When I was 18 years old, I was broken.
Same applies for when I was 19 too.
On the cusp of adulthood, at a time when life should have seemed full of opportunity, excitement and happiness, I was in the darkest pit of despair I have ever crawled into.
Broken. Shattered. Basically ripped apart.
From the outside most people would never have guessed my inner turmoil and misery. I looked the same. I smiled the same smile. And crucially, I said all the right things.
But inside I was wretched.
A poor shadow of the bright, sparky young girl I'd been just a few years earlier.
When your spirit is broken, when the essence of who you are is smashed to smithereens, everything around you in your world starts to reflect that too.
So my relationships with the main people in my life were full of cracks. I could only ever attract broken people. And my life was a total mess.
As I fell apart, so did everything around me. And for the life of me, I could not hold things together.
I was, at that time, the kind of person that you probably would have really disliked.
Bitter, cold, hard and angry.
I hung out with bad people. I dated a guy with a shady background and an even shadier present. I partied too much and cared too little.
Instead of taking time out to nurture the emotional bruises I was wearing from an abusive relationship and unstable background, I went the other way and was hell bent on hurting myself as much as possible.
Because pain was familiar.
When you're in pain, you only know pain. It becomes part of who you are and your existence depends on it.
And so I did my best to create much more of it. And as much of it as I could.
As a young woman, I hated myself. The world and (bar my loved ones), pretty much everyone in it.
And for a very long time, I believed that I would never be fixed.
That I was 'un-fixable'.
Damaged beyond repair.
I didn't believe I would ever be able to find a glue strong enough to help me stick my shattered little pieces back together.
So what did I do?
I took my broken fragile remains and jumped in the gutter. Where all the truly broken people hang out.
In the place of despair, lost hope and self hatred.
I stayed there for quite some time too.
Occasionally I imagined a different existence but most times I stayed exactly where I was. Rooted to my rotting spot.
But then, over time, glimmers of light began to shine some light on my dark environment.
Black turned to dark grey and then to lighter shades.
And the light kept coming.
Streams of light. Rays of hope.
Little reminders of what my future could perhaps be. And of what I could become, if only I dared believe it.
Eventually I got stick of hanging around in the dark and craved more of that pretty light.
And so I gathered up my little pieces of my fractured self, pulled myself out of the gutter and started to work on putting myself back together.
My handiwork was all a bit wobbly at first. I'd repair a bit only for it to fall apart later.
Sometimes pieces didn't want to fit together again.
Others I lost and had to replace.
But piece by piece, bit by bit, I managed to make myself whole again. (With a hell of a lot of glue.)
Now at 35, I can still trace the little cracks and feel the odd chips that are missing.
I can still see some areas which need a little more filling.
A little more attention. A little more work.
But finally nearly twenty years on, I feel, not unbreakable, but most definitely stronger.
In our culture, there is a belief that when things are broken they become unloveable. Which of course means that we discard them.
So we chuck out old toys, throw away chipped plates and ditch things that are no longer of value.
We give up on broken people.
And sometimes, like me at 18, we even try to give up on ourselves.
But in Japan, when people break a treasured object such as a pot or a vase, there is a tradition which sees them go out of their way to fix the object by filling the cracks in with gold.
There is a belief there that when something is damaged and has a history, it becomes more beautiful, not less.
I am that damaged item with precious cracks.
I was that broken treasured thing.
And when I look in my mirror now, that is exactly what I believe too.