I wanted to write this blog to help anyone who is suffering and to let you know that nothing lasts forever. I’m still on my journey but I’m enjoying feeling the benefits of the changes I’m making and I’m excited for the future. So let’s talk about what’s been going on with me…
For the first time in 7 years I had to take 7 weeks off and I wanted to talk you through the journey I’ve been through and one that I continue to navigate.
For 7 years I’ve been functioning with a heightened level of stress. Most of the time I would happily go about my day and sickeningly thrive off the feeling of being extremely busy. I’d talk about not sitting down in the evening until 9.30pm to wind down. I didn’t have time to watch my favourite TV shows or have time for the gym. Every day I believed I had to get to work for 8am. Leaving the house at 7.30am to get my 2 year old and 5 year old to Nursery and breakfast club. If I was late, I started my day annoyed that I’d wasted time. I took 5 months maternity leave with my daughter but I was still working the odd days. With my son I was packing orders when he was 7 weeks old and he spent his first two weeks of life in intensive care. During that 7 year period we’ve moved house 5 times, renovated 2 of them and my Dad and Grandma passed away.
Over the last 2 years I felt a significant increase in stress. I carried on as I was, regardless. I was seeing a chiropractor more frequently for spasms in my neck muscles which were brought on sporadically by stress. Going on my lunch break to try and alleviate the pain and then heading straight back to work and sitting with a heat pad on my neck was a regular office occurrence.
During the last 3 months I was experiencing heightened anxiety. I’d dealt with anxiety at different stages of my life and felt it was manageable but this was something else. Along with the now excruciating neck pain I’d developed stress induced Raynaud's Syndrome which is a condition that affects the circulation in your hands. It was predominantly in the thumb of my painting hand. I was struggling to paint and I was hiding my concern from my employees and desperately tried to ignore it.
8 weeks ago I dropped my daughter at school and drove straight home, sat in the kitchen and cried. My husband had already gone to work but he’d forgotten something and he called home to find me in a heap in the kitchen. I felt lost, lonely and scared. Scared that I was losing control. I’ve always felt very in control and I like things done my way. I like to be in charge of my life and I felt like it was slipping out of my grasp, literally.
Ollie, my husband has always been such an incredible support. He sat and listened to me as I cried in his arms. Reassuring me it would pass, as everything does. Over the course of the next 3 weeks I gradually began to deteriorate. My thoughts felt uncontrollable and my mind didn’t feel like it was my own. I knew deep down that it would pass and I’d find a solution to my problems but I was so lost in my feelings it began to affect me in more physical ways. My arms and legs went numb, the pain in my neck was radiating into my shoulders and I could barely hold my head up. I began to lose the feeling in the fingers on both of my hands and I couldn’t put makeup on, dry my hair or help dress my daughter for school. Putting a nappy on my son was an impossible task and the physicality of the stress was adding to my anxiety. I naturally began thinking there was something seriously wrong. I went to the doctors and had scans, I saw a neurologist and I had extensive bloods carried out. Which all, thankfully came back negative. But for someone who likes to be in control I found it difficult to deal with not having something I could fix easily. The doctors diagnosed me with chronic stress.
I’ve always been transparent with my staff and we all have a great friendship with each other. I told them what was happening and took the next 7 weeks off work. I was doing everything I could to pull myself back. I ran, I walked, I listened to podcasts, I meditated, did yoga, I went in float tanks, I had massages, I did mindful breathing, acupuncture. I tried everything and anything I could to make me feel better and try to regain some control over my nervous system. Gradually, I was improving. I did a lot of reflecting and thinking about how I’d like to shape my life. Who I want to be and what I want to change. Naively I thought being busy equalled success, it means you’re working hard. It doesn’t.
The business has grown exponentially over the last 3 years. We’ve experienced growth that has been mind blowing but with that comes a huge burden. More staff, more responsibility, legal issues and decisions that have huge consequences (along with a lot of other things). I started this journey as a designer with a love for products and social media. I quickly went from being a designer to a CEO of a million pound business with no experience other than what I’d taught myself. I was trying to navigate that with a young family.
In addition to that, my Dad died in January from Liver Cancer, I took two weeks off but I didn’t grieve. I was still checking my emails, having meetings, I was talking to the girls at work about what was happening, did they need me… what invoices needed paying? But during the past 2 months I’ve felt a connection to my Dad I didn’t even have while he was alive. He’s guided me through this time and he’s brought me out of the other side. If you’re not a spiritual person you might think that sounds ridiculous but I truly believe it. He always told me to not overstretch myself and it’s something I laughed about. He left me a tape when he died and he said it again on the recording. I always brushed it off. Now I know he was trying to tell me something. He was telling me to slow down.
Slowing down doesn’t mean you’re lazy. I know by taking my life at a slower pace I’ll be a better wife, mother, friend and boss. I’ve made the decision to take a day off every week and to drop my daughter off at school every day as well as practising meditation, breathing and movement every day.
Sometimes you have to experience pain to make a change. You have to suffer to move forward and live a better, healthier and fulfilled life.
Here is a quote that I LOVE:
Grapes must be crushed to make wine.
Diamonds form under pressure.
Seeds grow in darkness.
Whenever you feel crushed, under pressure or in darkness, you are in a powerful place of transformation.