From Loving To Loathing…..then

Have you had something happen to you that caused your hurt, a trauma (big or small) that you know has had an impact on your life and possibly still is?

The story I am going to share with you may not seem traumatic or even that bad, but to me it had stopped me truly fulfilling my potential and caused a great deal of emotional stress and upset, it is only on reflection now that I can really pause and see the domino effect it had on all areas of my life.

So here it is….. As you may know I spent a large part of my life being a professional athlete and was relatively successful. Athletics afforded me an incredible opportunity, that I understand, not many people get. The chance to live as a full time funded athlete, getting to do what I love, travelling the world, meeting amazing people, winning major titles, representing my country, making wonderful memories and getting paid for it, what could ever be wrong with that, right?

For me it was a life I had always wanted, the life I dreamed of at night as a little girl, tucked up under the covers. I worked my ass off to get it. I trained hard and longer than all my friends, when they were going to parties or the cinema I was going to the track or the gym. I knew my running was my way out and I wanted out…What do I mean by ‘my way out’…..

Well my family didn’t come from money, I have 2 older brothers and a younger sister and we stayed in a 2 bedroom council flat. My sister and I grew up sharing a bedroom with my parents and we lived ‘hand to mouth’ each week. Now I don’t share this as a negative experience, because I didn’t know any different, I was loved and we were happy (for the most part – but that’s for another blog). What it did set up for me though was an expectation of what I believed I ‘could’ be, not intentionally, but no-one in our extended family, had every gone to University, there was an unwritten expectation that I would leave High school get a job in the local factory, marry and have kids. I knew very early in my life this was not the life I wanted, but I believed it was the life that was meant for me and that made everyone else comfortable. I never felt comfortable or connected to this so even at a very young age I was looking for ‘my way out’ and running gave me that escape. Little did i realised even then that I had already put limits on how successful I would allow myself to be.

So how did I ‘get out’, well I threw myself whole heartedly into my athletics, I was far from the model athlete, I wasn’t naturally gifted, sure I had talent, but it was my tenacity, bloody mindedness and love of running that got me there. Then, at the tender age of 17, I sailed across the pond to attend The University of Georgia on a 4yr athletics scholarship. This is an experience that absolutely changed my life, it was the first time I felt able to choose who I wanted to be, but would I allow myself to become her???

My athletics career provided me with so much and I have stories that could fill books with all the adventures and learnings that came along with it. The one I want to focus on for this blog is me feeling like a failure, yep that’s right, after everything I did and achieved I still felt like a failure because I know I NEVER performed as well as I was capable of. My beliefs and thinking got smack bam in the way and I didn’t get to enjoy that knowing that I had given my all, shown my true talent and feel fulfilled. That created massive regret, disappointment, frustration and sadness in me for a long long long time.

The truth is I got to a stage where I loathed running, I had gone from loving to loathing my passion and that hurt. I would get myself so uptight before competing that even weeks before a race I would be consumed by this feeling of dread, it would affect every area of my life, nothing else mattered except that race, yet the thought of the race filled me with such anxiety, it was torture, all consuming and I hated it. But I had to do it, that was my job. I didn’t understand why I was so uptight before competitions, I really wanted to enjoy competing and the experience of being in that environment, but I was a wreck and it showed in my performances. Because I didn’t understand it I made it mean that I wasn’t good enough, I was kidding myself on, what was I thinking, I didn’t come from a place where people were meant to be successful, I remembered the beliefs about the life that, I thought, was meant for me. Here is where the childhood expectations started to make sense. My anxiety, dread and fear were coming from the part of me who believed I was only capable of mediocrity, because I didn’t know anything else. I was comfortable being good, but being the best of the best, well that was something else entirely. Now I know I won national titles and major titles in the US, and looking back I know that was my bloody mindedness and determination that got me those, but on the big pressure meets my beliefs, my expectations were always going to overrule, and mine were still those of the young girl who didn’t truly believe she was capable, deserving or allowed to be the best.

I spent years after I retired from athletics on all types of personal development courses. I had already gained a Masters Degree in Performance Psychology, so you would think I should have worked it out, but I hadn’t. I needed to understand and make sense of my mind and I am pleased to say that I did. For me NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Hypnotherapy gave me the keys to unlocking the secrets, healing the wounds and unleashing my true potential.

Recently, you may have seen that I had a rather big corporate speaking gig, now I have done a lot of these before, but this was ‘the one’ gave me that moment…..The moment I realised I had truly healed. The morning of the conference as I double checked my timings before sound check I was told my presentation had been moved and had been halved in time. “Oh…..ok, I have a full hour presentation”……sorry you need to make it work I was told, so what is one to do? To me presenting is like performing (like an athlete). So I did what any good presenter does, blagged it and made it work. A very good friend told me that if you know your subject matter then you can make anything work….. and he was right. The presentation went great, I received amazing feedback and it was an absolute blast. Unfortunately I had to dash shortly after the presentation as my driver (yeah check me, I was given my own driver) was waiting to take me back to the airport. As I sat with my dark fruits cider and my burger reflecting on the day I had this overwhelming wave of emotion. I was crying like a baby, yet my body felt elated and light and excited and floaty. What was this magic afflicting me in this moment…….. It was the moment I realised I had not only healed from my past trauma, I had belief, belief in my ability, belief in me……This performance was one that I loved and wanted to do more of. There was no dread or anxiety in the run up, my life was still filled with joy and happiness and as I walked on stage, I smiled and I allowed the world to see me, just as I was, just as I am. My younger self now understood she and I could be whatever we chose to be, with no limits anymore. We were reunited and together on this journey and still today we continue to have fun. She will sometimes get insecure or scared, but she knows how to ask for reassurance and I know how to give it. We healed each other from within and it was the most beautiful moment to experience….possibly not for the people in sitting next to me at the airport, who probably wondered what the heck was going on…..but in that moment it didn’t matter, all that matter was me and I was just me and I was free.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope it can give you the courage, the nudge or the belief that things can, do and will get better, if you want them to.

Much love. Mary x

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