When you feel like your life is all planned out but slowly your past catches up - Hope Virgo, Author & Mental Health Campaigner
This for me was one of the most frustrating things. I had it all planned out, I was 29, loved my job, loved my family, I was thinking about a family but slowly over 2019 things started to “erode” me. The frustration was that I didn’t realise this. I didn’t even see it when it was staring straight at me in the face. For some reason I didn’t have the energy to deal with it, and I also didn’t see what was coming.
I was writing my second book, winning awards but yet still couldn’t see what was staring at me straight in the face. I felt stuck in this complete and utter rut. Getting up each day crying, putting on my make-up, heading to town to talk all about mental health. Campaigning night and day. I was in my element in a job that I loved but yet I still felt empty. I was doing a job I loved but yet over the last year things had begun to catch up with me.
I was lost, afraid and felt so alone. I was irritable a lot of the time, resenting so much around me. I was losing sight of me.
In May everything came to head, relationships broke down, life felt completely out of sync.
Why didn’t I realise sooner? What stopped me admitting I wasn’t okay?
That was my life 6 weeks ago.
And today Sunday the 11 August I woke up and felt in a different place yet again. I woke-up, went running, went out for brunch and am now on my way to Wales. The last 48 hours had been a bit odd to say the least.
I had had this intense therapy session on Friday (The therapy was part of my plan of action with moving forward in my recovery). For those of you who do therapy you will know that there is no way of knowing what therapy is going to be like and how you will feel afterwards but you have to ride with it.
This therapy session was the hardest one so far, and in fact harder than a lot of the ones in hospital. Not because it was a bad session but just because sometimes things are tough to talk about.
We talked about the fact I want to fix everything and everyone. And that I seem to drop everything for certain people as I let them have this strange hold over me. Love should be unconditional but I have always felt that for me it has some limits and expectations.
I sat there having these moments of realisation in my therapy session as my therapist supported me in discovering more and more. The added complication over the last year had been reporting the sexual abuse. When I reported this I didn’t realise (rather naively) the impact that this would have on me. And instead of allowing myself to be vulnerable my guard shot up and instead I tried to make sure everyone else was okay with it. For some reason, I couldn’t explain the long term impact this was having on me.
I felt angry and annoyed about the whole thing, and that I was only just realising it. But at least I was realising now, and I now had the power to change this. I had the power to try everything I could to deal with it; all of this emotional turmoil, all my unhealthy relationships where I feel like love isn’t unconditional and all the sexual abuse where someone has that much power over you even years later. I no longer wanted to be practical about my “stuff” but instead I wanted to talk, I wanted to be vulnerable, I wanted to let my guard down. It was too late for some people in my life, I had pushed them away for too long, but I had to accept that.
I had to start being kind to myself, get my self-confidence back and then everything else would begin to slot in to place. You hear all the time about the power of self-love and to be honest it was something I thought was never possible for me. For others yes, but for me it always felt that little bit out of reach.
But I knew that this was the time to try. If I couldn’t love myself then how would anyone else be able love me?
If I couldn’t love myself how would I be able to set my boundaries and say no to things, I didn’t want to do?
If I loved myself that would help me get my loving, free spirited self-back and that excited me. It would also one hundred percent make me stronger.
So I don’t have all the answers (just yet) to loving myself and learning to but for me it was about coming up with a plan of action.
Apologise to people I had hurt: this will help me to let go of them and stop blaming myself and then start moving forward
Book some time with people who make me feel good about myself (this included my Aunty and friends… in fact just booking things!)
Be kind to myself: this was going to be a work in progress (like most things in my life right now) and would involve washing my hair, taking some time out each day for some me time…
Say No: this was the hardest one in the plan but the more I did it the better it would be. I began doing this just over the last two weeks (at first I was annoyed it took losing things to actually start doing this) but the more I did it the better I actually felt. Yes you get the guilt at first but over time it begins to really work in giving yourself that value.
These are steps in the right direction and yes it might be a long road ahead of me to fully crack this, but the fact I have committed to doing it, and that I am determined to combining that with the fact I never give up and that I am a fighter will make it 100% achievable!
Hope Virgo is the Author of Stand Tall Little Girl, and an international award winning leading advocate for people with eating disorders. Hope helps young people and employers (including schools, hospitals and businesses) to deal with the rising tide of mental health issues which affect one in four people and costs employers between £33 and £42 billion annually. She has been described by Richard Mitchell, CEO of Sherwood Forest Hospital, as "sharing a very powerful story with a huge impact". Hope is also a recognised media spokesperson, having appeared on various platforms including BBC Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, Good Morning Britain, Sky News and BBC News.
For four years, Hope managed to keep it hidden, keeping dark secrets from friends and family. But then, on 17th November 2007, Hope's world changed forever. She was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her skin was yellowing, her heart was failing. She was barely recognizable. Forced to leave her family and friends, the hospital became her home. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life. She had to find the courage to beat her anorexia.
You can connect with Hope via Twitter.