Self Loathing to Self Loving

So many of us hide who we are on the internet, I want you to know where I came from and who I am.  This is my story from beginning to present, from self loathing to self loving.

Taylor and I at the canal in Ottawa.

Starting My Story

When I was about eight years old, I exclaimed to my mother that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Feeling quite wise and profound, I announced that I wanted to be happy.

I knew my purpose in life when I was a child and forgot in my teens.  When I was figuring out long division I knew the truth; I wasn’t happy and I knew it was what I aspired to be.  The problem was that I had no idea what to do to achieve that goal.

I was not a happy child.  I spent most of my time alone and with few friends; growing up on a dairy farm on a dirt road in the backwoods of Vermont, people were in short supply.  There were at least four summers of my youth that passed without spending time with another kid.  My sisters were older than me and didn’t have much interest in spending time with their kid sibling.

Life wasn’t all bad of course, I loved animals and nature.  The pets and farm animals we raised always brought me joy.  There is beauty in living a life out in the quiet rural areas of this world.  The beauty of Vermont did nothing to make me feel better about myself though.

As I grew up, I got heavier and picked on more.  I pretended to be fine with other kids calling me names, or else I would be alone.  My family and so-called friends made me feel the worst when I was little.  I didn’t know I should hate myself until everyone told me I should.

Ugh, Middle School

When I was 13, I had a series of migraines that caused strange reactions in my brain. I woke up with a horrible headache and had lost the ability to speak one day – resulting in a rushed hospital visit.

I could say words, but only in a nonsensical jumble. It was as if the link between words and their meanings had shuffled in my brain. A few days later my body went numb on the left side in a strange moving pattern through my torso and skull.

Luckily the migraines stopped happening after a few weeks and have not returned to this day. I was able to speak again and life returned to normal – for the most part. On occasion, to this day, I swap out the word I intend for a different one without realizing.

This usually happens as I try to communicate at a rapid pace. It’s a minor, yet frustrating communication barrier that I’ve had since seventh grade. It can make me appear stupid, and makes it harder for me to talk to people with confidence.

A few months later, two sisters moved to my little town. It was weeks before my last year of middle school.  One of them proceeded to bully me for the rest of the year.  They wrote awful things about me on bathroom walls, in the classrooms, on my locker, and even on my school books.

The sisters were far more interesting and popular than I was. Kids that had always liked me turned on me, children younger than me called me names.  Old friends became enemies, and I had no one to turn to.

I stopped riding the school bus and walked the three miles home because the kids were so relentless.  Learning to hate myself and the world more every day, everything just seemed pointless.  I felt unloved and completely unnoticed, suicide was always on my mind the year before I went to high school.  Loathing myself, yet I was the only person around to spend time with.

Leaving middle school was a huge blessing because it meant a chance to escape my bullies. I could go to a different high school and avoid them forever. Yet, my real problem didn’t go away; I had no idea how to talk to other kids.

Navigating High School

Always the nerd; I obsessed over books, math, music, art, and writing.  I loved to learn, and that hasn’t changed to this day.  But this has always made me a bit of a weirdo, and caused other kids to keep me at a distance.

I talked to teachers about anything and everything. I would ask questions that made the other kids roll their eyes with a “who cares” attitude.  For most people I grew up with, school wasn’t about learning, it was about getting the work done and moving on.

I would think of my teachers as older friends and mentors, while other kids saw them as authority figures.  The teachers usually liked me, and I considered them friends. This was pretty uncool in a high school environment – at least in my neck of the woods.

My overwhelming geeky-ness and lack of social kids did not make finding friends a breeze. I made a few when I first got to my new school, but most of them had no interest in real friendship.

It seemed like I became a third wheel, fifth wheel or any odd numbered rolling device on most occasions. I was more of a face in the crowd than I was actually fitting in.  I got sick of that pretty fast.  Forcing myself to act fake was not worth the awkward relationships, I would rather have one real friend than a hundred who don’t actually like me.

I loved music, but I was awkward around other people I played with.  Signing up for the chorus seemed like a great idea when I got to high school, but my throat would close up immediately.  I could hardly squeak around all the older and prettier girls.

My senior photo, taken on the farm.

I played bass in several different bands when I was in high school and college.  Friends were still hard to come by, and I felt like an outsider in most of the groups I played with.  Even people who shared common interests were hard to talk to, I never knew what to say.  I felt like I had bursts of normality; I could joke around one day and could hardly talk the next.

My high school years were spent with a very small number of excellent individuals.  I didn’t dislike my classmates, but I couldn’t connect with them and felt nervous and ridiculous trying to.

This anxiety from my youth never faded. I was lonely, I wanted a relationship and was horrible at communicating with people.  I wished I had been born back when you could woo people with love notes; nowadays people think you are insane.

My sister Danielle and I at our oldest sister’s wedding.

My Story Continues

I graduated at the top of my class and with a full scholarship to an electrical engineering school.  Off to college I went, optimistic I would find a school full of higher education and new challenges for my mind.  Instead I found a bunch of dopey boys, and a few smart ones.

I remember wondering around dorms with my college roommate. Once, we found about ten young men sitting in a room, blasting recordings of their trucks at full volume – higher education at it’s finest.

I continued my pattern of obsessing over school work and sucking at making friends. I am a perfectionist when it comes to anything educational, and because of that I caused myself a lot of stress.

For most people college is full of parties, people and fun. For me, it consisted of my dorm room, studying, and Reddit. The internet was a perfect hiding spot for someone who hated real communication.

I was always more comfortable writing to people, if only there was a way to only communicate through text. My statements always came out the way I wanted them to when I wrote them down.  Whenever I spoke, I rambled, and sounded stupid. I was so nervous to approach people at times, I never bothered to speak up to people.

 

Working Woman

As I left school, I started thinking about what I wanted in life.  SUCCESS became my big buzzword.  I was going to be a company woman.  I was going to give it all, and then I was going to get it all – right?

Little did I know, that’s not how this world works for most of us.  Fresh out of college, and ready to start working, I found a job as an engineer tech within a few months.  I was designing circuit boards and writing firmware, this was my goal!  This was everything I had worked for my entire life – and it totally sucked.

The firmware and circuit boards were great, they were fun and fulfilling to complete. However, I was overwhelmed with a never ending to-do list that seemed to grow every day. There were always over 80 items on the list!

Every new problem fell onto me over my coworkers.  I had a hard time saying no, because I like to help people and because I like getting things done fast and well. This lead to my good nature being abused, even after the issue was brought up to management several times.

I had coworkers dumping their tasks on me, even when I declined outright.  I would tell people, “no”, and to my dismay get a “thank you” in reply.  The task would then appear on my desk, as if my declination had no bearing what-so-ever.

Every day with the company was a struggle, even at the best of times. There were days I would commute the 12 miles home, screaming at the top of my lungs with my car windows rolled up.  I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking of solutions to problems at work.

I started seeing my boyfriend in February of 2015.  He is the love of my life; our relationship is by far the best and longest I have ever been in.  As happy as I was to have such a great man in my life, my job still drove me bonkers.

Work was like a pit I couldn’t crawl out of when I came home.  I had too much to do, and it was killing me.  I couldn’t stop thinking about work; and to top it off, I was making terrible wages.  Something I had been convinced was expected for ‘a little while’ after school.

Worst Monday Ever

Then, on a Monday morning in July of 2016 my company did the unthinkable.  They fired  my coworkers.

In a devastating human resources decision, the company fired two engineers on the same day.  This left me, Becca, as the only member of the electrical engineering department.

Ironically, the company loved me for my ‘soft skills’.  While I felt terrible about communicating and completely anxious, they thought I was great at it.  This was one of the reasons I was kept while my coworkers were let go.

These gentlemen both had decades of experience and wisdom that I drawn upon in my daily work. The company’s decision broke me.  Upon finding out, I had a panic attack.  I sobbed; I couldn’t keep it together anymore.

People I had huge respect for, whom I considered friends and mentors, were gone forever.  I had no one to ask for advice when dealing with electronics or firmware troubleshooting.  It felt like the weight of a multi-million dollar company was on my shoulders.

I was 23 years old and expected to take over the projects that two senior engineers had left behind.  Having had no involvement in the development of these projects until the other employees had left, it wasn’t clear where to even begin.

I spent several miserable weeks looking for the correct source files for the project. No one had bothered to locate key information before firing anyone who knew where to find it. I felt sick, I cried everyday.  I ate way too much.  Nothing made me feel better, I felt beaten.

I began searching for another job.  I needed to leave the company and it didn’t matter where I went as long as I could pay my bills. There isn’t a huge demand for electrical engineers technicians in my area.  I did find a position that required my degree, but with none of the prestige.

A New Start

I took the job; it was at a respected company with decent benefits and I was optimistic it would be a positive change. I no longer felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, but rather like a huge failure.

Deep in the center of my being, I believed that my job title was my position in life, and now my title was mediocre.  I went from telling people I was an electrical engineer to feeling like I was nothing.  Moving from a private cubicle with high walls to working surrounded by dozens of people at all times can be a little shocking.

My anxiety peaked after a few months of working at the new company.  I had a breakdown in my doctor’s office.  I had put on a lot of weight since my coworkers left at my first job, I felt awful all the time.

The new employment hadn’t stopped my unhappy overeating.  Leaving the first position helped my stress, but did nothing to ease the feeling of failure. I felt like I had failed at life, why couldn’t I handle the stress of the workload?

None of my accomplishments seemed to matter anymore.  I was nothing and felt like I was going nowhere. This is when I learned about cognitive behavioral therapy.  It has jump started my life completely, and with only a few simple ideas that changed the way I perceive life.

A New Perspective

Instead of feeling like I’m nothing because of my job title, I realize how many titles I have, and how well rounded I am.   I am learning about topics that excite and inspire me, free to learn about whatever I’m interested in.

I never thought about happiness, or helping others, or coaching before.  Working as an electrical engineer, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to consider such a thing. I would have been too exhausted to put effort into anything other than my job.  Switching fields would have seemed ridiculous to me two years ago, now I embrace the idea with open arms.

Instead of trying crash diets and fad workouts, I’m eating whatever I want and have lost over 30 pounds in 2017!  By paying attention and exercising self control, I am losing a large amount of weight and in a healthy way.

I’ve stopped buying into the “easy way” and started focusing on my way, and it’s way simpler than I imagined. I am accomplishing more of what I want to do in my life by working a stress free job and being aware of how I use my free time.

A year ago, I had no idea what I wanted out of life.  Working as a corporate worker bee, and believing that was all life intended for me didn’t make me happy – ever!

I’ve decided that the life I want to pursue is one of happiness, the one I chose when I was a child. I want to be happy, but not in a passing superficial way. I want true, life long happiness and fulfillment.

Getting Better

Over the last year, I have studied many different cognitive behavioral coaching courses.  I have put in large amounts of effort into learning about CBC, NLP, and other applied therapies.

Coaching was something I used to brush off as a funny fad, now I realize it’s exactly what I’ve done for myself. It was a pain to figure out what I wanted to change about my life by thinking about it and journaling for years.  If only I’d had a coach to help me, I’d probably be much further along in my journey.

One of my goals in life is to be the best person I can be. I want to strive to be a better person today than I was yesterday, every day for the rest of my life. This is what will make me a happy person down to the very core of my being.

If I am lucky, and live a long time, I want to look back with pride at a life well lived.  I want to remember nature, happiness, friends, family, and creativity.  Embracing life is my desire, not chasing a prestigious title in a rat race that brings me no pleasure.

I want to remember laughing with joy, not crying with stress while entombed in cubicle walls under flickering fluorescent lights.  My life is worth more to me than any corporation that causes me grief can pay.  It took a lot of anguish for me to realize that my job does not define me.

Continuing My Story

My second goal in life is to help people. So many of us in the western world are completely miserable.  Millions work hard, they follow the rules their parents dictated.  Yet, many people feel unfulfilled. Their lives don’t make them happy, they feel stressed and stagnant.

The rich corporate official in New York can be less happy than a poor rickshaw puller in Mumbai. We can have it all, and feel like we have nothing. Feeling anxious, depressed, and unhappy is not generally discussed in an open way.  I want to fix that, because we will never feel better if we pretend we feel fine.

A big focus of mine is spreading information that helped change my life through beccahammond.com.  I plan on offering online video coaching starting in mid 2018.

I’ll be keeping this page posted as I continue my story and strive towards bettering myself.  Check back soon to see updated fitbit graphs, before and after photos, and any new story updates.

Please send me an email here if you have any questions or comments