Stories of Strength is a project by Strong Lady Productions, in partnership with Creative Crawley and Crawley Town Centre BID.
We have asked the people of Crawley the question: Can you tell me about a time when you were strong? This is a gallery of their stories – a celebration of the resilience, power and persistence of this place.
These stories are also displayed as a print exhibition, in shop windows all over Crawley, from 7 August to 31 October 2021 – Enjoy!
Click on an image below to HEAR and READ their story.
I’m a mum of two children, I now have 4 grandchildren, and I am a retired nurse. My story is between March 1990 and August 1990. A time when I came to England on my own (and left my children at home) to further my nursing education and development. I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be.
I didn’t have a place to come straight to work. Between March and August I applied to 200 hospitals. Because my qualifications weren’t accepted - even though I was a top research midwife in Zimbabwe - I had to look for a place on an adaptation course, to prove that I am a qualified nurse, so that I could then develop.
I had left my kids for the first time, my son was 7 and my daughter was 13, at the time. I had recently been divorced, so I had come on my own, to open this door for my children. By the time I came to England I was top dog in Zimbabwe. I was on TV and the radio, talking about midwifery and the research - so to come and be told that my qualifications were absolutely nothing was a shock to the system. Then to receive 5 to 10 rejections a day, as well as thinking of my kids… their welfare. I remember the song that gave me strength was Labi Siffre: Something Inside So Strong. I played that, daily. Eventually I got a place a Crawley Hospital, just by fate really. I bumped into someone (a complete stranger) she had finished her adaptation course here and she directed me to go, straight away. Again, there were 12 places for 300 of us. Of course, when I got my letter saying I’d got the place…
It’s funny that when I came to Crawley, I fell in love with Crawley straight away and felt that my children would grow up here - and that’s exactly what has happened. My daughter is now 43, she’s got a degree in accounting from Kingston University. My son is 37, he’s a chartered accountant. They both have 2 children each. My nursing: I finished the adaptation course and then decided to develop, and I did a degree in podiatry at Brighton University, 3 years full time. So I did end up developing. I love Crawley. I started volunteering from 1997 and recently won the Crawley Community Volunteer award for 2021. My kids are all living around here. We have a fantastic life.
I just remember that time: how much strength, resilience and determination I needed to go through it. I reminded myself every day that I had to go through it, to open the doors for my children. So here I am. It’s made me a much stronger person and I want to give back to the community because of it. Sometimes I feel like it was somebody else, you know, 31 years ago. Sometimes I wonder: Where did I get the strength to carry on? I had to dig deep, every single day, and that song really really pulled me through. Recently I said to my daughter: When I die, you make sure you play that song! Yeah. That’s my story of strength.
I grew up with really low expectations for myself. Kids from the area I grew up in always got told that we were going nowhere. Pretty much every kid, around my area, hated school. They didn’t get on with general members of the public and just had no motivation to do anything good in life. So from there, I always sort of set myself low expectations.
In school I didn’t try as hard as I could, I was predicted straight As and got Cs. I wasn’t a nice kid either. I could insult people quite easily and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. When I was 15, I got told by one of my teachers: You’re going nowhere in life, you’re not motivated to do anything, you’re just lazy. I wasn’t lazy, in fact I was depressed, I just didn’t understand it at the time.
I decided to go to college, but during that, I got denied from the college I wanted to go to. I was at the college and the woman said to me: Nah, I don’t believe you can do these A Levels, I think you’re lazy. I turned around to them and I was like: You don’t know me. You don’t know my life. You don’t know what’s happened to me in my past. I felt like she was really judging a book by it's cover. Because of that, I will never do that to anyone again.
So I got home… and I thought I was going to throw the towel in and just not go to college. I got into my garden, I was talking to my dog and I looked down at him and was like: Buddy, what am I going to do man? Am I going to go to college, or am I going to get a full time job? When I said the word college, his head tilted, almost like he was a bit confused. I thought: if he looks confused, then there’s a bit of the unknown… so I’ll step into that and give it a go.
From there… I’ve faced my mental health head on. I became the student president at college and now I can talk in front of 500 people, no problem - whereas once upon a time, I couldn’t even speak to my sister without getting really nervous. I’m a dance teacher and I’m just loving life really.
I know it’s not over, because life’s going to be full of bumps and ups and downs - but being only 19 and knowing that it’s ok to ask for help, not being afraid to face problems head on, I think that’s pretty strong (and pretty admirable). So, yeah… I am strong.
There was a point in my life, when I first got into film making, when I put my first feature film together at sixteen. I started writing a script, getting friends and family involved, and we put this film together that took about a year of everyone’s time. We didn’t know where we were going to put the film, or what we were going to do with it. We ended up screening the film locally in Crawley and 750 people came to watch it - which gave me the instant bug and realisation that I wanted to be a film maker.
I didn’t know what my path was, after that night, but I knew that’s all I wanted to do. Then this opportunity came up to go to New York Film Academy. You had to submit a piece of work that you’d worked on - and they were giving away scholarships for some people that they thought could be really good students. I submitted this film we had just made and it got me the opportunity to go out on a scholarship for 2 years to learn film. You see New York in films and it gives you that kind of nostalgia that, that’s where movie making happens. So I had this whole year planning and getting ready for New York - and I was so excited. I knew that it would probably be… the opportunity of a lifetime.
I was from very humble beginnings, not from a family of wealth or money. My mum’s a single mother of 6 children, raised in a very poor estate in Crawley. We always had nothing, so when this opportunity came up, I did feel like this was an opportunity that could change everyone’s life, in my family. If I could become successful and become a working filmmaker out there, then we could earn lots of money and it would be fine. But when I got out there it didn’t work out like that. Even though I had a scholarship, I still had to find living costs. It became difficult, financially, to cope because I didn’t have any income coming from my family. Any income they could send over was very small and limited - and would take money from their own pocket back home.
I’d get phone calls where my family would be saying: we’re struggling. As quite an empathic person I felt it wasn’t fair that I had an opportunity and they were going to go without. So I made this conscious decision that I was going to come home. That I was not going to put this burden on my family. That I would sacrifice the opportunity and come back. At least that way, they’re not going to struggle.
At that point, when I got home, I thought that was probably the end of my career in film. It would always be a point I’d look back on in my life and think: what if? I remember that took about 6 months or a year to recover from, mentally, because it hit me in a really dark place. I felt like there was no other opportunity from there, onwards. After a while, going through that bout of depression, I realised that actually… Me working hard and putting a tenacious effort in to get that first film finished, to get me that opportunity in the first place, should be the thing I was focusing on. Remaking that opportunity for myself. Being driven. Pursuing that career path back in the UK. And that’s what I did.
I look back at that time, now, with 12 years of making films. I can look back at that now and realise that sometimes our greatest opportunities are created by ourselves and our own hard work. They can come just by being focused and dedicated. There’s many paths to get to your final destination.
If I wasn’t strong enough to get over that, to realise that it’s me that can change my life, and not an opportunity - that I can create my own opportunities - then I don’t think I be where I am right now as a creative. That time in my life has made me realise that I am a strong person. I do have the tenacity and the resilience to keep going. It’s exciting to know that you can, through hardship, become a stronger person.
I’m going through a lot at the moment, as everyone has this last year. I’m sure that a lot of people have found solace in family and friendship, but I found it in the wrong place - and got really really bad with drinking. So… at the moment I am recovering. I’ve been good for a month - and it’s one of the hardest things to do. I’d rather go through the pandemic again than live through this month desperately wanting to drink. But I was doing it in a bad place. I’m really glad at the moment that I’m doing it well. I’m going to the gym, feeling better - and actually not neglecting the relationships that give me the buzz that drink had.
I’m taking it as I can and enjoying my new life that’s ahead of me. One step at a time. I would say that I’m a very strong woman: I can do anything, I can take on the world.
So I’m currently 16 and my story is really about mental health. When it came to my mental heath struggles, I was only 12 or 13. I lived in the UK until I was about 9, when I moved to a completely different country, Sri Lanka. It’s such a beautiful country and I really enjoyed it there. Then I came back 2 years later. So when I came back, going into year 7, I missed a whole term. I think that put me a bit behind other people. Then year 8 started and I started to feel a bit anxious, a bit… not in a good head space.
I was a 100% attendance student up until that point. I loved school. But then something, almost like, switched in me. September rolled around and I was just not feeling it. Every day felt really grey. My first day… I didn’t make it through my first day. I went into my first lesson, I vividly remember - French. I haven’t done French since year 3 at this point, so I was super nervous. I could just feel all of the colours were so bright, everyone was so loud. It was not a good experience. I was having a panic attack. Tears brimming down my face, it was not a good time. The girl next to me was so sweet. You could still see tears in my eyes and she was so sweet, she was like: Are you ok? Why are you crying? And I was just like: I don’t know…
Up until this point I was always the most confident, the most bubbly, the loudest person in the room - then all of a sudden, this one year, that part of me almost… diminished. So I went to break and I was like: I’m not staying here. I called my dad and was like: I’m not staying here, you need to pick me up. I went home that day because I just didn’t have the strength in me, I didn’t really have that courage. I guess this is the start of how my year went. The days I went in I didn’t really talk to many people, I just kept to myself. I did my lessons. A lot of the time I wouldn’t eat my lunch. I would just go straight to the library, because that was my safe haven at school. This went on 6 or 7 months. I was literally living to every weekend. I was just kind of alive, I wasn’t living. And there was never a reason…
I remember I had counselling. I was really lucky to get counselling from my school. I had someone to, I guess, talk it out with. My counsellor was like: live in the moment. That was the thing she would always say. Go with the flow. Don’t worry about the next lesson or the next hour - cos that’s what I was doing. I’ve changed a lot since then.
My dad got an email: if you don’t send your child to school, in 1 or 2 more days you’re going to get fined. My dad was like, I don’t care about that, I just care about your mental health, but for me it was like: I can’t do that to my parents. In a way, it was the start of me getting better. It was the last term of year 8 that I started to come in more.
One thing I tried to do was find the positive in everything I was doing. For example, I hated maths with a passion, but the positive would be I liked the seating plan, I was lucky enough to sit next to a friend. Or my excitement would be, I get to go to the library today and I get to pick out a new book. That’s when I started to do more things… I would enrol in like, a fun run, and that positive was that I get to skip maths that day. Just doing little things to make it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still have those off days - but if someone saw me, the way I am today, compared to the way I was then, they would 100% tell you I’ve changed. I’m once again that really confident person - I feel like I’ve found that person again. I think, I’m strong. If someone at the age of 12 to 13 could go through that (and Im 16 now) then I’m sure that… The rest of my life will have challenges, will have ups and downs… But I think I have that foundation of strength, to take me through it.
Hi guys. So a little story from myself of not just being physically strong, but mentally strong. In my past there’s been challenges and there’s been times where I’ve doubted myself and I’ve not felt like I’m good enough. Even just, being a regular gym goer now, there’s been times when I’ve just been like: why am I doing this? Comparing myself too much to other people - and seeing the damage it has: I’m not as good as this person… I’m not as good as that person. Struggles with even going back into the gym. Having that thing of: Am I good enough?
Step back from that and you’re in your own journey - it’s not just about being physically strong, but being mentally strong. Having that motivation every day to pick yourself up and say: I am good enough. To just keep persevering. Just being motivated to be a better person each day - but stay consistent. With that consistency every single day, you’re going to see a result. I can see the struggles that I’ve had - but its again then: persevering, persevering, persevering.
It’s not going to be here tomorrow. There’s no quick fix. It’s not like tomorrow I’m going to be twice the size. It’s going to take that constant every day… just doing something different and you’re going to see results, that’s the important part.
For me personally, when I’ve seen myself struggle with times where I haven’t seen results - I’ve stepped back and I’ve gone: I need to change something - but I’ve stayed motivated, I’ve kept pushing myself. I’ve made massive changes - not just in the gym physically, but mentally as well. I can step back and go: wow - I’m actually a totally different person. Being in control of my emotions, my thoughts, my thought processes - just not only being physically strong in the gym - that’s one thing, but being strong enough to wake up and keep pushing myself, even when times are hard. That’s what’s strong.
We’ve all been through a tough 18 months, 2 years recently. A lot of people have been really pushed back in their goals. That might be a goals in business, in weight loss, or their size or financial - they’ve not been able to push themselves. Give yourself time to just ease back into it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and then just strive for another goal - just set it again. Then keep pushing. Encourage yourself, just little by little each day, just to do something - not just good for yourself, but maybe look at somebody else who might be struggling. How can I help that person? I can see that they’re struggling. That’s where I was maybe 6 months ago or a year ago - how can I help them to become a better person?
In 2020 my brother passed away, and he was only 55 years old. He was older than me, I’m the youngest of 7 siblings. It was a very difficult time, because it was Covid as well. He went in the hospital on Tuesday and he passed away by Friday. I knew he was going to pass away by Wednesday morning, so I organised the funeral. It was very tough, because at Asian funerals usually we have lots of people and the community gets together, but we couldn’t this time because of the Covid restrictions. So it was very hard.
I don’t know what happened on the Wednesday morning, I just knew in my heart that I had to be the strongest one, for my family. I didn’t sleep all night, but I got up and I thought: Ok, I’ve got to sort the funeral out… I’ve got to sort my sister in law out, and his kids… how do I do this? I just went into this mode, where this inner strength just naturally came. I used to be very scared of things. Growing up I wasn’t very strong as a person and I always felt that my voice wasn’t heard - but I knew my brother was passing away and I had to step up for him, like he had always stepped up for me. I was organising the funeral, going to the hospital, dealing with relatives, dealing with all the emotions of my other brothers and sisters… and his kids. So it was very very tough time - but this strength came to me somehow. In the back of my head I was saying: I’ve gotta do this for the family, I’ve gotta do this for the wider community. I didn’t want to let him down, and let other people down.
I just found an inner strength. Ever since then, I’ve changed. I’ve changed as a person. I don’t take rubbish any more from people, and I’m very in tune with myself… and who I am… and where I want to go… and who I want to be… which I wasn’t before my brother’s passing away. So its a sad episode, but I think there’s a lot of positivity coming from things that I’m learning about myself, and other people as well.
From such a hard and difficult time in my life, I’ve become stronger, more confident, more aware of myself, more astute in what I want to say - and I’m not scared any more. It’s weird, in all my life I’ve not had a voice actually, but after my brother’s passing, I think: there’s nothing for me to lose in this world, so just go for things.
It’s very important for me that as a woman, as an Asian woman, as a Kashmiri woman, that I want to be there for people. I want to have the strength. I want them to come to me if they’re having difficulties in their lives. I feel very very positive and very strong about myself - and about what the world can give me, and what I can give to the world.
When I was 3 years old, I had my first seizure. To find out that I had epilepsy and cerebral palsy - at the age of 3 - it wasn’t only effecting me, but it also effected my family. I struggled. I struggled all through school in secondary - then coming to college I had the chance of becoming secretary (of the student union).
A member of staff believed in me and said I could do it. So I ran for it - and became it - then I realised that I could help other people who also struggled from disabilities. Then I realised how much of an impact it made on, not only me, but also my friends who also struggle from disabilities. I decided that I should run for vice-president, to help more people.
So at the moment, I’m secretary of the student union, come September, I’ll be the vice of the student union. I’m strong because these challenges are still faced on a day to day basis - and I feel excited to help more people.
The strongest I’ve ever felt was when my first son was born. My partner and I have been together about 8 Years, she had two sons when we got together, we have a great relationship. Then we got the happy news that she was pregnant - it was my first child, I was over the moon of course.
We got to 29 weeks and there were complications, they were a bit worried about his movements. We were rushed to East Surrey Hospital and had an emergency appointment with a consultant who said, basically: we need to get your son out now. He’s in distress, he’s got the chord wrapped, there’s real problems here, we need to perform an emergency c-section. So at 30 weeks gone, all of a sudden, we were having a baby. It was a scary time.
He was born, with no complications thankfully. He was in neonatal for 8 weeks, came home for a week, then unfortunately he got poorly. He got rhinovirus, which is basically a cold, but when a baby is premature their lungs are the last thing to develop and it hit him really hard. So within 4 hours of calling an ambulance, Isaac was ventilated in St Georges, in London - which is ICU. My baby was 2 pound 5 when he was born. He was maybe 9 weeks old at this time, so he was about 4 pound 7. He was just tiny. He had tubes everywhere.
When you’ve gone through something so traumatic as an emergency C-section at 30 weeks - your baby has come out fine, perfect healthy - you think thank god, I’m so lucky. Then you get that setback. So one of us had to be at the hospital at all times, with Isaac. We both stayed at the hospital, because neither of us wanted to leave the other alone. But we had 2 other children at home. We needed to keep the connection with those kids, so every day I would come home from London, see the kids for a couple of hours then go back. He was in there for 10 days, ventilated.
It seems silly now, but… we would have the pettiest little arguments when we were in the hospital, you know. When something’s not going our way, like: one day they said we were going back to East Surrey, things were going well, but then East Surrey had no beds; and Isaac was making improvements, but then he got an infection while he was in there - and so there was another setback, these things they pile upon you. You know when you’ve got Jenga Blocks - and everything that goes wrong, you remove one of the blocks - eventually things are going to topple down, and that’s exactly what happened. We were angry and upset, not at each other, but at the situation. But that showed me how strong a woman she is. I like to think that I was strong too, but she kept me strong, she kept me balanced. With that power that she has, I felt empowered.
We eventually got to the end of that battle. He came home and we haven’t had any other issues. Thankfully now Isaac is completely healthy. For me, that’s the strongest I have ever felt. You could easily just give up - I don’t know where it comes from, but somehow you get that strength to do things that you never thought you could achieve. You never thought you could go through that.
Since then, that has changed my life. I look at things a lot differently, I changed everything about me: my goals, my ambitions, my work ethic. After that I reassessed and I wanted to help people. I wanted to do things in the community. I like to think that I’ve achieved something, since Isaac was poorly, and I like to think that one day he’ll be proud of me… That’s my story.
January Lockdown. The sky was grey. My clothes were grey. I looked at the tablecloth… and grey. Things were really dull. We were all working from home: the children were at home, my students were at home. Then I got the call to say I had to deliver my welfare sessions online.
I immediately went to… No! How? How will I do this? How can I make a difference to them from online? I met with my team online (and vented to them). I am the Positive Polly in the group - they were feeling even worse. I was thinking: If I’m feeling this bad, they must be feeling REALLY bad.
So, first things first, change my top (to a bright colour) and change the table cloth. We regrouped, with my managers, and came up with a plan. I only had my iPad, no laptop at home. I had wifi. I started spiralling… What if the wifi drops out? It’s never dropped out, but what if it does?
My managers were brilliant and organised a laptop, that came the next day. We had materials, but still I was thinking… I don’t know how I do this. How do I reach out to my students and give them the support that they need?
At the back of my mind I always knew that I have to do my job - and my students need my support. So I picked myself up. I threw that grey tablecloth away. I tried to motivate my team, to keep us all going. I even created a dance and sent it to them on Whatsapp, just to make them laugh.
The end result was: the students still received that support. Although it wasn’t face to face, they looked forward to the sessions every week. We had a laugh. We made a difference together. I’m really proud of what I achieved and what we achieved as a college. I know we make a difference.
My story of building resilience and growth has been taking a leap of faith. I haven’t necessarily had a plan on the other side of that step, I’ve just trusted that what I am going to step on will be a stone to success or to fulfilment.
I’ve experimented through the past decade with a number of different careers. I’ve worked as a journalist, in an investment bank, as a stock broker on a crazy trading floor. All of those have been incredible experiences, but it’s not been what I’ve always set out to do… or what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been performing on stages since I was 4 years old. I come from a family of artists who’ve always expressed themselves, so I’ve wanted to do that from the offset. But life circumstances have always pushed me in another direction, or told me that I have to conform to an outside expectation - not what I expect or want for myself.
I ended up having a form of burnout. Living in Hong Kong as an ex-pat, working a really high pressure career as a stock broker, then going out a lot and living that ex-pat lifestyle, without any rest. It really burned me out. That was the moment where I realised that, around me there was a lot of opulence and material enjoyment - but there wasn’t any fulfilment at all. Without any concrete plan, I knew: this isn’t where I want to be, I need to make a change.
To come back to the place of truth, I had to begin this excavation of stripping everything away, before I could continue to grow. I took it to quite an extreme and went to a private 10 day silent meditation - where I didn’t have any contact with the outside world and I was waking up at 4am to meditate until 9 in the evening. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable experience, but it was the greatest gift I could have given myself. I came out the other side of those 10 days with some mental clarity.
Then I ended up having a car accident and a near death experience, that kept me in India for another 2 months recovering. I was on my own, I shaved my hair off, I lost a lot of weight and I came back to the bare essence of who I was - physically and spiritually, you could say. Then I came back to the UK and thought - I’m ready to be an actor now. I didn’t look great for auditions, with my hair shaved off and super skinny, and I didn’t have really any contacts in the industry… But I trusted that I’d done the work on myself, I’d made my decision, I just had to land on whatever was in front of me now. I began working as an extra on sets, doing student films, all sorts of things. Having a dedication to this craft. Treating it as a living breathing thing that I have to nurture.
Sometimes we think that the leap of faith is the hardest thing, but once you’re on the other side you have to be willing to roll your sleeves up, and get stuck in. The energy that you put into something gets reciprocated. I knew (and I know) that if you keep putting yourself out there, applying for something, trying your luck, trying a new skill, or anything - there is always growth on the other side of that. It’s the fear within ourselves that we have to overcome.
I may have come to my art and where I am right now in a roundabout way - but I have some incredible stories to tell as a result of having a lot of failures and tribulations and going down a couple of dead ends. Building resilience is not easy and sometimes you might reach a fork in the road and you don’t know which direction to take - and one might lead you down a dead end which you might have to burrow through, to get back onto the other path… So I know that, no matter what comes my way, along with that resilience, there has to be a trust that there will be something better on the other side - and know that if you don’t try, then you won’t know.
I recently got a job as an associate case manager with a company - so it was a massive opportunity for me to climb the ladder and improve my abilities. But unfortunately, after two months of working for them, the manager turned around and basically said I wasn’t the right personality fit for their team. She complimented me on my quality of work … I think she’s a very very strong character, my manager - perhaps at times I can be too, and I don’t think she appreciated that.
Obviously it was a massive blow, because for me it was an opportunity to better myself and go places, I suppose.
At the start, when she first told me, she actually turned it around onto me. She said I’d have to have a think about what I wanted to do, over the next twenty-four hours. So the decision was brought up by her and then left in my hands. Obviously I was a bit in turmoil about that. After I thought about it, it thought: no, I haven’t done anything wrong here. I’ve worked really really hard for you. There were some nights where I didn’t get off my laptop until eleven o’clock in the evening. I was working so hard. So I accepted that: that was that.
To begin with it was soul destroying. I was in tears when she told me and felt very very down. Even now I get days where I’m feeling down about it. Luckily I have hours with my previous job that I’m doing here and there. To begin with I really panicked and I had no self worth really. I beat myself up about it, because it makes you feel not-good-enough.
But… over the past few weeks, I’ve taken this time to just do things that I enjoy. I’ve seen it more as a bit of an opportunity. As much as it’s hard (and I know that financial circumstances can kind of dictate that) but I thought: you don’t often get the opportunity to have a few weeks to yourself. Time to think, right, I’m going to do things that I enjoy, do things that are going to benefit me - and that’s what I’ve been trying to do really. As much as there have been hard days - there have also been days that I’ve tried to get out in nature a bit more, do a bit of exercise, I’m looking into doing a dressmaking course as well, at the moment.
I’m just trying to stay positive about it really. This is the thing - it can be hard. Like I said, there are days where you wake up and it’s… it’s a horrible feeling. It’s that lack of self worth, that you get from something like that - and I’ve never been in this situation before. But actually, I’ve pushed myself to do things and not just wallow in my self pity. To just trust that things will work out, that something will come along that will be better suited to me… and that things happen for a reason… I think. Yeah. I am strong - and I am worthy.
I became very strong when my 32 year old sister died in a car accident. This was in the US. I was in the UK.
This big bombshell came and my brother-in-law called me and said ‘She’s been involved in a really serious accident - please, please will you come over to help support us’. So I dropped everything, my young family, I said: you look after everything in whatever way you can - I have to go and support my brother-in-law and his 2 young kids.
Suddenly I was thrown into a very responsible and very tough situation, that my family needed a leader. What do I need to do? How do I manage that? When I landed I found out that the worst was to come, imminently. I had to manage my brother-in-law, he was absolutely devastated, and I had to manage the 2 kids. My family in the UK, having got the news that this bad thing had happened: how do I manage them, remotely?
So the first thing I decided was that if I am not strong, they all fall apart - so the number 1 thing I need to do is make sure I am very strong. So I devised a very simple method whereby I pretend I am in a room - that’s me in the middle. I was determined that this person in the middle would be the strongest that anybody could ever find. He will have answers to everything. He will support and help everybody. He will not break under any circumstances. More easily said than done.
When I am with my brother in law, I will go there and cry, help, support as much as I can. I would be broken down with him - but - my method was: yes, you can do that, but when you are back in the middle, you bring back your strength. So when I deal with the 2 kids, I cry with them, then I say: ok, I go back to my middle. I say: I will be strong again. I am going to recover from what has happened with the brother-in-law, the 2 kids, and so on. Then my family here in the UK, same thing. When I talk to them, I cry with them - but I am not going to give up because they are all relying on me. Last but not least was the wider community, friends circles, media, everybody else that I had to deal with.
I have to give them all expertise (as much as I can), strength (as much as I can), reassurance (as much as I can) - and where would I get it from? God, or Bhagwan as we call him in my culture is looking after me.
Yoga, deep breathing, meditation and prayers helped me - for that person in the middle to be strong, to help all the others. So suddenly, from being a 38 year old man who had never taken leadership in life, who was never strong, because everybody else brought me strength - I became the strongest person in the universe.
I’m a mother of 2 boys. It’s a family of 4, my husband, myself and 2 boys. I’m a yoga instructor , a yoga teacher trainer, and an Ayurvedic lifestyle practitioner.
So… my journey started with illness. I’ve always been into fitness. I was going to the gym 5 days a week and still feeling tired and putting on quite a bit of weight around my belly. I thought maybe after having kids, this is just what happens - but I was going to the gym everyday and I thought, this doesn’t make sense, so I went for my blood tests and I was diagnosed underachieve thyroid. Coming from Indian background and seeing my grandad do yoga - but I had never appreciated it, until something happened to me. I thought: I’m going to give this a try. So I turned towards yoga. Within 3 months, my thyroid came back to normal with a daily practice of yoga. You hear about it and you don’t really believe it until you experience it yourself, and that happened to me.
A few years passed by, like 7 years, until I met with a severe accident in my own home. I slipped in the bath, hit the bathtub on my chest and I fell unconscious on the floor. Luckily my kids were home and called the paramedics. I had basically bruised my ribs really badly. The doctor said: you’re just going to be bedridden for 6 months. I was a working mother, so I was like: what am I going to do? Just normal breathing was painful. Just to take a breath. So at this time, what came to my help was this yoga practice. I couldn’t do yoga, but I could do mediation. Laying in the bed, just meditate. You won’t believe this, but I was back to work within 6 weeks. During that time the thought came to my head: why don’t I become a yoga instructor, because this thing is amazing. It’s the second time it’s helped me, and massively.
As soon as I got better I enrolled myself in a yoga teacher training in India - to fulfil my passion, really. I just made that connection, by flying away from everything, I made that connection with myself. I wouldn’t have become a yoga teacher if I didn’t fall. Painful, really really painful, but that’s when the thought came in my head, to become a yoga teacher.
At the same time, my full time job has been in aviation. Last year, during the pandemic, I lost my job. I lost a job I really loved and I said: what am I going to do next? I realised that wellbeing was at my heart, it is a passion. This opportunity came up to be a councillor. I applied and won the election in May. Now I’ve become a councillor for the local council.
In those challenging moments there are always opportunities that come your way. Rather than beating yourself about what happens to you - obviously it’s not a nice feeling when you lose something you love. It could be a job, it could be anything - but in that time, I find, there’s always something that opens for you. That’s my journey.
I think, if it was a year ago, I would never describe myself as strong. Back then, words I would associate with me would be weak, someone who is stupid, someone who couldn’t make it anywhere in life. That was a kind of toxic holy trinity that I got myself into. Thinking back to a year ago, basically when the first lockdown happened, I was dealing with A levels being cancelled and that brought a lot of stress.
Even receiving my grades, which were predicted by my teachers, I thought: well obviously they gave it to you because you were nice. They obviously gave it to you because they pitied you or something… because you went through a lot during 6th form… because you lost 2 people who were really important to you.
Throughout this entire year, it’s basically been me getting back on my feet. Starting right from the bottom. I had a course. I had a place. I thought: Happy Days, everyone is going to university… but why am I not? I wasn’t ready at that time. I personally thought: I’m too stupid to go to university. I got these results as a fluke. I didn’t have the confidence or drive, I thought.
I thought: how am I going to build myself up? I deferred my place. I went searching for what I could do in this ‘gap year’ of mine. I came across Crawley College and this IT course, that lasted for a year - which was perfect for me and linked to my degree.
Throughout college I’ve been trying to push myself to get out of my comfort zone. My entire class is made up of boys. They are all massively taller than me. I hate taking to people, so trying to push myself in that regard - talking to new people - is something that I’ve had to do. There’s obviously strength from that. There’s also the strength to support my family. With lockdowns, I’ve been helping my little brother with his home schooling. My mum and dad - god they’re so grateful for that. My parents sometimes say: we don’t know what we’d do without you.
Another thing was getting the confidence to apply for jobs, because as I said before, I thought I got my A Levels as a fluke. As in: oh the teachers are nice, I was respectful to them, so they just gave me these grades. Taking that first step and applying for jobs, I’m thinking: ok, I’m just going to give it my best shot. If they want me, great for them, I’m a great asset, I’ve got these skills… If they don’t, fair enough, their loss. Even though there have been failures, I don’t see them as that. I just see it as a further attempt in learning. One specific degree apprenticeship that I applied for, when I got the feedback it was absolutely horrendous for the interview - but then I just decided - you know what, I’m not going to take this personally. I’m just going to take a step back and be like: ok, this is something I can improve on. Maybe I didn’t want to face it at that time - but finding the courage to face your problems and be like: ok, I’m not perfect, I can work on myself.
From the beginning I’ve been someone who doubted myself and never had the confidence to pursue anything - but looking at me now, I do think I’m more confident. I believe in myself more and I do think I can make a contribution to society, or life, or at least make someone happy. Yeah, strong is a word I’d use to describe myself.
I own three businesses, two of them are launched and one is still in progress. Two of them are called Bozo Burgers and Dreamless Clothing, one is called Project Praise, it’s another clothing shop.
When I do work, or when I’m struggling with stress, or trying to find strength - I’m really religious, so I find strength in my religion. When I find strength, I find it in Jesus. I pray. I meditate. Then I go back to the work and it helps me.
In the bible it says, if you give you shall receive - so if I give god his praise and his worship, he will give me what I ask for. So that’s what I revolve my things around. It’s how I get all my strength - my everything - every single day. Again, in the bible, it says that faith without works is dead. So if you pray, you still have to work for it. You have to work for everything you pray for. If I pray for strength, he will give me something to be strong in. That’s how I deal with all my things.
So I am strong. I’m willing to be strong for other people… and for me.
Covid was rubbish. The first 2 lockdowns were alright, then lockdown 3 happened.
I missed loads of deadlines during college. Before the 3rd lockdown I was really good at getting all my deadlines in. In not achieving these deadlines, I felt really down. I felt that I couldn’t achieve anything or do anything. I struggled to reach out for help.
I attended a few revision sessions via Teams to try to catch up. These really helped me. Once I reached out for help, they really helped me a lot. They helped me to feel really motivated and dedicated to get these deadlines done.
I managed to achieve what I wanted to achieve. I got through it, met the deadlines and succeeded in college. Achieving these deadlines made me feel a lot more happy about myself - and I felt like I can do everything.
I am strong - and you can do it if you put your mind to it.
Late 2014, I thought my dad was showing signs of dementia. He kept having falls. We got him to the doctor and he was diagnosed with vascular dementia. He was living in Bognor with a partner for 18 years, but she put him straight into a home. Now I’ve worked in Dementia myself, for 10 years, and I knew he didn’t warrant to be in a home at that stage. So I got him out of a home and Crawley Council housed us together. I was in lodgings because I’d just gone through a messy divorce myself and was basically homeless. So getting my dad out of the home, we both got housed.
I looked after him myself for 5 years. Kept him infection free. His dementia was getting worse, in the late stages, because he’d had it about 7 years by then. I was organising respite for him - and then Covid broke out whilst he was in a respite period, in March. He went into this home on March 16th, for a week. Then Covid broke out. Me and the social worker thought it was in his safest interests to stay where he was. Then, about 15 days later, they rang up to say they’d put him on end-of-life and that he’d got Covid - and I was like, what?
So he lasted 25 days in respite and died on the 12th of April. So much was going on at that time and I couldn’t go to the funeral, he just had to have a straight cremation. Luckily, I have a faith. My faith kicked in and God kept me calm, showed me that it was for the best.
On the Sunday I was having a little pray. Contemplating and thinking about my dad and praying. I had this wonderful vision of my dad - this was about 4 in the afternoon. He was a young man, with a full head of hair. (He was very proud of his hair. He would hate having it trimmed, even though it was grey and slightly thinning.) But there he was, young man, full head of hair, running with a big beaming smile on his face. Running with his arms open wide to this group of illuminated people. The vision was so profound. He’s got a mother and father and 10 brothers and sisters up in heaven. Just running towards this cloud. It was so overwhelming and comforting. 10 minutes later I got a phone call - and I said, he’s passed hasn’t he? And they said yeah, 10 minutes ago - and I said yeah. I know.
So that just gave me the strength, because I knew he was home, in a young body, so happy… the vision was just mind blowing. It gave me strength. That vision I had gave me so much comfort and hope. That’s what gave me the peace to cope with his death, that was so sudden.
I’ve started going to the gym and working out - and feeling strong. I love working out, so I don’t want to give up.
I’ve learned to love myself, to ignore what people say, because this is who I am.
I can see positives behind the work that I’ve been doing. I say to myself: There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I can do this. It encourages me to keep going.
I have been working out and I just want to get to my goal.
I feel, now, I have learned to love myself more - no matter what.
My story is about getting a job in the museum sector. There’s not that many jobs. There’s a lot more graduates than there are jobs. So I finished university in Portsmouth in 2011 and moved back in with my parents. There were 5 or 6 years where I was working retail in Primark on the weekends, then going all over Sussex and London doing volunteering work in the week.
I remember one night where my mum was going: Are you ever going to have a career? Over dinner. That day I had signed up to be a blog poster at a conference, and I was like: Yes, I’m doing this, and I’m doing these other things… and they’re all going to slot in sooner or later and it will all make sense. They don’t slot together as quickly as you think they are going to slot - or you want them to slot together.
I remember one of my best friends was like: You’re not going to get this job you want - you need to find something else! I was like: No - I am! That was almost more provoking, than it was getting me to step back. I went home and was like: I’m going to do an application right now. I’ll show her!
There was hard slogging: Volunteering, front desk, train journeys… then eventually I got a job doing front of house, in Brighton, near where I lived. That was great - for about 3 weeks. Then I was like, actually… there’s not a lot to do. I studied for this and I’m not using my study to my potential.
It was another 2 years, 2017, I got my first job as a collections assistant in a museum. Then there was this new struggle, of: learning this new job, training somewhere else, and it was only part time. It was only 3 days a week, so it wasn’t enough to sustain myself, so then I was commuting up to Surrey - and that was a long commute! Then I got a second job, also in Surrey. Turning one brain off and the one brain on in the 10 minute walk between offices.
What I’m trying to get at is: there was the challenge of completing uni - then that turned into getting a job - and that turned into doing the job. I always think it will be fine when ‘this’ happens - then that happens and like 5 new challenges open up… Now I’m in 1 job, full time - but it’s a low wage so that’s a new challenge. There’s always a new challenge that you don’t expect to be having.
The strength is continuing. When you’re in the pub and your best friend is going: Are you sure you want to do this? You’ve been going at it for a few years and you’re not getting anywhere… The strength is going: No, this is what I’m doing. When you’re on the 7am train, falling asleep, with tea in your lap… that’s the strength to go: We’ve gone too far down this road to go back. The strength is keeping going.