Just An Ordinary Childhood

Expert Author Susan Leigh
My parents should never have had children. Dad wanted Mum all to himself and Mum was happy to revel in his adulation and keep him happy. I think she saw that as her role in life. Both agreed that he was punching above his weight when he married her.
As a good Catholic girl Mum quickly became pregnant with me, whilst on honeymoon. Subsequently my brother and sister arrived on the scene. Dad found noise, disturbance and problems irritating, so Mum, who'd become a stay-at-home Mum after my birth, spent her time 'managing' us. Dad didn't like to be bothered.
At no time do I ever recall problems being discussed. We kept troubles and differing opinions to ourselves. My brother, who was better at playing the game than me, used to smile, nod and then continue doing his own thing. That didn't feel right to me so I'd argue my point in an effort to be more 'honest'. This merely resulted in me being viewed as rebellious, argumentative and difficult. A hostile relationship with my father evolved.
We moved several times in my early years due to Dad being promoted. The last move, at 13, proved to be life-changing for me. Arriving at an all-girls Grammar school halfway through second year meant that the other girls had formed their friendships and peer groups. Also every subject without exception followed a totally different syllabus to the one I'd been learning. I was completely lost. I've always said that my formal education effectively ended then.
My parents said 'you're bright, work harder, stick with it' but I didn't know how or where to start. Instead I'd go to the library and immerse myself in the works of Nietzsche, Sartre, Engels, Marx, Heidegger, Schopenhauer. I wrote off to China for Chairman Mao's red book. I joined the Schools Action Union and went to meetings of the British Humanist Society. I felt in despair, aimless, lost and alone.
I left school after a year of A levels and joined a Bank as a junior for 12 months, then moved to a blue-chip company, which was the start of my further education, formal qualifications and great career.
Boys had started to appear on my radar. I'd met my first love at 16 and we went out for 6 months. Years later he confessed that he'd finished it because we were too young to be in such a serious relationship. But I'd been badly hurt by the rejection, and had several boyfriends after that, sometimes more than one at a time.
A friend who'd worked evenings as a cashier in a high-end restaurant in Manchester suggested I take over her job. It was fun because whilst you were seated to one side of the hustle and bustle you could still enjoy regular celebrity-spotting. And often I'd go out with the staff or arrange for girlfriends to come over and we'd go out after work.
Effectively from the age of 18-24 I went out and partied hard seven nights a week, usually getting home in the early hours before going on to my daytime job. My parents despaired. Dad was quite scathing, saying I'd never find anyone who'd love me and that they'd not make the same mistakes with my siblings that they'd made with me.
Whenever a relationship with a boyfriend ended my father would berate me, exasperated that the relationship hadn't worked out. He was convinced that I'd never find anyone else. The outcome was I played with a steady stream of boyfriends whom I treated badly. Was that to prove my father right or wrong - probably a bit of both.
Then I met my future husband in a club in Manchester, introduced by another friend who worked at the restaurant. He proposed after ten days and I accepted. My parents weren't thrilled, he was a lot older than me. The day before the wedding Dad insisted that I remove all my possessions from their house as I wouldn't be coming back there.
Meeting and marrying my husband was the salvation of me. It wasn't an easy relationship but he provided me with stability and a role in life. We 'played house'. I didn't cook the same meal twice for the first three years of our life together and I focussed on my career, doing well and getting promoted several times.
It was him who introduced me to hypnotherapy. One day he came home from work and said he wanted to train as a hypnotherapist. Way back then it was a bizarre choice, but I trusted and respected his knowledge and intelligence. He was exceptionally experienced and well-read.
We did the training and he set up the practice whilst I still worked on my career. Then when he became unwell I redid my hypnotherapy training, got a distinction and took over the practice.
Since then hypnotherapy's taken me on the most incredible journey. I'm regularly on the radio, often on the BBC, have done TV appearances, written 3 books and continue to work as a counsellor, hypnotherapist as well as being a regular contributor to many publications on and offline.
It's very rare for me to disclose personal 'stuff'' but I value the experiences and lessons gained over the years. As a counsellor and hypnotherapist it's important that I share some of my 'stuff'' and disclose that I've worked on myself and my demons at times throughout my life. We've all got a story to tell and I'm sure many of you will recognise elements of your own here in mine.

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