We’ve all faced challenges, we’ve all experienced upheaval, and just when I thought my diagnosis of bipolar was it, along came ME/cfs in 2018, a recognition of my ADHD IN 2021, and then a diagnosis of Autism in 2022. All to put life in an altogether different perspective. I’m still making room for acceptance and grief, still working on myself and my ability to forgive, to grow and to learn. Aside from self-pep talks, when we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles it is the human spirit that knows our trials are lessons for us to work with, learn from, and surpass.
Recognise your struggles, work with them, they are part of your story.—Yvie Johnson
My earliest memories are of paradise.
I lived on an island; I was free to roam from our hilltop duplex home (beautifully-named Wuthering Heights), usually found on the beach swimming in the larger of the two beach pools under the watchful eye of a Gurkha guard. I was about four years old and content with my island life. I remember the monsoons, the complicated walk-truck-ferry-bus sequence to get to school, the mosquito nets, the cockroaches and the grass snakes, the swimming races against my much older sisters, always confident I could win (I never did). Life was one big family adventure and I soaked it up. Just as many life experiences would pan out, I taught myself to swim by jumping in at the deep end (of the big pool). In my forties I would come to learn that I had drowned as a child in a past life. My fear of deep water and my need to overcome it is a drive I’ve always known.
Later my mother told me the Gurkha guard had been keeping a watchful eye whilst I figured it out. A guardian angel? (Perhaps he was the same protector who wrapped my legs in bandages after I’d climbed down the woodland hillside to reach the pool, the night after another monsoon had felled trees and branches across my path.)
I’m very grateful for his ability to let me discover an important life lesson—I learn best when I jump in at the deep end.
As I get older, I become more afraid of this process and I long for that fearless child’s mind once more. Travelling became a part of my life from birth, my first move to a foreign country at just 3 months old. It wasn’t always out of choice, but it is a constant that I find comfort in, a part of my perpetuating need to search for myself: where do I truly belong on this little blue planet? Why am I here? What am I capable of? What is my purpose?
Now I have one foot in North Wales with my multi-lingual family, and an eye on destinations, near and far. I crave the mountains and hilly trails when I’m on roads and in cities. The sound of running water and capturing flora and fauna detail through a lens are my counter-balance to external and internal tolls. My inherent determination to seek out and explore, both physically and philosophically, whilst I cope with the mental tribulations that come with acceptance of my neurodivergent brain, and the physical restrictions of managing ME/cfs, is a deep-rooted spark that keeps pushing me forward.
My journey is taking me back to being who I once was: fearless, adventurous, courageous. Hyperfocus, a hyperactive mind, and ME/cfs is an awkward combination, and a tightrope to tread. Deep down, I simply strive to be the best version of myself, whatever my circumstances. Even when I really don’t know what I’m doing.
I usually don’t know what I’m doing.
I prefer coffee to tea. Dark chocolates and berries. Reading by torchlight. Doodling and designing till the morning light. Lie-ins and waking to harmonies on the radio. Pulling on trainers and running out the door. Meaningful hugs, designer mugs, illustrated cotton bags and turquoise accessories. Affirmations and inspirational videos. Second-hand shops and stripey socks. I’m not sure what my natural hair colour is. Photographing the detail. Exploring my philosophies. Learning facts and discussing ideas. Known as Smiler, Yeti, Yoghurt, Lettuce and Spaghetti.