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"Smile... It's Not That Bad!"

As a teenager I often (actually very often) used to have people say to me, "Smile, it can't be that bad". In fact it was that bad. My mother had died when I was 12 and looking back, I was a depressed and grief-striken teenager and young woman. Unable to enjoy life as others could, I was stuck in my pain; I had been unable to move through or beyond it. The more I heard this, the more I thought here was something terribly wrong with me.

Little did I know, this was for some people the natural course of events when grief was unresolved. As I struggled on through my high school and later teenage years, I couldn't understand why I felt so miserable all the time. And then as a young woman in my early 20s I distinctly remember driving home from work thinking that I was just a miserable person. Every night on my commute I'd stop and buy chocolate and lollies, learning later, that it was all to numb the pain. It wasn't until I started work as a Flight Attendant in 1989 that I realised that something needed to change. The events of that day are as clear as if it were yesterday too. I'd been away for a week in Singapore I think it was, it was one of my first trips. On our final decent into Auckland I was standing in the back galley chatting with the rest of the crew when it struck me. Everyone was so excited to be coming home, and all I wanted to do was turn around and go back, anywhere. That was my wake up call. I knew I needed to make a change. Shortly after, I made enquiries with counsellors and therapists and found an amazing woman. At the time she was in her late 40s to early 50s, a Psychotherapist specialising in the Attachment Theory philosophies, which was exactly what I needed and she was wonderful. Literally, it took me years to unravel a myriad of thoughts and feelings to discover who I really was. I learned that the stories I'd made up in my head about what had happened to my mother and why, were not in fact true at all; they were merely a young girls unsubstantiated interpretation. I learned how to love myself for who I was. Over the years at different times the things that helped were Psychotherapy, learning about the grief process through books, videos and studying grief itself during the training I undertook in the 90s to become a Counsellor. Another process I found incredibly helpful was journalling and by the time I'd been through therapy I literally had a suitcase full of diaries I'd written during that time. Another very vivid memory I have is the day I realised I'd started smiling more. I was walking down the street and I was smiling at nothing in particular at all and I hadn't remembered doing that, for a very long time, if ever. So, there's always a story. Behind every sad face, behind every anxious or angry person, there's always a story.

Till next time,


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