This powerful account is from KA, who so generously offers her experience in the hopes that others might be helped in some way. "If I can help even one person," she says, "it will be worth it, all the pain will be worth it." If you are moved by her words, please leave a comment for her below. And be inspired by her on Facebook at Hold My Hand and Welcome Home.
Update: Since this story was originally posted on this site, the author was so moved by the outpouring of love and healing it generated that she started a new page to celebrate her daughter's life: Sophie's Song.

We have all heard the expression “You have to love yourself before you can let others love you." There are so many blogs and websites out there telling us that we must learn to love ourselves. The truth as I see it is that the only way to learn and practice self-love is by being loved. When we are loved by others it gives us such a sense of freedom and, in many ways, permission to be ourselves, to learn who we are, to learn how to accept ourselves. The very act of love and acceptance from others towards us gives us permission to feel those very same things for and within ourselves.

I tried my entire life to gain the love and respect of those around me. Abused from the tender age of two years old by my father, abuse which lasted over two decades, I entered into an abusive relationship at fifteen with a man ten years my senior which took me fifteen years to escape from. I was trained into thinking and believing from an early age that I was unlovable, unwanted and unworthy of love. I was never good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough. I was never simply enough for anyone in my life. I tried so hard to be the person they all wanted me to be. I would modify my feelings, thoughts, words and actions to suit the personality or mood of those I was in contact with. At one point I would have said that I tried so hard to be who they all wanted me to be that I lost who I was. The painful reality, however, is that I never knew who I was to begin with—I was never given the chance to discover myself.

Self-harm, eating disorders, suicide attempts. All tried, tested and failed coping mechanisms. These things all gave me a false sense of control in a world that I had no control in otherwise. No one could force me to eat; I could control what entered my body. Cutting not only made me believe I had control; it also gave me an immediate sense of release. The physical pain of actually hurting myself took away from the pain I constantly felt inside. Control was my friend—until I lost control. Then, instead of being my friend, it became my enemy and I spiralled down into a pit of despair that seemed to get deeper and darker.

My rock bottom came five years ago when my daughter died. She was born five days early, after my partner beat me and pushed me down a flight of stairs. My daughter was born with irreversible brain damage as a result of the beating and she died after fighting for five days, leaving this world on the very day she should have entered it. As I laid my daughter to rest, I knew my life had to change and that the only one who could make these changes was myself. I walked away from my non-supportive family and moved halfway across the world to start a new life. At times the guilt ate me alive. Would my daughter think I loved her less for moving away and starting a new life without her? It almost destroyed me until I learned that I wasn’t doing anything without her; she is in my heart always.

I vowed when I lost her that I would make her life mean something, make it count for something. To do that I knew I had to fight and conquer the demons of my past. Easier said than done for a long time. I tried to do it alone. I had been alone my entire life. I became very good at hiding my life from people, at pretending everything was fine all the while I was dying inside. The change came when I finally stared allowing people in.

Brick by brick the wall came down around my heart and I started letting people get close, letting people know who I was. The transformation was unbelievable. Love, faith, hope and trust were all unknown entities to me. When these things became part of my life, I saw the world in a whole new light. More than that, I saw myself in a whole new light. I saw that I wasn’t in fact the unlovable, unwanted person they made me feel I was. I saw that I am a person worth loving, a person worth living.

I look back at how hard I tried to hurt myself in the past and all the times I tried to take my own life and it makes me sad. I want to hold that girl in my arms and tell her how wonderful she is, how valued and special she is. I want to show her how much she is loved. I have heard many people say that they wear their self-harm scars with pride. That they are not ashamed of them. I wouldn’t say that I am ashamed of mine as such. I coped the only way I knew how until I found a new way and I can't undo what has been done. I have since had my scars on my arm covered with a tattoo in memory of my daughter. Instead of looking down and seeing my scars as a constant physical reminder of where I was, I instead see angel wings and butterflies. I see a reminder of why I continue to fight, of what is important.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t look at myself in the mirror every morning and say, “I love you, you are wonderful”—far from it. But I am much further forward than I ever hoped I would be. I can look myself in the eye. I know I am a good person with a good heart. I know I did the best I could in the circumstances I was in with the tools I had. I just didn’t realize at the time that there were other tools available and people to teach me how to use them. I am happy to say that I have some of the best friends in the world, people who have given me back the ability to believe not only in myself but also in other people and this has opened up a whole new world of possibilities in my life and in my heart.

While I don’t know if I will even be able to commit to the level of trust and communication required to be in a relationship, to find my significant other and give my trust and heart to another, I am finally in a place where I can give myself my trust and can listen to my own heart. For the first time in my life, I have a connection with myself and it has given me a deeper sense of love and understanding within myself  I never knew existed. It has given me that sense of wonder and beauty for the world and the gift I have been given is one that should not be wasted.

Holding my daughter in my heart, I can help change the world one day at a time, one person at a time, simply because I am me.