“I had to laugh at myself ironically when Ilan asked if anything bad had ever happened to me, if I’d like to share my story on his beautiful Windows to the Soul portrait series.
Sharing my story is a huge privilege, so of course my answer was “yes, thank you so much.”
The question of bad things happening is a matter of perspective.
There are dozens of points of trauma throughout my life, hence my reaction to laugh, with so many aspects I could choose to focus on.
I could look at my childhood – my mother’s suicide and surrounding events, our exodus from Zimbabwe’s dictatorship, then culture shock and struggles of integration into a Western society.
I could talk about being raped, losing myself to drugs and alcohol, or PTSD from front-line activism. Just the conditioning of this world and feeling so alien led me to depression, bulimia and suicidal thoughts.
But the most challenging is that my life has been riddled with narcissists doing their best to get their claws into me.
For two years, one young lady did all she could to twist and steal absolutely everything from me.
She tried to keep me separated from unconditional love with my partner, to take for herself the ways I look, my ideas, my activism, the words I use, even my mannerisms. She tried to completely suppress my life’s purpose, Paradise Rizing Studios, and our incredible movement of artists.
It felt like she was trying to kill me but if I had died, she would have lost one of her favourite toys to play with.
The funny thing is, her attempts have led to massive soul evolution for myself, time and space for love with my love to heal, deepen, strengthen and mature, and a phenomenal global artist movement growing up to bring us together.
So how could I hate her? How could I hold anger towards her when my future has been created out of this darkness?
My heart has been blasted so wide open I am deeply grateful to her for her incessant attempts to break my soul.
It has actually manifested my ultimate dream reality and surrounded us in the most profound unconditional love imaginable.
I truly wish her nothing but peace.”
Two months ago, on April 8th 2022, the biggest tragedy happened. I suddenly and very tragically lost the life of one of my younger children…I lost my son. My world suddenly crashed down around me much larger than ever before…I buried myself under layers and layers and more layers of the debris from this sudden crash and all the debris still floating around from all the smaller trauma from previous tragedy. I was broken into so many dusty pieces deep inside it was suddenly dark and cold and all I could see around me was all the heavy debris I felt was forever going to pin me in this deep dark place never to see light again. I wasn’t happy and was I ever happy? I wasn’t loved easily and was I ever loved at all? All the success I thought I had had suddenly was doomed with unsuccessfulness. How could I go on without something I loved so much how could I climb out from this deep dark space without someone I held so close to my heart how could I see or have any sight of the light I once had without my child whom I had suddenly so tragically lost in an instant. There was no right answers there was no more right somebodies there was no right feelings there was no more reason to yearn for better for myself. How could I give to anyone more how could I deserve anything more for myself and why would I to only suffer more and risk breaking more and with those around me. In total whirlwinds of confusion and pain I started to torture myself with these thoughts and feelings of being defeated being stuck being broken but encapsulated in this deep dark space. Overwhelmed I turned deeper inwards I covered myself over and over and over again with more debris blocking all the possible light and warmth and disturbance I might feel. So stuck in emotions I couldn’t even bring myself to train … Then stuck then immersed in darkness then cold My emotions bottled in this deep dark space with heavy debris around me started crying each little tear dropped became a whirl pool around me… I felt the suffocating from the debris subsided until I was drowning in it.
I was calling for help. I opened my eyes and my heart and took a big deep breath in and I found myself seeing the brightest shining warm colourful lights around me. In total disbelief of the elated feelings and the beautifulness of the bright shining light around me I took another deep breath again…. The sweet angels were all gathered around me and encouraged me with all my strength I had to breathe yet again. With my last breath I came to realise the warm sweet angel voices were of all of these who now stood confidently smiling with joy together surrounding me… their faces were so sweet and hearts so loving and gave me all the empowerment I needed to take that breath with much ease. It soon became clear my angels were all my darling children the ones I had been gifted through out all the adversity I had experienced in my past. Elated with joy and realisation all my children were everything I was yearning for. I only ever wanted to be happy, easily loved and successful at being. I wanted to be understood I wanted to be heard and I didn’t want to be different but I wanted to change for the better. The loudest clearest sweet angel voice could no longer be heard amongst the celebratory chatter but My heart knows it was that of the child I had just lost he was the one that led me back to the light! I know deep in my heart I will keep hearing you and you will keep hearing me and that’s something special I will always hold dear to me forever more. You have taught me the most valuable of life’s lessons. You always were proud of me and my bodybuilding always proud of mummies muscles and how strong they made me feel and how strong you knew I was and had built myself block by block of me from the inside out. For the rest of my beautiful warm sweet angels I will stay here with you and among you for as long as you need me and I know that with you all we can be strong enough to fight together any struggles adversities…you are and always were all that I need.
Each drop that fell sunk me deeper and deeper and also the drops got louder echoing in the whirlpool around me… feeling numb helpless so very tired and loosing all will to fight it any longer the turmoil and sound of the drops started to fade. There was silence… I was hitting the bottom but there was a sense of peace there… my mind felt buoyant and somewhat calm… I couldn’t breathe but I didn’t feel the need to.. I could rest and be still. As suddenly as this moment arose I soonly heard the voices of sweet angels calling me. The angels voices were so sweet and warm and I was drawn to their beautifulness with much enticement. I didn’t care to be in this deep dark cold place I had burrowed myself into but to follow the warmth of the sweet voices I then heard above me. I didn’t care to be hit with all the huge amounts of heavy debris that had fallen on top of me I knew I was physically strong from my training but if only I could follow the warm sweet voices calling me to be with them. Then fearless of any more hurt and pain knowing full well I could not ever loose much more I reached out my hand slowly at first and then with force in some desperation to catch those with the warm sweet voices calling me…. As my hand reached up as high as it could I called back I called saying I am here I called stating I was deep down I was feeling stuck but I could hear them and I needed some help to catch up to them. As soon as I spoke out loud I felt the warmest realest most satisfying sensation i have ever experienced. I felt my hand being reached for and touched too I could still hear the warmth and sweetness of the angel voices fulfil me. I felt from my fingertips right down to my feet the most beautiful of sensations. I called out again to reassure the angel voices I was hearing them… I was following them…
Throughout this journey mentally and physically bodybuilding has been my key. No matter what else is going I. In my life the gym is always there too. The daily routines and disciplines learnt have helped my mental health immensely and I will no doubt continue on this journey to keep building myself from the inside out.
I will happy, I am loved easily and unconditionally and I am successful at being me!
Today I am here a proud mother of eight beautiful children including my darling angel and a grandmother to two beautiful grandchildren.
I am not perfect and that’s ok but I am present and strong and will continue to get stronger Blessed by my forever angels.
I had a beautiful golden childhood full of love, warmth and happiness. My mother got sick when I was eight with an autoimmune disease, she couldn’t walk. She was so unwell and needed around the clock care from my dad. Six months later my dad died. He was out tramping for the day with his friends, a young fit and healthy man. He had a heart attack and dropped dead. My world as I knew it exploded. My mum packed up and moved us to the West Coast of the South Island, to escape all the memories of dad. I was in a completely new town, no friends, no family and stuck with my bed ridden mother. By the age of nine I could cook a three course meal. Mum was too sick to feed me. I was in complete survival mode. Whenever mum would get up I would just want to hide, she was on over 15 different medications a day, she had road rage and would take it out on me. I solely bore the brunt of her pain. This was my reality all the way into my teenage years. When I was 13 our house burnt down and we lost nearly everything.
Again another massive loss and hurdle to conquer. When I was 16 I got extremely sick with meningococcal disease, it took months to be able to walk and move around properly again. It damaged my eyes and I needed glasses. I moved out of home at 16. I went back to Nelson to work for the summer and ended up staying. I would go to school during the week and work all of my weekends to be able to pay rent and afford food for the week. This was my reality for the remainder of high school. I had a lot of questions about religion, so after school I studied and got a diploma in biblical studies. But my true passion was to join the navy. My dad and brother were in the navy and from the age of 12 it was my dream. I joined at the age of 21 and haven’t looked back. I’ve now been in the navy for two years, pursuing the career of my dreams. I’ve met the man of my dreams and am so in love. For the first time in a long time I am happy, loved and appreciated. I don’t regret anything from my past, I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me who I am today, a strong young woman.
I struggled with identity,
I still do, but I’m learning.
I’ve always struggled with mental health issues and after going through multiple violent trauma and being Passed around a very flawed mental health system, a few years ago finally I got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is 110% a completely misunderstood disorder to say the least.
It can affect multiple aspects of your life and is different for everyone who experiences it. For me, my sense of self and emotional control and thought patterns are mostly affected.
Which means I can be very reactive to situations, sometimes more than what’s accepted by others and always more than I wanted to.
My thoughts can get mixed up because there are too many, or I have one thought that does not leave my mind and it can become an obsession.
Knowing who I am as a person and what I want can also be challenging.
I teach children’s yoga and mindfulness as it was something that helped me when nothing else could and to hopefully set up our kids for an open minded self-accepting future with skills, tools and the ability to cope better with the roller coaster of our emotional stressful lives.
I like to model so I know exactly who to be at that moment.
I find it freeing, almost trapping myself in a ‘character’ or a ‘setting’ you could say.
For a short period of time I know what to do, who to be and how to do it.
I said yes to taking part in this display of beautiful women for the chance to feel like I am exactly who I am meant to be for a short period of time.
To empower other women to feel like they can be themselves not just for a short period of time but all of the time,
To feel beautiful and strong, ugly and weak, put together and messy all at the same time because that’s what life is and we should be so fucking proud of it.
You can’t have one without the other.
You may not be able to have everything you have ever wanted.
But you can have your own slice of perfection and that perfection is you.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of physical & emotional abuse.
This comes as a surprise to some people (sometimes I reflect back in total disbelief – it’s easy to think it wouldn’t happen to you) but this time 5 years ago I was trying to leave an abusive relationship. Over the space of 12 months I had made multiple attempts to leave. I couldn’t tell you why I’d go back each time, only that the general belief, held by all parties was that it was all I deserved.
How did I end up there? I was an intelligent, strong willed young woman who had very clear views about domestic abuse & those who inflict it. But, although I didn’t really acknowledge it, I was, at that point in my life very alone. I had few close friends, and this was complimented by a distant relationship with my family & not much in the way of self-worth.
I was so desperate to be loved, to be chosen, that I ignored the early red flags (I called myself difficult & needy instead). He charmed me – nice dinners, a holiday, buying me clothes etc. But when he moved in with me, things started to slip, slowly at first.
I remember the first time we really fought. A neighbour called the cops. He played nice to them & angrily blamed me for it later. If I had only not gotten upset, he wouldn’t have gotten angry at me. I cringe now when I think of how I grovelled & apologised to him.
Every fight we had would cripple me with shame & self-hatred. I was reading every article I could on healthy relating. I went to therapy to try and isolate the problem in myself so I could cut it out & patch myself back together. I thought if I could fix myself, he would stop getting angry with me. If I could just stop being difficult, he’d stop cutting me off, refusing to talk to me for days at a time or kicking me out at all hours of the morning.
But you can’t fix a relationship by yourself, and you can’t heal yourself in order to stop someone else hurting you.
It took him two years to hit me. The first thing he did after he whacked me was tell me it was a mistake & to not tell anyone. And I didn’t, not for months. Not until well after I finally got out.
He only hit me once. I wish I could say that that was because I left, but it was because he seemed to prefer other tactics – dragging me over furniture to kick me out, holding me against the wall by my throat, once he even picked me up and physically threw me onto the concrete outside, amongst other things.
I list all these physical things, but in honesty, those things were secondary to the verbal & emotional abuse & the scars it left.
I still experience emotional flashbacks, triggered by any number of things – some identified, some which take me by surprise – in which it’s as if I shift into a dual existence, with the memories & emotions overlaying reality like a double exposure photograph, and my mind will react to the Now as if it was the Then. It’s exhausting & confusing and sometimes lasts for hours.
I still get panicky if someone misunderstands me and sometimes if people react in a neutral, emotionless manner (especially in a romantic relationship) my reflex response is fear. Its frustrating & difficult, I often feel sorry for those who have had to deal with me in my darkest moments.
I wish I could be more upbeat about it all, and say I’m now a happy, confident woman with a loving husband & a house full of animals but recovering from these kinds of things is a long & difficult road. In saying that I’m slowly healing. I’m in therapy &n the progress I’m making, uneven as it is, is leading me into a world where I can be vulnerable with others, feel safe expressing myself & enjoy authentic connections with a selection of truly wonderful friends.
I also have a career as a personal trainer & pole dance teacher. I love my work and am hugely passionate about creating a safe space for others to get in touch with their bodies, express themselves & explore their physical potential – all things I found immense value in as I was putting myself back together.
I don’t have any advice for those affected by abuse that isn’t talked about more articulately elsewhere. Removing yourself from abusive dynamics is never as simple as it might seem from the outside, and it follows that advice that works for one person won’t work for another. All I can say is – try to hold onto your Self, in whatever capacity you can & when you are ready to make the move, you will know. The road out is tough, but every step is worth it.