In 2012 my life imploded as I struggled to come to terms with the loss of my oldest, dearest friend to pancreatic cancer. Around the same time, my mother began a very heart-wrenching, five-year journey with dementia, then my business faced a major crisis that threatened everything I’d built.
Despite having great support, I made the mistake of working harder – not smarter. I worked too many long hours and placed a massive amount of pressure on myself to make things right for everyone else – for my family, friends, clients, and employees.
As a dear friend recently told me, “You were brave. But I knew you were faking it!”
To top it off, I ignored my body’s signals to ease back. I lost sleep, gained weight, and drank too much alcohol. Then there was a minor crisis that was enough to start a rapid decline into a deep depression.
I felt totally helpless and lost. Three months later, my heart was broken when my wee grandson was born prematurely and died.
Depression means different things to different people.
For me, it was about darkness, despair and an immense feeling of loneliness. Every day I felt like I was wading through treacle. It was hard just to get out of bed.
I don’t remember many details of the next two years. But, as my depression lifted, I began to experience crippling anxiety attacks. It was another kind of hell.
I was stuck.
I knew that I had to resign from my position (in my own business) if I was going to get better. Going to the office and dealing with the same issues each day was uninspiring and it sapped my energy and that wasn’t helping me to heal.
But I didn’t think I could or should resign. How could I resign from my own business?
At first, I thought I needed permission from others. But later I realised that most importantly I needed to give permission to myself!
Quitting was terrifying! I was convinced that I was letting everyone down, including my family. Plus, I had no idea of what to do next. I didn’t know how to start again or even where to get help.
Luckily, I had a huge amount of support from my family and friends and I called upon coaching assistance (the good news is that the business has not only survived, it’s thrived.)
Getting back to work
It took another year but I did find a new purpose – my new “why”. My first move was to start a blog as a way to express myself during my illness. Then I used the blog to help other women. This led to my decision to become a Work and Life Coach.
Today, I am able to use the skills and experience I’ve picked up over 30-plus years in work, business and life, to help other women over 50.
It didn’t all happen at once. I have taken dozens of ‘baby steps’ to get me where I am today and, like all babies trying something for the first time, there have been a lot of tumbles. I still have to regularly pick myself up so that I can take the next ‘baby step’.
Just as sharing my story was a key part of my recovery from depression and anxiety, helping other women helps me to maintain my own mental well-being. I’ve learned that it’s what I do for others that gives my life meaning.