"I looked back at my childhood and realized that I was always satisfying everybody else's needs, but not my own. This kind of pattern repeated itself into my adulthood and it was time for me to challenge my patterns of behavior and embrace change."
Five years ago I thought my life was going in the right direction. I managed to juggle studying with the Open University as well as some part time jobs and looking after my two sons who were enjoying life at their primary school where I also helped regularly.
I wanted to work with children and decided to train to teach children modern foreign languages. Even though I started the course with a lot of enthusiasm and was doing well half way through I became very unwell and eventually had to give up the idea of becoming a teacher.
This is a story about me setting off on a road of discovery and searching my place in the world which I would like to share with you. I was born in the former Czechoslovakia and grew up under communism which was not a pleasant regime. You were reminded to keep silent about anything that was discussed at home from political matters to your religious beliefs. My family attended church, but I was not allowed to mention it to my friends. I did not like Sunday mass and would rather enjoy doing something more exciting. One day when I was about 10 my father and I were having a debate about God. My father was surprised when I mentioned that I did not believe in him. In truth I only attended Church to please my grandmother who would throw a tantrum if I refused to come.
As in the example of my grandmother I often agreed to do things I would not necessarily want to do. When I was very young my father suffered from depression and was rather withdrawn. I remember missing him a lot but when I was 10 he retired and I gave him a new meaning in life as he started to make all the decisions about my education. I liked to see a much happier dad but at the same time sadly I started to neglect my friends. My protests about his excessive tutoring proved to be useless.
From a very early age I started to reflect about life. My family claimed that people who did not attend church were bad. Surely that was not right as I knew a lot of people who were kind but not religious. At the end if you went to church you could face persecution. If someone was getting divorced the partner from outside our family would be blamed for the breakup of the marriage. Surely there are two people in a relationship who should share their equal part of the blame. I really tried to make sense of the world but was not getting any satisfactory answers.
My father had everything mapped out for me and I found it difficult to form my own opinion. I was discouraged from spending time with boys of my own age and started to believe that I would never find the right husband. Once I read an article about a shortage of women in England and thought that perhaps one day I would go and marry there. It was therefore no wonder that I looked forward to starting my own life when I finished secondary education at the age of 18. For the first time I started to make my own decisions. Everybody wanted me to go to University but instead I decided to go to London as an au-pair. I finally had the freedom to enjoy myself and fell in love for the first time. Even though we gradually grew apart I invited my boyfriend to Prague. One evening we went to have dinner and my friend invited an English man to sit down at our table. I was talking about how I was looking for a job and he gave me his business card saying I should contact him as he might know somebody in Prague I could work for. One year later I married this very same man and we moved to Brighton where our sons were born. Needless to say my wish to marry somebody from England came true.
I always wanted to do something exciting with my life and it was my dream to run my own business. I have therefore set up an au-pair agency and naturally my own experience proved to be useful. Some of the au-pairs became my good friends, but the job was tough as you could never succeed in making both parties completely satisfied. If families were not happy they would want me to supply them a new au-pair straight away even at midnight. I have therefore decided to study with the OU and this time it was my own decision. I really enjoyed it and even though I wanted to study psychology I ended up doing a range of courses including modern foreign languages. I have later embarked on a teacher training course but I somehow kept forgetting that with my poor immune system it might prove not to be such a good choice. I have become very ill and depressed and had to give up my dream of becoming a teacher.
Everything became a huge effort and I questioned the point of me working so hard and not being able to achieve my goals. I would ask why me? I envied others for not having to worry about being sick. But then I started to think differently and thought of strategies which could help me deal better with my illness. Even though I have not complained to others, I suffered from a very poor immune system ever since I was a small baby. I thought that if I ignored my symptoms and got on with my life everything would sort itself out. But naturally if we do not address our problems or if we ignore our feelings they will return sooner or later.
I looked back at my childhood and realized that I was always satisfying everybody else's needs, but not my own. This kind of pattern repeated itself into my adulthood and it was time for me to challenge my patterns of behavior and embrace change. I have let others abuse me and I needed to learn to respect myself. I have written down seven strategies how to deal with depression, illness and disability and these have become an important part of my life. I have also shared these with my friends and relatives and some of them were thanking me with tears in their eyes, saying how truthful and full of love they were. I realized this was my new mission - to help people - and indeed my strategies were welcomed by some internet sites as a useful self help technique for their members. I have also realized that we can achieve almost anything we want and even though my health does not allow me to become a teacher I am currently developing games to help children learn languages in a fun way. I know that if I work hard and persistently someone somewhere will like what I do and will back me. I also have a strong belief in myself and my abilities and will not let anyone bring me down. Even though I would not wish the illness even on my worst enemy it has taught me to discover who I really am, appreciate the small things and that sometimes less can mean more. I also learnt that I do not have to give up on my dreams even though the journey towards them might be slightly longer. And finally I am finding out about the confident me who no longer gives in to demands of others.
I lived my life trying to escape from something. I would not even be able to explain what I was trying to hide from. But five years ago I could run no longer. Changing my life for the better was sometimes hard and painful, but I can now face my fears and insecurities and by planting strong roots I am going to make sure that I shall never be uprooted again.
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