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Forging a Diamond Requires Unimaginable Pressure... But The Result is... UNBREAKABLE

By Jenny Cowley

Postnatal depression. A mother buckling under the weight of impossible expectations and the invisible mental load; her body compelled to carry on, robotically nurturing. She shows up each day, her worth in life now almost exclusively defined by her role as caregiver. Often isolated, sometimes oppressed; judged by her mothering, shamed by her mental health, guilted for not enjoying every fleeting second of babyhood. It goes by so fast, she is told. Enjoy every moment!

Her perception of herself alters. The doubts saturate her mind, the self worth fades, and she grows to fear letting go of her beliefs, despite how unkind or untrue they might be. She clings on to whatever she can, fingertips blanched white from the effort. She dares not let go of that belief system – because, what if she falls? What if she falls into an abyss and there is no one there to catch her?

The pressure builds, layer upon layer. She endures. She survives.

Much like carbon, a mother can harden under that pressure – unaware that she is silently strengthening; unaware that a survivor can become a warrior.

So – what happens when you bring together 25 PND survivors, shine a light on their own inner strength, and encourage them to let go of their fears?

That’s when the broken become the unbreakable.

That’s when mothers walk on fire.

The decision to walk on fire was utterly compelling. There was no question in my mind. I had survived three consecutive periods of PND: as a first time mother, who hid her depression from everyone, as a mother of two under 2, who sought help only to find the world plunged into the isolation of lockdown, and as a mother of three, who found her way to Shine PND Support, a charity that revealed the light beyond the darkness.

Shine had been truly life changing. It showed me that not only was I capable of recovery, I was worthy. It encouraged and validated my right to take care of myself. My heart was driven to raise money for the charity, enabling them to continue helping mothers just like me.

And then, four weeks before the firewalk, the world that I had rebuilt from the darkness of depression collapsed around me, as my marriage abruptly ended.

I was broken.

I was lost.

Mind swirling with the challenges of life as a single parent to three young children, heart grieving for the loss of a fourteen year relationship, the dependable foundations of my life subsided in an almighty landslide. It was devastating.

I was worthless. I was unlovable. I wasn’t good enough, I had never been good enough. No one was going to catch me. I would tumble into that lonely abyss, knowing that I was right to fear it: only demons waited for me. It would surely be a long time before I walked in the light again.

That is when my inner warrior began to reveal herself.

I realised I could not allow my critical self beliefs to continue defining me. A spark ignited within my heart. I would throw myself into the flames, and emerge from the ashes a Shine Phoenix.

A person speaks to a seated group in a classroom setting, with a presentation screen and table with items in the foreground.

The day of the firewalk came and I met with my fellow Shine Mums to conquer the coals. Initially, I felt determined and single-minded. Then, as Chris took us through identifying our core fears and what was holding us back, inviting us to scribe that fear onto a piece of broken glass in preparation for our glass-walk, I froze. The room around me darkened, blood rushing in my ears, eyes blurring as the tears flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks. I was terrified.

A voice cut through my pounding heartbeat: “You’re not good enough,” it mocked cruelly. A voice I had heard for most of my life, constantly reminding me of my shortcomings.

And then – another voice. This time, one of compassion and understanding. “You seem really affected. Can I ask what’s going on for you?” Chris stood before me, his kind eyes inviting me to open up.

A stranger I had only met a few hours ago, and yet I trusted him. He had guided so many before me over the glass and across the fire. He spoke to us with authenticity and empathy. I felt safe in his presence. “I’ve recently become a single parent,” I said, voice cracking. “And I’m afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?” he asked.

“That I’ll be on my own,” came my response.

“You’re going to do this,” Chris encouraged me. “And you’re going to be the first to walk the glass.”

A person with red toenail polish walks barefoot on broken glass shards spread out on a white cloth.

Protectively cradling my piece of glass to my chest, still clinging to the fear that defined me, I was guided to the front of the room. Chris stood beside me. “Normally, I’d offer you my arm,” he began, “but you don’t need it.”

Those words hit hard and true. He saw my worth; now it was time for me to do the same. I straightened my shoulders, and purposefully planted my foot upon the glass. It shifted and crunched under foot. As I raised my other leg, my entire body weight sinking down onto the glass, my heart lurched into my throat – but my inner strength exploded. I was good enough. I stepped across that glass, completely immersed in the visualisation of leaving that fear behind and entering the next chapter of my life.

As my feet touched solid ground once more, a tidal wave of relief crashed down upon me, leaving me speechless and trembling.

I had just walked across broken glass.

I was afraid of being on my own – and yet, I had conquered the glass-walk by myself. I realised that I had an inner strength that no one could ever take from me. My fear transformed. Its hold upon me shrivelled, and in its place, my self worth swelled. I had grown in power.

Person walking on a path of glowing embers at night while others watch in the background.

And it was this realisation that held my convictions as I stood before the glowing embers of The Shine Firewalk. 

I didn’t feel the cold air upon my bare arms, nor did I feel the heat from the flames of the dying fire. I was entirely focused on my walk. Behind me, I could feel the weight of everything I desperately longed to walk away from. The sun had set, casting the whole field into a black void. I couldn’t see anyone’s faces; I couldn’t catch anyone’s conversations. The world had shrunk until it was just 10 metres of hot coals, and a voice at the end who called to me.

“What is your name?”

My firewalker name. I knew it immediately when I realised what I had been through to stand here today. I knew what I was afraid of, and what I chose to cast away. I knew what I had been all along.

“She – is – Unbreakable.”

It wasn’t my voice that uttered those words: it was hers. The warrior who stood before the fire. The warrior who had always been within me.

The command came. “WALK.”

There was no hesitation. My feet instantly pressed down upon the hot embers, my eyes staring straight into a future I was going to shape for myself. My body was driven forwards, compelled to reach that voice at the end. I was good enough. I had always been good enough.

Chris’ hands firmly caught my shoulders as I stepped onto the cool, wet grass. “Like a rockstar!” he declared.

Two people are facing each other and interacting in a dimly lit outdoor setting at night, with a fire visible in the background.

My body shook with overwhelming relief. My feet tingled, scorched with tiny fire kisses: trophies of my achievement.

I had just walked on fire.

I was no longer afraid.

I was strong.

I was unstoppable.


Jenny Cowley

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