From a trauma state to transforming my life and finding a compelling purpose | Samantha Houghton

For a girl that once upon a time had almost zero self-belief, self-worth and fears about nearly everything, I’ve had to work incredibly hard and intensely on myself. I dedicated myself and my healing to undoing trauma after trauma, healing it and learning from it.

I used to wake up in the morning and cry because I didn’t know who I was. Do you know what that feels like? Because I didn’t have a firm sense of identity, I mostly used food to distract me from the emotional pain locked inside the deep crevices of my mind and body. This in itself was problematic, as a part of the tears were from not knowing what or how to eat. I would agonise, as I knew that I would trigger a binge by eating a morsel.

By binge, I don’t mean a few bags of crisps or a few chocolate bars; I’m talking binges of thousands and thousands of calories in one sitting. I’d be so desperate that I’d eat food out of the bin and frozen food to get my fix, as well as stuffing down the high carb foods. Eating is a primary human function for most people. Still, it is not that simple when your thoughts are skewed by an eating disorder and all of the associated issues.

The binge would initially be exciting, but it quickly turned into massive guilt, shame, fear, and physical discomforts such as the extended stomach, numbness, and stomach problems. Then sheer panic would set in before another level of excitement, as I knew what was coming next – self-induced vomiting. The initial release of stress felt incredible and cleansing. However, the terrible feelings and effects would follow – bleeding throat, digestive problems, IBS, deep depression and shame and a massive fear of gaining weight.

This would consume about an hour of my time. Then once the ritual was over, I’d attempt to diet or starve until I repeated it all over again, usually around three times a day. I lived this way for about 12 long, painful years.

The physical, emotional and mental effects were horrendous, and I’m actually fortunate to have not contributed long term permanent damage or worse to myself. This became the secret dark world that I slipped into and felt a certain level of safety in. I was in a lot of pain, but the fear of living was more significant, so I stayed with my habit, my friend, which was an enemy. Still, it served me as I had nothing else to rely on at that time.

As a psychologist once said to me, I became resourceful from a situation of neglect. I did what I could to survive, albeit a highly destructive method. I’m not for one millisecond recommending it, as it was pure hell. I have lost three friends who have died from eating disorders – it is the highest fatality level in mental health.

It added to my confusion about who I was and created many additional mental health problems, which landed me in psychiatric hospitals several times. I went for years not working, lasting a day in a job, and being “on the sick”. I hated myself and my life but was petrified of change.

My son was born, and he changed my entire world in the love I had for him; and to be a fantastic role model for him as he grew up and he has done ever since, bless his heart. I had a reason to change, as I did not deem myself worthy at that moment in time. And change I did. Slowly, slowly, uncovering all of the trauma underneath the symptoms and behaviours. Looking at them, healing them and getting a clearer idea about who I was and what I have to offer the world. And recovery took many more years by gradually moving away from the disruptive and dangerous habits.

Eventually, I realised that my purpose was to help other people not feel alone. Because if I hadn’t had my son, I’m not sure where I would have been, in all honesty, because my self-worth was so minimal.

Gradually, I figured a lot more out about myself, my purpose, and how I was to share this with the world. It became an all-consuming passion that fired me up like nothing in my life ever had before.

I was to tell my story.

I began to write short posts on social media, and I moved on to speaker training and delivered talks. I was motivated and encouraged, and aside from my role as a mum, I really felt I had found my niche in the world.

Then I crashed and burnt out; I never knew when to stop and was hellbent on figuring it all out. Those burnout months were my blessing, although it didn’t feel like it at the time. Too exhausted to go out most days, never mind work. Pushing myself had affected my heart and my breathing, and the hospital instructed me to slow right down in no uncertain terms. I was low in mood too, but I sat in my darkness, rested, and listened to myself. That little inner voice began as a whisper but became a loud shouting voice that wouldn’t stop. Every day, it urged me to make this “telling my story” thing a bigger and more impactful purpose. It scared me, and I had doubts a lot, but I just knew it wouldn’t go away or quieten. I knew it was what my soul wanted for me and the world.

The more I resisted it, the stronger it became, and eventually, most of the doubt fell away, and I was bursting to share it, warts and all.

“But what about the shame Sam?”

“What are people going to think who don’t know all of the details, especially the incidents that still made me cringe?”

My voice boomed back:

“What about it?! This will help others, feel the fear; just do it, and you’ll see”.

I did it. I decided to put my story into a book, and 16 days later, it was written, and I was bursting to get it out there.

The last five years have amazed me since that book was published. So much has transitioned, but my three main messages for sharing this are:

1. Do yourself a huge favour and learn to believe in yourself as life is very painful without this. I’ve gone from the lost, wounded girl with a confused sense of self to having written ten powerful books—two of my own and the rest for other people. Believe me, it’s taken a whole lot of work on myself to get to this place from where I was, and I believe anyone can transform.

2. You are never alone. If you struggle, I know it can feel impossible to reach out to someone else; that’s why I used to read. No one would judge me, yet I would be comforted by another person’s story. They shared a piece of themselves with me. So go and read an inspirational book; I promise you it will help until you feel you can ask for help.

3. If you want to write your book and need help, my purpose is to help you, and I’d love nothing more.

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