Lately I’ve been binge listening to a podcast called getting curious, from Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness. As well as being a total delight, Jonathan is also very informative, he knows the right questions to ask his guests and is brilliantly, well, curious. One particular episode with co star Bobby Berk was called “What’s your origin story?” And it got me thinking about my own. Where did I come from? What were the consequences of my life that lead me to this point? And what within me gave me the push to finally start my own business? I have learnt many a lesson in my life – and subsequently it has turned me into a private person online, someone with high walls. I had an encounter this year that made me see just how high those brick walls climb and the lengths in which anyone has to go to get over them – why is that? What is it about me that took me down this path and turned me into this version of myself? And how much of my story do I feel comfortable sharing online? Well, we’re about to find out together.
One of my worst childhood memories was trying to tell my mother that something about me was wrong. No one liked me. I had such a hard time making friends and was an only child from a one-parent household. I wasn’t particularly bright on paper so failed all through primary school until the 11+, which did me no favours in the friend department. Wasn’t bright, wasn’t social, didn’t know how to interact with anyone. I wasn’t bright for the smart kids and while I was an outcast, I wasn’t a bully or rude or particularly spiteful, so never got in with the name-brand outcasts either – I was discarded by them all, indiscriminately.
I remember coming home from school in tears after another lonely day. I guess whatever happened made it particularly hard to hide my crippling mental state. I tried, with all the language I knew as a kid to communicate with my mother that something in me was different, and different was not good. I remember being in a state and my mother was trying to say that these kids weren’t worth the hassle, they were little shits and I didn’t need them. She told me to yell at the top of my lungs “FUCK THEM” like teaching a child to say a bad word would be cathartic in some way. The feelings never went away, I just got better at hiding them.
Fast-forward through puberty, that crippling cloud I now know has a name, hit me like a brick in the face. Depression. Anxiety. Depersonalization. Of course they called it laziness. They knew it as attitude, acting out, being a teenager. Starving myself to them was an act for attention. Staying in bed all day because I couldn’t stomach the thought of going to school was just growing pains. My panic attacks and anxiety had no name to them; that was just my way, I was a worrier, emotional, wore my heart on my sleeve. It wasn’t until 6 years ago, I was able to properly medicate for my mental health. Up until I was old enough to say no, I was given rescue remedy, which did; you guessed it – sweet fuck all. I wasn’t properly medicated for my mental health issues until I was an adult.
My mother was a broken woman. As it has been pointed out to me, through boyfriends, friends, extended family and psychiatrists, I did more mothering to my mum than she ever did to me. She thought she was, in her own way, by buying a house that would cripple her with debt, so I could live with her forever and continue to live in that house long after she died, until I died and forced a life on top of a daughter of my own. Of course she had no idea I’d grow up to be such a disappointment. I wanted a life beyond the front door. I wanted past the garden gate into a world of my own making. I’m well aware I have made far too many life choices based on how my mother would react. That stopped the day I disowned her. I promised myself only 3 years ago that I would never again bow to her or anyone else’s will. It took me until I was in my early 20s, but I had to live my own fucking life. God, if I had told myself that as a teenage girl, everything would have been done differently. I’d have moved out at 16. I’d have travelled. Went to live in England. Found my father. A million little clipped butterfly wings, cause and effect that would have made me into the person I wanted to be much sooner than this. But that kind of thinking gets us nowhere. It is what it is my friend. And once you realize you can’t control the past, you’re free to welcome the future.
My mother would become more and more emotionally abusive as I got older. It was always there, the planted seeds of doubt, the backhanded sentences, the pushing me to choices I didn’t want to make. Her getting drunk and telling me things like ‘You’re worth nothing.’ Carrying her from a heap on the bathroom floor into her bed. Staying up as a child because she went out all night and left me alone, sick with worry with school the next morning. More memorable tales include but not limited to: her using my name to commit fraud, taking loans in my credit account, driving drunk, begging her to stop drinking on my knees, stealing most of my student loans, stealing alcohol I had to hide in my room, taking advantage time and time again and expecting me to be grateful because she gave birth to me. I could type a million more different stories that shaped me into the woman I am now. But I will only say this; I am all I am, in spite of my mother. There is no harder grip than the hand of a mother on her daughter’s throat. The best gift I ever gave myself was cutting ties. I know in my heart I did everything I ever could to save her, and it still wasn’t enough. That is on her, not me.
I dropped out of studying for my degree around the same time things with my mother were at their worst. It was far too much for me, and I make no apologies for dropping out even though I know I left a wake of teachers disappointed in me. I’m not sure if my journey with higher education is over just yet, all I know is I’m not ready to go back. I had a series of little mental rough patches in this time period, all of which were leading up to a mental breakdown. I was hurting myself and wanted to die. I felt like I was living outside of my body, couldn’t recognize my reflection, couldn’t leave my flat, couldn’t do anything other than just survive through the day. I was off work for 3 months. One day at a time was quite literally second to second, then minute to minute, eventually working up the strength to get through full days. A year later I was able to lower my meds, and was finding ways to make my days worth something.
I started writing poetry again, something I always loved. Set up a blog, which turned into a brand, which turned into shop, and a huge chunk of who I am today. You can find more info on my mental recovery/ journey in articles called ‘a year of mud’ and ‘a year on solid ground.’
I’m approaching 26 years old now. I’m far from a perfect person, and I still feel like some days I have more issues than Vogue. But I am trying. Finally, after feeling less than dirt for most of my life, I know my worth. I can be kind without feeling weak, I can be proud of who I am while still working on making myself a better person. I can see a future I actually want. I can’t change my past, but I can take hold of my future.
Love, character, introspection, integrity,