One of my biggest achievements (and challenges) in the past year has to be starting to find my voice. I didn’t think it was possible to have my own thoughts and opinions let alone be able to voice these out loud. It is certainly still a work in progress but if I were to picture myself a year ago, I wouldn’t recognise me.
I didn’t even know what I liked or disliked until not that long ago and I had become petrified of speaking up, instead hoping I wouldn’t be asked anything or would not have to choose anything. So being forced to stay in and not mix during lockdown was fairly comfortable for me as it took all of these kinds of decisions out of my hands. However, when the lockdown restrictions started to ease, I had to start stepping outside of my comfort zone. I remember hoping that everyone on my course would vote to keep our classes online rather than face to face but the majority voted to go back into college. We were given a choice to join remotely but I knew that that would put me at a disadvantage and so I had to take a deep breath and go in and meet people face to face.
It took a while for me to start coming out of my shell and it is very easy to hide behind my girls by using them as an excuse not to socialise e.g., by not going for a drink after classes because I have to get back even though they are already in bed. I think what really broke the ice for me was when I spoke up for the first time and explained why I had been so quiet.
That was definitely the best thing I have done this year and it seems to have given me more confidence and taken some of my barriers down with my fellow course students and in general. I worked up the courage to ask someone if they wanted to meet up for a drink and we had a great time including breaking my pornstar martini virginity! (I didn’t even know what one was!) Since then I have been for drinks after college, spoken to everyone on the course socially, shared a lot about myself and even told them that I have some child-free time in the summer and that it would be good to meet up. I have now been put in charge of arranging a night out – if I have an alcoholic drink or two, they will definitely see my hidden side that they have only heard about so far!!!
I used to lose sleep over the smallest things, I would always put things off, avoid doing things and make things bigger than they were. Now don’t get me wrong, I still do these things sometimes as it is hard to break a habit of a lifetime, but I am getting there, and it feels good.
I have spoken up at college when we have not been provided with information or had things clarified, I have chased things up, made enquiries, taken risks, decided not to worry about things that are out of my control, and I have started to believe in myself rather than always worrying that I am doing something wrong.
I would always hope that people feel able to ask for help yet I am pretty rubbish when it comes to this, and I suppose to some extent see myself as a failure by asking for help. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be 100% strong and independent and that less than that is not good enough. (I do not know where that comes from).
This is probably why when I first escaped from my abusive relationship and money was very tight instead of asking for help, I used to just eat any leftovers from my girls. I didn’t even feel able to go to the local food bank as I knew there were people worse off than myself. However, with my eldest daughter starting school in September and having to buy her school uniform and shoes etc, when I saw a charity offering for people to apply for second-hand uniform, I thought that I would apply. I didn’t expect to hear anything, and I didn’t ask for everything but a few days ago there was a knock at the door and there was a delivery of school uniform items. I was very touched, and it brought a tear to my eye.
Part of me is embarrassed/ashamed to not be able to dash off and buy everything new and order cardigans with the school logo on but equally the items that have been donated are like new and some even have the labels on. I feel lucky to have been given this donation and so the first thing I did was send them a message to let them know how grateful I was.
There are a few things going on this week that may require me to speak up…so I am working up the courage! However, I have faith in myself, after all, why should I be anxious about asking questions or sticking up for myself?!