Amy is another amazing woman participating in my series FEARLESS, portraying women who won’t let anything and anyone define their worth and stop them in their tracks of going after what they want. Most importantly, they won’t settle for less so when they believe in something, they do everything to stand for that belief and principle.
To Amy having her photos taken was quite a big thing and having some more revealing shots was totally out of her comfort zone. In the end she was proud to have bypassed her nerves and doubts.
When I was 14 I was sexually assaulted. A blunt way to begin a story I’m sure, but it was a pivotal moment in shaping me to be who I am today. Initially during pre-planning I consented, before getting scared and trying to back out, and because of this my mind had little trouble in placing the blame firmly upon myself that I ended up in such a position. And filled me with enough anxiety and self loathing that I did not tell a soul for well over a decade that it had even happened.
That was my first experience with sex and could easily have tainted all other experiences in the future. Indeed it was a fair few years before I would venture into such encounters again. But I did, and without anything more than expected jitters. What it did do was combine with many years of emotional abuse I’d suffered at the hands of someone I was close to and loved, and turned into a very detrimental low self confidence, anxiety, long periods of deep depression, and at times very intense self hatred. I gradually isolated myself from all but my immediate family, stopped going out, constantly criticised myself for everything (my looks, inabilities, personality, everything) and spent a couple of years as near enough a hermit at it’s worst. Unable to socialise, leave the house or get a job, it only added to the feelings that kept me in such a position. It was a vicious cycle.
Around the time that that specific period ended, I started to be a carer for my Mum. My Mum has Multiple Sclerosis, and to be honest, due to the knowledge of just how detrimental emotional trauma is to her health, she was the only person holding me back at all from hurting myself when I was at my lowest. In becoming her carer I had little choice but to notice just how strong she was in overcoming and/or coping with her own difficulties and inabilities. I think that when one is forced to acknowledge such things in others, it gives you much more motivation to make changes in yourself.
And though it was a long, slow road, I know that she certainly provided that for me. Her strength in dealing with losing so much over the years – the ability to walk, to drive, to stand, even small things that many would take for granted became difficult, the loss of her brother in a car accident when he was 38, the devastation of which put her into a wheelchair in itself – she endured and continued to live, which in turn made me feel like I should be able to as well. Made me want to.
These events all occurred over a decade ago now, some much longer. Comparing myself today to the scared, anxiety-ridden unconfident young woman I was at the age of 18 when I started my adult life, to the 35 year old I am now, they are worlds apart. True, I still suffer with periods of depression at times, alongside feelings that I’m not good enough. I’ve accepted them as a part of me. And I can deal with that. Because they’re only a part. I’m so much more comfortable and confident with myself. I have my own apartment now, have had several romantic relationships over the last 10 years or so, and where I was once unable to gain the confidence to even attempt to get one, I’ve now experienced many different types of work. I’m about to start training on the job as a dog groomer which is like a dream career for me as I have always loved animals and have always been creative. I am confident in my own sexuality and attractiveness. Of course I have lapses in this, as everyone does. But for the most part I am much happier with myself now than I ever have been. And due to my negative experiences, I am also intuitive, empathetic, caring, and strong minded and willed.
What brings you joy?
I get most joy out of making people happy. Be it through gifts, making them laugh, lending a hand, etc, I always feel most content in myself knowing I have done so.
Because I have spent so much time analysing myself over the years and keeping how I felt and thought of myself a secret, I’m now very open about my experiences and feelings, and I like that. I sometimes seem have no filter with the people I’m most comfortable with, which I do wonder if its awkward for others at times. But I believe that even sharing a negative story about oneself can have a positive impact on another who could be quietly suffering with their own demons and might make them feel a little less alone. I feel no shame in choices I’ve made for the most part, even the ones that have made me feel shit at the time they occurred. They’ve made me who I am and I like her, and I’m unafraid to speak about them now.
What do you want from life, talk to me about your dreams?
In all honesty, I would be happy having the basic things in life – family, love, security, etc. There was a long time when I was younger that I thought I would never have them, and now I know that I can and that is enough for me. It would be nice to succeed in something connected to my creative side, such as painting or writing, that would give me some additional sense of accomplishment. But it would be a bonus for the most part.
What 3 things would you change in the world if you had power to make them happen?
1) The human race’s ability to see what they’re doing to the world around them. So many of our every day behaviours impact the rest of the planet so savagely (counting myself as guilty as well), and we think very little about it. I wish that was different.
2) Societies ability to accept those who are different. Being daughter to a physically disabled mother and a brother with Aspergers Syndrome, I have seen the way both have been treated differently by society. I’ve witnessed my mum being treated like she’s unable to do anything for herself, including think for herself. And I know she hates it. And my brother has endured a lifetime of bullying and shunning by his peers due to his mental disability causing him to behave differently. There is a year between us, so we grew up and went to school together. I have seen first hand both the cruelty of children and the prejudice of adults towards him, and its sickening.
3) The stigma that still exists around mental health. Though it is much better than it once was, mental health is still something that needs to be constantly reinforced in the mind of society as being okay. So many people now have issues with anxiety and depression, and it’s okay to have these feelings and thoughts. When you’re the person experiencing these things, you’re already feeling isolated and alone. It should be something far more readily accepted and understood.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just to reinforce the message to endure. I wouldn’t change anything now. I’ve worked hard to become who I am, I think there is value in that. If I had to say anything, it would be that. To just keep going, eventually it will get better, even when it seems like it never will.
Why were the photographs important to you now?
I still find it easy to pick holes in myself, especially my physical appearance, when I’m not in a good headspace. It would be nice for when that happens to have a photograph showing me at my best and most beautiful to challenge these thoughts and feelings, and hopefully put them to rest.
Photo & Retouch Renata Clarke
Makeup & Hair Styling Aleksandra Guz
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Renata owns a boutique portrait studio in Worcester, UK, providing full service photography experience for everyday women and female entrepreneurs. She specialises in high end portrait and boudoir photoshoots and personal branding photography. Her main focus is to empower women through the tailored experience and beautiful fine art portraits and to help business owners build their brand and attract ideal clients. . Get in touch to reserve your complimentary consultation and talk about your personalised photoshoot.