A few months ago (I can't ruddy remember how many because it feels like forever, but I am also aware it's probably only like 4 or 5), I joined a group on the Book of Face for likeminded entrepreneurs who wanted to support each other to be the best version of themselves. It's a really ruddy good group.
It’s a privilege to be a part of a group where people are not afraid to be their true selves. Where people are not afraid to how their vulnerabilities and put their hands up and say “help” when things aren’t going so well.
Since my PTSD diagnosis two years ago, I have worked hard on finding the me that survives my early life. The me that is not a victim and comes out successful. Some of my journey has been realising that actually by the very fact that I am still here I have survived. I’ve never played the victim. I’ve had many times where I have almost believed that I was wrong about things, but I know those times of doubt were inserted into my brain by the very people who treated me badly. No one who genuinely loves me for me has ever had to question why I am me. Why I do what I do and how I have got to where I am.
To understand me, I have to be willing to lay myself bare and face myself no matter how painful that may be at times. I am human. I am flawed.
Just this evening as we sat on the plane, waiting for take off, I had this overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen to us on the flight. That it was doomed to crash. My brain ran through the scenario of how we’d just had this lovely week and now people would at least be happy that we did have that week together (my husband and I that is). They’d mourn our loss and say we’d been through such a shit time and this was a horrible thing that could happen. I’m not even scared of airplanes. I’ve been on some pretty turbulent flights and never needed fresh underwear. I love the freedom they bring us. None of this was real. My brain, because of PTSD and OCD can try and protect me by making me doubtful and fearful. What my brain was really protecting me from was the fear of heading home and how I will continue to cope (if you’re not sure as to what I am referring then I suggest going back to read my previous blog rather than me repeating myself here). I’m scared when grief will really hit. Will I cope? Will I managed to stay as positive as I have? I LOVE our home. It’s my safe haven. For my husband it’s a safe place to commune with others. He can relax and enjoy their company whilst feeling safe enough to be able to take himself off should he suffer a sensory overload. It’s the place where I have so many memories of parties, of coming home triumphant after running my first ever race after thinking I wouldn’t walk again let alone run. The consequent triumphs, the laughter, the creativity, the love. It’s all there. So it’s not that I didn’t want to go home. I just am scared. As you should be. I know how to grieve a dead person. They’re gone. They’re not coming back. They can’t. But how the fucking hell do you grieve a person who is still alive? They’re not dead. They’re still walking this planet. But they’re no longer a part of your life. So that’s what my brain is trying to protect Bon from. Well done brain. Thanks for looking out for me, but we need to be realistic here. We have to feel this stuff because if we don’t it will eat away at us and that’s not good.
In the new year, one of the people in the group I belong to recommended that I read a book called Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. They said that I would find it very interesting given where I have come from.
“Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds”. The front cover says. Now I’ve pretty much defied the odds for as long as I can remember. I am the emotionally, mentally and physically abused child of a bipolar man and emotionally stunted woman, who spent the first 6 years of their life in the grip of a family in turmoil because of my father’s mental health and my mother’s inability to deal with it. I spent the following 12 years of my growing up as part of what can only be described as an extremist religion. How do I know it was? Because although practising under the guise of Christianity, I have as yet to find another church that practises in the way that this one does. Have you heard of vicars coming to tell you how to punish your child or overseeing it? Have you heard of congregations being told to behave in a certain way whilst the vicar and his family behave differently? Have you heard of people being excommunicated when they wish to leave a church. Yes you have. In cults. I grew up the strange child at school. One of six children (which was unusual back then), all with odd names. The practises of the church made me stick out like a sore thumb. Especially as a teenager when I wasn’t allowed to parties and other things which people my age did. I believed I would never amount to anything. That I was unworthy. Unattractive. Unloveable. I also believed that the life I was living was normal. 23 years later I am a successful human. It took me a while to get here, but I am here. I shouldn’t be. I tried to kill myself when I was 19 years old. I’d just had an operation a few weeks previous. I had lots of pain medication in the house ( this is in the days before purchase of painkillers was restricted). I wanted to go. No one deserved to have me in their life. I was a mess. My own family didn’t want me around unless I said everything was my fault and I felt too strongly about my convictions to give in and go back. I was stuck, but I felt I was making those around me’s lives a misery. I downed all of the medication. To put it into real terms I took 200 paracetamol, 100 Ibubrofen, 80 Tramadol and another drug for painkilling which began with D but I really can’t remember. Anyway. After that I went for a swim with my friends. I didn’t write a note. I didn’t need to. People already knew they were better off without me so I didn’t need to tell them that. I swam. I got changed after swimming and as we started to leave the swimming pool building, I said to my friends “I feel really tired. I think I’m just going to go home and sleep”. I miscalculated timing on account of my lack of medical degree and just as I finished saying that I collapsed. Obviously no one knew why I had collapsed, but thank God that medical staff can figure these things out. All I remember is being in A & E. No one was sad. Boy were they pissed at me. Jake was there and he wasn’t sad. He was really fucking angry. I didn’t understand why. I hadn’t told anyone how I felt. I didn’t know how they felt. There were quite a few times after this that I felt the same way. I would act on it but wake up enough to know I needed to get help. So I am still here. There has to be a reason for that right? Not only am I still here, but I am still with Jake. 23 years. 15 years married. I’ve survived some shit. But ultimately we are happy. We have a good happy life. Over the last couple of years since my diagnosis, I wonder just how much my “mind” has prevented me from really defying the odds and really inspiring others to do well. Not just that, imagine what you can achieve when you’re really, truly the whole version of yourself. Ok, I thought. I’m in.
Not only does the book tell the story of David Goggins, who might I add is just about as fucking awesome as a human being can be and a total role model, he sets you challenges within it based on things he learned. Right up my ruddy street! Now I do talk openly about my mental health. I also talk fairly openly about my story and how I got to where I am now. But I think I can do more. I think I can be more open. I think I can let you in more. I guess before now I have always been held back by worrying about things like how my parent’s might feel. And just to put this in perspective, for my 40th birthday last year they sent me a card to say how disappointed they were. But here’s the thing. They aren’t a part of my life. That was their choice. I have broken the hold that they ultimately held over me until just over 2 years ago when I was able to acknowledge just how unhealthy my relationship with them was and just how much I wasn’t a bad person or failing in life for acknowledging that and doing something about it. That’s not to say that I do not care about my birth parents at all. They put a roof over my head for 18 years. They struggled. As an adult I respect their choice to struggle, but I do wish they had taken time to get to know themselves as people before starting a family because they both had their own demons to deal with which is what ultimately led to them being brainwashed in what is essentially a cult. I am sad for them that they cannot see who their daughter is despite everything and be proud of that. It’s ok though because I am learning to be proud of who I am.
So. Back to the book. Go buy it for starters. It will challenge you. It will make you want to tell David Goggins to stop being mean and shush, but ultimately it will make you take a long hard look at things and want to get the best out of yourself. Not only will you want this, but you actually will get the best out of yourself. In the book, David suggests that you share the challenges with someone. Whoever you want it to be. For me I am going to use these challenges to really put out there what it is to be me. If it only gives one person the strength to step forward and ask for help or become who they should be, it will be worth it.
I guess I’ve already started a lot of challenge one in my writing above. It is looking at how my past challenges me to the depth of my soul. What is holding me back now? My past challenges me because until I was 18 and a half years old, I honestly thought that it was pretty normal. I’m not ungrateful. In amongst the crap there were some stand out things that meant a lot to me. I was in a girls choir. I loved it. For much of the younger years I had the double edge sword of living in a tide house attached to the farm that my father worked on. I say double edged because I adore nature, but the isolation of the place meant that some of the physical abuse we (when I say we I mean just me and the next child down) endured was more than it ever should have been. It is shocking that neither of us suffered major broken bones over time, although I have a theory on this. My brother and I, we’re head strong; we are determined and I am sure that transferred physically. Our survival instincts kicked in and our bodies protected us. Years later when I suffered the accident where my face neck and airways were burned by a malfunctioning industrial steamer, I believe this bit me in the arse. I believe it was actually where the PTSD started. But unlike you’d expect, it started physically. My body went “Trauma? Fuck this guys. Let’s shut down!” And so it did. And it could have continued to. I could still be in a wheelchair. But I am not. I am not because I decided to fight.
Over the years there have been other trials - infertility was one. Boy did that suck. That in itself is a whole other post. But it happened. It hurt and it happened. It happened because I have Polycystic Ovaries. That also meant that I went from a teenager that looked like Olive Oil to a fat chunk in a couple of years and have never been able to shift it. Being fat doesn’t bother me in itself but being unhealthy does.
My birth parents remained a part of my life on and off until around 6 weeks before I was finally diagnosed with PTSD in 2017. I learned to keep them happy. I allowed them to continue to emotionally abuse me and try and control me for those years. Realising this at 38 years old was a mind fuck of epic proportions. When we finally fell out and I made the break, it was one of those ridiculous times where I just wished they would listen to the real me instead of saying they knew what I was thinking. The incident itself is unimportant but it ended with them saying that they no longer wished to see or speak to me ever again. In years gone by I would have stressed and struggled with this for quite some time. But when I put the phone down, I felt a peace come over me. It was odd and I didn’t understand it at the time but it was the true beginning of me healing.
I’m married to an autist. That has it’s trials! Being married to an autist is not like the Daily Mail would have you believe. Because if we listened to them, most people might think they are married to an autist. It doesn’t just mean he’s moody or uncommunicative or any of the daft things they say. Jake has Aspergers. He is High Functioning. He also scores very highly for someone with Aspergers. He is notoriously difficult to read. So much so that his psychologist had me come in for a second assessment of him just so they could get baseline. Jake struggles with sensory stuff. He also gets very tired. He doesn’t connect emotionally and he can be really fucking awkward. To him, we have a problem. We’re not like him. Jake has obsessions. They are not cute like trains or Bros posters. They are all consuming and need a lot of work to manage. He obsesses over having money. Not because he wants to do things with it. But because he believes you need a lot of it to be safe. BUT this said, Jake is an amazing autist. He recognises these things and although he can drive me absolutely fucking nuts sometimes, he does try his darnedest to work on things. I get the emotional support I need from a close group of friends. I don’t get love from my husband in a conventional way. Actually it’s better. He surprises me when he shows it because it has so much meaning.
So what’s limiting me from becoming the best version of me? The true survivor? Well actually ultimately I believe that it is me. If I don’t have the courage to face the things that challenge me then I cannot progress. So what are they? Currently I need to overcome the grief associated with losing our foster child in the way that we did. I need to be able to work through that and remain whole.
I also need to make sure that I get the best out of my relationship with my husband. I need to accept that this means putting in more work than some might, but it also means that actually I need to let go of some of my expectations and be happy to accept what he says - for instance we have a list of things to do around the house to continue to create our home. Nothing too serious but genuinely he would rather I just got on and organised it and he went along with it. It’s not because he doesn’t care. He does. But he cannot visualise the end result and so he sees it as a pointless waste of his energy to be involved in choosing anything. Usually I will get upset and disappointed that he’s not more involved, but actually what I need to realise is that it does matter to him. He trusts me. He knows that I know what we both like and that I will make our house a home. It may not be exactly as I’d like it but the end result will be - us enjoying our home.
I want to inspire others, but if I don’t truly open up I will inspire no one. It genuinely is down to me. So for challenge one I see what I have faced and I acknowledge that the only thing holding me back from moving forward strong is me. I need to stop settling and accepting and start busting balls. I have goals. It’s time to achieve them.