My journey with self-development and opening new doors for myself is one that for so long I have put off. Feeling as if I didn't deserve my dreams, or even life. My train has been derailed and for reason I could never understand what crime I had committed for this to have gone so long. At 25 I thought I would be married, would be getting ready to retire after a successful ( Olympic) swimmer career & be looking at new ventures and a family on the horizon.

How things have changed.

I admittedly spent a good few years in a dark hole of self-pity and wondering how and when it all went wrong.

I then began losing myself when my health rapidly declined and again I thought back to being a fit athlete, eating healthy, not drinking and living a 'healthy lifestyle' so how could I be so poorly? What on Earth was a doing wrong?

It was an unhealthy cycle of self-blame and self-guilt that fed the self-pity. I watched friends become successful, reach their goals, hit major milestones and begin LIVING LIFE. I will always be SO very proud of all my friends and family, I am the biggest cheerleader going and I think it is extremely important to lift one another up. Extremely important. Admittedly however, I did feel left behind, nobody to lift me up because everyone had moved on.

My house became a safe haven, a place I hibernated. Away from the world where I could break down, deal with the pain without anyone thinking I was weak. It was all so unhealthy and felt my low levels of self worth and confidence. I wasn't sure how else to deal with it though because to me that WAS the right way. It was to remain strong publicly, not lose the fit and healthy person everyone knew. I clung to everything and anything I could but I learnt the hard way NOBODY IS IMMUNE.

I can play by all the rules, eat the heathiest diet, exercise and learn as much as I can but nothing is the ultimate protective blanket.

Although my diagnosis was difficult in so many ways. It was when I really had to learn to 'wake up'. Come to terms with my situation. The world was to know, so there was no more hiding away for weeks at a time and not allowing anyone to see me through fear of appearing 'weak.' I had a choice. I could allow this illness to defeat me ( like it was clearly doing ), taking, taking and taking from my life or I could be proactive about making a difference, adapting and learning to understand that life NO MATTER HOW HARD still goes on.

I, of course although through gritted teeth at times chose life. I chose to become an open book. Still to this day I struggle to ALWAYS be brutally honest but as I built the confidence up to talk more, allow people to see me at rock bottom, explain my symptoms so that people were able to relate, people tried to understand and people were willing to support.

From feeling like I had lost everyone and everything. Slowly but surely my faith began to be restored as a NEW community welcomed me (chronic illness), my family began to understand I wasn't going bonkers and friends could be begin to understand I didn't want to cut them off I just wasn't coping.

For the next few years I focused on raising awareness, supporting people going through the same sort of illnesses because uplifting them helped me too. However, through this time I was still neglecting myself. It is true when people say, 'you have to love yourself first before you can love others,' and 'you have to help yourself first before you help others.' It is ok for me to dish out advice on how to face fears, live your life, set goals and be kinder to yourself but what is the point if I am not leading by example.

Over this summer I had a HARD time. My health has been declining quite rapidly & I was at an all time low with it all. Again, I began closing myself off from the world. Worried that I couldn't be the strong Lyme warrior I had now become after Sophie The Swimmer label had been lost. How could I lose another identity that I had worked hard to achieve as I had reinvented myself.

We had the family holiday booked and sorted and frankly I REALLY didn't want to go. Not that I am ungrateful I was just panicking about the busy schedule, my symptoms and 'not fitting in.'

That is something I have always struggled with 'fitting in'. I don't know why when I know how powerful it is to be unique. I am not like everyone else though in my eyes. I am not fun, bubbly and a drinker. So, I FEARED I would be invisible and struggle.

If this disease and journey has taught me ANYTHING though it is that inner beauty matters over anything else and it is the part of you the disease CAN NEVER CHANGE. It is so powerful that it will always outshine anything else and I do know this because it has been proven to me a hundred times over in recent years. We all know when we are consumed by darkness we cannot find the torch to turn the light on, can we? So, I was too low to see the facts in front of me.

It was probably one of the best things I have ever done going on that holiday because it restored my faith in my passion, my strength and myself. I wasn't the boring, beige and nightmare person I was allowing my mind to tell me was.

I came back with fresh eyes. I have had some tragic events that have shaken me up and woken me up to the fact that LIFE IS TOO SHORT & TOO PRECIOUS. I have always 'waited' to do things, hoping to feel 'better tomorrow' ( which would never happen) or the 'perfect time', well perfection doesn't exist... so that meant dreams, ideas, experiences, opportunities were passing me by.

That was it. I realised I had to change my mindset. I HAD to add the sparkle an