Let me introduce myself: I'm the survivor of a dysfunctional childhood. After leaving home at 15 I spent the following decade in self-destruct mode. I drank too much, partied too hard and enjoyed flirting with the dark side of life. Ten years ago to the day my life was in pieces. I was living in Cambodia, mourning the loss of my family, whom I'd become estranged from earlier in the year, slowly losing the plot.
I had written myself off and deemed that I was way too fu**ed up ever to see a regular existence on my horizon. The man I now call my husband made sure I left the country before he did, because he knows that had I stayed in Cambodia on my own, I'd have ended up dead.
Less than a year after returning to the UK I had my second mental breakdown in four years, and hit rock bottom. This is when I finally had the light bulb moment and realised that it was on me and no one else to turn my life around. I feel there are five main aspects we need to focus on in order to successfully change our lives.
Make peace with the past no matter how dark it is, otherwise it will haunt you forever
This is the most crucial piece of the puzzle, but I'm well aware of how much easier said than done it is. I believe that most negative situations in our adulthood leads back to trauma or dysfunction we faced in our earlier lives. Ultimately no matter how dark it is, it is absolutely imperative that we make peace with our past. To move forwards we must forgive ourselves and learn how to be kind to the person in the mirror. This includes eating well, and looking after our bodies and minds. It's all connected.
Brutal honesty is required
Do you drink too much? Do you take 'recreational' drugs that leave you in tatters for days afterwards? Do you sleep around even though it makes you feel worthless? Do you self harm? Do you binge or comfort eat? Are you in a ridiculous amount of debt because you're spending more than you earn in an attempt to buy happiness?
If you've answered yes to one or more of the questions above then you will need to address the issue(s) very early on in the process. Addictions and bad habits will always prevent us from truly moving forwards. It is vital that you seek help in any way you are comfortable with.
Identify toxic influences, and don't be afraid to cut ties
It's been over ten years since I last had contact with my mother, or the half siblings I grew up with. When I tell people this for the first time they are usually shocked, but once I give them a few details they completely understand why I did what I did.
Let me be explicit: I would only advocate walking away from family unless it's absolutely necessary for self-preservation.
For some it's not family that is the problem, but a partner treating them badly or so-called friends who do not have their best interests at heart.
Hold on tightly to your cheerleaders
It is almost impossible to properly mess our lives up if we have real friends who have our back. Even though I went to eight different schools when I was growing up, I was fortunate that I had made one solid bestie when I was eight years old. She visited me everywhere I lived and was a constant in my unstable childhood.
I had a strong sense of needing good friends in my life from a very early age, and made some great ones well in time for them to be around to look out for me when I needed them the most. At 36 I consider myself to be truly blessed with an amazingly supportive husband and wonderful network who have seen me through thick and thin. I cannot advocate enough the importance of finding good mates.
Hone in on your creativity, and use it as a positive outlet
It dawned on me recently that I have always been a writer. From creating short stories when I was a young child, to keeping detailed diaries and travel journals in my teens and twenties, I have always written in some capacity. Nowadays I blog for a living, have one book under my belt and am hoping to get my second written before the end of next year.
I need to write. For catharsis, for creativity and for a sense of having some 'me time'. I get itchy fingers, and start going a little stir crazy if I don't write for a few days.
Finding a creative outlet will pay you back in dividends. The never ending cycle of work, eat, sleep needs to be interspersed with doing things that bring us pleasure, without damaging us in the process.