What happens to us when we are little? We develop the mindset we are going to navigate our way through life with, this was mine:
I don’t remember my childhood very well, but what I do remember is how young I was when I decided I didn’t like myself.
I struggled tremendously with finding my place in the world... and frankly I decided that I didn’t think I had one.
Before I go on, I want you to understand that everything that I write about in these stories, I was not aware of at the time, I didn't consciously know what was happening.. everything just felt difficult and uncomfortable at the time.. but I never knew why. I am writing this story in hindsight of what was going on at the time, and it really wasn't until I started to do the work of unraveling and looking back and figuring out who I was and what had shaped me that I could write this story, it also wasn't until then that I could heal from my journey..
From the outside I had a very privileged up bringing, I attended a private school, I went on big holidays around the world and to be honest I was spoilt rotten. To anyone else it would of looked as if I couldn't of had a problem in the world.. but you see the problem with that is (and something to keep in mind) - negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves do not discriminate person to person, and they do not depend on what our life looks like and what our circumstances are, they are made up of what happens to us individually and how we feel about who we are. Ultimately we either find our way or we don't and if we don't, we can be left a little lost and end up living our life searching for validation, usually in all the wrong places. I unfortunately was one of these people. I didn't end up finding myself and who I was when I was 'suppose' to, all I could see was that I wasn't particularly good at anything. I decided, after doing what's only natural for a young person to do: compare myself to everyone around me.. that I didn't really look like other girls who were my age.
So in my head, completely subconsciously, this was when I wrote the story that I am not good enough.
This 'lostness' and story that I'm not good enough because I don't look like the other girls around me and I couldn't do what they could do, turned into extreme self doubt and insecurity that imbedded in me and riddled every cell in my body, and this is what shaped me and my view of myself at a very early age. Pretty quickly, I was in a living hell with my own thoughts day in and day out but I was barely old enough to have these negative thoughts about myself. This view of myself was what programmed my mind and was what I was looking at the world and my life through, all without me being aware of it. When I was trying to find my way, I came up with this conclusion and convinced myself that I was not good enough to ever find my way and that this would always be the case.
I don’t know how that happened, but unfortunately somewhere a long the way that was the mindset that I developed and carried into my older years.
I took this attitude into school. I had declared that I was dumb, stupid and I wasn’t talented at anything and that the whole school process would be a struggle for me because I’m not cut out for it... and that was carried from Primary School all the way through to High School.
These beliefs I had about myself resulted in me giving up on school before I even started, all because I was absolutely terrified to try at anything due to my belief that I was ‘destined’ to be a failure. I compared myself to others from such a young age and I absolutely hated myself as a result. So to protect, myself I never let myself try.
By the time I got to year five I was already an emotional eater, I ate to try and make myself feel good, not realising the damage I was doing. The outcome of that, was that I was very overweight for my age. Most girls at that age still had a metabolism that would burn up anything they ate, but I was not one of them.. and I decided there was something wrong with me, and I decided it was 'in my genetics to be fat' and that I would always struggle with it because other girls just don't have to worry.
To this day that will be the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and overcome, and this is the story I wrote about myself that will always be the one I have to work on the most to rewrite. My dislike for my body shaped me tremendously and translated to this deep feeling of self-loathing in every area of my life. I went through things in life as a young girl that not many people have to go through, and it was really tough… But for some reason, the toughest thing I’ve ever had to overcome in this life of mine, has been my negative thoughts toward myself and my sheer hate for my body and what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
In year five, six and seven I went to a co-ed school, and I became a victim of bullying. All about my weight. The boys used to tease me about being fat constantly. “You’re just a big tub of lard” I remember one boy saying on school camp.
One of my worst memories was in science class learning about BMI’s which meant we all had to weigh ourselves and write out our weight on the whiteboard (cruel, I know.), I lied and wrote down a similar number to the other girls, the boys all burst into laughter and called me out in front of everyone “There’s no way that’s how much you weigh, look how much fatter you are than everyone else”.
Any chance of self-confidence I had left in me was destroyed there and then and replaced with even more chronic insecurity over what I looked like and who I was, and my self acceptance hit an all time low. Those boys made me I confirm all the thoughts I had in my head about what I thought other people saw when they looked at me, and what I thought when I looked at myself.
I moved schools to an all girls school in year 8.
Before I moved I had declared two things to myself:
1. I would continue to never allow myself to try and succeed at anything whilst at school, because I was sure there was no way I'll ever succeed at anything and this is how I can protect myself from failure and embarrassment.
2. I would try and become the 'Cool Mean girl' because in my head that meant that if I was 'Mean' to others, and 'Cool' then no one could get to me with what I THOUGHT they might say about me. This was the mask I would use to protect myself and to make myself feel okay about myself.
Somehow this translated into me turning into a Bully. The exact same thing that gave me so many of my troubles from being a victim of it, I was on the verge of becoming this myself. Writing that literally makes me sick to stomach to this day, but the reason why I share this is because it truly is a testament of how much we can be ruled by our minds and our view of ourselves if were not aware of it. I was bullied and so insecure about myself, that my defence and protection was to become a bully myself. The shame to admit that is so intense and it saddens me so much to think about, but this is what can happen when we don't know how to feel good about ourselves, and it's very scary to think about how often this happens. It's easy now for me to see why bully’s do what they do - it all stems from such deep feeling of insecurity and is used as a mask of protection.. because we're all fighting for the same thing: self acceptance.. and it leads us to do crazy things when we can't find it.
What was a big part of my journey was the moment I let go of the mask and I realised exactly why I'd turned into someone who deep down wasn't me. Like I said I didn't conciously know I was choosing to put this mask on and be a nasty person, this was a subconscious choice, and when I was older and on a journey to undo my past hurt, it was only then that I realised that I wasn't actually that nasty person at all, and being that only added to my negative view of myself. Once I figured everything out it was obvious to me that I wasn't a mean spirited person at all, I just wasn't being myself, because I still hadn't figured out who I was.
What I struggle a bit with now with that is that, people who only knew me then of course judged me off of who I was at that time. I am still making up for some of my old horrible ways, and introducing the real me to the world, but the more I tell this story, the more I hope people can understand that it's okay to let go of who they needed to be to validate themselves at a certain time.
For the next 8 or so years I lived a life of complete self hatred and self destruction. I was still very overweight because of this theory I had ingrained in me that I was always bigger and "being fat was in my genetics" which, in my head meant that I would always be 'fat' so I continued to eat horribly- mostly emotional eating and bingeing in my room away from others.
I wasn’t getting out of bed until around 2pm each day and barely ever going to school. The days I did go to school I usually left because I felt so tired, unwell and uncomfortable that I couldn't bare to be anywhere but hiding away in my room. I still don't know how, but I managed to get myself out of having to do any of the class work each day, so I wasted most of my school life.. something that still disappoints me tremendously, but I couldn't possibly pay attention in class after this negative mindset I had acquired. I had so many toxic thoughts going through my head of self doubt and insecurity that for years on end I lived in a state of complete brain fog. I don't really remember anything I was taught on the days I actually went to school and I still can't believe that, looking back on the opportunity I was privileged enough to of been given, I can't believe how my view of myself got in the way of that.
Despite all of this I still had a social life, which was the only thing that kept me feeling okay.
I was still the “cool-mean” girl I’d created and worn as a mask, but my behaviour was getting a little out of control and getting to the point of a little scary. I was binge drinking often and doing many other dangerous and scary things a girl of that age (or any age really) shouldn’t be doing. And I was doing it purely to 'look cool' and 'fit in' but I (later) realised it wasn't who I was at all, I never actually felt good while doing these things. I was arrested multiple times and always in places I shouldn’t have been and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing, but they were what made me feel accepted and worthy at the time.
When I got to about 16 I was still battling with my weight, like I always had been, so naturally I decided to try one of my first of many 'diets.' This is when I begged and tried to convince my dad to let me try ‘Lite n Easy’ because I had no idea about losing weight or what I should be doing, and I was so miserable that it seemed like the perfect solution. After weeks of begging my dad, I convinced him of how good this would be for me, and he eventually, very reluctantly agreed. (He has always been my biggest support and went above and beyond for me and i'll never be able to thank him enough for that). I was so desperate to be like the other girls around me, that I was 16 and taking ‘Lite n Easy’ meals to school with me.
This is what started the downward spiral of dieting and falling off the wagon, then bingeing and more self loathing than ever - a very vicious cycle resulting in a very messed up relationship with food and my body. The same relationship that carried into my older years and ended up controlling my life (more on that in part 2).
Throughout this time I met Jesse, my Fiancé and the father of my two children. I was 15 years old, he was 17 and he was my first boyfriend.
I was always desperate to be accepted and noticed by boys when I was a teenager - but for all the wrong reasons, I would throw myself at anyone who would give me attention and you can only imagine the type of boys I was attracting, and what they did to my already dangerously low self esteem.
But when I met Jess things were just different. It was one of the first times I felt like I could be myself with someone, he genuinely liked me for who I was and it was the most amazing feeling. We ended up falling head over heals in love with each other. We spent majority of our time together, but happy as I was with him, it still wasn’t enough to change my toxic ways.
I got to the point that my body was not coping with what I was doing to it.
I was in hospital all the time, I was having tests all the time and I couldn’t function properly. I was either in bed or at the doctors office. I would hide out at home and barely leave the house because everything was just too much to bare.
By 16 I ended up dropping out of school. I was only going one or two days a week and when I was there I was spending my time trying to figure out how to get out of being there or I was too sick to function properly.. To this day I’ve never felt such relief. The daily battle of how I would get out of school was finally over. I never felt good at school and it was uncomfortable from the get go, because I declared I hated it, before I started - which saddens me now because I know that it didn’t have to be that way, but with the mindset and stories I had programmed in my mind about my abilities, I never stood a chance. I really didn't have the capacity to learn anything, my mind was too chaotic and I'm not exaggerating when I say, that whole part of my life is complete fog, not just the memory, it was actual physical brain fog when I was living it, I literally couldn’t think straight. I was only introduced to thinking straight when I was 23 years old. I actually never functioned normally, and it was all due to this toxic mindset I had acquired when I just was trying to find my way.
Once I dropped out of school I started working for my dad, I loved that because I'd grown up around it and I understood his business well, it felt comfortable, which was a very different experience than being at school.
I was still with Jesse and we were happy together.
But I was still living an internal battle.
8 months after dropping out of High School, I was sitting in a doctors office at 17 years old by myself, holding a positive pregnancy test. I was in shock and in floods of tears.
Jess didn't know I was going there for that reason and I went straight to meet him after I found out that I was pregnant. I fell into him in a heap, crying uncontrollably, I was completely overwhelmed and terrified.
After I told him what was going on, he wrapped his arms around me and told me everything was going to be alright, and in that moment I knew I was going to be a Mum and I wouldn't question that any further. Even though I knew I would be urged to consider all paths, which I was. I knew what I wanted to do.
Despite my life being very much a mess and me being absolutely petrified, something deep inside of me was telling me I'd be fine and this was all supposed to happen this way. I didn't know what that was but I knew all I could do was trust it.
The pregnancy was awful, I didn't like the experience at all. I was already battling with the thoughts in my head and they just got worse with pregnancy.
It was the first time I experienced physical anxiety and panic attacks, even though I didn't know what was happening at the time.
I carried my terrible eating habits into my pregnancy, and ate horribly. I was sick a lot and pretty miserable.
Eating horribly and having a very negative mindset definitely resulted in a very difficult pregnancy. (Looking back now I realize I completely brought that on myself) But I got through.
At 18 years old and 35 weeks pregnant I went into labor, and my beautiful baby girl was born.
Daisy Vine Ashby was here.
She was the most stunning thing I'd ever seen, I remember thinking I can't believe someone like me can make a baby as beautiful as her (Again, the chronic insecurity and self loathing coming through.)
But she was here, and I knew this was the start of my life. She was going to change everything forever, I just didn't know how yet.
It wasn't easy... at all.
I was 18 years old with a newborn baby.
Being a first time mum isn't easy at the best of times, and I really really struggled.
Daisy is such a sweet girl now but she was a very difficult baby, she was exclusively express fed (breastmilk that's pumped and fed via a bottle) because she was too little to breastfeed, and she had undiagnosed silent reflux for 10 weeks which meant she screamed for majority of the day and didn't sleep at night. I felt like it was the most torturous process and it seemed like everything about having a baby was difficult.
In those first few months of Daisy being born I still had all of the same issues I had had all along with my health.. and even worse, with my mind. Combining that with taking care of a baby was really rough. I most certainly wasn't living the life on an average 18 year old. I was just a baby myself looking after a tiny baby (as so many random people in the street liked to remind me)
But after having Daisy I had a little extra strength in me, I felt a sense of power and capability that I'd never felt before.
Because of my history growing up, I don’t think people had a lot of faith in me being a good mother (these are the people who didn’t know me well, my loved ones have always been nothing but supportive)
But I declared to myself that I was going to prove them wrong. I was going to show everyone who judged me for being a young mother that not only am I going to be a good mother, I was going to be the best goddamn mother I could possibly be.
That started with making the decision to take great care of myself, because I thought - if I was going to take care of my baby, I had to take great care of myself.
I was tired of living in this state of dis-ease (ever wondered were the word disease comes from) and I finally felt like, if I can take care of a newborn baby against all the "odds" then maybe I'm not as useless as I thought I was, and maybe I could change my life in more ways than I ever thought possible. So I decided I would start with my health.
I didn't know the first thing about health or fitness, so I went down the terrifying rabbit hole on Google, searching everything I could about losing weight, healthy food and how to exercise (I don't advise doing this by the way, it's a very confusing topic and you'll be left wanting to throw in the towel and eat a packet of Tim Tams)
But luckily through all the confusion I found this thing called "clean eating" and another called "calorie counter".
I started following some clean eating guidelines and using the calorie counter, and had quite a bit of success.
I lost some weight and I had something new to learn about which kept me busy on the very long very lonely days of having a baby at home by myself.
Continued in Part Two: