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Never judge a book by its cover!

As a teenager I loved sport, I was always playing hockey, netball, swimming or going surfing. I was lucky enough to grow up in North Devon by the sea, my parents were hard-working so we had a beautiful 5 bedroomed cottage and my two sisters and I had a childhood that was pretty normal and fun.

Time passed and like many teenagers my interests changed, I left school/college and wanted to party and drink more. I unfortunately fell-in with the wrong crowd and caused a lot of headaches for my parents. I still held that interest in sport and fitness but it was not a priority. By the time I was 26 years old I think my parents were wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life! Yes I’d had jobs where I’d performed well but I’d also had some awful failed relationships too and I think both my parents and I were asking if it was time for me to leave North Devon and ‘find myself’.

So at the age of 27 yrs I went off to train as a watersports instructor in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This period in my life was happy and dark, I became much more independent as I was away from my family and this was the time in my life that made the biggest mark. I passed my course and stayed for the summer helping instruct kids sailing. It was a summer of fun and by late August I was making plans to move to Banbury albeit just for a short while as my long-term plan was to apply for a job abroad.

As like most things in life, it didn’t go to plan. The relationship broke down and my strategy of coping began to have real negative effects on my life. I moved twice into shared houses and was lucky enough to meet some really lovely people but when I was sat alone on my own my life looked like it was never going to improve. Throughout most of this time I kept what was happening away from my family, they were far away and I didn’t want to feel a failure to them or make them worry. This was of course a huge mistake as you need the support of people who love you and obviously I can see this now when looking back.

I was holding down a job - just- and after the shared houses decided to move into a flat on my own. My days consisted of just getting through the day and any type of fitness was not an option as my energy levels were zero all of the time through the tiredness of not sleeping. Moving into a flat on my own was the turning-point, my depression was getting worse and my coping strategies were become very unhealthy, I was drinking on my own, shutting myself away on Friday after work, ignoring phone calls from my friends and family and using very negative coping strategies to make myself think I had control of everything. Things started getting out of hand and I was having to take myself to hospital for help which was very traumatic with no-one to support you, so I made the first step to get help and went to see my GP. I was given tablets and counselling sessions, at first both of these didn’t work, this made me feel pretty terrified as you think you will feel better straight away.

Throughout this dark period though I started seeing a little light in my life. On a night out I met a lovely chap - who is now my husband. When I was with him I enjoyed life, I was still using my unhealthy coping strategies when I was alone but slowly I was turning a corner. I also had the help of a lovely lady who worked for the NHS and went above and beyond her role, checking on me in person if she couldn’t reach me by phone. There were many serious blips along the way and more hospital visits until I managed to get everything under control, it was still a struggle on a daily basis.

Luckily for me I got the help from the NHS I needed but I also think it was changes in my circumstances that also helped my depression and the extreme negative ways of coping with it lessen. I became stronger with the support I got from my husband, I think you know you’ve got ‘the one’ when they take you to hospital at 10pm and sit with you whilst they stitch you up for the 10th time.

Yes it still makes me feel embarrassed saying stitched me up, I look at myself in the mirror everyday and I have the reminders of what I went through during my dark days. I don’t remember what made me think of such a negative coping strategy but I do realise most of it was about control and how out of control I felt in all aspects of my life except for this. I hide my scars everyday when I step out of my house and the temperature is 80 degrees I still wear a long/sleeve top. My children see them and do ask about them and I think my oldest has guessed but I do even worry what they will think of me.

My depression became less and less through my mid-30s, pregnancy, marriage and unfortunately miscarriages also happened during this time, this brought new worries such as the possibility of post-natal depression and weight-gain. This is when my love of sport/fitness started up again, I started running to ward off any unwanted negative thoughts. Then through having to stop due to ‘runners knee’ I decided to start indoor rowing. I became pretty good at it through determination and a motivation to succeed and ALSO to stave of the depression I’d got through. I found my negative coping strategies changed to more positive ones, being able to de-stress and focus on my rowing sessions if I felt down. I met inspirational women through my interest in indoor rowing who helped build-up my confidence and self-esteem, my body shape changed which helped boost my confidence and it was around this time I decided to try and get a career out of the thing that has helped me the most alongside my wonderful family.

I worked hard whilst juggling family and I am now lucky enough to work for myself doing what I love. Fitness helped save me and helped me realise that if you want something you have to go out there and get it. There are days when I have a wobble but then I think of how far I have come and realise I should be proud of how I look not embarrassed. My story I think shows that you should NEVER judge a book by its cover. The person you are seeing on the outside may not be the same person inside now and although they will always bare the scars they’ve had the strength and courage to move on and make a positive change to their life.

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