At 16, a bad day was just that. I could write a list of things I was good at, and it would instantly cheer me up. I believed in myself even when others didn’t and the refusal to give up turned my predicted “Fs” at GCSE into a first-class degree.
I married before I went to university. I know! It’s the wrong way around, and I was only 21! Next year will be our 10th wedding anniversary. But for the first 8 years, I felt neglected and I let others convince me I was unloved too.
He did love me, but I hated myself. I clung to every shred of negativity and used it to torture myself – daily. I felt the physical pain of my heart breaking over and over; disappointment, failure, anger and frustration enveloped me. I feared parties and refused to play games. To others I was bubbly, attentive, but inside, I was screaming. I binge ate several stones worth of feelings in two years, nine years of dieting couldn’t shift it either. I nagged and became clingy. I was so unattractive intimacy stopped completely. I obsessed over how often I felt rejected and all the reasons why I was disgusting or unworthy. I even convinced myself children should never happen, and spending made things better; I ended up in a lot of debt.
My career suffered too, I thought my boss made me feel worthless (but, “you are the only one who can make yourself feel worthless”). My eyesight problems and inability to drive became barriers too. I couldn’t even convince myself to pick up things I had dropped on the floor. I stopped cooking, doing activities I enjoyed, and I obsessed over what I couldn’t do. I used TV to escape and I contemplated ending things. All because I didn’t believe in myself.
GPs explained they “won’t help those who don’t help themselves”. I originally thought those people needed help the most, but eventually learned I had to take control myself. I recently had my own ‘Amy Schumer “I feel pretty” moment (but without the bang - google it!). It’s true, positive thinking is the most powerful force in the universe. I tricked my brain into thinking CBT was going to work, and that ‘16-year-old with a list of positive things about herself’ is starting to come back. Oh, and guess what! My husband just kissed me as I’m writing this. Just because. A year ago, I found it hard to remember the last time we had kissed.
What changed? Only my outlook. That belief in myself is what he originally fell in love with. I’m still obese, but I’m attractive again. I’m so busy focusing on myself, my clinginess has gone, and nagging has turned into listening too.
What else has changed in four months? I’m:
• learning to sew and feel more confident in my clothes
• losing weight and keeping it off, so that we can have IVF!
• playing games and meeting friends for squash
• going to gigs and singing loudly to music whilst cooking fresh dinners
• writing again, volunteering, helping the elderly
• making plans for my career, working with my boss more positively
• working out how to afford a dog
• applying (and have been accepted!) for help with my eyesight
• going on my first holiday alone with my husband since our honeymoon
• getting my piano back
• planning to renovate for a dedicated creativity/chill space
• making time to take my nephews out on day trips
• thinking about re-learning to drive
• paying off those debts
• practicing the tools learned from the New Leaf Wellbeing College
and I’m learning tai chi too!
Sure, it’s a lot all happening at once, and stress still exists. Available time hasn’t changed either. I’ve always been that independent, focused person – but for a while, all my energy was being used to create those crushing weights on my shoulders. Since thinking positively, I’ve just got on with things. Those weights have naturally reduced, now they’re just small dumbbells used to strengthen my core beliefs. I am living proof that despite the shortcomings of learning difficulties and lots of other negative things I could dwell on, nothing really is impossible when you believe.