The word ‘positivity’ is thrown around a lot I feel. In the ideal world we strive to always have an optimistic attitude. To see the brighter side, see the glass half full, feel unstoppable, yada yada yada!
I want to be brutally honest about what it actually means to be a positive person. To truly know who you are and not have negativity circle around you. The truth is you will never be without negativity in your life. It’s hardly a secret. I think the negative moments, people and experiences that occur in our life keep us moving forward. They help us see a greater, clearer perspective than we had before. I choose to see it as a gift. I found once I understood that each negative moment was a new page in my life story, I was the only one who was going to be responsible for how it ends. So I asked myself this question. Did I want the page to continue being a story of hardship, woe and stress? Or was I going write something new, something that showed my courage, strength and determination. Hell yea!
I will be honest and lay it bare, it isn’t easy. My life changed forever when my little sister and my father died. I was 21 when my sister died and 26 when my father passed away. Grieving for someone you love is for life. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t give you special privileges. What I learnt in my young age, is grief changes you. It changes you in a million different ways. One year may be completely different than the year before. I found myself tangled in a web of so many negative, horrible realisations. Obviously, you’re hurting, more than you have ever hurt before. What people don’t seem to mention is all the other challenges that follow. I found myself getting rid of so many friends, changing jobs frequently, feeling very lost and overwhelmed. ‘Who am I now without you with me?’ was a question I often asked myself. The truth was, I didn’t know. I would fake my happiness a lot in front of people. I wanted to be happy and positive, I was that person before and thought if I could fake it long enough I will feel that way again! I didn’t want to bring people down and be the friend that was hard work, a fun sucker. Then over time, years in fact. I started to really not care what people thought. If they knew the real me and loved me then they would stick around no matter what, right? I wasn’t being an attention seeker, I wasn’t over reacting, being a drama queen. All these were anxieties in my mind created by the negative friendships I invested in. for goodness sake, I lost half of my family! I needed to give myself a break, give myself the credit I deserved and only surround myself with people that deserved the best of me. If a friend or family member can’t stick by you through times in your life like this then they will never deserve you.
I’ll tell you what else I realised. When I am at my lowest, my most fragile and vulnerable I am showing you the best side of me. If that doesn’t make sense to you I will explain. When I show you that side, you are seeing a strong, powerful, incredible women that is still living, still getting through each day with a willingness to pick herself back up from the worst heartache imaginable. The biggest lesson I learnt was, the friends that couldn’t see that in me, the friends that chose to make my life harder when I was already carrying the world on my back, the friends that couldn’t show a tiny spec of selflessness were not going to influence my life in anyway shape or form. The responsibility to change that fell on me though, I couldn’t ask anyone else to make these changes for me.
Once I only had people around me that lifted me up, showed me joy, love and appreciated me for all I was, my back felt lighter. Everything around me felt somewhat easier to manage. Of course, it wasn’t always an easy decision. Some of these friends had been long time friends of mine, some were even family members. They weren’t all ‘nasty people’ but I became quite ruthless in knowing what was good for me and what wasn’t. For example, any association with drugs, I couldn’t be apart of it, every inch of my body was screaming at me to get away, like something was telling me “You’re better than this and this will only end terribly”. So I took myself away from all those people. I took myself away from friends that never had the time, always made excuses and possessed a materialistic way of life, cursed with selfishness. Like I had previously mentioned, trauma changes you. My eyes were opened to a whole new understanding of how materialistic things just do not matter and how important it is to be healthy and not abuse our one and only body with drugs. I didn’t want to stand on a high horse and list everyone’s faults, I know I have a list of faults too. I understand that if this is what makes someone happy in life then by all means live your life that way; it is your life after-all. I am the one in control of the influences surrounding my life, to which all of these influences felt negative. I had to readdress the balance to surround myself with positivity.
I now have a group of long term friends that encapsulate all the qualities of who I want to be around. Essentially making me who I want to be. I heard a line once that has really stuck with me ‘You can tell so much from a person by the people they choose to be around’.
When you loose someone you love you’re thrown into limbo. You’re neither here nor there. Nearly ten years down the line and I finally feel as if i’m coming out of the fog. It’s still a huge part of who I am in my day to day life. But through all the hardship my life has thrown at me it has equally thrown a profound amount of knowledge, empathy and appreciation my way. Truthfully speaking, these qualities in me were only unlocked by the hardships I have faced. For that I am grateful. I see it as, some people will go through their entire lives without knowing what I know about life. I always say this to people that are fighting a hard fight. The scars, the tracks of tears left on your face, the emotional battering, all of it (if you choose to) will make you beyond a shadow of a doubt an infinitely greater you. I knew that I was the only one with the power to make my life one of adventure with experiences full of all the love and happiness I deserved. Not a life where I blamed my anger, bitterness and frustration on the events that I’ve lived through. Trust me, it is very easy to hide away and make myself feel miserable, alone and to hide behind what happened to excuse negative behaviour. It’s not! I used to think that I was the only one that felt the way I did ‘Nobody would ever understand and that I was trapped forever in a deep pit of sorrow’. That simply wasn’t true. I realised I was choosing to keep myself in that deep pit of sorrow. I was almost punishing myself because I was alive and I couldn’t understand why I had my life still and my Sister and Dad had their’s cut so short.
Guilt plays a huge part in grief. It can become all consuming at times. Guilt is such a negative a destructive emotion that achieves nothing. It can single handily stop you from enjoying a positive and fulfilling life. A lot of people I have spoken to that have lost a loved one all seem to agree. You feel guilty for things that you didn’t do when they were alive, you feel guilty for trying to move on, you feel guilty for a silly argument that happened 20 years ago! I remember racking myself with guilt over hitting my sister because she ate all my ice cream, we were about 10, but still the memory made me feel awful inside for days! I only realised that I could deal with the guilt I was harbouring when I finally spoke about it to others. The right ear that listens to you is worth everything! Hearing someone else say “Oh I felt the exact same way!” or “Don’t beat yourself up. You were an amazing sister, an amazing daughter” can instantly heal you that tiny bit more and reassure you that ‘It is all Okay!’ sometimes you simply just need reminding that you’re not alone.
I’ve learnt through the years how powerful our mind is. It can create everything you need in life but can equally be the sole reason for your destructive behaviour. Being a negative person is exhausting. It’s exhausting to be around and exhausting to have in your head 24/7. It can make you: lazy, unhealthy, self centred, unmotivated, insensitive and very unattractive. If someone had to describe you as a person, I don’t know a single person that would want these words following after their name. Nobody, if given the choice would want this to be who they are. So, if you find yourself possessing any of these qualities, which I most certainly did, then make the change to who you want to be.
I took back control from the negative influences that had encased my life; as now I had given myself the capability to refocus myself without worrying over friendships that had run their course. The next stage I found myself in was looking after my health. I joined fitness classes, got a personal trainer, I would get myself outside every day and fuel my body with healthy foods and lots of water! I can’t stress enough how much this helped my mental attitude, there is no cliche involved. It really brought home what having a positive mental attitude meant for me and for those around me.
Getting yourself back out into the world is a huge, terrifying challenge. Finding that strength to make conversation with others and come across like you somewhat have your shit together takes an awful lot of energy, concentration and courage. It is incredibly exhausting. Sometimes it would all get a bit much for me and my anxiety would peak. I had many frightening moments where I physically couldn’t speak, I couldn’t get my words out and would be a shaky nervous wreck. The walls would close in on me and everyone’s voices in the room would be so loud in my head. I used to panic, sometimes cry! Over time I would start to understand what was happening to myself before the panic attack would peak. I would start to recognise when it was my time to leave an event, or just step outside for some quiet, or even just let a friend I was with know how I was feeling so I didn’t feel alone in my thoughts. Doing all of these things helped me in so many ways. I was determined to get a handle on myself. I knew I needed rebuilding and I was going to rebuild myself back up more powerful than ever before.
Not long after my dad passed away I booked a ticket to travel South America on my own. I was my dad’s main carer through his illness and moved from London back home to look after him. I didn’t even give it a second thought, there was no way I was going to leave him on his own. I was 24 at the time and still very much dealing with the loss of my sister. I made a short move to London to try and somewhat gain a life for myself again. As I am all too aware though, life doesn’t give you an easy ride just because you’ve been hurt before. My worst fears were coming true, it was happening again! I would sometimes get extremely resentful looking at my friends and how easy it all seemed for them, they could live where they wanted, have the freedom to travel and take on new opportunities. I felt very trapped at times. I gave up my job and took a job I was unhappy in because it was close to home. The most challenging of all was emotionally being there for my dad as well as making sure he was getting to every hospital appointment, taking all the correct medicine, eating correctly and getting to dialysis every other day. I broke down eventually. Because the horrendous reality was I knew this was only going to end when my Dad passed away. I couldn’t face that reality, so we would often speak about what I should do when that time came. That is how South America come about. My Dad was an avid traveller and installed the sense of adventure into my sister and I at a very young age. He had always wanted to travel South America but never quite got the chance. I promised him that was where I would go one day. Two months after my Dad passed away I worked solidly and saved enough money to pay for a four month long trip! This was so scary for me as I was leaving my support system, however I felt such a pull that this was going to be good for me. Loads of people thought I was going to escape the pain and heartbreak . This wasn’t the case, far from it in fact! I was going so I could have a chapter of my life solely for myself, as selfish as that may sound to some, it’s true. This trip was all about me! It was the best thing I could have done. I was only responsible for myself for the first time in 9 years. I would say yes to every opportunity, climb mountains, explore desserts and trek through jungles! But most importantly I met new people with the same sense of adventure that I had pent up inside me for so long. It sounds so wrong to say but I felt free (I also felt as if they were both on the adventure with me). I knew I wouldn’t have embarked on a trip like this if it wasn’t for the bravery that both my sister and father had shown me. Travel is one of the best therapies, it helped me to inject that much needed longing of adventure into myself again.
I find meeting new people has always come very naturally to me, but letting people get too close I found extremely tough. Especially when it came to the all encompassing details of love. I would very abruptly squash any chance of love if it came my way. I would be so careful at showing my true self. I was convinced that nobody in their right mind would want someone so damaged and broken. So to protect myself, before I could feel too strongly for anyone, I would purposely damage any prospect of it going further (I know it’s all very self destructive). Most people in their right mind would take the hint and swiftly move on. I didn’t expect people to wade through the barrage of emotions I was holding onto, nor did I care too much either. Until one man came along and could see the real me hiding in there. I have learnt that most people will run a mile but a very precious few will see your brilliance. He wasn’t having any of my tricks. The bizarre thing was I knew I loved him, I was just so petrified of being hurt. I couldn’t deal with any more suffering or the prospect of loosing someone again. I feared it would actually be the end of me. Once I finally let him in and felt like I could talk honestly; showing my fears and darkest thoughts, I felt like I had opened an entire new chapter for myself. At long last, I could be happy and find peace if I just allowed myself to let it happen and truly feel like I was worthy. We now have a beautiful young daughter who has changed me again for the better. And I know as my daughter grows I will encourage her to look for the positivity and the good in everything she does. And to walk away with her head held high from the damaging effects of negativity.
It is so difficult to rid negativity from our life. The negative moments in my life have undoubtedly shaped me into the best version of myself. I am now approaching 30, it has taken me 10 years to feel the way I do now. Those 10 years have been filled of catastrophic lows, blinding realisations, many days hiding under my duvet and too many tears to count. I asked ‘Can you really have no negativity in your life?’ The answer for me is, No, you can’t. But you can take that negativity to build you up stronger, to redirect you onto a different path. Negative aspects in our life are secret doorways to something stunning and surprising, only if we have the mindset to unlock them!