Self Development

Sertraline

I have written my fair share of blogs, dripping with the sadness, despair and suffering that anxiety and its subsequent depression left me with. Today’s post isn’t another one of those. Whilst those fragments of written thought have their own part to play as a release valve in those dreaded moments of angst, today’s piece comes from a place of greater peace and more importantly: acceptance.

Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that another eighteen full moons have graced the sky since my first visit to the GP with absolutely no understanding of why my emotions spiralled into anxiety a month before my finals. Maybe it’s even more to do with that fact that with finals over, those obstacles surpassed and all those moons later; I’m still not “over it”.

The time elapsed between then and now have been ridden with moderate highs and exquisite lows. Throughout it, I’ve felt like a woman fighting hard for better mental health, the goal of getting ‘better’ at the top of her to-do list so that once it was all ticked off, she could move on. In previous posts, I have spoken about how I, quote-on-quote “do not wish to make my sadness clinical”. I now see the ways in which that mindset was pure ego screaming, “I can do this! Take that, anxiety! You’re not an illness, you’re just a manifestation of my ego and I will fight you (with even more ego)!”

I was desperate. Desperate for every problem to have a solution. As if happiness was a goal and if I really worked hard enough with my therapist, doing loads of CBT; I’d get there and then that would be it, I’d never ever look back.

As a matter of fact I did work hard enough with my therapist to get there. I reached my goal. For a while, I was elated and deluded enough to believe that was it. My ‘old self’ had returned and now I could walk out into the world, armed with skills that meant anxiety and depression would never come back again.

The universe had other plans. Plans involving another downward spiral. A return to therapy after being discharged, calling in sick twice at work because I couldn’t fight the anxiety, more self-loathing, more self-criticism and more self harm. But as I mentioned at the start, this post isn’t about the sadness. It is born out of a quiet desire to be pragmatic in the face of turbulent emotion.

Fighting ego with ego hadn’t worked. Thus; encouraged by my therapist and by my loved ones, I did the thing I was so afraid to do. I made my sadness clinical. Driving to the GP practice on a day I should have been on the ward, I parked up and walked in, heart racing, palms sweating and ego broken. I sat before the doctor, running her quickly through the circumstances leading to my current situation as she turned to face me, eyes widened in shock, uttering the words “I think we need to start you on some medication”.

I know this is not an approach that works for everyone. For over a year, I myself had fought it. I told myself I was better than medication and I turned it into some kind of philosophical debate about how much inner strength I possessed.

Driving back from the pharmacy, a paper bag of prescription drugs riding along on the passenger seat next to me, I realised I had returned to the familiar place of rock bottom, this time with eighteen full moons’ worth of experience and wisdom on my hands, which was at least enough to realise this wasn’t about inner strength or fighting a battle towards better mental health, about a checklist or getting discharged from therapy being a goalpost to wellness. This was about acceptance. This is it. This is simply where I am.

I was always afraid of calling anxiety an illness because I feared that it would make me lazy or I’d start using it as an excuse. ‘Oh I can’t do that today because of my anxiety’. I would judge people who talked like that, blogged like that or felt like that. I separated mental illness from physical illness because to my jaded mind, anxiety was a part of my personality whereas a broken leg isn’t. The ultimate fear however was that the minute I saw my anxiety as an illness, I would lose my desire to fight it.

So what happened?! Well, the long and short of it is that I have lost my desire to fight it. I was tired. Living with chronic anxiety makes each day so tough that those thoughts scuttle over into thinking that life isn’t worth living anymore. The more I introspect, the more I realise that I have had anxiety my whole life; ever since I was a small child. It was born of and exacerbated by poor self esteem, made worse by moving places, by childhood bullying, by medical school and by coping in the wrong ways and by not realising it was there or dealing with it until I hit my twenties. That is all okay.

It’s okay not to have a burning desire to fight it because it has been instead replaced by a much calmer, quieter and more powerful desire to live with it. Making my sadness clinical has made me see it as a lifelong companion. The desperation has settled. Anxiety has been there all along and it’s there to stay. So rather than fight it with an ill determination to get better and stay better and never be anxious again- I may as well accept that it’ll be there for a long time coming. Anxiety is my baseline and it always has been. Whilst I can work with it, it won’t just go away. Baselines take years, even decades to change- not months. And sometimes we can’t will things into action; they simply get woven into the fabric of life with the cumulative experience and wisdom that manifests with each passing full moon.

Love to all

G x

Medicine

Was it worth it?

It’s coming up to the last few weeks of FY1 and after a long week of on-calls, the mountain of shit I have to do begins to crumble on top of me, one pellet at a time. So a massive bar of chocolate (no regrets) and two cups of tea later, I find myself muddling through a presentation about… bones. In the midst of my grand struggle, I recall that I have multiple sets of notes on orthopaedics that I wrote in medschool that I could copy and paste out of so, why, dear lord am I wasting my time on this utter nonsense?

So I hit up the old document region, venturing cautiously into the folder labelled ‘Fourth Year Medicine’, a dark and melancholy abyss that I had conveniently forgotten all about for a year. My mouse furrowed its way even deeper into ‘Musculoskeletal’, then even further still into ‘Lower limb orthopaedics’.

In that instant, my world just broke.

Before my eyes, I see reams and reams of typed notes that I had forgotten all about, complete with diagrams and jokes (yes, JOKES because I had to entertain myself through the extreme boredom and time commitment involved in writing them). Stepping back and inspecting the cave that is ‘Fourth year medicine’, laid out before my eyes are multitude of beautifully typed documents, exactly like the one I had open on my screen. Then I picture my attic floor. Therein, sit eight massive files full of colour coded, handwritten notes that literally have their own gravitational field. Want a summer body? Squat my medschool files. Suddenly, I’m absolutely seething.

‘Fuck you, medschool!” I think. When my gorgeous boyfriend describes all his hilarious nights out with his crazy friends during his university days, I’ve often found myself sitting there thinking ‘I swear I’m fun… why are my medschool memories so patchy?’ And here, in front of me, I see the answer, clear as the sky above the Love Island Villa. I spent five years pouring my sweat, blood, time, emotions, tears and life into ‘Lower Limb Orthopaedics’ and the equivalent. I worked until my brain could no longer function. And for what? For a grade that said I’d passed, issued in a heartless building that couldn’t give less of a flying fuck in those fleeting moments before finals where I thought I would never make it through the depression, the low self esteem, the shit, in essence that medschool bestowed upon me.

You know I passed my French A-Level with the highest grade in my year? If I’d tried, I could’ve studied Languages at Oxford or Cambridge and had something to show for my abilities. Something more than a thankless degree and not enough nights out propelled by strong gushes of tequila, not enough memories with my friends… not enough of the good stuff, the stuff that really matters.

I take a long, hard look at myself. Let’s accept the reality of life. I have never had the raw intelligence, nor the memory, nor the conceptual brain needed to satisfactorily wade through a medical degree and enjoy my life at the same time. I sacrificed a lot of it, in exchange for sheer hard work and seemingly little reward. I got my piece of paper and the black hat on my head for a day, a few photos on my mum’s phone and walked out, never looking back.

And for what? Was it actually even worth it?

As a junior doctor, and general dogsbody, I’ve come across two types of people. They are broadly classified into ‘Lazy’ and ‘Not lazy’. I fall into the latter category and I’ve often found that the fact I work hard and don’t cop out of shit jobs means that the nurses like me just that little bit more and make me cups of tea during a hellish on call where my bleep doesn’t shut up.

Then there was Chris on the surgical ward yesterday who’s just had his appendix taken out. He’s been feeling kind of rough so I do what all good doctors do- made fun of him and told him the reason I’m not coming back this weekend is because I don’t like him. He told me to stop making him laugh because it hurt his abdomen.

Two months ago, I bent over backwards to arrange a scan for Beth who was 95 and I just knew she was dying. I would’ve done anything for it not to have been on a hospital bed but it was. Days before, she squeezed my hand and said ‘Thankyou Dr Gowri for everything you’ve done for me’. The day she passed away, I hid in the toilet and cried, thinking… I wish I could’ve done more.

Alison left the ward last week. She’d been in before and I happened to find a lump in her breast and thankfully it was benign. This time, she came in for surgery and cried relentlessly for two days after it. When she cried, I went and sat with her, gave her tissues and told her it was normal to feel like the shit trickling out of her stoma bag. The day she left, she gave me a massive hug and I said ‘Alison, in the best way possible, I hope we don’t see each other again’. I don’t think I’ve ever made anyone smile that much.

Then there was Jen who invited me to Cyprus with her, Liz and Betty who let me unleash all my medical students on them so they could practise for their OSCEs, and Ruby, Dot and Paula who all got better from their mental health problems and walked out into their own homes after their long stays in the psychiatry unit.

Once, a colleague told me that he thinks it’s really amazing how I remember people’s names (for clarification; none of the names I’ve used here are real). It’s funny because memory was one of my biggest weaknesses in medschool. But I remember names because I find some way to connect with these incredible people and their amazing stories.

It’s weird how the things other doctors value: clinical competence, knowledge and skills are often different to what patients value: connection and a sense that you’re doing right by them. Interestingly, I never learnt any of this during my degree.

Yet, the fact of the matter is, guys… French at Oxford couldn’t have given me this.

I still feel mad when I look at my medschool notes. I even feel bitter that I could’ve had a better time in my early twenties and I gave some of it up for a piece of paper. Yet, the truth is… that piece of paper gives me the opportunity have these little moments a few times a week, throwing myself into a world outside of myself for people who need it; even if most of the things I do aren’t clever, newsworthy or validated by my senior doctors.

The more of these moments I have… the more I think ‘Yes, yes, yes. It was absolutely fucking worth it’.

 

Thoughts & Musings

A compassionate letter to myself 

Dear Gowri,

Sweetheart, remember this one’s always been inside you.

First things first. Seven months on and I think it’s time to wipe the slate clean so let’s begin with an apology. I’m sincerely sorry, my love for what I put you through the last two decades. You never deserved a moment of it. I did it to try and bring out the best in you and I really didn’t know any better. Life was tough when we were little. We wanted to be someone and the world just kept pushing us around and mould us with its own socio-cultural cookie cutters to fit its own mould of what were supposed to be. We were never meant for that but it crushed us.

With every new city and school and every fake friend and every exam mark lost you cried and I… I was mean. I was worse than the other bullies. You needed me and I turned away because I was ashamed. I hurt as much as you did. Forgive me.

Know that after this ceaseless and beautiful journey we have travelled together; to be by your side is my only desire. I will love you endlessly. When you’re sad I will comfort you. I will be the calm that anchors your storm and the compassion that drowns your fear. I will never let you look at a blunt razor blade again. 

You are beautiful, bright, kind and have such joy and love for life. I will celebrate you  for all that you are and forgive you for all that you’re not. 

I want to work with you now to be the best you can be. I want to help you make choices that are right for you. I want to celebrate your accomplishments with you rather than play them down. 

I want you to remember that life is really difficult sometimes and it’s totally okay to feel down, to be upset and to feel like you aren’t holding it together. 

Your best is always good enough. You are always good enough.

Life is one big illusion and everyone is caught up in their own version of it. I’m going to keep you conscious of your own story and love you every step of the way. I am thoroughly committed to your health and happiness.

Love,

Gowri

Where I am

About my new flat mate 

So. Recently I’ve undertaken this interesting new adventure of living with this woman. She’s 24, tall, long hair, sometimes funny and always fucking forgets to switch the lights off even when she leaves the flat. She is me. Hello.

So after starting work last August I moved back in with my parents for a while and commuted to work. Then, some time in late January I became horribly aware that my energy and enthusiasm for life was at an all time low. I was lethargic, unmotivated and unhappy. There was a whole ream of things contributing to that depression and living home with my parents was one of them.
WHICH IS NUTS. Why? Because my family are the most a-mazing people you will ever meet. We are this unit of joy, love, support, happiness and alcohol. Moving home didn’t restrict me in any way; I continued to experience the same freedom I always enjoyed but in my mind, I felt trapped.

A million things were happening that led me to feel like my life was being lived for me. Moving back home had somehow gone from a temporary measure to a means of saving money for a housing deposit so I could move in with my boyfriend in eighteen months’ time in a swanky new flat in Birmingham. It was all planned out and I felt like I was supposed to be ready for it. Everyone was telling me what a great time it was to invest, how this makes such financial sense and blah de mortgage blah. Before I knew it, conversations were had, viewings were booked, flats were seen and I was internally crying.

So one cold, dreary January evening as I drove home from work, following a major decision to listen to my intuition, I made up my mind to tell everyone around me that I wasn’t ready to just jump into the future like that. And that I was moving out on my own. It seemed that all those events had lined up to propel me into taking control over my life again.

From that point on, all else slotted sweetly into place. I instantly felt like I was on a level plane: calmer, with no further despair, focused on finding a new place to live. This peace was generated when I made a decision that was aligned with what felt right. For a few weeks, I was caught up in the technicalities: I looked at flats in Lancaster, minutes away from my family (none of which worked out, again I think for a reason) and then again in Preston, closer to work. I eventually found a two bed on the marina, overlooking a river. Having lived in a buzzing city for a few years and loving it, Preston feels pretty hopeless in comparison. A year ago, when I found out I’d be back here I was honestly devastated. Even now, having accepted where I am in life, I know I’m never going to love this place. But a shift has happened. Now, when I go on Instagram and see doctors who are living their lives in places like London and Manchester I no longer look at myself and think what a failure I am. I am where I am and the hand I was dealt was the one that accurately reflected the headspace I was occupying at the time. So when I stepped out onto the balcony, the grey river dancing in the rain and the cold February wind whipping at my skin, I figured that a flat this nice makes this city a lot less shit.

Then I signed some papers.

And now I’ve done it. I’m broke, counting down til payday, always forgetting to switch the kitchen light off and I’m happier. Much, much happier. I got past the initial freakiness of the boiler doing its thing at 3am. I got past the noises in the flat only being the ones I made and started savouring the silence. I set up my own wifi router, I pay all my own bills and have become a regular adult in the world.

This progression is hardly miraculous- it’s just a step in the direction that finally felt right.

Love to all, G x

Thoughts & Musings

City of Love 

I’m sitting in a small bistro, not far from the Airbnb where Diane’s lovely parents and I chatted away in the kind of broken French my seventeen year old self would be horrified at.

The waiter, a tall, brown haired charmer walks to my table and looks straight into my eyes with a sort of intensity that I associate with movies or the sweet beginnings of relationships. My own eyes dance back a little. For the first time, in a very long time, I feel beautiful. I feel like me.

Moments later, I’m sipping on a tall glass of Bordeaux, feeling horrendously confident with a sprinkling of pretentiousness in my air and I sit back, breathe and drink in the gorgeous atmosphere that engulfs me. As the alcohol starts to loosen the weight of my neural connections, I feel suddenly flooded by a lightness, a happiness- one I have grown to cherish beyond measure. 

Life is worth living.

Six months ago… suicidal thoughts were a normal, every day occurrence. I’ve been reading ‘Reasons to stay alive’ by Matt Haig. I started the book several months ago but the first chapter in which he describes the depths of his depression resonated with me so hard that I had to stop reading. When I say suicidal thoughts, I don’t mean overt plans to kill myself off. It was more just an overwhelming feeling of the pointlessness of life whilst wishing away my existence. Matt described it perfectly: it’s all about wishing you were never there in the first place. If I open my diary, I’ve casually written of what it might be like to just overdose and end it. I never did try. Partly because I was convinced I would fail and I know the treatment protocol in hospital because sadly, I’m a doctor. And secondly… I didn’t want people, especially my family knowing what a morbid mental state I was in.

Describing this now, lying alone in my bed in this Parisian apartment, I remember the reality of it all and choose not to hide from it any longer, no matter how morose it was. Was I clinically depressed? Probably. Was I anxious? Again, certainly. Always have been and probably always will be.

I suppose, reader, you’re waiting for some kind of twist, some moral, some sense of righteousness or a tale of ‘getting better’. Well perhaps it’s a little disappointing but I don’t really have one. I went to therapy. I learned to open up to people around me. But most importantly, I learnt how to be compassionate with myself, kind to myself and accepting of whatever emotion I felt. Compassion is the most healing force in humanity and I learned, through therapy and shitloads of practice, to channel that compassion inwardly.

And as one compassionate practice led to another, I found myself adding to my life in ways that made it feel like it was worth living. I took myself on holiday to the city I love. I took myself out for coffee and dinner and roamed the streets drenching myself in the Paris-ness of Paris, only for the fact that I love it. I took the metro and I even uber pooled without worrying I’d get taken (and my dad is not Liam Neeson). All these acts are like mini victories for me, each one pouring itself into a shot glass of self esteem that I’m throwing back with determination.

I know I could fall into a place of sadness again. In fact, it’s probably inevitable. I don’t know why I feel emotion with such intensity. Maybe it’s genetic. Much of it is early childhood experience. But it’s also okay. It makes me who I am. And I did it, didn’t I? I got out. I realised my own self worth and began to treat myself like I believed it.

 Now that I’ve moved out and am kind of starting to find myself (don’t die from the cliché) and get comfortable with who I am, I’m seeing how much I need this. Time alone. To learn to be complete. To heal. To let my relationship nourish me and challenge me but not to let it take over. 

Sitting in the bistro, one overpriced meal and another glass of wine later, I realise the rush I felt earlier was actually love. Love for myself. My whole life I’ve not known how it feels to even like myself, let alone love myself. It was sort of unnatural and strange until I settled into it and allowed myself to feel it with every cell in my body.

And now, as I get ready to leave the place of my dreams, knowing it’s not long until I return… I can think to myself that here, in the city of love I started an intensely loving relationship with myself that I should’ve started twenty four years ago.

❤️

Self Development

Opening up

Something exceptional has happened recently.

My entire mindset has seen a shift towards good mental health after having come from a place of poor mental health. In this newfound space, my whole life has exposed itself with more awareness and clarity than ever before.

Today, I wanted to write about one of the biggest changes I have subconsciously been moving towards and that is: openness. Particularly openness in my relationship.

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for just over a year. He is undoubtedly one of the most important people in my life because from day one, we made it clear to each other that we wanted to spend our lives together and make this thing work. And let’s face it: dating in this day and age takes up so many different forms that relationships do require that level of clarity. In the past, I’ve been with people where the focus was more on having fun in the moment than about a lifelong partnership so opening up and sharing our problems almost wasn’t necessary. That’s cool too. But in the context of this relationship, opening up has been key to its quality and to my happiness… and I didn’t even know how to do it until very recently.

Growing up as a woman is difficult. It is pleasing to see that sexism is dying out as each generation is made. However, most women are still shaped from early childhood by the beliefs of their mothers who may not have been subject to such female liberation. I come from a family of women where our strength is defined by our ability to put up with things and not make a fuss (as I’m sure many women are). Putting up with things can often mean not showing our emotions, not being allowed to be upset because we have to be seen to be putting on a brave face and ‘holding it together’ for those around us. Many of us have seen our mothers hide difficult emotions from our fathers because that’s what it means to be strong. I have found myself growing up with this same belief: don’t share it, just keep it inside and ‘deal with it’. That’s how to be a strong woman.

Moreover, being a woman in 2018 can sometimes mean we are taught to overcompensate. We are encouraged to flaunt our independence and wear our singledom like a badge of honour. Things like living alone, travelling alone, not being ‘tied down’ by relationships and being sexually liberated are all associated with this notion of the ‘independent woman’. Whilst I believe that all of these things are important (especially as I’ve done all of them), it’s easy to start thinking that we should be independent all the time, even in our relationships, whereas in actual fact interdependence (where you rely on each other for support but are both able to effectively stand on your own two feet) is much more constructive.

In essence, I’ve always seen opening up as a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable and sharing my insecurities have always been a source of paralysing fear. I’ve grown up thinking that if I don’t have the ‘upper hand’, in a relationship with a man, I am the weak one. I thought that in order to be strong, I wasn’t supposed to show my emotions. Instead, I had to be confident and secure in myself all the time. This is literally an impossible task.

So you can imagine that when I became anxious and depressed it always felt like there were ten million things going on in my head but I couldn’t even really get them out because of the shame, guilt and fear associated with being emotional, upset or insecure.

Many of us live with this feeling every day and one of the greatest places where it manifests is in our relationships because that’s where we are most vulnerable.

For instance… I felt incredibly insecure about the fact that my boyfriend’s dating history was way more colourful than mine. The fact that he’d slept with more people than me used to make me feel inadequate because a) I never got that opportunity and I resented him for it and b) what if these girls were hotter than me, smarter than me or more fun than me? The thing is, whenever it came to trying to tell him this, it was like someone had petrificus totallused my entire body. I was literally too shaken with fear to tell my boyfriend that I felt this way. I didn’t realise that it was okay, normal, even to experience these emotions. I thought I had to hide them and act like I was completely fine because that was the strong woman’s reaction.

I used to feel stupid about the fact that I was a less rational and more emotional person than my boyfriend. I thought of myself as inadequate because I couldn’t logic my way through situations like him. This meant that every time I experienced unhappiness, jealousy or anxiety over anything related to the relationship, I convinced myself it was my fault because I wasn’t chilled out enough or cool enough like him. So consumed was I by my own judgement of myself that I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about how I felt, for fear that it was irrational or dumb.

One time, he did something that really hurt me. It took me three whole weeks to muster up enough courage to tell him that. All the while, I felt miserable and berated myself for feeling that way. The worst part was that when I spoke to other women about this (close friends of mine) they didn’t even particularly encourage me to stand up for myself… perhaps because putting up with certain things is how a lot of us are taught to approach life. (Needless to say when I did tell him how I felt, he understood immediately and it was settled).

It took many months of working hard on myself to move past these old habits that weren’t serving me. Where self criticism and judgement ruled me, I replaced it with compassion. I became understanding of my emotions and kind to myself instead of constantly putting myself down. This didn’t come easily: it took masses of time, effort, patience and practice.

Through this practice of self compassion, I realised that holding all this crap inside me just wasn’t serving me any more and one by one, I let things go. And that hasn’t been by holding it all together, overcompensating or pretending to be the ‘strong woman’. It’s been by opening up, taking each insecurity I have and laying it out on the table before the two of us. As each one hits the tabletop, it seems to lose its power over me and I seem to be able to move on a little bit more with my life, one insecurity at a time.

Three weeks ago, I told him one night, over the phone that I needed him. By that I meant that I hadn’t opened up to him before and I had finally realised that I needed to. And I needed him to be there for me. He got it.

Yesterday, my boyfriend had plans to see one of his really good friends… who he also happens to have got together with a few times. I trust him implicitly and he’s a seriously good human being so he’s never given me reason not to. But this doesn’t mean I never get jealous either. So when I turn to him and say ‘Babe, I’m kind of insecure about you going to see her tomorrow’, and he goes ‘See who? You’re literally the only person in my life’, and then we talk about it and he validates my feelings, I get to move on and he gets to go see his friend and we both get to be happy.

Today, I brought up a five month old wound that I was too afraid to talk about five months ago. We talked a lot. I cried a lot. We both left feeling like we’d got something out of it. The five month old wound healed faster than I’d ever let it heal before.

Opening up like this still isn’t easy but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it was when I first started doing it. Self compassion was the game changer: the catalyst that made me realise that by holding things back, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. I plead to all you women out there, we have to stop thinking that being strong is all about putting up with everything and that our feelings are worthless and stupid. Our emotions are powerful and our vulnerabilities are strongholds when we’re aware of them.

Strength doesn’t lie in our ability to paint on a brave face. It lies in owning our insecurities and our flaws so they stop having power over us. Happiness lies at the other side of that fear.

Hope you all enjoyed the rant. Stay compassionate. Love, Gowri xx

 

 

Thoughts & Musings

Life’s too short to feel shit about yourself

Life is too short to feel shit about yourself.

I look at that statement and I know it’s damn well true, but actually understanding it, living it and attempting to move the hell past it has proved to be something that has officially demanded a year of my time.

It was March 2017 when I lost myself and although growth is constantly happening, I think I can happily say March 2018 marks the time where I genuinely feel like I have turned my life around.

A year ago, if you had told me that I would have to sit through another 365 days of this shitty, miserable, seemingly unending pain… I would’ve crawled into a hole and wept until my eyes exploded out of their sockets because I didn’t think I could handle another second of it, let alone another year.

When I say I lost myself, I mean that I used to be confident, happy and self assured but one small event spiralled out of control to such an extent that I felt like a total failure and I was consumed by it. My self esteem hit rock bottom around November and anxiety coursed through me uncontrollably all the time.

If you told me two years ago that I’d ever see a therapist, I’d judge you and I would judge myself. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that we all carry emotional baggage from our childhoods and the majority of us should probably see a therapist. It was only through psychological therapy that I realised that the confident, happy, self assured person I thought I was, was actually a coping mechanism for the insecure, frightened child who trembled underneath it all.; scared of not fitting in, scared of being judged, scared of being compared and constantly having to prove herself to everyone around her.

I guess my biggest blocks came in the form of denial, followed by impatience. I spent so many nights crying and wondering when it would all go away. I know it’s not about that now.

The worst bit is that all this crap goes on behind the scenes. No one knew how fucking horrendous it all was. Not even those closest to me were aware of the extent of it because of the shame cloud that surrounded it.

Anyway, I started with a statement. One I’ve begun to live. One I’ve spent fuckloads of time, persistence, energy and money on learning to live.

Life is far too fucking short to feel shit about yourself.

If you’re reading this and relating, let me tell you something. There is no shame in feeling this way. And you are flawed, you’re nowhere near perfect and you make mistakes but you are fine just the way you are. God, it feels good to believe that.

With a shift in mindset, everything changes, the world opens up and the shackles break off and you become free. With that newfound freedom, I’ve done a whole bunch of fun stuff and now I’m running around chasing all the things I want.

I moved out of my parents’ house and got a flat of my own, overlooking a river. It made zero financial sense. I did it anyway. Why? Because life’s too short to be sensible all the time. So every morning and every night as I watch the way the light twinkles over the ever moving body of water below me I am washed over with a sense of complete joy and I’m pretty glad I paid for that.

I got a tattoo. I’ve told myself I’ll do it for six whole years. I then decided that you can go ahead and write a list of ten million reasons why something might not be a great idea… or you could follow your heart and do what makes you happy. It’s beautiful, by the way.

I’ve booked a solo holiday. I have an entire Pinterest list of free things to do in the place I’m going to and I love this place with all my heart. Having only myself for company stopped being scary when I moved past the fear and realised how fun and indulgent it is.

I started opening up in my relationship. About everything that scared me. Everything I judged myself about. This is one of the most terrifying and vulnerable things that a person can do. But you know what? Owning your own insecurities, saying them out loud and accepting them makes them lose their power. It stops them from having this eternal hold over you and each time I do it, it gets a little easier.

I’m still going to therapy. But it now feels less like I’m begging to be saved from my own hell and more like I’m just bettering myself as a person.

I’m on a mission to conquer my fear of the squat rack. I used to go to a gym with a ladies only section and I maxed out every weight there but I was too scared to go up to the mixed section to lift more. It has now struck me that when fear is stopping you from reaching your full potential you will be limited in all you can achieve. I no longer wish to be a part of that.

I set up my own wifi router and sorted my car’s MOT and servicing out. I’m not even joking: these are significant achievements for me.

Though the trajectory is more upward facing… I’m not naïve either. I know the darkness of the place I’ve come from and I know I could go there again. But this time I am armed with knowledge, pattern recognition, self awareness and most importantly a shitload of compassion. Next time life knocks me down… I won’t fall to the ground for 365 days. I’m convinced more than ever that I can love myself out of a place like that.

Life is just too short to feel shit about yourself. The good thing is… you can absolutely 100% turn it around.