| This is the 317th story of Our Life Logs |
‘“What happens when people open their hearts?”’
‘“They get better.”’
–Haruki Marakami, Norwegian Wood
Born into a struggling family in 1989 in Glasgow, Scotland, I lived in the middle of a dangerous neighborhood. I grew up watching over my shoulder and trying to keep the peace in our home. Though I breathed the air of misfortune, it did not affect me until I was in high school.
One day, when I was 14 years old, I bumped into a classmate on the way home from school. He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk and I agreed. His offer was odd, seeing as how we hadn’t really talked much since middle school, but I was happy to catch up. We headed for the park and began talking about school, friends, and family. As we walked, he put his arm around me, I felt a bit uncomfortable and shrugged it off, laughing. We carried on until we got to an old tennis club which had been abandoned. There was no one around.
He asked me to sit down, which I did, and he then sat very close to me. I could smell booze on his breath. I felt uncomfortable and stood up saying that I should probably be getting home. I knew that his dad was an alcoholic and was in and out of his life. He had admitted stealing alcohol from his dad before and had also been bunking off school a lot recently. I knew there were things that he wasn’t telling me.
As I stood up to leave, he grabbed me by the arm, jerking me towards him. I tried to pull away, but he was stronger than me. Next thing I knew he had me up against the wall. I could feel my heart beating fast, and told him to let me go. Everything happened so quickly, but at the same time, it felt like time stood still. He put his hand inside my pants and started fingering me. He was trying to pull my jeans down. I felt scared and confused. With all the strength I had, I pushed and kicked him, finally making my escape. I ran across the park as fast as I could. Only pausing to stop and look behind me when I reached the main road. He hadn’t followed me.
We didn’t see each other much after that. If I saw him at school or in the street, I would walk away or cross the road to avoid him.
As a result of being abused, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I felt very alone during this time and was confused and embarrassed about what had happened. I didn’t feel able to tell anyone until I was 20 years old when I started counseling to restore my self-esteem. Around this time, I also became interested in personal development and read lots of books on the subject. One of my favorites is You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.
I slowly started to accept what had happened. Consciously, I made an effort to change how I felt around men and began to surrender my uneasiness.
One evening, I was introduced to a nice guy called Iain at a party by my friend Emma. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date again, but his eyes seemed to meet mine like magnets, and I decided to take the leap with him. At first, I felt vulnerable, and took things slowly. But after a year of funny stories and his cheeky grin, I began to trust him. I told Iain about what had happened to me as a teenager. When the words spilled from my tongue, it was as if a weight had been lifted and he could bear it.
A couple of years later, we moved in together. In my head, I planned our future, our happiness. Never ever would I be hurt again.
As my time with Iain progressed, I began to sense a growing coldness in his grin and his funny stories. Though I voiced my trust in Iain, the corners of my insides were skeptical of each abbreviated phone call, each late-night he spent away from our flat. At first, I used the coping strategies I had learned in counseling to soothe the doubt that was forming. I thought it was just my mind playing a game that wanted to lead me back into depression and anxiety.
Eventually, I had to realize that I might get hurt again. Whether or not I had completed the journey to forgiveness and self-assurance, I was not immune to the decisions of others. As I came to terms with this, I drew closer to the finality of my relationship with Iain after i discovered he was cheating on me.
I discovered it in October of 2012 when I came back to our apartment and went to the bathroom where yesterday’s dirty washing sprawled all over the place along with spare change, old screwed up receipts, and an empty tobacco pouch. Looking around, I was sick of this dingy life.
As if my resolve to leave had been the secret password to unlock an incredible adventure, I noticed the shine of an ad in a newspaper that had been wedged under a bar of soap. On the top page was a job posting for a flight attendant. It offered free training and a chance to fly all over the world. As I held the paper to my face, I became excited for a new beginning. I ripped out the small ad and turned to place the rest of the paper into the bin.
And there it was. A used condom balanced upon the rest of the trash. I’d always suspected, but now I knew.
I decided that I would have to take a leap of faith. Though, I didn’t know what my future held, I knew that I had to make some dramatic changes if things were really going to change.
I hastily left the flat without even checking to see if he was still home. It had been three days since I’d last seen him, our lives seemed to be lived separately, occasionally crossing and intertwining at brief moments.
I took the bus to the west end; and as I walked, I made plans to leave him. A second-hand shop caught my eye; I could sell them most of my possessions. I passed another, where antique artifacts accumulated dust on sagging shelves while vintage clothing hung on a rusting rail.
I walked to the end of the street, a thin drizzle turned to more torrential rain, and people ducked inside shops or sheltered in doorways. That’s when I saw him; hand in hand with a petite blonde girl. They were giggling, walking fast to get out of the rain. I pressed myself against the brick wall, head bowed, hoping they wouldn’t see me. Casually they strolled on by, in their own romantic bubble, looking so happy.
After sending off my application and getting accepted, I spent the next three years working and traveling in Australia and New Zealand. I saw lots of different places during my time as a cabin crew, it was an exciting but tiring job. I would often get a layover’s in different cities for me to explore.
On the job, I noticed that people would often confide in me and tell me their problems. I met a lot of other young backpackers who had had issues in their lives back home. I seemed to be able to form easy relationships with people from other countries. I also worked with a group of women who hailed from all over the world. As they let me into their lives by sharing the light and dark parts of their pasts, as I did with them, I noticed how much I had changed. I had grown kinder and had more empathy than I thought possible.
Around this time, I also started writing as I had a lot of downtime hanging around at airports. At first, I wrote short stories as a way to express my emotions and creativity. My stories were dark and often had a main character who had been abused, attacked, or cheated. As I started to feel happier, however, my characters were also more content. I later decided to combine my love of writing with my passion for helping people and began to write self-help articles for blogs.
When I arrived back in Scotland in 2016, I didn’t have a job straight away, so I had plenty of time to write. I soon turned my old blog posts into a series of books. I also made my own website and blog at the end of last year. Who knew that a life of abuse and pain was a means for healing, for myself and for others.
Without being abused, suffering from depression, and being cheated on, I would probably have followed a more traditional career path. I would not have had the opportunity to work and travel while meeting lots of interesting people and hearing their stories. So, maybe, every life can be healed as long as there’s someone willing to listen. You never know what life has in store.
This is the story of Jayne Todd
Jayne was sexually abused as a child and cheated on as a young adult. As a result, she suffered from anxiety and depression and ultimately left her home and past to travel the world as a flight attendant. During this time, Jayne was able to process her past and share her story with those she met along the way. Her past experiences strengthen her empathy and kindness, allowing her to become who she was meant to be. Jayne has written eight self-help books and plans to study to become a counselor this year. She would like to start a counseling or cognitive behavior therapy course in September, as this would allow her to expand my business and help more people. Jayne is looking to create an online course and record some motivational videos over the summer.
This story first touched our hearts on March 21, 2019.
| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Colleen Walker |