Friday, 25 March 2016

Breaking Down Barriers

Friday 25th March

I spent most of my adult life surrounded by barriers and it is so amazing to be free of them now.

It wasn't a case of physically closing myself off - I was sociable and always had friends- but it was the real me that I kept hidden away, what I suppose I considered the weaker version of myself.
The Hannah that wanted help but was petrified to show that, the Hannah who wanted people to know when they said " wow your superwoman" (as I perhaps trained for a marathon, gave birth and worked full time or some equally high standard that I had set myself!) the real me wanted them to know that I wasn't superwoman, that it was hard continually striving to be better, to be perfect.

But I was scared of letting people know that I wasn't perfect. Not because I wanted to be better than anyone else but because what if they didn't like who I really was or worse what if I made myself vulnerable and asked for help for them not to give it to me. This I think was my greatest fear and from quite young I adopted a do it yourself attitude.

It's a lonely way of life because even though I had friends, on the odd occasions that I perceived myself as showing weakness, or if a friendship became deeper and I felt that they could see beyond my wall of perfection I would distance myself from them. This wasn't a conscious act but something I can now look back on and see as a pattern. In fact I cut all contact with a really good friend for over a year- now I can see that it was the fact that she loved and cared for me so much that caused me to do that. In a strange contradiction I wanted to be loved but not so much that I would risk being vulnerable around them.

The exception to that rule was always Christian. I don't write about him much but we met when I was sixteen and from day one he knew the Hannah that woke up crying randomly on Sundays, who craved security but wanted to be free, who wanted help but had to be in control. From the word go he saw the side of me that rarely if ever anyone else including my family got glimpses of and his consistent support and love is something I will be forever grateful for. In the end though we have to do the real work ourselves.
The other constant along with Christian was my eating disorder who had permanent accommodation inside my head always driving me to diet harder, exercise more and it thrived on the fact that I built a wall around myself, it built it with me. The higher the wall the less chance anyone found out about it and the less chance it got evicted.

Well as you know it did get the boot last year as I began to try and change how I felt about myself and my life, and that is something that would never have been possible had I not decided to take the leap and let people know who I really was and how I really felt.

There have been some moments I the last fourteen months that have been truly petrifying and one of those was the moment I realized that I had an eating disorder much as I didn't want that to be true the idea of letting it go made me sick to the stomach with fear. Pure blind panic.
The thing is actually letting it go wasn't so bad, the moment I shared its existence it grew weaker, then by concentrating on learning to love myself weaker still. It did put up a fight but in the end it left my life without much fuss.

Letting go of trying to control things has been core to all of this - even though I know control is an illusion, we control nothing- has been something that has induced the same level of fear and actually proved harder to let go of than my eating disorder. Though the eating disorder was also my way of trying to control things, something that began as a child to try and create order in a life that I felt was chaotic and out of my control.

But the point of this blog is that the first step to truly being able to live life and experience the joy it has to offer is to let go of trying to control how others see you.  To let go of trying to control how you feel and what you feel. I no longer see emotions as good or bad, yes some feel nicer to feel but they all want to be acknowledged. Anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety they all only grow stronger when we try and swallow them back down.
When I sat at this laptop and shared with the world who I really was my heart was beating so fast but it was the best gift I ever could have given myself and in turn it allowed others to see that by being vulnerable you open a door to joy. Authenticity can not exist without vulnerability.

I believe that if everyone could stand up and voice their fears, share their vulnerabilities the world would be a very different place. Behind all the barriers, regrets, fears and insecurities that people surround themselves with is who they truly are and that truth is always magnificent, but we so often are afraid to show it.
The other day someone was telling me about someone they know who is always complaining and blaming others for the state of their life. He said how they were so draining but that he didn't feel comfortable bitching about them, that on rare occasions he had seen a different side and felt they really connected. I remarked that those rare occasions were when he saw who she truly was, when her true self shone before she surrounded it back in her protection of misery.

I'm not expecting everyone to suddenly reveal their deepest darkest secrets but I can tell you for sure that the reward for living a life where you are true to who you are is so amazing it is hard to describe.
And I can tell you that by hiding yourself away you are not only stopping yourself from living the life you are meant to but also denying others your friends, your family the opportunity to see it too.

Last week as I got ready for my first book signing I had a bit of a freak out about what I would wear. It was a horrible feeling and a reminder of how I used to live. But by taking a moment to step back from the chaos of my thoughts and focus on what I was feeling I realized it was nothing to do with clothes but was an anxiety about the book. I've been writing honestly in this blog for a long time but its still fairly anonymous - with the book I am handing people that I know my story - a very personal part of my life- that makes me vulnerable and yes it was scary. But as soon as I remember that it doesn't matter, that I'm not trying to be perfect anymore and that I can't control how other people feel about it and nor does it effect who I am. The inner peace and joy that I have found can't be made bigger by external things nor can it be taken away.

 I reminded myself as I remind you now...we are not our bodies, our achievements, our failures or regrets. You are good enough right now as you are and when you know that it doesn't matter what happens to you and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of you because you have the best friend and protector with you at all times. You.

Be you, let your true self shine because only then will you really be living.

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