Welcome to our next ‘campfire’ story.
The Campfire for the Heart project is a collection of true, international stories of human resilience. Although every story is unique, they all highlight our ability to adapt positively to bad experiences and showcase our indomitable human spirit.
If you have a resilience story to share, or know someone who does, please contact Natalie Stockdale through www.stockdalewellbeing.com.
“There was no one to help me as a child,
but I was there to help me as an adult - and I was determined.”
As a child, there was no comfort zone. Perhaps I had comfort in utero, but I wouldn’t know.
My parents divorced when I was young. I lived with my mother and saw my dad who lived interstate, every few years. My childhood was spent on the run from either the government, or my mother’s abusive drug-dealing ex-boyfriend. We lived in tents, sheds and shacks for most of the time - whatever could keep us under the radar. We never had enough money, or food and school was a scary place. I was always the new, skinny kid who didn’t belong.
Often I was hungry. I’d go to school with an empty belly and just watch the other kids eat their morning tea and lunch. Sometimes, I wouldn’t eat for days. One day, I was so weak from a lack of food that I fainted in the classroom. The embarrassment and shame that I felt was hard to wash away. The teachers never noticed, or if they did, they never helped me. No one helped me.
Thanks to Mum’s drug-using friends, there were some incidents of sexual abuse too. Again, no one helped me.
For some reason, Mum became the unofficial carer of dying relatives. Sick people would come and stay with us and I’d watch them die. They weren’t peaceful dying experiences. For a young kid, it was frightening. Maybe I’d be the next one to die!
Fast forward 20-something years, I married the wrong woman. A divorce and heart wrenching custody battle soon followed. After the divorce, I was shattered and started seeking help from others. I tried everything from pharmaceuticals and psychologists, to wild alternative healers with magic spells that claimed to be able to ‘fix’ me. I realised eventually, that for me, no external influence was going to help. It was up to me. My life, my responsibility. There was no one to help me as a child, but I was there to help me as an adult- and I was determined.
I knew that although most of my life to that point had been crap, crap wasn’t my destiny. I drew a line in the sand. Victimhood was to stay in the past, success was to be my future.
Coming from a childhood of lack, I used to see success as wealth, status symbols and lots of shiny things that reminded me that I had ‘come a long way’. As I started to achieve some of these things, I realised that a successful life means more than material wealth. A successful life includes intangible substance such as self-love, gratitude, genuine purpose, a feeling of belonging and service to others.
The more I felt good about myself, the more success I experienced and the more I attracted good people into my life. I was particularly lucky to have met Bridget, who is now my fiancé. Bridget was aware of my past and loved me patiently and unconditionally for two years while I was still healing. Had I not drawn that line in the sand and done that inner groundwork to feel good about myself, I wouldn’t have been emotionally or mentally ready for her.
Bridget and I now have a pretty blessed life. We have a good business and both work from home (by choice). We live in a safe, friendly and supportive community in one of the best parts of one of the best states, in one of one of the best countries in the world. We have joy, purpose, love and enough money to do most of what we want and buy most of what we need.
We see my son every school holidays. While I’d prefer to see him more often, we have quality time together. I don’t mean theme park and fairy floss time. We go fishing, draw patterns in wet sand with sticks and watch the stars. I’m not religious, but the serenity prayer about accepting the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference- helped me to find peace with the custody matter.
If your life began from a broken place like mine, or you find yourself broken, you can fix yourself with a mixture of reality, determination and courage. Don’t mask the pain with drugs or alcohol and don’t follow gimmicks. Be honest with yourself and really care for yourself as you would care for someone you love. Despite what may have happened in the past, how badly you may have been treated, you are a good person, worthy of good people, joy, love and success.
In the same way that you know you could have a good body if you ate well and exercised each day, you have to be committed to your emotional and personal development. There is no way around the sit ups if you want abs. Practically speaking, be honest with yourself. Admit what you’re doing to hold yourself back and simply cut it out. Draw that line in the sand and help yourself.