Version 1 – ME
All my life, I was ashamed to think I had any mental health issues. It wasn’t a choice whether I was crazy, I was told on a daily basis, that I was. These repeated affirmations bought me to a place of victimhood. It embedded within me; abandonment issues, anger issues, trust issues, and self-esteem issues. Consequently, I became a sufferer of toxic stress and as a result, prone to poor mental health at times.
It has taken years for me to understand just how prone to poor mental health, I really was. My ego was so big I wouldn’t dare allow the thought of me having any mental health issues. Who I was and how much I had experienced in such a short time, had all my pathways leading to disaster – and I almost was, – led to disaster. But life has a funny way of keeping you in a situation, until you ask the right questions, to learn the right lessons. Only then, are you able to pass, and level up. It’s like waking from a deep slumber to find out
- You’re ALIVE but
- Just how much you have missed in life.
Where had I been all my life? And how had I allowed so many other bad experiences to happen to me when I had a choice? Now that I had awakened to a new sense of ‘self’ and a better understanding of my trauma, I would regularly get overwhelmed with a multitude of emotions. It was like being on a ride and all of a sudden the track dismantles – at 200mph – and rebuilds just ahead of you!! all the while you’re hanging on for dear life, hoping there won’t be a screw loose at the end!
I had allowed my trauma to affect every thought I had about myself, and others……I became ‘unloving‘ ……..and ‘unlovable’……unloving because of my inability to feel, to offer sympathy, empathy, affection as a whole. Unlovable because of my fears which manifested as destructive behaviour that pushed people away.
I learnt that when you have been raised with no love, the love you think you know only feeds into the actual love you were taught. So if you were taught that love is – conditional, controlling, intimidating, appeasing, violent, condemning and transactional, then that is your language of love and that is the love you will receive.
My survival skills were all I had. I had no mother to soothe the graze on my knee when I fell over on the playground. No parents smiling as they aimed their ‘Camera’ at me, as I sang Christmas carols in school. I knew from as early as 3-4 years old that no one cared about how I felt, I could trust no one. I had to save myself, I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but I knew that anyone who spent time with me, hurt me. My survival skills were a combination of push and pull. You be nice to me and I’ll consume you (I’m starving after all) or push – If I feel you are doing things that may hurt me like all the other times, I become so unrecognisably aggressive, all they can do is RUN!!
“I learnt that to be loved you must first be love”.
My creativity preserved my mental health – to a degree- My Creativity reminded me I existed. If I didn’t have my passions, I don’t think I would have survived. I had suffered many bouts of depression throughout my childhood, being so isolated, and not being allowed out with friends or even my room, for days at a time, all I had was my creativity.
And then came, foster care…..
At 14 years old, I ran away from home and ended up in the ‘care system’ was no different from prison. It was more like open prison rather than 27 hr lockdown (it all depends on your luck of the draw)
After a few months with ‘my’ luck of the draw in terms of foster families, I soon began to ask, was it me or was the world a crazy place? Is everyone being abused and abandoned? I had gone from years of control, physical abuse and isolation, to a community of people hurting other people.
I was an angry teenager and rightly so, so far, the world seemed cold, violent, unloving and controlling to the point of exploitative. I vowed to try and help others when I got older, I initially wanted to be a social worker, a classic side effect on the care leavers journey! Except that didn’t feel right, maybe a teacher? But first, I knew I needed counselling of some kind.
Version 2 – Myself
I did not return to education until I was 21 years old…….By the time I turned 28 I had retaken my GCSEs but I felt lost! What now? One particular night I was deeply upset with the path in which my life was taking. At this point I had my two children, a Narcissistic ex, a soon to be ex, no job, few qualifications AND I was deeply unhappy with my weight.
I was going to counselling for my aggressive behaviour and was finding life to be deeply stressful. I was an unhappy person. I remember crying myself to sleep wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to leave my partner, I would be alone again, even though I felt alone with him, anything was better than nothing….right?
‘I will never forget the eerie silence that swept across my mind and then a clear voice said ‘Go to uni‘.
I sat up bolt right in bed, wiping away my tears, wondering if I was going mad! But it wasn’t my voice, it wasn’t a voice I recognised! I thought it was my imagination playing tricks on me but my gut told me otherwise. The next day I bumped into a woman I knew that was in her second year at university. It was a different course but she convinced me it was a good idea to try and apply. So my journey began and what I thought was a simple process of academia became the key to unlocking my trauma and transforming me into a person I enjoy to be with. Mental health and all…..
Version 3 – Mental Health
Of course, my epiphany hadn’t occurred yet, I didn’t realise that I was being so harmful to myself, why would I not come out with a few kinks and quirks, i.e mental health issues. I’d been through a lot in my short life. I needed to embrace this part about me first before I could begin the journey to thrive. It took many attempts at acceptance and much compassion for me to accept that my childhood trauma had a huge impact on my mental health.. The next step was what am I going to do about it? Do I fight, flight, freeze or flop? For a while I decided to fight the survivor in me lasted 20+ years. Now, instead, I chose to be friends. this is where you humanise the situation, create empathy and less risk of harm. In other words, I decided to embrace this person, who as a result of trauma is now a part of me and who I have become today. She’s the only frenemy I will ever have, but ‘she’s’ worth the effort.
‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready The teacher will Disappear.’
– Lao Tzu
With my mental health addressed, that was when the ‘Teacher’ appeared. Life brings you many teachers and each one serves a purpose. Life is unbiased – unlike us humans, your teacher can be young, old, a different gender, race and religion. All you have to do is listen and look out for the clues. As I began to listen to life’s clues, my desire to transform within myself became strong. However, what I found interesting, was this strong desire to self-sabotage. ‘Her’ attempt to keep me unconscious, negative, unloving, and unhealed, was an attempt to preserve her own survival – ‘her’ existence.
When I was 21 years old I found out that I was spelling my name wrong. S-U-F-I-N-A this version of me suffered the most abuse, by myself and others. The way in which my name should be spelt is; S-O-P-H-I-N-A – the day I got my birth certificate was the day I decided to be a new version of me – SOPHINA. She’s wounded and scarred, but still standing, she desires to live a life of love, peace and healing.
The ‘old Sufina‘ however is riddled with fear. She won’t exist anymore, what will happen to her? Every step I take to healing is another day she fades away. When I push to affirm my worth in the world, she would tell me that; my worth didn’t matter and my trauma was who I was, why change? My need to speak my truth was denied. She hated me being happy, and she wanted to disrupt any sign of normality I had..
By the age of six years old, we already have 80% of our adult brain. We download from our caregivers’ perceptions of the world and our place within it. If we are programmed to see the world as dangerous, unloving and impoverished and ourselves as victims, with low self-worth, then our subconscious mind replays those beliefs and dictates the direction of our lives.
During my research, I discovered the talented Bruce Lipton who wrote the groundbreaking Biology of Belief. Bruce speaks of epigenetics (having control above the genes) and through reprogramming the subconscious mind, we can create a reality we want, with the health we desire.
I will forever continue to reprogramme and create a better quality of life for myself, and although my mental health, has kept me safe at times, historically, it has caused physical illness, fractured relationships, emotional instability, and disconnect as a whole.
However, my mental health also taught me to be compassionate to others, to see life in the most beautiful of ways. I see my PTSD as the receptor for my intuition, it creates, light and dark, humour and sorrow. It reminds me that I’m alive!! It gives me feelings that spark my creativity and set me free until next time…when Sufina needs.
“She was so spoiled with darkness, she was fiercely scared of the light, as I type she still tries to stop me…..”
See she’s my demon. She had full power over my life for 30 years, as such, it’s not her fault. I have compassion for her pain, loss, abandonment, and starvation of love. She’s been through a lot, she wasn’t allowed to be free to express, experience, to LIVE. Eventually, she will allow me more time to thrive. You might read this and think – yep she’s crazy, but I have never felt saner in my life.
Once I embraced my true self, and I followed the signs, even the ones that led right back to me, I found peace. See, trauma in childhood is not your fault and as you go out into the world, you may stay in your trauma slumber, this creates demons that feed off your fear. Believe me, when I say just like any hero, to become great, we must first face our demons.
Speak your way to happiness, realise that you can take accountability for how you are feeling and what you deserve to experience. Your mental health is the most important component, to maintaining happiness.
All keep me grounded and present. Sometimes we have to Sit in those moments of anxiety, and face the fear to move on and thrive. It can build strength and character we never knew we had. My methods have been dramatic, explosive and emotive, like walking out of my relationship, moving house, quitting my job and setting up survive2thrive. But where I sit today in myself, I would have no other way. I’m grateful for my imperfections. ‘Me, Myself and Mental Health’ are for those who feel defeated and barely able to survive. everyday trying to describe an invisible wound to an audience of temporary convenience can be exhausting. I say, Why not be a thriver and through the seed of change, bloom for a lifetime. Most importantly, is seeking support whenever it’s needed, you’re not alone, take the time to find what suits your journey to healing. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!