• The Story of My Butterfly Tattoo

    If you were following my ‘THOSE PHOTOS’ posts over on my author page, then you will already know this story, or the background to it at least. For those of you who missed them, or this one in particular, here is the story behind my second tattoo, plus a little bit extra!

    You can see the tattoo in ‘THOSE PHOTOS’, but also in all its colourful glory. It is a symbol that marks a turning point in my life – my rebirth.

    In June 2012, I was sitting on a clifftop in a park on Victoria Island in Canada, staring down at the waves crashing on the rocks below me. I had never been so depressed.

    My manager was bullying me mercilessly, to the point I couldn’t face going in, I couldn’t leave as I was financially tied to the job by a huge mortgage that felt like a noose ever tightening, and I was in an abusive relationship that I was too scared to leave.

    I could only see one way out as I stared into those waves, hypnotised, believing no one would care, that no one would miss me, that it was best all round.

    What stopped me? A tiny voice inside that would not let me give up, would not let those men destroy me and my life.

    Instead, I got up and bought a notebook and pen, sat underneath a tree and wrote a list of what I wanted to do. And, do you know what? Without thinking about it, I have done it; I have turned my life around – sold my house, quit my job, ended the relationship, gone self-employed, published my books, qualified as a yoga teacher.

    It is possible to change your life if you truly desire it; I know because I have done it.

    To symbolise my rebirth, I decided to have my second tattoo – my beautiful butterfly ❤

    I found the image I wanted on the internet and took it down to the tattoo parlour in Victoria. A huge bear of a man faced me as I handed over the image. He stared at it for a few moments and then shook his head, saying he wouldn’t do it. I was crestfallen and turned to leave, but his big meaty paw stopped me.

    ‘I know what you want,’ he said. ‘I’ll design one for you, just for you. Come back tomorrow.’

    When I returned the next day, he presented me with this gorgeous image, ever so proud of himself. I was both stunned and shocked – stunned by its beauty, but shocked by the size of his design (it would have spanned my whole back).

    ‘I love it,’ I said, ‘but there’s no way you’re doing it that size!’

    He was crestfallen, but he got over it. It turned out that as well as being a tattoo artist, he made intricate and decorative cakes for a living!

    Never judge a book, as they say 😉

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    ’Til next time.

  • But, I Thought You Were Happy?

    I am, but that doesn’t mean the Dark Shadow doesn’t come to try to draw me away from time to time, to tempt me with the sweet sense of calm, of oblivion, of nothingness.

    For weeks now, the Dark Shadow has been stalking me, reaching its tendrils out to latch onto me and drag me ever closer to the edge. I’ve resisted, as I always do, but for the first time in a very long time, I have stared over the edge, into the abyss. Last night, in fact, I leaned over.

    Sitting in the bath, Bat Out of Hell II playing in the background, tears coursing down my cheeks, the voices urging me on; I stared into the water, my face millimetres from the surface, and I wanted desperately to know what it would feel like to inhale that lavender-scented water into my lungs. Would it be painful, as they say? Would my body reject it or, would it do as it was told and yield? To quieten the voices, to calm the storm, to close the doors on the world – this is what the Dark Shadow was offering me.

    But as my nose disappeared beneath the surface, a tiny voice whispered, ‘help me’. This voice grew stronger and stronger until I realised it wasn’t inside my head. I was speaking. I was uttering those two life-altering words out loud. I was finally asking the universe for help. I was acknowledging that I couldn’t defeat the Dark Shadow alone.

    I cannot predict when or, largely, why the Dark Shadow comes, but I have, over the years, learned to recognise its presence. It’s a weight in my chest, a veil over my eyes, a cloud blocking my thoughts. But, more than anything, it’s the voices in my head; not the ones who craft my stories, but the ones who want to remind me of my station – you’re not good enough, your writing is crap, you have no talent, you’re getting old, you’re ugly, you’ve got no boobs, you’ll get fat if you eat that, no one loves you, no one will miss you, what’s the point in you. These were the voices forcing my face under the water, these were the voices who very nearly won this time, but for that voice that spoke out, that inner strength of which I am most proud, and asked for help.

    I cannot tell you exactly how long it took following my plea, but I do know that before I went to bed, I felt a little lighter, and when I woke up this morning, I saw a sliver of light through the darkness.

    What pulled me back from the edge? Did the universe intervene, and my guides stop me? Did my own willpower suddenly cause me to dig in my heels to prevent my fall? Or, was it a combination of both? Whatever, or whoever, it was, I am grateful.

    I believe it is some of the traits that are good about me that make me vulnerable to the Dark Shadow. My compassion, my empathy, and my vivid imagination, all contribute to my greatest weakness. The state of the world right now – climate change, wildfires, animals in peril, the farce that is Brexit, the hatred, disrespect and vileness of the human race – have all been too much. And, once the chink in my armour is exposed, the voices begin. Where do those voices come from, though?

    For me, the voices come from inside, fed and nurtured by my interactions with the world, filtered through my fragile confidence, to become something more than they initially were.

    Listening as I am told I should wear makeup and dress up more, that a real writer writes every day and sells thousands of books, that I should write romance or erotic fiction not that rubbish you write, that I shouldn’t watch the films and shows I do, that I should socialise more, that I shouldn’t fall in love so easily, that I shouldn’t pin my future on a pipe dream, that I shouldn’t be interested in the stuff I am as it means something is wrong with me, mentally.

    Hearing that I am not good enough, that I am not pretty enough, that no one will love me, that I’m not worth being with, that I am a failure, that my writing is rubbish and I am wasting my time, that my creativity is a joke, that my dreams are a delusion, that no one will want someone like me, that I am broken.

    Listening vs hearing – a daily battle that I know isn’t unique to me. Most of the time, I can block out the voices, but sometimes they take over, and occasionally, like last night, they almost win.

    But on this, for me, most auspicious of full moons, it is time for me to ignore the voices and to shout out those things of which I am most proud, for Aries is insisting that I do just that.

    I salute my resilience, my tenacity, and my strength, for they have helped me battle the abuse, the heartbreak, and the misfortunes life has thrown my way, and have made me the strong, determined, independent woman I am today.

    I worship at the altar of my creativity, for allowing my dark imagination to run wild, to create memorable worlds and unforgettable characters, to share my dark tales with the world, to help troubled souls find hope, and to keep me out of jail.

    I relinquish my soul to my compassion and empathy, to that part of me which cares about the planet and the wildlife upon it, that carries the guilt and shame of generations for what mankind has done.

    I am humbled by my bravery as I stand up to those who hurt me, and to take the steps I need to, to see myself as others do – my body for its beauty, my mind for its fascinating capabilities – to change my life on nothing but self-belief, to forge ahead, alone, in this uncertain world.

    It is through these traits, and by recognising when I need help and accepting it, that I have created this wonderful life, for which I feel very blessed. I own my own home, I run my own business, I am a successful author, I am a respected yoga teacher, I am a DJ, I rely on no one but myself, and I have people who care about me. I write dark and twisted stories and I believe in the dark and twisted fairy tales. One day, my prince will come. Until then, I will continue to live.

    To sit here and write these positive things about myself has been extremely difficult, especially with the Dark Shadow still hovering, and there are things I didn’t write, as I felt they sounded conceited, which I am not. But, as Aries rules this October full moon, it is my duty to shout out about myself, because if I don’t or can’t do it, how will anyone else?

    For those of you with your own Dark Shadow, like me, know you are not alone, and believe that when you ask for help, you will receive it; just be open to it.

    May fear protect you when the darkness come.

    ’Til next time.

  • Learning to Love Yourself.

    Did Whitney have a point when she sang about learning to love yourself being the greatest love of all?

    How often have you truly believed you are strong, happy, and in the right place, only to have your heart stamped on and all the insecurities come crashing down once more–I’m unlovable, it’s all my fault, I must have done something wrong, etc.?

    I know I do, and it took a good friend to point out to me, despite what I may tell myself, I don’t love myself; not completely.

    Now, I hadn’t been talking about the relationship which had recently fallen apart, leaving me wondering what it is about me that makes me so unlovable. That was a different conversation. No, we’d just been having a general chat over dinner before heading to a concert.

    I paused for a moment before saying, ‘Yes, I do, or I think I do.’

    ‘No, you don’t,’ she persisted, offering nothing further.

    I continued to munch on my sweet potato fries before venturing the question I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted an answer to, ‘What makes you say that?’

    ‘You put yourself down all the time.’

    ‘I do not,’ came back my immediate response.

    ‘Yes, you do.’

    ‘When? Give me an example.’

    ‘Just before, when we were talking about your website.’

    I looked at her, my brow furrowed. Clearly, I had no idea what she was talking about.

    ‘When you were saying you couldn’t change the sign-up form on your home page.’

    ‘That’s not putting myself down, that’s stating a fact.’

    ‘No, it isn’t, it’s putting yourself down. If you loved yourself, you would have said you hadn’t yet figured out how to change the sign-up form.’

    Until this point, I had never viewed comments such as “can’t” as a put down, but the more I think about it, the more I can see her point.

    To truly love yourself, you must believe in yourself completely, knowing deep down you are capable of doing, or finding a way to do, pretty much anything.

    To be fair, I honestly thought I did. Keeping the website as an example, I had spent several days the previous week building a landing page, a secret page for subscribers who join my mailing list, moving from MailChimp to Mailerlite due to the former’s recent rule changes, setting up an automation sequence and linking it through to my landing page. By 11pm one evening, after 12 hours at my laptop, having achieved all this, I raised a large glass of Malbec to myself and ran around the house telling the cats how “fucking awesome” their mummy was. The cats, predictably, were unimpressed.

    Now, I am not a coder or a technical expert, nor do I want to be before you point out I’m putting myself down again, but I am tenacious and if I put my mind to it, I can usually figure things out. And I did, to a certain extent, in that I manipulated the code on my home page to get it to point to Mailerlite. The trouble was the “submit” button changed colour so you couldn’t read the writing on it. I will concede, due to fatigue, and the previously pointed out “noncoding skills”, I called in the experts to fix this final issue, which they did.

    To put this in context, my website is a very specific custom build, so the usual “help pages” do not help. And, yes, I did call the people who did my custom build to help with all this, but when they quoted me £400 just for the secret page, I decided to go it alone as far as I could. After all, I’d rather spend the £400 on advertising!

    So, where does it come from, this tendency not to love myself?

    A couple of years ago, after another failed relationship, I decided I was done, that I was going to focus solely on me and do everything to please me. It worked. I was happy. I loved my life. I was confident, healthy, had a great social life, and I loved me, or so I thought.

    Then I was “persuaded” to start dating someone who had yet to get divorced. Everything was going great. We talked, laughed, holidayed, made plans for the future, and believed we were soulmates. Then the divorce proceedings started, and it all went sour, to the point we broke up. His doing, not mine.

    Despite my common sense telling me it was timing and circumstances, the little voice, the one I thought I’d finally silenced in my year of abstinence, piped up again, telling me I was innately unlovable.

    But why? This wasn’t a natural reaction to a break-up–after all, I’ve never shed a tear about it–it was more primitive. It was a voice that came from deep down inside, from long ago, maybe even from a different lifetime–the message an interpretation, not a fact. It’s easy for me to say the words are untrue, but it isn’t so easy to shake the feelings.

    So, again I ask, where do they come from? Why do I believe I am unlovable?

    When I was a teenager, I fell in with the wrong crowd. My best friend and I liked to pretend we were older than our fourteen years and frequented the local pubs. Here we met a group of older guys, and it wasn’t long before romances blossomed. It never occurred to me anything bad would happen. I, like all kids, believed I could take care of myself. After all, I’d refused to take the drugs they liked to inject on a regular basis.

    But little prepared me for what happened. After all, why would a man hurt the girl he professed to love? But hurt me, he did. He stripped me of my innocence, without my consent, and didn’t want anything to do with me afterwards.

    I blamed myself. For years I kept it inside, never telling a soul what had happened, berating myself for putting myself in that position, for believing his words, for not fighting back. It was only through therapy–a place I have been multiple times over the years–I was made to see what had happened to me, that I was told in no way was I to blame or that it was a reflection on me. Whilst finally I accepted the first two points, the last point, despite me believing otherwise, I clearly haven’t accepted.

    If I believed it wasn’t a reflection on me then why, each time I have sex, do all the insecurities come crashing back in? Why then, each time I’m told I am loved, do I question it?

    Over the years, broken relationships have sent me back to therapy, searching for answers to the question of “what is wrong with me?”, refusing to accept there is nothing.

    My last therapist made a breakthrough when he said I look for people who are broken and then fix them. The trouble was, he said, I only ended up fixing them for the next person, because I’d walked away long before then. He said it wasn’t my job to fix people, but he never did unearth why I thought it was.

    It was only recently, whilst seeking advice on another matter, that the lady I was talking to said, ‘Yes, but who fixes you?’ My only reply was, ‘I wasn’t aware I was broken.’ Even as I said it, I knew it to be a lie, and I told her about my ability to detach my spirit from my body when I encounter unwanted attention. This scares me on so many levels, and I trace it back to the loss of my innocence all those years ago, it being my brain’s way of protecting me from what was happening to my body.

    As I told her all this, she kept asking, ‘In how many previous lives were you a sex therapist?’. I kept shaking my head and carried on talking, but she repeated the question, over and over, until a number popped into my head.

    ‘Seven,’ I said and fell silent, the weight finally lifting from my shoulders as realisation dawned.  Her simple question made complete sense to me, although, as she pointed out, I am not a sex therapist in this life.

    So, are these the reasons I feel unlovable? Because I was a sex therapist in previous lives? Because I was raped when I was young? A combination of these? Or something else entirely?

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer yet, but it is a path I am continuing along as I approach my 50th year. It’s the reason I had a Boudoir photoshoot done a couple of years ago–to learn to view myself from the outside in, to see what others see.

    I have no idea how long this journey to self-love will take, all I know is it is one hell of an interesting ride!

    ’Til next time.