Today’s #SameHere Hero: Lisa Edwards
I remember hearing the cries of my older brother as the leather whip came down against his body and feeling gripped with fear, knowing that I was next!
I grew up in a violent household. My father was a heavy drinker and was violent towards my mother. One of my earliest memories was being woken up in the middle of the night and being taken to a relative’s house because my mother had been badly beaten. She divorced him and married a man who was physically too young to even be my father. He also turned out to be a manipulative, controlling, and violent man, not only to my mother but to me and my brother too. He whipped us after reading the bible to us, attempting to justify it and to pretend it was done out of love. He was a complete narcissist and the only love he had was for himself. I spent my early teenage years feeling suicidal. I felt trapped alone and in constant fear.
My mother was, however, besotted with him and he was very much in charge. I didn’t like him and I couldn’t hide it, which got me into a lot of trouble. At 13 he took away my personal diary which had been my only outlet for the misery that I felt. He then regularly humiliated me by referring to it often. At the age of 15, whilst he was beating up my mother again, a rage came over me that was stronger than my fear and I ran up the stairs, stood in front of my mother, and yelled at him to stop! He turned on me, called me a whore, and pushed me backward downstairs. As I was falling I managed to grab him and pulled him down with me. At the bottom, he picked me up and threw me out of the house. I was barefoot but ran a few blocks to a family friend’s house. When I got there they were staring at me horrified. As I looked down I saw my arms were bleeding.
My stepfather left that day but not before giving one more final goodbye gift. Before he walked out he struck me hard against my head, knocking me sideways and declaring it was all my fault. That I had destroyed the family. My mother watched but said and did nothing. In fact, many years later she laughed about how I was hit so hard she thought my head was going to come flying off. I didn’t find it funny.
Despite everything, my mother took him back. She blamed me for him leaving. He continued to treat her badly, had affairs and they eventually divorced. I left as soon as I turned 18.
The following 20 years I had a difficult relationship with my mother. Sometimes barely speaking in years. I was full of anger and bitterness towards her. I grew up feeling worthless, voiceless, and unloveable. I have never had a relationship with my father sadly although I have tried several times over the years.
At the age of 19 I sold my few possessions, walked out of my job, and bought a one-way ticket to Italy with no money to return. I didn’t tell my family where I was going. I was terrified but free at last! I found work, learned Italian, and formed new friendships and families. I was there for 2 years and then went on to pretty much spend most of my twenties living my dream life of traveling and working abroad in different countries. I had some amazing times and an incredible life that I never thought possible. However, I struggled to make any real connections with people.There was a constant emptiness. I jumped from relationship to relationship and felt incapable of falling in love and rejected anyone who fell in love with me.
Despite living the dream life and earning a lot of money I had a lot of anxiety. I would suddenly get this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t do my job, that I was out of my depth and someone was going to find out I was a fraud. It’s hard to describe, like I would lose my nerve for no reason. I don’t know if these were panic attacks. I never really stopped to try and understand what I was experiencing or why it was happening.
Unexpectedly getting pregnant and having my son put an end to my traveling and working abroad. I struggled. I felt trapped and motherhood did not come easily. Although I loved my son deeply I felt disconnected. I had postnatal depression. I slept whenever my son did, cried all the time, and had no energy to go anywhere or do anything. I had no idea who I was anymore or what I was doing. I was also deeply unhappy with my son’s father. He was a good man and a great dad but I didn’t love him. I felt like I was suffocating in that relationship. We finally split up when my son was 5. I was terrified about raising my son alone, had no money but I also felt free again.
I started going to the gym and when my son was with his dad I was able to go out with friends, something I hadn’t done in 6 years! I began feeling better about myself. Eventually I met someone online who was to change my whole world!
I met this nice guy. For the first time in my life I let someone in emotionally. I accepted love and I gave it back. He was so easy to be around and so mild-mannered. We went on holidays to Europe every year together and had a lot of great times. My family, friends and son really liked him. He was always trying to help me, very supportive and complimentary. He hated arguments and never said a bad word to my face. He was perfect.
After 6 years together he came home late one evening, yet again (he was always late due to work). He said he’d just come from the hospital and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a hot summer day but I suddenly felt cold. Over the coming days and weeks, his behavior became more erratic. He would disappear for a few days and switch his phone off. He came back and one night he sexually assaulted me. I was shocked, confused and so upset I told him to get out but I believed it must have been because of the brain tumor. I had to find some way to explain it. He came back a day or two later pleading with me to help him as he was scared of dying and so of course I took him back in. He kept changing or forgetting hospital appointments and I was unable to attend a single one so I started getting very worried. I had a bad feeling that I couldn’t ignore. One day I began searching through his things for a hospital appointment letter. I didn’t find one. What I found instead was a phone that I’d never seen before. I felt this horrible sense of dread come over me.
The first message I saw read “Do you want to come and meet your daughter or do you want to do a DNA test” with a pic of a baby. I felt sick! My hands were shaking at this point and I could hear my heart thumping loudly in my ears. Sadly this was not the worst of it. He was also married to another woman!
My whole world collapsed. Over the coming days and weeks I found out more about my partner than I had known in 6 years. He was a serial womanizer, compulsive liar, and master manipulator. My whole six-year relationship was a lie from day one. It turns out he had lied about having a brain tumor too! What kind of person does that? And why?! I’d truly believed I’d been in a relationship with a good person and suddenly I couldn’t leave my house without feeling the stares and snickers behind me. How could I have not known? I felt like I was drowning underwater unable to surface. How could I trust anything or anyone anymore? And worse, still, how could I trust my own judgment again? The wall came back up around me and the bitterness and anger carried from childhood bubbled to the surface.
I didn’t seek any help. If I was upset as a child my mother would say “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry for”. I was never encouraged to openly express my feelings and having my diary confiscated and used against me as a child created an adult with poor communication skills. Coupled with the humiliation of being taken for a complete fool for 6 years meant there was no way I was going to truly open up to anyone.
I listened to music and worked out obsessively. I booked a trip to do the 4 day Inca Trek which had been a dream of mine for the previous 10 years. I think all that really helped me from going too far down into the abyss. Was I ok? Well, I started feeling better and getting on with my life.
In time I met a really incredible guy. He was funny, understanding and damn hot! He knew a bit about my previous relationship and he did as much as he could to alleviate my fears, such as sending me his location on google or sending me photos of wherever he was when we were apart. After 15 months together he did the kindest thing for me that no man had ever done before. He dumped me! You see, I wasn’t ok. I went into that relationship with the mindset of a helpless victim, expecting this new guy to heal me without taking any responsibility for my own healing. The day we split was so painful. He was holding me so tightly and I was hurting so much. It was my fault. I had messed up AGAIN. I couldn’t even make it work with an amazing guy who had nothing wrong. I was a complete failure, destined to be alone.
The sadness I felt was unbearable. I became physically unwell. I lost weight, was in constant pain, and had no energy. After several months I ended up in the hospital, waiting for someone to tell me the bad news. Instead the consultant said there was no physiological cause for my illness. I was discharged.
It felt like a second chance. I knew I had to change so I began initially taking free workshops in NLP. I knew it was powerful and needed to learn more so I began taking more in-depth courses in NLP and hypnosis. One of the first l things I learned was that whilst we cannot control what happens to us we CAN control how we deal with it and move forward. It felt liberating knowing that I didn’t need to stay a “victim” if I didn’t want to. I had a choice.
One of the biggest breakthroughs for me, though, was the realization that I didn’t love myself. That whilst I had been projecting my anger and blame outwards towards my ex and parents, it was in fact myself that I hated. I had spent an entire lifetime feeling unworthy and undeserving. It was an emotional and upsetting revelation but one that was also cathartic.
Using NLP, self-hypnosis, conscious thoughts, and affirmations I learned to rewrite the script of my internal dialogue. I began to see that my failures were just learnings. I learned to love myself, forgive myself, and to forgive everyone else. Forgiving my parents and my ex was not for them but it was for me. It was intensely liberating like a huge weight had been lifted.
I’m now a Master Practitioner of NLP, Hypnotherapy, Time line Therapy and recently trained in Havening Techniques. Using a combination of these powerful modalities, along with my own personal experience I help others release anxieties and rewrite their own script to one of unconditional self love.
Oh, and the incredible guy who walked away? Well, we got back together two and a half years ago and are stronger than ever!
But like all good relationships, the one we have with ourselves requires work and it’s an ongoing daily process. Like everyone, I still have self-doubts and feel the stresses of life. Every day I say affirmations and self haven. I eat healthily and regularly exercise. It all helps to keep me where I want to be mentally.
I have never shared my entire story before but the first time I shared part of it was during a speech I gave in front of a real live audience in London at the end of 2019. I was blown away with the feedback and the comments of people afterward. There were a few podcasters in the audience and I was invited on to several podcasts to share my inspirational story. I’d spent my entire life feeling “damaged” and a massive failure so it was kinda surreal hearing people say I was an inspiration. I suddenly realized the power of owning one’s story and it was another step towards healing, which most certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Although I’d done several podcast interviews, the first one I felt brave enough to share on my social media page, was the one with the Navy SEAL veteran Jack Riggins called The Darkside of Elite. It pretty much exploded. So many people were commenting on my post and messaging me in private. It was completely overwhelming. I woke up the following day with my anxiety levels through the roof with a compulsion to take the post down and just hide under the covers. I hadn’t expected so many people to listen to my story – family, friends, and people I knew in my local community! It was at the height of lockdown in the UK so of course, it was a bigger, captive audience! I felt absolutely naked and exposed. Talk about feeling vulnerable!
I sat with the fear a bit and didn’t fight it. I understood it wasn’t the enemy, just protection and ultimately I didn’t need its protection this time. By reframing the anxiety this way, realizing that nothing bad was going to happen to me and I had nothing to be ashamed of, I managed to calm down.
I’ve done many more podcasts since and now I’ve been invited to co-author a book entitled “Unstoppable Women” which will be released later in the year.
Whilst sharing my story is never easy I know that it could potentially help someone else. It’s also allowed me to grow and let go of some fears holding me back. Along the way, I’ve also met some incredible people who’ve inspired me too. There are so many reasons why sharing my story has been a really powerful and healing journey.