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How many of us have thought we had it all figured out and then suddenly we find that we've hit a wall?
A wall, that seems unbreakable, unpassable and completely unrecognisable to us.
What if I told you that you could break that wall?
Whilst it is true that you can be your own best friend, I know first-hand that you can be your own worst enemy too.
As a young teenager, I learnt this very quickly after I decided to experiment with drugs and alcohol as a way of avoiding the emotions I was left with after a troubling childhood.
Although this seemed to help momentarily, in the end I would always find myself feeling worse off than I had started, hating myself even more for it.
I had surrounded myself with the wrong people and had become stuck in a cycle that I didn't want to be a part of.
And this was a cycle that I remained trapped in for 4 years.
I was fighting to feel in control of my life but the more that I fought for it, the less I ended up with. By fighting a losing battle, I was left with absolutely no energy. This meant that I stopped going to school, I became a college drop out, not once but twice, and failed to end up with a job because I had no confidence in myself or my goals.
I listened to other people when they told me that I was going nowhere in life and that's exactly where I was going.
I found myself in stuck in a dark place, not wanting to even wake up in the mornings and face the day. I felt like a failure in every sense I could possibly think of. I started to hate myself for what I had become because I had nobody else to blame for it other than myself.
I don't know when it happened, but panic attacks suddenly became a norm in my everyday life. I would find myself in a perfectly normal situation, with my heart beating out of my chest, my limbs on fire with adrenaline, my body truly believing I was in immediate danger and needed to prepare for fight or flight. This meant that I fled from situations that were harmless, and started to avoid anything that I thought would make me feel the same panic again. Because of this random and frequent adrenaline supply, I quickly became exhausted and frightened of everything. This meant I didn't leave my room much, if at all, and this gave me nothing to do but sit and dwell on how much of a failure I had become.
I eventually decided that this was something that I didn't want to live with anymore and I was going to do something about it.
So what did I do?
Mixed with depression, a shattered self-esteem, paranoia, and a strong belief of burdening everyone around me, I felt as if the only way I would be able to get rid of my fears would be to take my own life.
Now I know that for any sane person, that sounds like a seriously dramatic conclusion to come to. But when your reality has become waking up every single morning with dread in your heart and no life purpose, it doesn't seem so crazy anymore.
After several attempts, I realised that taking my own life wasn't going to be as easy as I'd thought it might be. Although I had tried, life just wasn't quite finished with me yet and I needed to come up with a second option, quickly, before I hurt myself, or anyone else in the process.
The only way I could bear the thought of waking up in the morning was the idea of creating a completely different life.
The idea of the second option absolutely sucked the life out of me, the thought of having to change my life so massively when I was in such a deep depression was overwhelming to say the least. But, as option number one was really not an option and something that I would never want to put my family or friends through, I had to go with option number two.
So what came next?
Although I was still moderately depressed and in an almost constant anxious haze, I had considerably cut down the amount that I was smoking and a little bit of motivation returned to me. I stopped drinking every single weekend and with a little bit of research into my passions, I came across an opportunity to go to New Zealand and volunteer at a tiny self-sustainable, animal shelter project, smack bam in the middle of nowhere. I felt like that was exactly where I needed to be.
After a confirmation came from the project leader that they'd love to have me, I used the savings I had inherited when my mother had passed away, and booked my flight before I had a chance to talk myself out of it.
I knew in my heart that if I was relying on money that was so sentimental, to do something that I was moderately interested in, I was going to use it wisely,
Now, of course my life didn't suddenly change overnight, the way that I had hoped it might have, but it was definitely a huge step in the right direction. This was because I had decided to say 'fuck it' and completely throw myself out of my comfort zone for the purpose of self-growth. Booking a flight to the other side of the world was certainly not something I had ever expected would happen. It was completely random and that's what made it so wonderful to me. It made me think if this is what I'm deciding today, what will I be deciding tomorrow?
The potential of change started growing inside of me and it was the first time I had allowed myself to feel anything positive without immediately squashing it.
Everything isn't always as easy as it seems.
I came across many barriers before leaving the country, all of these only adding to my fear of failure, but with a forced smile and a little bit of determination, I pursued through them all.
To give you a rough idea of these barriers...
- My one and only bank card details had been stolen and used against me
- My email was hacked (with all my flight tickets, a passport scan and other sensitive information completely accessible),
- After my visa finally came through, at the last minute I noticed that it had the wrong details on it (which meant I could be refused entry upon arrival in New Zealand)
Luckily, just two days before my flight, a couple of hundred pounds and a few panic attacks later, I had managed to get everything sorted.
I found myself in the airport—with the Valium from my doctor to combat my panic attacks finally kicking in, and I realised that I had finally done it.
I had faced each and every milestone I had come across, and not ran away from it.
For the first time in my life I knew what I had to do and I had done it.
All that was left was for me to do was board that plane and that's exactly what I did.
The last thing I expected...
On November 14th 2016, just 15 days after officially landing in New Zealand, a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the entire country. Roads were torn apart, houses had fallen to pieces. Landslides completely devastated the coastal areas, blocking the only main road on the south east coast.
At 3am in the morning, 3 hours after the initial earthquake had hit, a tsunami warning was suddenly issued, informing everyone along the south east coast to evacuate and seek higher ground, immediately.
All I knew in this moment was that I was in the immediate danger zone, and I didn't know what mother nature was going to throw at me next, or how long I had before she decided to do so.
So not only was I in the middle of nowhere, but I was also in charge of all the animals at the shelter. There was only one other person on the site, who I had to wake up and inform about the tsunami and we had decide what we were going to do.
Two donkeys, one horse, three alpacas, two dogs, several chickens, and a baby piglet were all were relying on us for safety, and a tsunami was on the way. Shit had suddenly got real.
This was the moment that big changes started to happen.
Not only did my sense of responsibility and independence grew massively, but I finally realised how insignificant my previous problems had been.
When I knew that my life could be taken away from me at any second, this was the moment that I realised just how grateful I was to be alive.
To feel my blood pumping through my veins and the air rushing into my lungs, the very same sensations of my panic attacks from before I now experienced in a whole new light. I had never been more appreciative of life.
My perspective had completely shifted and I knew I was at the start of a very important journey.
So why am I telling you this?
Although some of the things that I shared with you are so personal, I feel like I have to share some of these with you if I want to be taken seriously when I say that the only person ever standing in the way of your success is yourself.
By sticking to something you know will only do you good in the long run, no matter how frightened you are of it and the less than ideal circumstances you can be dealt in the process, you can create a beautiful life for yourself.
By the end of my trip I can say that I climbed a mountain, I stand up paddle boarded with manta rays at sunrise, I snorkelled the great barrier reef, I hiked over 70km in the blazing heat to see views others can only dream of, and all because I decided that I could.
Although I did and saw absolutely remarkable things on my journey, the most important part was that I found myself.
(Photo taken crossing the ocean in a tiny hand-built local boat in Indonesia)
Underneath the fear of failure, and need to impress other people, was a young woman who just wanted to be herself.
I'm still not fully recovered from my panic disorder but by now making sure that I get the most from life in each and every moment, I get to see all of the beautiful things that I never would have been able to notice before.
It has shown me that there is another side to life that's adventurous, exhilarating, and so much fun; something that I didn't know was possible before. Deciding to follow the tiny glimmer of hope that my life could be better, made me realise that everything that you could ever want is just on the other side of fear.
You just have to go for it. No matter how much it scares you.
It is only by going through uncomfortable situations that you become stronger and if you ever feel like you are struggling and you have no reason to keep on living—you will get through it.
I promise you.
Even if it was the last thing you expected.
You will meet amazing and beautiful like-minded people who will accept you for yourself, and you will find yourself on a journey that excites and challenges you.
You will grow into this wonderfully appreciative person who gets the most from life and you will become so proud of yourself through every trial that you go through.
The only thing is... you have to stick around if you want to see it happen.
So don't ever give up on yourself.
If you're ever feeling stuck, realise that this isn't such a bad thing. It's just life saying 'Hey! Stop! This just isn't the right path for you' so that you can aim yourself somewhere even better.
Whilst you woke up this morning, somebody else didn't get the chance to, and on any day, with absolutely no warning, that person could be you.
Imagine if it was. Would you be able to look back on your life and be 100% certain that you made the most out of it?