“I’m a strong, courageous, beautiful woman!”
For a very long time in my life this belief was a far cry from anything that materialised from my mind. Growing up as a highly sensitive child, I was conditioned to believe that life was a struggle and I wasn’t going to survive if I carried on feelings all the feels and absorbing the weight of the world around me. I grew up in a pub until the age of seven, when my twin sister and I were born there was four of us, all under the age of 6 and so running a full-time business often meant my parents’ attention was on making ends meet to put food on the table for us.
The environment was often chaotic, and particularly so for a HSP like myself. Of course, at the time my parents did the best that they could with what they knew and I love them dearly for that, but my needs became morphed into those of my louder, more extrovert siblings. My sense of safety quickly diminished as I quietly hid in their shadows and blended into the background of the noisy punter’s downstairs.
I suffered my first panic attack at age 8. I had no idea what was happening to me, I remember it so clearly and can still feel that wave of anxiety and breathlessness wash over me as I visualise it now. I would go to school thinking I had something wrong with me, shallow breathing and a fast heart rate became the “norm” and I was certain that something on a physiological level was severely wrong.
My friends made comments about my breathing as we sat and ate lunch together and I used to think to myself, “why is no one else struggling to breathe like me?” I self-diagnosed with asthma as I had heard my sisters and mum talking about it before and felt relieved when I could finally put a label on these sporadic “attacks”.
When I think back to my old school memories, I feel exhausted. I was painfully shy among anyone who wasn’t a friend and never seemed to cope in “normal” situations where everyone else did. As I hit my teens, I had internalised these feelings and created a belief that something was wrong with me. It never felt safe to tell anyone how I felt so I created an inner dialogue that I was abnormal and weird, and that I must hide my true self to be accepted.
I never enjoyed activities that my friends did, such as socialising or speaking to boys and would become too anxious and overwhelmed by large groups or busy crowds so much so, that it reinforced the belief “I’m not normal” and “I must be more like everyone else to be accepted”.
Age 15, just before my GSCES’s I fell into a deep depression when the mother of a very close friend passed away. I felt so deeply saddened, her emotional pain became my own and I just couldn’t understand how she was going to survive and get through it.
For the next few years of my life, I sunk further into this darkness impacted by a number of other significant life events. I felt lost, I felt crazy. My inside world was chaos, I could not shut off my mind and my thoughts became so irrational, even suicidal.
I felt like a victim to my life.
I felt trapped, like I had had no-where to go. My behaviour became more directed towards perfectionism and achieving external goals. I was desperately looking for something that I could control and believed that any external validation I received would fill that void inside. I thought this behaviour would lead to happiness but with standards so high, I was continually falling short of my own expectations.
As a HSP and empath, this is all so clear now. Throughout my time at secondary school, people closest to me continued to make comments about how shy I was or how often I became embarrassed. I struggled so much to express the way I was feeling, and I wondered why I always felt things so much more deeply than everyone else around me. To outsiders, I appeared to be both calm and collected. I always believed that it was wrong for me to show my emotions that I become so good at putting on a brave face and mirroring others around me to adapt to the situation.
Social situations were difficult for me, the smallest conversation would give me enormous anxiety and I was constantly asking myself “Why can’t I be more outgoing like my friends”. This kept me stuck in a cycle of negativity and it soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy. My heart rate would increase, my breathing would become shallow and I was constantly worried that I would appear to look anxious.
I was young. Mentally and emotionally I hadn’t learned the skills to cope and I was an emotional sponge. I was severely impacted by everything and I just didn’t know how to protect myself from becoming so stressed and overwhelmed. I had a deep inner knowing that there was more to life, that suffering didn’t have to be the way life was for me, I just didn’t know a way out and I didn’t know how to tell anyone how I felt.
I soon became that teenager addicted to the self-help aisle of the bookstores. I was obsessed with the knowledge but would put the books down before finishing them because I didn’t have the strength and positive mindset to implement the tools that most of them recommended. I became a functioning anxious and depressed person and I couldn’t wait to start studying psychology at A-level, finally something I could totally immerse myself in and relate too. I couldn’t wait to get a deeper understanding of the way the mind works, especially the way mine did. I became fascinated by the mind – how much power it has over us, and the reason why we do what we do.
Despite this craving for more knowledge, I found myself using avoidance strategies to hide from the intensity of my emotions and completely neglected myself and my needs. I started on path to self-destruction which continued throughout my teens and into my twenties. I moved cities to go to University, still trying to hide from my emotions. I would mask them by getting unconscious, partying, taking drugs and drinking until I was sick. Nights out became focused around meeting men because I was desperately looking for some attention to fill my inner void. As you can imagine this always ended badly, I hated myself and had no respect for my body and because of this, no-else did either. The numbing and continual search for validation was just a temporary fix. I was so caught up in trying to feel accepted that these behaviours resulted in becoming more and more disconnected from my true authentic self.
Was I going to become a scientist?
I had made the decision to take my fascination of health and healing down the allopathic route and began studying towards a Microbiology degree. I was so obsessed with my own health that I dedicated a whole lot of time and money into learning all about bacteria and viruses. The perfectionist in me was hoping deep down that with 3 letters after my name I’d have the kind of acknowledgement I wanted for being smart, and that this would be the thing that I’d be recognised for.
However, the psychology and personal development sections of the library became more and more interesting and I became more and more obsessed with the power of the mind. I would use my study time to learn all about self-development, how we can create better lives for ourselves and how we all have the potential to heal from within. I dug deep into psychological theories around suffering and mental illness and even considered switching courses to immerse myself even further into this area of health and well-being. Despite a change of heart, I completed my Microbiology degree as I didn’t want to be seen as a failure.
I completed my degree and moved back home, I anticipated a well-paid graduate job and a rapid sense of fulfilment… but this couldn’t have been further away from my reality. My independence disappeared, I was £22,000 in debt, I felt uninspired by my career options and all I had realised was that I was doing none of this for my own satisfaction.
Ingrained deeply was the belief that “If everyone else is happy, I would be happy” and I thought that by achieving an honours degree of such high calibre I would gain some significance from my family, friends or anyone else that I met and that was more important than my own fulfilment. I was completely out of alignment with my values, I had suppressed all my creative pursuits for a more academic alternative and within an instant, I’d never been more confused about where my life was going…
Throughout this time, I dipped in and out of depressive episodes but even in those brighter times I still struggled an awful lot to regulate my emotions. I knew that I was different and that my peers where not experiencing life as I did, but I just didn’t have the answers or tools to navigate my way through the challenges. I had convinced myself that there was something seriously wrong with me on many different occasions; so constant trips to the doctors through my teens and twenties was a pretty regular occurrence. I would say to myself, “Surely it isn’t normal to feel this exhausted all of the time?” I suffered from intense fatigue, muscular & joint pain, headaches and digestive issues but got zero explanation from the doctors as to why this was happening for me.
I was addicted to seeking external change, anything that would bring avoidance and escapism from myself.
When I graduated, I continued to search for change, hoping that something outside of me would give me the answers I was so desperately looking for. I planned a 3-month trip around New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia, and I didn’t return home until 4 years later.
I travelled for 2 years, changing jobs and homes every couple of months, meeting new people and continuing my search for something that I just couldn’t seem to find. I visited some amazing places and met lots of great people. I got really good at making friends but very used to saying goodbye once I decided it was time to move onto my next new venture.
When I found Sydney, I wanted to make it my home. I had got the travel bug out of my system and I finally felt ready to settle down. I was so desperate to fit into this new place and to be accepted, I tried to re-invent myself, even picked up an Aussie accent, got new teeth and a new boyfriend.
I began to find my feet again, I started going to the gym more, and started to live more consciously. I became vegan and cut down on my drinking. I was working three jobs at the time just to afford the lifestyle that I desperately desired, I was determined that this would be the place I settled down, where I finally felt like I belonged.
My whole life I had been in a striving mentality, looking for the next best thing to bring me happiness. Yet deep down inside, I felt lost, directionless, and disconnected from any higher power.
Wake up moment
Underneath all of this I had began to wake up, my boyfriend at the time made me see things in myself that I hadn’t seen before. Through loving him it helped me to love myself – this was the start of my awakening. I realised that there were parts of me that someone else loved, and this helped me to see the things I was blinded by. For the first time in my life my cup was getting filled and although it didn’t work out in the end, I learned what it was like to feel loved.
I continued to immerse myself in self-help and personal development books, one of the most significant being The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I began to understand the principles of the Law of Attraction and used this to manifest things into my life. As I started to see evidence of this powerful universal law at play, I realised that it was never about the external world anyway….it was all to do with what’s on the INSIDE.
My consciousness evolved and I became more spiritually awake. I realised that everything that we create in our life begins with an initial thought. Once we start to look at the way we view the world, ourselves and others, we can change our perspective and create more of what we want.
I went on life coaching training days and studied NLP, I began meditating and taking part in rituals and other spiritual practises. I developed a faith in something bigger than me and knew that there was more to life than the struggles I experienced in the past. As my confidence grew, so did my motivation levels. I began coaching my friends and family without knowing (typical INFJ), inspiring them into taking action towards their dreams, motivating them to live a healthy lifestyle and create lasting habits that set them up for success.
I tried so hard to stay living in Sydney and create this life that I had visualised so intently, but in each attempt to make this happen I was met only with disappointment (or at least that’s how it seemed at the time!). I decided to take a step back and listen closely to my inner voice that was; my newly imbedded belief system.
I began noticing that little whisper inside of me, re-affirming the message that “Life happens FOR you, not TO you”, and it was this voice that grew louder and louder. Instead of going along the path of resistance, I consciously chose to notice the signs the universe was sending me and realised that everything that was happening around me where all signals sending me back home.
I found a life coaching course in London, I got fire in my belly and I just KNEW that this was what I was meant to be doing. I decided to make a surprise return to the UK and surrender to all the expectations and the future that I’d set out for myself.
I began to see that all my childhood wounds and suffering where my “assignments” and that it was these traumas I experienced that would completely help to transform my life in the most amazing ways. From hopelessness, despair and overwhelm, a spark grew inside of me. I was more determined than ever to turn my life around into the one that I so truly desired and knew that I deserved.
I was willing to do whatever it takes to live life to my fullest potential.
I was determined to heal myself and turn my life around, which meant diving into my deepest fears, traumas, and desires. I received coaching, cognitive behavioural therapy and immersed myself in conscious events around London. I joined a sisterhood for community support and ensured I was meditating and journaling daily to keep myself in balance. I became fully invested in taking my power back and I knew it was my mission to help give to others what I never had.
It is my assignment now to help people recognise their own FULL potential, to help them see what they can’t yet see in themselves and to support them in creating the life of their wildest dreams.
I enrolled on my coaching course and never looked back!
But of course, the story doesn’t end there…….
To read the next chapter of my story (including finding out I was HSP) keep your eyes peeled for my next blog post coming to you very soon!