Ten things I wish I could tell my younger self:
1. To always have hope. Through both mental illness and via situations I have faced I’ve felt hopeless at times in my life. I can’t necessarily change how I think or feel when in the grips of mental illness but I can change how I deal with situations that life will invariably throw at me in the future. I have ‘Dum vita est spes est’ tattooed around my ribs which means whilst there is life there is hope in Latin. I truly believe that no matter how utterly hopeless you may feel at any given moment if you just keep on going moment by moment it can get better. So no matter how low one feels it is important never to take a permanent action to solve a temporary feeling.
2. That all men are NOT bastards. I could be forgiven for allowing myself to have grown up believing this was true as I didn’t have a solid male role model in my life. My father walked out on my mum when I was young, he was physically and emotionally abusive. He gambled and took risks including having lots of extra marital affairs then when I was eleven sent me a post card to let me know he had emigrated to Australia. One of my dad’s friends repeatedly sexually abused me over a three year period as a child which ended when he raped me shortly before my tenth birthday telling me he was doing my dad a favour ‘as all little girls need breaking in’. I’m fairly sure my father didn’t know this was happening although he is still guilty of not protecting me. (I’m equally pretty sure that my mum did know but that’s another blog for another day).
When I was a teenager my mum met a man and remarried, she was so desperate not to fail in another relationship that she stood by and watched as he emotionally terrorised me. He would pin me up against a wall and scream at me about an inch from my face, my crime on one occasion? I had taken an apple from the fruit bowl without asking his express permission. So as you can see I didn’t have great male role models in my formative years which kind of set the scene for years of bad relationships where I expected to be treated poorly. I got so intoxicated at parties that on a couple of occasions I woke up to find men having sex with me, sex I was too drunk to consent to but they assumed anyway.
I would tell my younger self that some men are kind and gentle and able to love unconditionally. My husband saved me, probably from myself in all honesty. He is the most wonderful father and I fall in love with him all over again each time I see him with our daughter. He idolises her, he keeps her safe, helps her brush her dollies hair and let’s her dance on his feet. I could have become so bitter about men but thankfully was proved wrong.
3. That food is something for nourishment and not something to be used for punishment or reward. I was brought up to believe that refusing food was good, virtuous even. That finishing what was on my plate was bad, that wasn’t always what I got told verbally but based upon my mothers behaviour it was certainly the message I got. My mum took a sachet of laxative every morning to ensure that she ‘went’ and didn’t absorb extra calories. After my dad’s friend abused me he always gave me sweets as a reward, it’s only logical really that whereas some people turn to drink or drugs that food was my drug and bulimia was my friend. We stick with what we know. I’d tell my younger self never to start dieting as I lost so many years obsessing over it and missed so much.
4. To learn to drive at 17! I have never had much coordination or common sense so I believed it when I was told repeatedly by my mother that I would never make a driver I believed her. I have taken several driving tests over the years but never had the time to concentrate wholly on learning to drive between work and study. I wish I had taken lessons at seventeen when my brain was younger and less full!
5. To choose nursing as my career earlier. I guess I don’t really mean this as I wouldn’t be the person I am without the experiences I have had so I likely wouldn’t have been a good nurse. The reason I put this is that I know I have found my niche and I LOVE new career. I can’t wait to qualify and make a real difference in people’s lives every day. Now don’t get me wrong I loved being a Chartered HR professional, I knew my stuff when it came to employment law and was happy managing large numbers of employees. I grieved for that career when a period of severe mental illness coincided with the recession causing my redundancy meant I became virtually unemployable over night. I saw the looks of pity in interviewers eyes suddenly deeming me incapable of even the most menial jobs but now in hindsight I know this happened for a reason. If I hadn’t been unwell and if I hadn’t been made redundant I would never have discovered the fire in my belly that nursing inspires in me. Even after a long 13 hour shift I still know I have made the correct career choice.
6. To not fake confidence so well. I sometimes fear that my ability to ‘play the swan’ so well is also my major downfall as people don’t realise when I am panicking under the surface as I give the illusion of composure and calmness. I wish I felt able to show my true feelings at times without believing this is an inadequacy. I don’t have inadequacies I have areas for growth and I wish I knew this years ago.
7. To trust my own judgement a little more. I doubt myself so often whether it is what I am wearing (I can change several times before I leave the house on an average day) or how my make up looks or even my decisions as a parent I just wish I had a little more faith in me. I have spent years over analysing every decision I have made to the point where I seem to have forgotten that actually I make generally quite good decisions overall and that it’s ok to make a mistake every now and again.
8. That it’s ok not to be liked by everyone. I worried when I was younger about what people thought of me but as I have aged I have grown to realise that if I am comfortable with my own conscience then that’s all that matters. I still hate to ever think I have upset someone unintentionally but as long as I know I have been true to myself then I can accept that for their own reasons some people just may not like me and I am ok with that. I am happy with who I am as a person and know I’m not a bad person which is something I only realised as I grew older. I realised that not everyone likes everyone and that’s not a failure that’s just life!
9. To enjoy being young. Life has a way of rushing us towards the next goal and when young each next goal seems to involve a birthday. Birthdays seem to mean maturity when younger and are an important rite of passage but for goodness sake don’t wish away the years. One day you wake up and you are in your thirties and dying hair to cover grey rather than because fashions have changed!
Being a grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s bloody hard work to pay bills and keep a home clean/tidy whilst working and studying and being a wife and mother. Society lies when it tells you the modern woman can have it all… Something has to give and with me it was my sanity lol
10. To just be you. You are going to do ok really 🙂