I'm the survivor of a dysfunctional childhood. After leaving home at 15 I spent the following decade in self-destruct mode; drinking too much and partying too hard. Exactly ten years ago my life was literally in tatters. 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'd essentially written myself off and deemed that I was too fu**ed up to see a normal existence on my horizon any time soon. 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 also hit rock bottom. I had the light bulb moment, the epiphany. Which is when I got serious about changing my life, because I realised that it was on me and no one else to turn it all around. I feel there are five main aspects we need to focus on in order to successfully change our lives.
Truly make peace with the past
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.
Be honest with yourself
Do you drink too much? Do you take 'recreational' drugs that leave you picking up the pieces for days afterwards? Do you sleep around even though it makes you feel worthless? Do you self harm? 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 you from moving forwards. It is vital that you seek help in whatever form makes you comfortable.
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. I got to the point where they were draining the life out of me, and I was left with little choice but to cut them out. Although the first year was tough, and I missed them dreadfully, it got easier with each year that passed, and I have never regretted my decision.
Find your cheerleaders and hold on to them
It is incredibly difficult 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 to the most. Nowadays, at 36, I am truly blessed with an amazingly supportive husband and wonderful network of friends who have seen me through thick and thin. I cannot advocate enough the importance of finding good mates.
Find a creative outlet
I have always been a budding writer. From creating short stories when I was really young, to keeping detailed diaries and travel journals, I have always written in some capacity. Now 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. Something I have discovered over the last couple of years is that I need to write. For catharsis, for creativity and for a sense of having some 'me time'. I start getting itchy fingers, and feeling a little crazy if I go a few days without writing. 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.