I know it’s unoriginal nowadays to blame your own actions on the upbringing you had, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve good reason to. For decades my family has been plagued by problems of one kind or another. It was inevitable, considering the environment I was brought up in, that I’d be ‘wired’ slightly differently to most other people.

I’m not ashamed of my past and I’m long past caring what people think of me. Yes, maybe I should’ve taken stock of my life sooner – if only to break free from the negative circle that surrounded me – but sometimes it isn’t that easy. I’ve been on a lonely road for a long time, but only recently have things taken a turn for the better.

As for my childhood – well, the less said, the better. I’ll go as far to say it was tough. I was often judged by the reputation and actions of my family as opposed to who I was. The isolation and want of attention I felt was the basis for a majority of my troubles. Judgements about me and my family spilled over into my time at school. I knew that if I wanted to avoid a repeat of the bullying I’d endured at primary school, I had to do something. 

Even though on the inside I was fragile, I developed a tough outer shell – my new persona and actions made others wary of me. Even though it wasn’t the ‘real me’, it felt good to have kids at school hanging around with me purely because of my ‘tough kid’ attitude. I did nothing to stop it – I played up to it. Then after a while the ‘fake me’ became the norm – I knew no other way. 

Outside of school my protective shell led to even more isolation. No parent in their right mind would let their kid come knocking at my door. Instead I had to go in search of friends. I stayed out way beyond what was considered the norm for someone of my age, which led me to hanging around with kids way older than me.

With my own insecurities I felt as if I had to prove my worth around them – for example, by underage drinking. As time progressed I could be away from home for days at a time before my family came looking for me. I knew I was on a dodgy path, but I was just hell-bent on being away from home. I was lost and felt the world was not only against me but testing me. And, having lost my grandad in my early teens, I could count trusted figures in my life on one hand. I was angry and full of pent-up emotions that were way beyond those of your average teenager.

At seventeen I began a relationship with a man eleven years my senior. Looking back, I guess many of my relationships were built around my need for protection … you know, the tough or older guy who’d look after me. Then, a week before my nineteenth birthday, I gave birth to my first child. Life felt good – for the moment everything was on an even keel. But that relationship, as have others, took a turn for the worse. In the years that followed I experienced a similar course of events to that of my mother – in and out of a women’s refuge. 

Like I said, if I’d looked closer maybe I would’ve seen the warning signs earlier and avoided a few problems on the way. I knew something had to be done, if not for me the sake of my kids (I had five by now), but at the time I didn’t know exactly what.

The passing of a family member, someone I looked up to, hit me especially hard. With my emotions running high, psychic feelings that I’d had for many years increased. Rather than ignore these feelings I embraced them and felt comforted by them; and the more I accepted them the better I felt. It became clear that, for too long, I’d welcomed negativity into my life. 

Through research I developed ways to either cope with the negative energy that surrounded me or replace it with positivity. However, not everyone was supportive of my new belief; some even going as far as to call me out as crazy. But I don’t care, there’s a ton of things that can’t be proven, but it doesn’t stop people believing in them – all that matters is that it works for me! Besides, it’s not as if I’m doing anyone any harm. While developing my skills I’m able to help others – a reading or spiritual guidance just might be all someone needs to put them on a positive path.

I don’t expect anything from those I help – my payment is the feeling I get from doing something worthwhile. It’s true my contribution to Harlow, when compared to others, might be small – but at least in my own way I’m playing a part. For all it’s ups and downs Harlow is and will always be my home. I could’ve moved long ago and made a fresh start – but who’s to say the problems wouldn’t have followed me? 

I still have blips in my life – finding out who I thought was my father in fact wasn’t is high up there. But now, with my insecurities gone and positive spiritual health, I can face those challenges head on. What I lack in family support, I make up for with friends who’ve stuck by me regardless. For that reason alone, I’m glad to be living in Harlow.