I first had the idea of studying nutrition when I was eighteen – but it was not the right time for me back then. I had fallen into a deep hole of depression following a traumatic event that happened a year prior. The fragile security I’d built up around myself as a shy and unconfident girl was suddenly snatched away from me with no warning. It was like a wrecking ball smashing the glass house I thought was protecting me – it was inevitable. It felt like a death, and I suppose, in many ways – it was. It was the death of my old self, the self that was repressed and shaped by traumatic childhood experiences, and the start of my rebirth into authenticity and a solid foundation.
I can reflect on this experience twenty years on, and see it as one of the biggest blessings of my life. You see, when we build our foundations on an outer circumstance or person – there is always a chance that it can be taken away. If we are not strong within ourselves, we will not be able to stand the loss. Once we are strong and grounded, we can bend with the tribulations and grief that life throws at us, and cope with it without toppling. This experience for me was the start of a long and arduous journey through depression, self-harm and attempted suicide and years on anti-depressants.
I knew these pills were not the solution for me, I was not happier, I was not even numb or dulled down. I felt sadness, grief and despair every day – I was lost. I had to look elsewhere if I truly wanted to heal, and believe me, that desire to heal was the tiniest ember buried underneath layers of heavy sediment.
I started reading – self-help books, spiritual concepts, nutritional therapy for the mind and healing depression, positive thinking techniques, I read a lot. I attended classes on meditation, did counselling sessions and started yoga. I still felt like I wanted to die most days, but I would make myself get out of bed and do a yoga routine, usually followed by a cigarette in those days (one of 20 plus a day) and then get back into bed – this was baby steps.
Healing is not a quick fix – there is no quick fix – it requires work and dedication. My journey out of depression was one that snaked and shifted and screeched to a halt at times. It took me about five years to get to a place where it felt like I’d clambered my way out of the deep hole I was in, and clung onto the edge, for the first time seeing that there was something on the horizon. I was functioning, I stopped hurting myself, I didn’t want to die anymore – this was progress.
Progress isn’t linear, a lapse isn’t the end – there are ups and downs and stuck places – but keep going, keep swimming, keep striving.
What I realised, is that I had blocked that trauma aged seventeen – this is usual for big traumas. The brain protects us the way it knows how to – by blocking out the things that hurt us so much. They haven’t gone away, they are just blocked until we can deal with them, sometimes years later. The subconscious knows everything, like a CCTV recorder – we may not consciously remember or be dealing with a trauma, but it is still in the mind, filtering into our lives on every level until it is dealt with.
So, I got on with my life, I learnt a trade, I had friends and relationships – I got on – but I hadn’t addressed my deepest, darkest issues. I got married when I was twenty seven and had my son, but I was still functioning as a shell of my authentic self, I was going along with things I didn’t want to, I wasn’t speaking up, I was not in a fulfilling partnership and realised when my son was born that I was going to be doing that job in isolation. People can play the parts of a relationship without truly being in it – the picture looked good from the outside – the reality was empty.
I had a terrible time with anxiety after I had my son, I wouldn’t leave the house, not even to go to the park. I was petrified of being unwell when I was out – some sort of health anxiety that stayed with me for years, and is still with me, but to a lesser extent. I had three sleepless nights after being in labour, having had to stay at the hospital with my new baby. The first night at home, there was no interest in doing night times with the new baby from his dad – I was on my own. I barely ate in those first weeks, I was so tired I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with anaemia and an infection where I’d been breastfeeding. It was a lonely time, with painted smiles for visitors.
I turned to nutrition again, to gain calories to have energy and to feed my child. Nutrition had served me well to help beat my depression, and it is always my go-to when there is a health problem. I attended CBT sessions to help with my anxiety, did chakra balancing exercises and meditations, practised EFT – I did anything I could to beat the mental prison I was in.
I learnt Reiki when my son was two years old – I was ready to spiritually expand, and the Reiki exposed the illusions I was living under – I was unhappy.
I left my marriage, and following a bitter divorce over two years, lost my house. I was left looking after my son full time as a newly single parent, renting, juggling work, finances and childcare. It was a difficult time, but somewhat freeing. I was free of being taken advantage of, and being a meal ticket for someone else. Independence came easily to me – I was an only child who was used to entertaining myself, doing my own stuff, looking after myself.
I have fond, but painful memories of being in that house. It was a safe haven for my son and I, but it was stressful with the divorce and I was still quite a mess. My son was difficult, and I knew something wasn’t usual with his behaviour. The tantrums would go on for three hours, and bedtimes would take hours every night. I was functioning on stress for many years. Eventually, my son got diagnosed with ADHD, but not until he was seven. There were times when I could not cope with him at all. I took him to a nutritionist when he was eight, and got some ideas for diet changes, supplements and something to help him sleep at night. Things improved gradually.
Not long after my divorce, my grandmother passed away. I had grown up with my grandparents – my father and grandfather had passed many years before, within two years of each other. My grandmother saw me as a daughter, and she played a maternal role in my life – provided me with stability and love – and overprotection. I was used to grief by this point of my life, I had been through so many losses, so many heartbreaks. It was as if the cornerstone of that side of my family had gone, and with it, a part of my stability and safety. It was a sad time, again.
When my dad passed away from cancer, I was twenty-three. He had been an alcoholic my whole life, and we had a strained relationship. He was there sometimes, and not others, he was emotionally manipulative and arrogant, then he was the nicest and kindest man you could ever meet – all dependant on whether he had been drinking or not. He was negligent, which was the reason I ended up living with my grandparents to begin with. I have memories of a cold house, on my own with my dad passed out, no food in the house, nothing to do, no-where to go.
That sort of neglect, now I have my own children, brings up fresh anger of the sheer selfishness of allowing this to happen. I loved my Dad, I miss him a lot. He was a rare breed of compassion and creativity, but he lost the battle with his demons. I sat down with him after he’d been diagnosed with cancer and I planned his funeral with him, practically asking him which music he wanted, which flowers. He told me he was glad I was taking it so well. The truth is, I was on autopilot, I did not deal with his loss for many years.
Trauma shapes us – and it is down to us to acknowledge it, explore it, reframe it, so that we do not live forever as prisoners to our minds, to our traumas – so that we do not repeat damaging patterns for our own children and with the people around us. There is a price to pay for papering over the cracks.
Since those darkest of times, I had another child – a daughter, I bought my own house, I opened my own business, I am in my third year studying a degree in nutritional therapy, I wrote and published a novel that received great feedback – I succeeded – like a flower that has grown through a crack in a concrete pavement. I don’t tell you this for recognition, but in the hope that it could inspire someone who is still in their darkest times that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that life can change and all is not lost. You can be ok, you can succeed – I promise, there is a way.
This is where my passion comes from to help others, nutritionally, emotionally and spiritually. I am on this journey with you, as a guide, not a preacher, walking with you, not standing above – we are all just walking each other home.