When I was asked to contribute on the theme of love and acceptance I was inspired, the subject matter couldn’t be more appropriate during this chapter of my life.

I travelled to Thailand 12 weeks ago, a place so far away from home and yet closer to myself than I’ve ever been before. With me, I brought everything I’d stored for a rainy day and here I was — during the rainy season.

Usually when my baggage catches up with me I run away – I escape. I’ve been on the run before, but the distance always remained the same, with no real end goal or closure. Ironically this time, travelling to the other side of the world was my way of standing still and re-evaluating my life. You might say I have been running my whole life up until 12 weeks ago when I was encouraged to stop and just be.

Whilst in Thailand I have been running, however not in a metaphorical sense anymore — but in a literal one. And there are a few things I’ve noticed about running for real; when you run a race you’ll feel the burn, but you continue to move and carry the pain knowing that you will make it to the finish line. And when you do cross it you’re faster, stronger, more resilient and able to run the next race with more confidence.

So let’s talk about the burn. I’m sure many of us can relate to an internal and mental struggle in some way. My solution was escapism, constantly attaching to anything external that provided me with temporary relief from the deep sense of worthlessness and inadequacy that I maintained at my core. Lost in the abyss of instant gratification and often in a state of euphoria or erratic hyperactivity, I bounced from one thing to another often too exhausted for my own pace.

When thinking about the word ‘love’ I think of the most important kind of love, that which remains unconditional. This love is selfless and boundless. During my time here my concept of the word has changed entirely. Now I realise that the purest love can only come from an abundant wholeness that resides within yourself and that can then be shared outwardly and offered to others willing to accept it.

Transitioning over the last 12 months has been stressful, but the way I treated myself was the biggest influencer in making my decision to embark on this journey. Friends encouraged self-care, and I told myself ‘yeah I’ll start on Monday’, but Monday never came…

But eventually, this opportunity did. An opportunity to hit the pause button, reflect, and maybe incorporate the self-love into my life I’d been neglecting to practice.

Life continued without me in Brighton when I arrived here, I saw the image of myself disappear from the seemingly picture-perfect life I’d been holding on to. Acceptance meant letting go of my attachment to that life and trusting that all the major resources I had were within me already. I embarked on an intensive programme, committing myself to make the changes that would supply me with the wholeness I had only sought from outside myself up until now. A short-term pain for a long-term gain this time, rather than the other way around. I’d listen to the sound of the rain, count the butterflies, take walks by the river until my manic fight or flight state began to dissipate.

I am calm now, I have got in touch with the world instead of living in the busyness of my own mind. Affirmations are plastered all over my mirror and after taking part in activities, exercise, groups and therapy, the day finally came when I looked in the mirror and I saw a person staring back at me that wasn’t defined by anything else. Feeling a sense of pride and compassion for the face staring back at me, the perception and attitude I had towards myself changed. I no longer felt alone in my own company. As soon as I learned to let go and let be, in a sigh of relief, I began to realise that building this solid foundation was the answer to becoming a whole person. It started with love for myself, acceptance of the world as it was and trusting this path without seeing the destination.

My vulnerability is my strength, it is my connection to those around me. I have found the courage to love myself, and to allow myself to love others, accepting all of us for our humanness, our strengths and our weaknesses. This is where I find myself and this is where I connect with others. In this place, we can work together and find the true love and acceptance we all deserve.

Dedicated to Sandi James – my teacher and my guide

Twitter: @julesy_H_G

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