The team at 0800 Whats up have asked me to share a little of my story with you and some words of inspiration and hope.
Let me start by introducing myself a little. My name is Jessica or as most know me, Littlest Lady! I am 25 years of age and though originally from England I live in New Zealand. I am a blogger, mental health advocate and recovery enthusiast!
My story starts out a little different to say the least. I grew up in a world of violent words and violent actions at the hands of childhood abuse. Life wasn't easy at home for me, and to make matters worse things weren’t much better out of it.
My first memory of school was being was picked on.
I was picked on for my hair, my clothing and to be honest, just my general being. I went to a small dainty primary school situated in the middle of the country. Parents were most prim and proper and children would be seen in immaculate clothing with musical instruments in hand and a list of out of school hobbies as long as their arms.
My family was a little different and so was I. I was incredibly timid, my clothing was always a mess and my hair never looked like it had even been brushed (and probably hadn’t). I wasn't outgoing and I didn’t have any hobbies and interests like the other kids. I just sort of existed and it made me a prime target.
My experience of secondary school wasn’t much better. In fact, you could probably say worse due to everyone now being much bigger and scarier. I mean, primary school was a lot of pushing, shoving and hair pulling which I guess suited the age range, but by the time I went to secondary school these kids really had upped their game.
I was physically beaten up on more than one occasion. I would have my bag and uniform ripped to shreds and would find myself taking the rap for things that others did - from stealing, to someone graffiting every bathroom in the school and blaming it on me.
Life was pretty tough for me, and between my home life being so difficult and school as well, the weight of the world left me feeling like I was slowly sinking in to the ground. I made the decision to leave school based on my thought process that one lot of hurt and heartache was more than enough for anyone, thank you very much!
Sadly for me life didn't get much easier. My abuse at home only got worse due to being trapped inside its clutches, and I had also fallen into the hands of sexual abuse as well. The world was swallowing me whole and I spent a lot of my days quite frankly, not wanting to be here.
Due to not going to school for some time I was eventually put into an education centre. They quickly noticed something wasn't right at home and set out on a mission to remove me from my abuser's care. From there I went into a hostel and though I didn't think life could get much worse, it did. I went from the hostel to in and out of homelessness. I suffered two more assaults and found myself with an even bigger problem.
After my first assault I found myself struggling with a lot of day to day tasks. I was staying with my grandma at the time and doing as much as I could for her around the house. I noticed one day upon writing a shopping list for her that I was struggling to keep concentration on the task in hand without overly analysing each word I wrote. Each time I wrote these lists I was finding it more and more difficult. I would rewrite it several times before heading to the shops and it got so bad that I went from writing these lists on scrap pieces of paper to writing them on thick lined writing paper in the best pens I could find.
After my second assault I had well and truly hit rock bottom. Writing now wasn’t my only issue. I had started repeatedly checking items in my home. Convinced that something was going to set on fire, flood or someone was going to break into my home. I would repeatedly check the television, kettle, stove top and anything flammable like hairspray and nail varnish remover making sure they were in a dark place where no sunlight nor outside sources could cause them to set on fire. By this point I had also stopped writing all together and couldn’t put pen to paper. My days were filled with violent flashbacks and my nights were filled with just as violent night terrors which left me gripping my fists so tightly that I would leave them bruised and bleeding. Though I was no longer in my abuse, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Every waking second I was living it over and over again.
I spiralled for a long time. Stuck in a never ending cycle of beliefs that the world and all in it was out to get me. I mean, it's all I had ever experienced so it was no great surprise.
It was around this time that I was diagnosed with a complex form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I was in and out of doctors offices and was going to see therapists and councillors all with no luck. Each and every one of them looked at me like I was a lost cause, a no hoper and that there was no chance of me ever succeeding nor recovering from the things I had been through.
After everything got rapidly worse I decided that enough was enough. Something in me was changing, and for the first time in my life I was questioning if there was life outside of what I had been brought up in. I had always been looked down upon. Looked at as the weird kid who was destined for not much at all, but there was a voice inside my head saying “What if you could rise above this?”
I had spent a lot of time looking at my life and what I had been brought up in. Questioning the things I had been through and how they came to be. Questioning how my abuser came to be and how their life could have spiralled to such things. I didn't want to repeat that. I didnt want for my hurt and heartache to project on to anyone else. I wanted to be a good person though the world had tried to teach me to be cold and cruel.
I moved cities and decided to try therapy again. This time I found myself telling myself that I was going to recover and that I was putting a full stop to how I was living. I wanted change. In fact, I was demanding change and it was from myself.
I found a therapist and let me tell you she walked into my life with a glowing light around her. One of the most beautiful human beings I have ever come across. She had a fire and passion inside her that burned so brightly she was almost glowing. She wanted to see people succeed and I was willing to let her try. She told me of how she wanted to prove to those above her that recovery was possible and that no case is a hopeless case. I felt like the day we met we took one look at each other and said “It’s on!”
I spent the next several months of my life working through the things I had been through and connecting the dots. My therapist had helped me link everything that happened to me in the past to my current behaviour. From stopping writing due to my abusers constant criticism to my obsessive checking of various items being linked to a fear of more happening to me or something happening to those around me and me being punished for it.
Therapy was hard, incredibly hard. I was completing homework daily and even the most mundane everyday action came with some sort of test to try and tackle my OCD. It was exhausting.
I had many days where I thought of giving up but It was always backed by my therapists voice in my head telling me to keep going. No matter what, I continued therapy.
Even on those days that I couldn’t get there due to my OCD being so bad, I would trick myself and my OCD into getting there by ordering a taxi to my therapist's office because I also had a fear of letting people down and I didn't want to make the taxi driver angry by not turning up.
Eventually my final day of therapy came and it was filled with a mixture of tears and clapping. I had not enough symptoms left to be classed as having my disorders. Life wasn't being dictated to by these checking rituals in fact, I wasn't checking anything. My night terrors and violent and intrusive flashbacks had subsided.
You could barely recognise me from the person that first walked in those doors months back.
Life became very different for me and I had the world at my feet. Since leaving therapy I made the big leap from England to New Zealand where I spend my days exploring its never-ending wonders. My therapist? Well, she took my case to the health board and ended up becoming the manager of the mental health services in the county.
During the midst of therapy I had decided to start a blog. At first it was merely the thoughts and ramblings of an abused kid, but grew and blossomed with me. I somehow have since found myself on stages, radio shows and front page magazines talking about my recovery and my belief in its possibilities.
Shortly after my big move I heard the news that my main abuser had passed away. I decided to make the trip back to England to my childhood home and close that chapter of my life. Quite literally closing the door on my childhood and all the things that once haunted me.
I never in my wildest dreams believed I would get to where I am now. So many saw me as a lost cause. Someone that was destined for not much at all, but oh how I proved them wrong. I have exceeded my own expectations. Done things that I never would have imagined. Who would have guessed that the girl who spent her childhood living in fear with furniture behind her bedroom door would stand on stages and talk on radio shows.
Believe me, I know what it feels like to be frightened of life. I know what it feels like to come from a broken and dysfunctional home. I know what it feels like to feel picked on where ever you go, but don’t let that dictate your life.
You know, life left me lacking in a lot of areas. Dropping out of school left me teaching myself to read and write and spending the majority of my time locked in my bedroom left me with a real lack of communication skills. Still I have achieved things I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined.
Where our lives start doesn’t have to be how they will end. I believe so much in taking our power back.
Not letting those people that have hurt us have the rest of our lives. Not letting those words and actions against us dictate to our actions, beliefs and views of the world. As someone that has seen the darkest parts of life, let me tell you I see nothing but it's beauty now.
This year I have been five years free of my disorders. Five whole years.
Recovery is possible and I am here to show that. You don’t have to live your life dictated to by fear. Dictated to by the voices in your head or those around you. It’s hard, but it’s possible.
Go against those that don't believe in you and be your own cheerleader. I'm already cheering for you!
I hope my story is proof that after the storm, the sun will always shine.