Have you ever wondered what’s going on inside someone else’s life or mind? What it’s really like to be them? Or maybe you wonder how they see you? What questions are going through their head?
See, when you look at a person, you actually have no idea what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, what they’ve been through or really anything at all. You can judge on outer appearance with the way they look, the way they act or the way they dress. Yet still: you could be staring someone straight in the eyes and have no idea what lies behind…
For years I felt like a stranger to those I loved the most. A dark secret I felt forced to hide. A huge amount of pain that simply would not subside. I felt trapped and broken beyond repair.
“I’m done” I would scream. Yet I wasn’t, not really. In fact, it was only just the beginning. I just couldn’t see it…
This is my life; this is my story. From Broken Teen to Business Woman.
I grew up in a small Shropshire town. In fact, town was really scraping it. It was more like a cosy, countryside village. But when I was a little girl- it couldn’t be more perfect! A safe neighbourhood, a lovely community feel, a close knot of friends and for me personally, I had the most incredible parents and a big brother I absolutely idolised! I was truly truly blessed and had a great childhood, filled with love, support and hope. My parents taught me to work hard for the things I want in life, to appreciate everything that I have, and to be a good person, no matter what. They really were -and always will be- the best role models to me, and it installed such a strong sense of morals. I didn’t always have the confidence and was far too shy for my own good. In fact, I would cling to my Mum like glue, all through nursery & primary school. When it came to speaking to someone new… Well- no can do! But I was young, and still finding my feet.
As I grew into my teenage years, it’s every parent’s nightmare, right?!
And sure, I had the mood-swings, the boy troubles, the make-up overload and the identity issues. But I guess your teenage years really are a time where the world suddenly starts spinning very, very fast and you have to make all these big decisions and figure everything out- in terms of who you are, how you act and what you want to do. It can be overwhelming! Yet I was getting by. Just like everyone else it seemed. And I was stumbling on through in the right direction!
So where did it all go wrong you ask?
Well, it was 5th September. I remember it like it was only yesterday. I was 15 years old and just days away from entering my final year at high-school. I was out with friends, chilling at the park, for what should have been a last day of fun before the new term started and all the intense studying would begin. The sun was shining, the leaves gently falling off the trees. It was a nice day. Only it didn’t turn out to be.
In fact, it was that day that my whole world was thrown upside down. I didn’t see it coming… I never could have. Yet it was then that I experienced the worst ordeal of my life: a violent trauma that made me a ‘victim’ to the most awful crime. I became isolated, vulnerable and went through something that no adult, let alone teenager should ever have to go through.
The exact details are irrelevant. You don’t need to -and certainly wouldn’t even want to- know.
But I was left broken, confused, questioning everything and everyone. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to, anyone who could possibly understand or make the pain go away. I couldn’t deal with it. I turned to alcohol and binge drinking, I would hide myself away in my room and sob with so much pain and despair. I kept asking myself,
“Why me? Why me? WHY ME?”
And of course the answers were never good ones. My whole body ached and my mind felt like the darkest place in the whole world. Even when I went to sleep at night, I couldn’t escape as the nightmares continued to haunt me. One of the effects of Post Traumatic Stress I suppose. I would cry myself to sleep most nights, until I felt numb, then wake up screaming and shouting, reliving the experience all over again. Yet, every single morning I would have to wake up, get dressed, paint a smile on my face and pretend that everything was okay. Pretend that I still felt like me. Only I didn’t. I wasn’t the same and nothing ever would be the same again. Life as I knew it had been completely tainted and the little girl inside me suddenly had to grow up very fast…
See all of this was happening during the most most important time of my life so-far, with all of my GCSE’s and exams coming up. Yep, that happy little girl was long-gone and I soon realised I had two options:
- Let myself fall deeper and deeper, spiralling into severe depression and failing at everything I’d worked so hard at up until now.
- Pull myself together, push everything out of my mind and study hard… So hard that I didn’t even have TIME to think about what had happened, and if I flashback or bad memory dared to come back into my head again: I had to push it out. It wasn’t going to take the pain away, but it would cover over it temporarily… Make it bearable so I could still get on with things, just for a little while.
Me being me, I knew what I had to do. I went for the latter option, exceeding all expectations and targets, leaving high school with the second highest grades in my year, receiving all A’s & A*’s in Maths, English, Science, French, German, History, Geography, PE Dance and Art. Quite a turn-around hey? From there, I went on to college and did the same again there. Despite juggling charity projects and part-time jobs, I completed my Business course both years in a matter of months, receiving the highest possible grades and UCAS points, alongside an additional qualification on the side. It was practically unheard of and an incredible achievement. Yet for me, it was just about surviving. Pushing myself in all aspects of my life, to -in all honesty- just try to avoid facing up to the pain that was still inside.
I guess I hadn’t really accepted what had happened: I was still keeping myself as busy as possible to void the pain of actually letting myself think and come to terms with the past. Blocking it out felt easier than bringing it all back up again, and feeling the fear, the hurt, the pain and the anger, all over again. It was such a huge injustice and the thought of it made me feel physically sick. I wanted to be strong, but inside I just felt vulnerable and weak. I was a shell of the person I used to be, and so far from the person I wanted to be. No-one knew what had happened to me, why I had became so distant and where my spark had gone. I did what I had to do to get through each day, but something was missing. And people could see that.
The Path Forward:
‘Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway…’
Through hard-work and determination, I managed to jump straight into a job at a start-up company immediately after finishing college. I was in the position every Graduate could only dream of being in- yet I was doing it years ahead of everyone else. I gave it my absolute all, focusing on learning as much as I possibly could and exceeding all expectations on every task I was given.
Within a matter of months I was taking on more responsibilities, getting promoted from a basic admin role, to take charge of the social media, marketing and events. I thrived off it and was progressing my career really well, working with brilliant people and gaining excellent opportunities.
But every day, I would wake up at the same time every morning, get changed into the same kind of corporate clothing, drive the same route to our office, work the same hours stuck in that same old chair, then drive back; only to get stuck in traffic, with everyone else doing exactly the same thing as me.
It wasn’t inspiring me. It wasn’t bringing out the best in me. And I strived for more.
Yes I could get comfortable here. Yes I could work my way up, maybe even create other job opportunities from it and climb up that corporate ladder to the top. But was it something that really excited me? Did it feel like the right path for me? No. Unfortunately not.
And I guess that’s when the penny started to drop…
Why should I settle for a life anything less than I want in my life? And more importantly… Why should I settle, feeling a way that I don’t really want to feel? Because I wasn’t happy. Not only in what I was doing, but in myself. It was all just a routine. A bit of an act. And it had been this way for too long, because I was letting it. I was settling.
I realised I had to take charge and I had to do it now. I needed a big change.
So, after much deliberation about what exactly I wanted to do, and how I could start living in a more meaningful way that was actually true to me- I took the bold decision to leave my secure marketing role and set out on my own. Doing what exactly? Well, events. But not just normal events… I knew I was passionate about people, and supporting important causes, so I created this concept that enabled me to work with charities in a way that didn’t cost them anything- but covered my costs. They received all the profits and donations, and I got my time covered. Genius I thought! Although I soon realised that good ideas don’t always mean immediate success.
At the raw age of just 18, I had to work far harder to prove myself credible, capable and better than my competition. Business certainly didn’t come to me- I had to go to it and push to create the opportunities. But I really believed in what I did, and was driven by the prospect of being able to make a real impact on peoples lives. I started establishing myself by working with small local charities, and raised thousands across the country.
The more events I did, the more I wanted to do. I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone and I felt like I was finally really living. My confidence gradually started to grow and as I got better and more recognised, I was able to expand to working with start-ups and businesses- with the mission of providing the greatest return for them. Before long I was speaking on the radio, speaking ON STAGE to hundreds of people (yep, that was something I never dreamed of doing a couple of years back!) and I even landed an International client from America who came to the UK solely for the events I had organised for him. I had transformed into a whole different person; a person that finally felt more like me.
By doing the things that I once thought I could never do: it gave me strength. It gave me my power back. And I started to think that maybe I was strong enough to start to face my past…
I started to immerse myself in understanding the mind: how it works, how we can control it and how we can use it to create greater levels of success and happiness in our life. Not on the outside, but genuinely, on the inside. I wanted to feel good again. In fact, feel better than I had ever before. And learn how to keep managing my state and emotions, no matter what would get thrown in my way. I started to have this vision: that if I could master this -and I mean REALLY master it- then I would have the power to help so many people, to positively influence their lives for the better too.
At the same time, I started to speak up more. I had carried so much guilt, shame and pain, for so long- it was literally exhausting! I had to do this. Not just for myself, or my former teenage self, but all the other’s out there who are struggling or feel alone. So I started a blog, I started a girl’s support group, I started to write more, I shared my story and I even started creating charitable mental health and trauma campaigns: to encourage others to do the same too.
I soon realised that everyone has issues. We’ve just created a society where we think we can’t show that, and our life has to be ‘picture perfect’ where we feel fine all the time. And the more we try to keep up a facade, the worse we feel inside. It isolates us from people who care about us, and makes us feel completely alone. Only, the truth is: we’re not.
‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always…’
Five years on I went back to the place where the terrible ordeal happened. It was scary, I faced it my own and I felt like the young girl I once was. But when I turned around and walked away: I felt free again. I felt like I could finally close the door once and for all on that awful chapter of my life, walking forward with strength and hope. And yes, it wasn’t that simple. Years later I still had to embark on a 12 week intensive Trauma Therapy programme to stop it from continuing to affect my life today, but with the help of others and by finding that inner strength: I was able to learn to deal with things better and well and truly stop living in the past.
Because sure, you can’t control what happens to you. You can’t change it or make it disappear once it does either. You simply have to accept it. Learn to live with it. And know that yes: there will be times you still struggle, but actually- that’s okay! It’s normal. But you also have the power to decide when it stops.
There are huge injustices, suffering and pain in the world, happening to good people every single day. It’s wrong, but unfortunately: it is life. When something bad happens you have three choices.
- You can let it define you
- You can let it destroy you
- You can let it strengthen you
I live my life by the third option now. And there’s so much power in that.
So What Now?
Well today, I’m actually exactly where I want to be. I earn a living working for myself, doing the things I love and hopefully inspiring others to do the same too. I’m an Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker and Mentor, passionate about creating lasting change in people’s lives. I travel the world whilst running multiple business ventures and charitable projects. I do a huge amount of work with young people, being the author of “Yeah Right! A Girl’s Guide to Surviving Teens’, running workshops & talks in schools across the country and mentoring teenagers to bring out the best in them when I can. I love it. And I’m constantly driven to do more and help more people. Because I know the impact I can make.
‘Helping one person may not change the world, but it could change the world for one person…’
Every single day is different and yes it gets insane at times, but I literally wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve come such a long way, in a such short space of time but I want you to know that you have the power to do the same too: no matter where you are at the moment. Everyone will have their ups and downs. Life is like one massive rollercoaster (only you have no idea which path it’s going to take!) But it’s all about pushing through the hard times and making the most of the good.
My past is a part of me. It doesn’t define me, but it has influenced the person I am today. I share my story now, to give power back to my voice; to turn the pain of my past into strength; and to give hope to those who are ever struggling or in doubt. I don’t want anyone to feel as broken or alone as I once did; and I’m determined to leave my mark on the world, in whatever way that may be.
This is just the start of a very special & impactful journey and it is honestly a real pleasure to have you part of it…
P.S. I’ve partnered with Good Loop, the ethical ads platform. Watch this short video to donate to a charity of your choice for free…