It's Never Too Late - Carolyn

I thought this was going to be hard to write because it’s a very personal voyage. But it turned out to be easy:

Let me take you back just a few years to when I was a depressed, unhappy wife to a man I loved but who didn’t love me. This poorest version of me was a lost soul at sea who had abandoned her hopes dreams. I only held on for the kids. I saw myself as a failure, as the reason for his infidelity, as not being worth anything, not deserving. There is low and there is suicidal, and between these two is where I placed my self-esteem.

Can you picture it? A sad, middle aged woman with haunted eyes. Even so, there was some part of me that was still strong, still struggled to be my normal self despite the voice in my head that said “You failed. You aren’t worth it. It’s your fault.” (My mantra was “old, fat and ugly”.) This voice, that we maybe all have, was a voice bequeathed me by my parents, peers friends and my husband. Yes, this destructive self-talk was prompted by those around me.

So jump to now – see me strong, confident, knowing it’s OK to not be OK, knowing that I may have failed sometimes but I am not a failure. You see the voice in your head is just a script, handed down page by page throughout your life. It can’t be unwritten or even edited, but it can be recognised for what it is – not the enemy, not something to be cured or fixed or forgotten, but understood and put in context. No matter what the script says, it is just a voice – a thought. It is not your true identity, just a role you play.

My voyage was painful one, but I was not alone. I spent five days with people who understood my state, and who had turmoil of their own; feeling suicidal, been raped, struggled with drug addiction, abuse... and yet we all shared equally. Our voyage together turned us from eight random strangers into a strong crew who believe the best of each other. That is a rare and precious thing. Each of us told our intimate stories and – we realised - that these shaped how we saw ourselves. We were always surprised that each of us carried such distorted identities in our heads. Seven friendly voices reflected back the truth they saw, shouted down the script and helped us to find and be our true selves. To love ourselves again.

There’s so much more I could explain, but for now I’ll just say that after years and years of self-dislike I am very happy in my own skin. I also feel happier than I have ever been. It’s never too late to be good to yourself. You do deserve it. You are worth it. I know I am.

With thanks to Richard Wilkins and Liz Ivory.