like, comment and share on these posts. 

 

 

I’m proud of how open, raw and honest I’ve been. It’s incredibly difficult sharing some of the thoughts and feelings and struggles I’ve faced. But it helps me feel more in control of these emotions. To face them head on and not be ashamed of them. 

 

I’m proud that I’m inspiring others on their journeys. 

 

 

I’m proud of becoming vegan. I chose this two months ago after reading an article on live animal exports. I love how much it has changed my body and I love knowing that I no long hurt animals just to feed myself. 

 

I’m proud of my body. For the first time in my life I can look in the mirror and not pick at things I don’t like. I’ve worked hard and can see the results and I love it.

 

I’m proud that I’m finally putting myself first. I’m doing this in many ways but what I’m most proud of is finally having the strength to stand up to people that are not treating me how I deserve. 

 

I’m proud that I’m starting to see my worth. 

 

I’m proud that I was brave enough to step up and seek help from a Therapist.

 

I’m proud of the work I’ve put in with my Therapist to heal my past and built coping techniques for my future. 

 

 

I’m proud of my ability to show compassion and care for those that have hurt me. 

 

I’m proud of showing the world the dark parts of me that at the time I wasn’t proud of.

 

I’m proud that I’m starting to move forward and make plans for my life that I want, instead of always doing what others want in order to keep the peace. 

 

I’m proud of stepping up and making changes in my life when I could have easily thrown my hands up and given up many times over. To face this difficult times head on instead of running away. 

 

And lastly I feel proud that I have written this list. 

 

If anyone reading this is struggling to feel pride in themselves, I urge you to write your own list. I feel lighter after writing this. I feel like I can actually look at myself and smile. It’s really shifted my thoughts and the pressure that I feel I always carry, has been lifted. 

 

I know this feeling will be temporary if I don’t continue with these thoughts so I’m going to print it out and stick it on my fridge. Whenever I’m feeling low or starting to put myself down I’m going to use it as a reminder of this moment where I truly feel proud of the person I am.