Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s when women had a new found freedom and were moving away from the traditional role of wife and mother to claim their right to independence and equality through pursuing a career, my only desire was still to be a mother.
When people would ask me what I wanted to do, I was too embarrassed to admit that I just wanted to be a mum, because when I did people would look at me with contempt, exclaiming ‘surely you have other aspirations apart from that?’
Well, the answer to that was yes, I did. When I was in high school my other aspiration was to be an architect but at age 14 my inner world was starting to overwhelm me and I abandoned any ambition to want to be someone or something. I left school straight after 5th form, only having barely achieved a pass in School Certificate Maths and English and went straight into a data entry job at the Inland Revenue.
I did okay and was able to support myself, occasionally moving from one office job to another, learning different administration skills in different industries. It suited me at the time and I was able to put a roof over my head and pay my bills. I had no desire to move up the corporate ladder but my yearning to be a mum never left me.
Skipping forward to age 34, that yearning came to fruition after meeting who I thought was the man of my dreams, and my beautiful daughter was born 20 November 2004 by emergency cesarean. It was, and will always remain one of the most special and beautiful moments of my life. I loved every moment of my pregnancy, even though in the last trimester and at birth there were complications, but the bond I developed with my daughter while she was growing in my belly was like no other.
And then there was one moment I will never forget when she was only two or three days old. I was lying in my hospital bed looking at her as she was lying in her plastic crib. She looked at me and our eyes locked and she smiled at me. Yes I know, a lot of people told me she probably just had wind but a mother knows. And in that moment, she cracked my heart wide open and an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to protect her washed over me. It was pure love like I’d never felt before.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, and unforeseen by me, I was to be a failure as a mother. The events that transpired from when my daughter was around two and over the next few years to come, drove me into a dark pit of despair; my own personal hell as I descended uncontrollably toward my rock bottom.
My failure to be the only thing I ever wanted to be reinforced my feelings of worthlessness I had felt since I was a child, and which I had managed to stuff down at various times over the years with drugs, alcohol and other reckless behaviour. But it was also the catalyst for change as I came to understand that I had unwittingly repeated the unhealthy patterns of behaviour handed down from generations before me.
If I was to describe in one word how I felt throughout my childhood, that one word would be sad. From my earliest memory, I just recall a feeling of sadness and never being truly happy. There were ‘happy’ occasions such as parties, outings, and family holidays but for me, they were always tinged with this incredible sadness that I carried around with me like a heavy, invisible weight.
I feared bedtime because as the darkness enveloped me and I closed my eyes I would ‘see’ images, usually scary, so I would lie awake as long as I could, just to keep my eyes open to stop the visions. Once I drifted off to sleep though, I would have nightmares, often having the same two recurring dreams of being abandoned.
In one of them, I walked through a door into a dimly lit corridor with my Mum and brother and as they went right, I went left. Suddenly another door would open and a witch-like entity would grab me and pull me through the door into darkness and start punching me on my back. At that point, I would wake up terrified, still able to feel the sensation of being punched after I awoke until it eventually subsided.
In the other, the three of us were walking on what I would describe as a vast concrete pier, which ran parallel to the shoreline. There were other people around also walking just as if taking a stroll along the beach on any normal sunny day. But as we walked, I felt myself being uncontrollably pulled towards the water like a magnet while Mum and my brother continued walking without even noticing I was being separated from them.
I was pulled closer and closer until I reached the water’s edge at which point, I fell in and felt myself falling through the deep water for what seemed like an eternity, wondering if I would ever hit the bottom but terrified to at the same time. I thought I was going to drown and then suddenly I would wake up before I reached the bottom. In both these dreams, I felt invisible to everyone else present in them.
I also remember vividly having a very strange and frightening out of body experience one night while lying in bed, where I levitated out of my body and was then spun around like a salad spinner for maybe 30 seconds or so before finding myself lying back in my bed. My world at that time was a very scary and confusing one and I couldn’t understand the things I was experiencing and I had nobody to talk to. I felt alone, confused and scared.
I had friends, but not a big circle of them, usually only one friend at a time that I would hang out with but I didn’t feel I could share with them what I was experiencing in my inner world. Friends would come and inevitably end up exiting my life until eventually, I ended up a loner who felt more like a leper. It appeared that I sucked at relationships and it would be a pattern that would repeat throughout my life.
I internalised all the hurt and pain I felt and would often withdraw into my inner world. I preferred to just play on my own in my room with my toys, throw myself into books or listen to music. Or I would wander down to a local native bush reserve on my own where I would hang out for a couple of hours and absorb myself in my own little world of make-believe and imagination.
I was very insecure, had no confidence, was extremely shy and from my perspective, my external world and the people in it seemed to constantly reflect to me I wasn’t likeable, let alone lovable. At the age of eight, I was having suicidal thoughts, which I kept to myself.
I always did really well at school throughout primary and intermediate, maintaining A’s and the odd B mark on my reports. But by the time I started my second year in high school, I made a decision that I just didn’t care anymore. As my inner world disintegrated, so did my grades until I was no longer receiving A’s and B’s, instead receiving C’s and D’s. If this wasn’t some indication to those around me that something was going on with me, I don’t know what was, short of actually self-harming or killing myself.
I put on my big girl pants and decided to take myself to the school counsellor although I don’t know what part of me had the inclination to do that. I did maybe three or four sessions and I can’t remember the exact detail of what was discussed or said but I do remember his advice to me. That advice was to enrol in a beauty course that was currently being offered at our school after hours because it would increase my confidence.
I did the course and I learned how to apply eye shadow and other makeup, of which I had no interest because I was definitely no girly girl. I don’t think I need to really point out the disparity between the fact that I was clearly going through some very BIG internal stuff and the advice I was given to deal with it. To be fair to the counsellor, I didn’t mention anything about my suicidal thoughts but I do remember mentioning how unhappy I was at home but it was glossed over by the counsellor.
After I left school at 16, what was to follow was over 30 years of addictive and unhealthy behaviours, excessive drug and alcohol use, promiscuity and dysfunctional and toxic relationships, all at various stages throughout my life. The lack of love, emotional support and positive reinforcement in my childhood and throughout my adult years had left me with no self-esteem, no self-worth, no voice, and no boundaries.
I did reach out to various counsellors throughout my later adult years but they were of little help, only giving me vague clues with no explanation of what may be going on, or giving me outright bad advice, or in some cases just sending me on my way and wishing me luck.
I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’ve learned the hard way through some tough experiences because I had no support and therefore no choice but to show up for myself, which I could barely manage. Now at age 50 I’m only just starting the healing process, as I take the lessons I’ve learned and integrate them into rebuilding myself and my life.
And this is the reason why I have chosen to support I Am Hope. If I had access to this kind of support when I was a teenager, I’m sure my life would have turned out differently. I don’t want to see our children go through what I, and many others have had to go through, because I know first-hand how tough it is to navigate our internal and external worlds without support. And, with the introduction of social media and the internet, it has paved the way for many influences that are impacting negatively on our children.
If we have a chance to change this world for the better, then that chance lies with our youth getting the mental and emotional support they need and deserve, so they can grow up to be confident and self-assured adults living fulfilling lives.
I felt a whisper many, many years ago to do something to help humanity and I knew if I was ever to attain that calling, it would be focused around helping children and families and that no matter what, I would make sure to give back to the community in some way.
So, when I was developing Open Heart Open Soul I did my research into the many amazing charities that support youth. And as much I would love to support all of them, it was a no-brainer that I Am Hope stood out for me as the one that most closely aligned not just with my own personal story, but also with the kaupapa of Open Heart Open Soul.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this blog, thank you for your time in allowing me to share my story and why I choose to support I Am Hope. While I understand these are uncertain times financially for a lot of people, any donation is appreciated and we’ll be donating $5 from every t-shirt sold to this very worthwhile cause.
HERE’S HOW TO DONATE SAFELY ONLINE DIRECT TO GUMBOOT FRIDAY
- Log in to online banking and add them as a payee (you’ll find them in the “company” list by searching for “Gumboot Friday Appeal” or “I Am Hope”)
- Direct deposit your donation into Gumboot Friday Appeal account number 38 9020 0336055 01