• Sophie Ward.

The Making Of Who I Am Today - SOPHIE PART1

I just wanted to take the time to look back, look back on the person I have become and how I have become the person I have really.

During my childhood years, I was never normal. Always a little, odd and 'out of place.' I wasn't a cool kid, I wasn't bonnie and I never had the confidence to even speak a lot of the time. So I was ignored and forgotten. I had friends, but I had friends because they had, had the confidence to come and talk to me. They had wanted to play with me, not the other way around or often it was a case that my friends were my friends because our parents were friends. So it made the whole process a lot easier and you always had someone to play with.

I lacked confidence in more ways than can really fully be explained. I was quiet and followed the rules, I was and still am a people pleaser. I didn't want to ever let my parents, grand parents and so on down and disappoint them. I never questioned or argued what they told and taught me because they knew more than me ( of course they did) and as I still believe you should always respect your elders.

I chose to play with beads over dolls and so often that left me 'out of place' as I didn't do activities that maybe children my age did.

I tried many, many different classes and clubs, again always lacking in confidence because I was never quite good enough or often embarrassed myself. I would dread and shy away from individual displays of my abilities. SO TERRIBLY terrified of making a laughing stock of myself.

On holiday's my Dad would force me to say Hello to people or even get the person I wanted to make friends with over to say Hi to me and get me talking. Almost like I always feared rejection ( I still do. ) Never feeling worthy of love and friendship. Why? I am not sure.

My sleeping patterns were never good - my parents bought me a dream catcher when I was 10 years old. Hoping that knowing that the dreamcatcher was in the room would prevent me getting nightmares. It didn't work. The dark I feared. I always thought something would come and get me. I still fear depression and being in a dark place even now and that is why I try to be so positive.. I saw the dark as instant NIGHTMARES. I would always leave my bed and sleep underneath the window in the hallway - where the light was. I was safe and PROTECTED. The ghosts didn't come near the light. Once the sun began coming up and my bedroom was lighter, all the ghosts were gone and so I could get to sleep. I don't suffer with the darkness or fears now.. I do however struggle with sleep due to my pain.

When my school years started, yet again it wasn't easy. I wasn't loud or confident. Yet, I would never cry and always tried to hide my fear - seeing them as weaknesses. Luckily I guess you could say my school years sparked a part of me that would become the for-front of my being.. helping people.

Children who HATED school and didn't want to be there, make friends or were sad were pointed my way to play and talk to me. I never ( as I don't now - I don't have a degree in healing people) but I would often feel silly, asking random questions or making up games. Often it felt easy to me to calm these people down and often we became great friends that I remained close to. It gave me a buzz because protecting them from fears, sadness and pain made me feel better about harbouring those feelings myself. I felt I had protected them from pain they didn't deserve to feel.

I won the art prize in reception at the age of 5 for colouring in the bear the right colour -brown. Everyone else always coloured in pictures in an a-ray of bright colours. Who knew that mindful colouring would one day become my greatest de-stressing exercise and that I would always have a creative flare in me.

My second year of school once again saw me work hard but to never be academically strong. I worked endlessly on getting high scores on my spelling, despite being unable to spell and my reading was dyer. I fell behind on the 'Kepper' key stage books. The embarrassment and upset my reading caused will never leave me. My writing though, a little like my colouring would be slow but I tried to make it as beautiful and perfect as I could. I was always the first one through the classroom door in the morning and 'hand writing practise' was the exercise we had to do before school officially started. So I had plenty of practise time. I won the endeavour prize that year for my hard work and attention to detail. Even now I get mad when my writing isn't neat... it gets harder with my hand joints stiffing up however.

My small middle finger then caused me great embarrassment. I was ALWAYS told off for holding my pen wrong. Yet, I couldn't use it in the way everyone else did because my finger was too small. It was slip off the pen. I would always be told off and I struggled writing. Falling behind in class because my writing was so slow. It would upset me greatly because previously my writing had been a strong point but I wasn't used to someone being so critical on how I held my pen and I couldn't help my finger. Being so underconfident I would NEVER expressed WHY I struggled holding the damn pen.

Friendships never really came easy to me. Don't get me wrong I had friends, but I had friends that would love being my friend because they could boss me around and I wouldn't say a word. I would just follow orders. My true friends often would become upset because I couldn't ( wasn't allowed ) to play with them and I was to underconfident to stand up for myself and my friends. I am glad in some ways that has changed. However, I still get blamed when I don't do as they have asked, cancel arrangements, stand up for myself or question them. I have had too many experiences of one-way relationships ( always me giving ) or some relationships kick off as a two way street but then soon they begin to take advantage and I get left picking up the pieces. I often spend days upset and worrying that I've upset people when they are always upsetting me. Somehow I end up picking up EVERYONE'S pieces. Apologising when it isn't my fault or saying sorry because I generally messed up and am truly sorry.


Now, I know I've just said I hated individual displays of my abilities but the water provided me a skill I DID feel confident showcasing. The crowd was never there to me - it was just me and the pool. Now, I was NEVER fully confident, I was always a bag of nerves when competing and so forth. Even at school competitions and so on. Yet, for the first time in my life, swimming was something that filled a hole. A hole of embarrassment, out of place, disappointment and I find myself within the bubbles I exhaled. I had something I made people proud of me for, I adored, I felt comfort and happy doing. Nothing had ever given me this before.

I was never, like in school the popular, pretty, 'in crowd' swimmer. I was still a little 'weird' and out of place. I had friends and we had the BEST times together but on training camps and so on I was always so focused on the sport, my work, being on time and so on that I wasn't the 'cool as a cucumber', 'stylish' and 'laid back' athlete like many were. I was easily left behind and drown out. When it came to racing however - it was another matter, I was often the under-dog many had counted out. Where did she come?

Where did I come from?

People who know me, will remember my swimming days well. The pink ugg boots and the POWERADE trade two pre-race sips of the blue and red flavours. Gosh, I should have had shares in Powerade the amount I drank. I couldn't just be normal and cool, and rock up with headphones and a hoodie, I had to showcase my weirdness to the world, God knows why. Again, I guess my race and result mattered far more to me than my public embarrassment. Maybe without realising, conquering my fear of embarrassment. Being strong enough to embrace being 'me' helped me feel more confident in my own skin and abilities. People may well laugh at me, but they wouldn't be laughing when I had beaten them and they would wonder if my pink ugg's gave me that back-end pace that won the race or if it was simply my training and myself. Of course, it was my training and myself but little quirks and race prep does play a big part, in many ways. Many did try and jump on the ugg boots and Powerade bandwagon..

Wow--- trend setter.

When I lost swimming, my whole world came crashing down..

I was lost.

I had pain EVERYWHERE and from many different angles. Inner and outer pain. My 'swimmer' label, like a title, yet my rein was over.. My ultimate fear of failure and disappointment in my eyes were unfolding and becoming a reality. I sank into depression. I carried on with school, but battling with loss, mourning, pain and my struggles to make decent grades had my head and heart in a very low place.

I spent a lot of the first few years after retiring, still believing that the reality was not a reality at all - just a bad dream a NIGHTMARE. That swimming was what I was made for, it was my soulmate. It healed and filled a hole that NOTHING in the world could fill. I lost a lot of confidence once again and channelled my anger in lots of negative ways.

I worked hard at school determined to have a good, strong backing to make it in the big, wide, adult world. Yet, I didn't know what on EARTH I was going to do. I couldn't be a mermaid like I wanted to be when I was four and swimming career had come to a tragic end. I wasn't strong in any subjects at school, always middle of the pile. Nothing I really excelled in. So what now?

During these years, many subjects would encourage creative writing and so here is where I first discovered my joy in writing poems. I would even do my brother's poetry homework for him. I loved it. I could round them off quickly and somehow make it all fit and rhyme. Even if I didn't know the subject that well. A little bit of research and I was off and still to this day I ADORE writing poems and find it a vital exercise in helping express my feelings.

I also studied the 20th Century history closely and the hero's of the time. Through reading about their victories and failures I began to learn that nobody is immune to failure - no matter how high up, rich, popular and talented they may be. Some of the 'hero's' had faced the greatest failures anyone could imagine. It was how the bounced back that REALLY mattered.

I began giving presentations to classes for my GCSE course work. I would HATE public speaking. Again, lack of confidence and the fear of embarrassing myself. There was ONE presentation that changed it all for me however. We had to do a piece for our GCSE coursework that was on our chosen subject. So I did the Beijing Olympics. I knew my facts inside out and I had been there. It was an obvious choice, the best experience and way to learn is seeing things first hand. Thank God I did choose this subject. At the beginning I clung to my paper with my bullet points for dear life. So nervous and not willing to mess this up. I only had one shot. Yet as I moved through the slides I realised I knew all the facts. What I had written on paper and the slides were great and very helpful but that the class were looking at me and what I was saying more than the slides. My personal opinions, facts, experiences and stories were FAR more interesting than random stats from the internet. By the end I didn't use my paper or the power-point much at all. The question and answer part at the end came and I nailed it. My nerves had gone because I KNEW my stuff. That is what made the difference, I was passionate about the topic, I had my own personal experience and I had some background. I hadn't just rely on Google to teach me my facts. The knowledge I had was giving me the confidence I needed to answer all the questions with ease and strongly.

I got an A* on that piece and now... public speaking, does set off a few nerves but when I have a passion for something and the topic I don't need it to be scripted because my heart and mind know EXACTLY what to say. I learnt that from the best and well known political idols of the 20th Century. Unscripted is always far more relatable and real.

I still harboured a lot of pain.

In many ways I had been rejected in love, lost my self of purpose and self, my career and my health. I didn't think I had much to offer to begin with and now --- WELL. What now?

By this time I was in my late teens. Once again, always out of place. I had a boyish - straight up and down figure. All I ever wanted was a womanly figure to be pretty and girlie. WELLLLLL... I couldn't be further from womanly and NOW look at me!! SOUL DESTROYING doesn't cover it. Anyway, by late teens my lack of womanly assets really were adding to my depression. I strongly considered a boob job and was truly upset I didn't have curves that all girls my age seemed to have ( little did know how bad it would get!)

As time went on my health got worse.. and somehow little hang up's like the above were silenced by much greater upset and pain. I realised I wasn't a fake person and couldn't be fake, so why was I considering fake boobs? This realisation taught me that I had to be confident but also appreciative of who I WAS and what I had. I wasn't normal, but then who was. People could change themselves in all sorts of ways but it would never fully cure their hang ups.

My decline in health watched me lose friends, my self of purpose, my relationship and ultimately myself. I began to cling to things I felt gave me worth - my house ( as we have discussed before - my first house saved me in so many ways and that's why I am so emotionally attached to it, despite it being a place I had a lot of sad times in.) My car and ultimately I tried to build a life that looked like I WAS AN ADULT, I was COPING and I was 'fitting' into a world that deep down I felt lost in. With feelings and pain so unbearable and inexplainable.

To be continued...



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