James Elphick, Hastings, England

I grew up in a busy, loving family for the first seven years of my life and have warm and happy memories of my parents from that time. My life growing up brought a mixture of emotions that were not always easy to work through and understand. I experienced many strong feelings that ranged from pain to love, rejection to acceptance, and sadness to happiness. From an early age I was an adventurous spirit and enjoyed my independence. I developed strong bonds with friends both at home and at school; and whilst I enjoyed my connections with others, I also liked time on my own. When my parents separated at the age of eight and my step-father came into my life; I took an instant dislike to him, and found it impossible to get along. I found the atmosphere within the home oppressive and I struggled with all of his rules. It was at this time that I started to worry a lot and found it hard to relax.

From the age of twelve I started to drink alcohol and soon began to experiment with drugs. I was rude, disruptive and anti-social in school and was suspended and nearly asked to leave. As I got older the battles with my step-father became more aggressive and violent until our communication broke down completely. Around this time my mental health became affected and I had regular panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I hated the world; felt a pressure to be someone and make something of my life but felt I did not fit in. I felt a distinct lack of support, direction and purpose in life, and I isolated myself from others. I felt helpless, frustrated and anxious; and in my desperation considered taking my own life. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties, when I realised I was going to become a father, that I decided to make some changes. I was prescribed anti-depressants from my GP. I became aligned with Buddhism and was disciplined on this path. I also attended regular therapy, from which I gained great benefits.

Today, I feel grateful that my life is moving in a more fulfilling and positive direction. I am learning to be honest with my emotions and honouring my truth. I have a supportive, understanding and loving partner, and good relationships with my sons. I am making new friendships and supportive links with men; and I have a sense of purpose from my work in mentoring young men connected to the criminal justice system. Through the adversity of my divorce I have rediscovered myself and found a greater freedom and excitement for life. Within my new relationship I am opening up and showing hidden parts of me. My spiritual associations are relinking my trust in developing connections with men on a deeper level. I am making every effort to look after my body as I recognise that my diet, sleep patterns and exercise levels all contribute to my positive mental wellbeing.

My future feels very positive and I am really looking forward to the opportunities that come my way. I can see that although my life has not been perfect, I now have the chance to heal my wounds, improve my life and improve the life of others. I understand that if I am living my truth I will be happier and in a better place to serve others. My hope is that as I create a better life internally, externally the planet will benefit and become a better place.