The first time I realised that I might be running away from my own life occurred after an all-weekend clubbing session back in 2001. I was sitting with my dear friend in an over-crowded East London living room (as was the norm at 10am on a Sunday morning back then).
He and I had only known each other for a few weeks at that point, but we had a real connection. Not a sexual one – we both knew that from the off – ours would be a proper friendship. One where we would see each other through thick and thin; stick our necks out for the other one; and be each other’s family.
We were all running away
Turned out he knew all about escapism, having been through hell and back after his older brother was killed in a road accident on a school trip. That’s his story though, and not mine to tell.
He was completely correct of course. Everyone in that room was running away from something. I was masking the hurt from my stolen childhood; the deep dark secrets that gave me nightmares; and my family who were a mess to say the very least.
As unbelievable as it sounds to say this now, I didn’t realise I was running away until our conversation. I genuinely thought I was just pushing the boundaries in a normal way, and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun some of the time, but not always.
Bad things happen when we do not respect ourselves
When I left home after almost having my nose broken by my step-father, I vowed that would be the first and only time a man ever hit me. I’m pleased to say this is the case, but some of the people I used to allow into my life (because ultimately I had zero respect for myself) left a lot to be desired. Like the ex-boyfriend dealer who got arrested, then broke into my house afterwards and stole a load of my stuff.
Looking back it’s clear that I was bullied in the workplace by several of my bosses. Naively unaware of any rights I might have had, just grateful to be in gainful employment after my rocky start, and not doing myself any favours by being such an easy target.
I loved my first City job, but was ousted out by the new head honcho when he came along because my face didn’t fit. He hired his old PA as quickly as HR would let him, and I had to do a detailed handover with her. You can imagine how good that felt.
One of my favourite quotes, from Clint Eastwood, sums it all up beautifully
“Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.”
I had my first mental breakdown within a year of that poignant conversation, and sought counselling to help me face up to my demons. Many memories were dredged up that I felt shameful about. They hurt me in a way that a punch in the face never could. In the early days of my therapy I’d cry until my eyes stung, but it was vital to go through it in order to heal.
Healing ourselves, and putting the past to rest can be a long and painful process, but it has to be started at some point if we are to obtain long term happiness. Our lives will never get easier by running away from our problems and pretending they don’t exist.
The holiday season can be full of late nights, parties and behaviour that is later regretted. If during this time you realise that you’ve been running away, then perhaps consider using the new year as an opportunity to work out what you are running from.
**For more information about my journey, check out my book Become the Best You.