“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
This was the moment where I chose that my life was worth living and fighting for. Its hard to believe that this photo was taken three years ago today in the spectacular Taroko Gorge in Taiwan. There are a few things that you don’t know about this photo. Firstly, this photo doesn’t show the heart ache or anger I had boiling within myself, it doesn’t show that on the Saturday night I was so drunk that one of my so called friends tried to take advantage of me but I somehow made him stop (higher above intervened), this photo doesn’t show the joy I had experienced the day before at two of my dearest friends wedding or nearly missing my flight the next day to Taiwan. Masks are amazing, you most certainly can’t judge a book by its cover, let alone judge people for the way they look or behave when you don’t know their life story, their struggles or heart ache. I for one was an expert of mask wearing and blocking people out. I had built walls as high as sky scarpers and moats which ran miles deep just to protect myself. It was my protection and these walls of steel kept everyone out including ones who loved me and I deserved. I wore a multifaceted masks which pretty much fooled anyone including the ones who were close too me, my family and friends. Though my best friend NJ was very good at knowing and supporting the real me.
I have spent a lot of time over the last three years working on me. When I have stopped and reflected upon this journey, that moment in Taroko Gorge, I knew my life was worth fighting for. I hated who I was. I hated everything about me. I hated the fact I was drinking too much, I had stopped smoking however I was still was drinking. Alcohol is what fed my insecurities but it also allowed me to escape. I hated the people I was hanging around with our friendship only involved drinking, catch ups over drinks and partying – I had finally had enough. That day as I walked, I was one with nature, by myself, free of Hong Kong and it was the clean fresh air which touched my face as I pounded up the mountain. I had given myself time and space away from a city which was engulfing me to the core. Hindsight this is the year I should of left Hong Kong, I so desperately wanted to but I wasn’t ready.
It has taken me three years to get where I am today. It wasn’t a quick bandaid fix but I dealt with pain from my childhood and adult life to finally set me free. That day in Taroko Gorge I made a promise to help myself by changing. The first step when I returned to Hong Kong was to start small – yoga, cutting down my consumption of alcohol and choosing friends who inspired me to do better in the world (this one was the hardest). Hong Kong isn’t the city of real friends, there are friends, colleagues, acquaintances but in Hong Kong they all get merged as one. I am so grateful for my real friends who all supported me through those three years. It wasn’t the easiest period of my life and I most certainly wasn’t the best person/friend/colleague to others and I acknowledge my part in those friendships too.
Over the last three years, I have learnt that if you don’t deal with issues from your childhood these patterns will continue to repeat themselves in your adult life, especially if you experienced trauma, abuse, divorcing parents, abusive parents, bulling, neglect at any stage in your life or simple put downs. These can lead to addiction with food, alcohol, drugs, online shopping, hoarding, abusive relationships, work, sport and drama spotlight. I have spoken to many friends and many of us have experienced trauma or incidents in our early childhood whether it was a failed relationship with our parents, abuse, bullying, a failed relationship as a young person, a death of a parent which can trigger these addictions and self hatred toward ourselves but these patterns can be broken. There is help out there and the best thing is we are finally in a place where we can access people, tools, therapy to help us shift our negative patterns to form positive patterns and choices.
Recently, I observed the impact of negative attention in a group situation. I wasn’t aware that ‘I use to do it’ until I witnessed another person partaking in it. My whole life the phrase ‘Drama Sarah’, keep it level, my life is a soap opera, drama drama drama I know from first hand that any attention was attention positive or negative. Negative attention or drama attention is when adults (or children) seek to be the centre of attention at any cost however it is also an obvious sign of immaturity. The seekers tend to have low feelings of self-esteem and self-worth and they need constant reassurance from peers, colleagues and loved ones that they are doing a great job. Sometimes they are jealous of the attention others are getting and feel threatened. Seekers can also be overconfident and full of themselves and think they are entitled to be the centre of attention because what they have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say. I know I did all of these from a young age. I needed the attention and I did it at any cost positive or negative so the world only revolved around me.
As children develop they are try to figure out how to do life, where and how they fit in, push the boundaries and buttons of their loved ones. In children, neglect can cause children to feel a survival threat, and they may misbehave to make sure they cannot be ignored. Children do this because negative attention is still a form of attention.
Signs which can be observed in children:
- Children who will play with their food as it will gain attention from their parent.
- Being the class clown.
- Being an over helper in the classroom or home.
- Being the over crier so someone will come to the rescue both at school and home.
- Children who need constant reassurance that what they are doing is correct, even though you know they can manage the task on their own.
- Children who will not leave their loved ones side.
As a teacher, it was hard not to observe and relate to these signs in my classroom especially with the more challenging children. I could personally relate to how they were feeling and I knew to well the signs of an attention seeker behaviour.
Signs which can be observed in adults (well especially me):
- Adults who are the of party
- Adults who are oversexualized with other men or women (dress and dialogue)
- Adults who like to start arguments
Most of my life I was the life of the party, I loved helping assisting, going above and beyond, being there always, giving giving and more giving. I think the hardest thing was I loved attention from everyone and it wasn’t always the healthiest attention. Upon reflection, I now see where things became a little pear shaped and one friendship last year which was built on toxicity and competitiveness. It wasn’t the type of relationship I desired I want a relationship of honesty, compassion, love and trust. That relationship was so toxic I didn’t know what to do when it ended because the sexually innuedo, touching or conversations which followed were sickening and to right disgusting. That was not the man or type of man I ever wanted to see again let alone date so I haven’t. I had to sacrifice paddling just so I wouldn’t be around him. In the light of events now, positive communication would have been a good tool to use. Though I tried to set up healthy boundaries it did not always work and I had a sense of failure (I was weak and vulnerable), so removing myself was my only option at the time. It’s this reflection, I am so proud of just how far I have come especially in the last twelve months but also the past three years.
Writing my memoir, a variety of memories have surfaced and as I write it is interesting just how these events flow, how they stir emotions, have made me stop and think, ponder what if, or reunite me with some of the challenges I had to face. It has also provided me opportunities to place events, things and people to rest but also celebrate just how far I have come. When I look at that photo I did’t see what other people see, I see heart ache, pain, neglect, poor self esteem as well as no self worth. While you may see happiness, beauty, character, adventurous and someone who is loved. Two weeks after this photo, I met the most intriguing person. However, I most certainly wasn’t ready for the type of relationship he was offering. He didn’t see what I saw, I managed to self sabotage my way out of that relationship so fast because I couldn’t communicate how or what I was feeling let alone trust myself. When writing about this encounter last week (crying in the cafe in Angel is a great look) I stopped and actually celebrated just how far I have come. It was a happy moment. I was filled with great pride, self acceptance, love and warmth not for anyone else but myself. I finally found what I had been searching for and that is self love and not love from anyone else but myself. Not vanity but a deep love and appreciation of myself. I openly and proudly say I love who I am, I am happy with what I have and what I look like and I don’t look to others for praise but look only within. Does this really make me proud? You bet and this is a wonderful warm fire I lit within myself. I am finally on the right path, and I am excited to see where this path leads me.
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.- Elisabeth Kübler-Rossv