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I was the child of a single mother who left when I was a year old. My grandparents brought me up from babyhood to just turned four. Poverty meant shoes worn until my toes curled, but an abundance of love and care, especially from my beloved nana, made me a content baby, a happy toddler, and a fun-loving three-year-old.
When I turned four, my mother wanted me back. Everyone decided it was best not to tell me that I was being taken away, because they knew I'd struggle and try to stay. I had bonded with my Nana and Grandad, uncles and aunts. My grandparents did not want me gone, as I found out years later, but they knew I was their daughter's child.
So, after a long train ride away from the only home I’d ever known, Mummy and I arrived in an unfamiliar house with a strange man in it. I asked when we were going home, only to be told I was home. This was the beginning of a horrific year of abuse before I was finally rescued by an aunt and taken back to my grandparents.
I was never the same when I returned. Five years old, fearful and distrusting, I became a target of schoolchildren, and was stuck with those mean kids throughout my time at school.
I thought that leaving school as soon as I could, and beginning work, would change my life. It didn't, because unfortunately, bullies are in the workplace too. They're everywhere. We know this, right? We only have to turn on the TV to witness what people can do to each other. I hadn’t healed from the school bullying, and so was sensitized to any abuse in the workplace.
It was not all bad, though—I was given a beautiful puppy at age nine and crowned as a festival princess at age ten. By twenty, I was a traveller working in Europe as a waitress, a nanny, English teacher, shop assistant and barmaid. I experienced life and became confident and independent. Even though, deep down, I was scarred from past pains, I stifled those hurts and had fun.
Although I didn't know it, what I was really doing was running away. Until the scars began itching, until the mean little gargoyle of guilt perched on my shoulder began whispering, and then screaming.
A repair job was necessary. I put myself through a gruelling year of self-reflection during counselling with a brilliant professional. It was hard, but I made myself go through it, and began writing about it, and I'm now at a place of peace, strength and wholeness. Gone is the tangle of knots I'd carried around so long I thought they were normal.
Of course, there are still some knots. But way less.
Now I’m building this website called Shield Yourself and an accompanying blog. For you and yours. For anyone who needs to know they're not alone and that, with perseverance, they can survive. Because we need to have this conversation…I have realized that to talk and to share is part of the healing process.