How I changed my life through self-care.
Updated: Jan 13
And just as the phoenix rose from the ashes, she too will rise...Returning from the flames, clothed in nothing but her strength, more beautiful than ever before
Four years ago I made a choice. I chose me.
I have lived quite a turbulent life so far, a life which has been centred on loss, struggle, emotional and mental abuse, toxicity and control. Throughout the majority of the last 30 years, I have been directly and indirectly told what I can and cannot do, what I am and am not capable of and who I am and am not. It was all about who and what I should be.
When your entire being is at the mercy of others who do not necessarily have the best intentions for you, everything you believe about the world and yourself is warped. I spent years of my life in a perpetual state of anxiety. I suffered from severe self-doubt and self-loathing, I felt completely consumed and helpless by situations and the manipulation around me and I had an ever eroding sense of self.
Within the midst of drama and chaos, it got to a point where the things that people were saying and doing were not making sense anymore. I had been pushed too far, it was getting too much for me to handle and I was completely overwhelmed. I had had enough of the rubbish that people were saying about me, enough of the constant verbal attacks, the mind games and tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I was exhausted, drained and perpetually physically ill from stress related illnesses (Alopecia and IBS to name a few).
I had given away everything I could offer to please those around me, there was nothing more in me that I could give. I had a choice, I could either continue to live as I was and be extremely unhappy, damaged and depleted or I could pick myself up, give myself the freedom, happiness and stability that I was looking for and actually live my life!.
Everything had to stop. Things had to change. This was it. My choice was ME. So, I walked away from it all.
I had no idea what was ahead of me but I knew that I could only go forward from here. I was going to close this turbulent chapter in my life, start a fresh and begin to create my desired life with the help of therapy and a lot of self-care. No turning back.
First of all, I had to understand what had happened to me. I talked for hours just setting the scene not only for my counsellor but also for my own mind – the key players, what happened, why it happened and the problems I was facing.
And WOW – what a revelation. I took the time and the patience to research the trauma I experienced, the possible intentions and reasons behind actions of others and also the effect that it had on me.
I understood that I had suffered far more than I knew and was suffering far more than I realised. I understood that I was abused, controlled, manipulated and bullied for years from various people in different areas of my life and this lead me to be incredibly anxious, not able to make even the smallest of decisions, easily triggered and in turn spiral, and that I had no sense of self, so I was essentially an empty shell of a person. I began by filling my shell with knowledge. I accepted my truth and became more self-aware.
Shedding the load:
Onward and upward! In order to move forward, I had to shed what was holding me back. I decided to walk away from my past and this meant I had to let go of the people within it. I first went off the radar for about a year with little or no contact with anyone. This allowed me to transition into the person I was fast becoming and decide which people I wanted relationships with, in what capacity and on what terms.
I systematically went through people who I came into contact with and either kept contact, reduced contact or stopped contact altogether. I did not discriminate, if you did not treat me in the way I deserved, I couldn’t tolerate you or your behaviour or if I did not feel comfortable around you – you were gone.
Of course this was incredibly difficult. It HURT, saying goodbye to those people in my life but it was also the most liberating and satisfying experience in my life. All those people who brought me sadness, anxiety and upset, those people who disrespected me and treated me horribly were now disappearing.
This left me with a small but wonderful group of people around me – a mixture of family, friends, colleagues, a partner (and pet chinchillas!) who supported me, encouraged me and gave me the comfort, validation and unconditional love that I was searching for.
Becoming me, on the outside:
My partner walks into my bedroom – “urm…what’s going on?”
Clothes in black bags, jumpers all over the floor and dresses getting flung out from within the cupboard. I peer my head round from inside the door – “oh, just having a little clear out” as I shrug my shoulders, “I don’t like anything in here anymore”.
I got up one day and couldn’t choose what to wear because everything made me feel awful, unsexy and un-me, so, I just chucked everything away. Clothes, jewellery, makeup, nail varnishes, perfumes – everything. It took about 5 months to buy clothes for myself for every occasion. Pretty dresses, chic jackets, smart office wear – anything that made me feel good. I had so much fun trying things on in the mirror with all the combinations possible – I hadn’t done anything like this since I was a child, walking around in dresses I had created from my mother's scarfs! I also started to buy new makeup to enhance my new look, new jewellery and perfumes to complete the transition.
Now, every time I left the house, I felt good, I felt free, I felt sexy, I finally started to feel like me.
Creating my home:
Walking out of Home sense after purchasing £500 worth of sofa cushions like...
So my savings were rapidly decreasing but I had never felt so good. I got home and stripped the living room. Everything I had bought previously or accumulated or gifted went straight into the bin. The room was fully cleaned and then refurnished with brand new pretty things. I stood back and admired all my hard work. Yes, this is me.
I went from room to room – kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and even the chinchillas got an upgrade! This was my home, my nest, and it was beautiful.
Creating my lifestyle:
I still had plenty of room in my shell to fill so now was the perfect time to decide what kind of person I wanted to be and what I wanted in life. I had no idea.
I started off by making a scrapbook of thoughts. I bought a pretty little scrap book, some glue, some decorations and searched for pictures which depicted the kind of life I wanted and who I wanted to be. Visualisation is a great way of manifesting what you want, if you truly believe in it. Or at least serves as a good reminder. So, I decided to do just that. I printed words and images that represented the person that I wanted to be and the kind of life that I desired and stuck them all in my scrapbook. Every morning, I would look through the book and remind myself of these wishes.
I also looked at what I was doing – did my habits match up with my ideal lifestyle? If not, what needed to change? I drank more water, I started cooking healthier meals, I began meditating and mastering the present moment. I started looking at where I was spending my time and energy and understanding what needed to change to fit within my new lifestyle.
I wanted to be a calm, kind and conscientious person who works hard but is also able to have fun. I wanted to be an inspiration to myself, a person who I could be proud of with a life which is comfortable, healthy, fulfilling and exciting. This is the life I decided to create for myself and slowly, it started playing out in reality. My shell was filling up nicely.
Working through my issues:
Now that I had done all the “surface work”, it was time to go deeper. It was time to dive into my anxieties and my “issues” to really get an understanding of what they were, how they affected me and work through them.
I gained an insight into anxiety as a whole, what it is, how it works, what it creates and how to manage it. Also, I began to understand what my own triggers were and build strategies that I could use to soothe myself when things got a little too much.
I joined a support network of ladies who had similar experiences to me and we worked together to talk it out, be there for and support each other in a very deep and meaningful way. I do not, even to this day, have connections like this with anyone else.
I learned my patterns of behaviour, to regulate, accept and feel my emotions (most of the time!), I learned to listen to myself, trust myself and validate myself. I learned to connect to myself on a much deeper level too so I really began to understand what I needed and when.
Becoming me on the inside:
One day, I thought I would follow the rest of the world and listen to a few podcasts. I subscribed to the podcast “Happier” by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth and started with the first episode. This podcast changed my life! “Are you an abstainer or a moderator?” they asked. Hmm.. I had to think about this, no one had ever asked me who I was before, what I liked, what I didn’t like etc… But, these two ladies wanted to know whether I was an abstainer or a moderator? I re-winded the episode back, listened again and thought.
They went through what each was: An abstainer buys a large tub of ice-cream and has to eat the whole tub. They cannot eat a few scoops, they have to eat the whole thing, otherwise, it would be constantly on their mind. They are better off not buying the ice-cream at all. A moderator buys an ice-cream tub, they eat a few scoops and puts the tub back in the freezer. If they want more, they will have more when they fancy it but are not too fussed otherwise. If the moderator does not have the ice-cream in the freezer, all they want is ice-cream and then they buy loads and over indulge! So the moderator is better having a tub in the freezer for times when they want a scoop now and again.
So I experimented – I bought a large bar of chocolate and put it in the snack cupboard (the fact I have one of these is probably a giveaway but hey, I didn’t know at the time!) I opened the chocolate bar, ate a few pieces, felt satisfied and put the rest back – I didn’t really think much of it. But then my partner came over, he saw the new chocolate and just went through the entire lot in one evening! So it was decided – I was officially a moderator!
And it went on from there, building up my experience bank of what I liked, what I didn’t like – I always thought I hated fish, turns out I love it and have even branched out to lobster and sushi too!
I started asking myself new questions like how does doing this make me feel? What makes me laugh? What is fun for me? What do I enjoy doing? What am I like? As soon as I started asking these new questions, I could build up a picture of who I really am.
Self-Care & Self-Love:
This was (and still is) the most challenging feat I have ever had to do. Learning and understanding about what I had been through earlier in my life, walking away from loved ones and making these fantastical changes in my life was nothing compared to showing love for myself. With other people’s beliefs still circulating my head and my own anxious thoughts still filling any space there was left – there was no more room in my shell for any kind of self-compassion, self-care or self-love.
I had been knocked down again and was lost – this usually meant I was ready to peel back another layer and go deeper. The only way out of this was through, and through was finding love for myself. But with so much hidden shame, guilt, hate and warped perception of self – how was I supposed to navigate my way through this?
I had no idea about self-care, I had never heard of the term before and clearly neither did the internet or books on shelves because I couldn’t find a single explanation of what it was or a self-help step by step guide on how to self-care.
So, I began by doing the first thing that I could think of which was, buy myself a gift. I had no idea what I was going to buy but I knew I was going to buy something for myself! I walked through the shops and then it came to me – flowers! I was going to buy myself some flowers. But, they had to be special flowers. So I went to the local florist (same one I use now) and asked them to send me a bunch of flowers every 2 weeks. They asked me – what kind of flowers? White, I said, which was my new favourite colour.
The first delivery came a few days later and I burst into tears. I didn’t know what I was feeling – was it relief, was it happiness, was it guilt or the fact I didn’t deserve it? A mixture of all I think. But, once I split the flowers up and popped them into vases around my home, I felt a sense of satisfaction and joy that I had not felt before. Self-care…
Self-care, I had learned, was everything I did for myself since the moment I decided to walk away from my old life. Making that decision, getting the help I needed and showing up for myself is what self-care is really all about. Getting rid of everything that no longer served me, setting boundaries, creating the inner and outer life that I wanted and following through. Learning how to preserve myself, love myself and care for myself. All of this was self-care – And I was doing it!
After that recognition, the feeling was addictive. I started doing things that made me feel good for the sake of it - treating myself, and maintaining myself, having a weekly soak in the bath, sleeping regularly, reading more books that I wanted to read, cooking more fresh and delicious meals for myself, practising yoga in the evenings. I got even more adventurous and pierced my nose and cut most of my hair off! Once I could spend time with myself and actually give myself what I needed, I was finally able to feel like I belonged inside myself fully. My self-confidence grew, the negative beliefs I had about myself were getting replaced by positive ones and I was learning to accept myself – truly…
I was so excited about my new life and self-care routines, I started to talk to people about it. The way my life had changed, the way I had grown as a person and really connected with myself. As I was doing this, I quickly realised that self-care was not a normal thing and it wasn’t just me who wasn’t practising it. In fact, I would say that I was (and still am) one of the few people I know who actually does practise self-care on a regular basis!
This worried me, the feeling of self-care is none like I have ever experienced before, I was shocked and disappointed to find that very few people actually take the time to really take care of themselves - mentally and physically, and spend time, money and effort on themselves. Why not?
This is why I started BlissBox. As there is such a lack of knowledge and awareness around self-care in the world at the moment. Self-care has been deemed an unattainable and unnecessary luxury. A concept that is alien and most do not understand. But in fact, as you can see from my life, it is very much necessary. It is paramount and central to our lives, to our happiness and our health – both mentally and physically – I am the living proof of that!
I absolutely love creating these lovely boxes to not only give people the tools, advice and know-how for self-care that changed my life but also making self-care easy, accessible, fun and beautiful so they, in turn, can change theirs.
Wishing you love,