I’ve always been the strong one. The one that people went to for help if they needed something doing. I was always the one who got asked for advice more than received it. I was strong. Until I wasn’t. I’d ignored the signs of burnout for at least 18 months, thinking that yoga would fix the panic attacks. They didn’t. I remember crying on the phone to my dad because it was all getting too much. I didn’t know what to do so I just kept going.
Eventually, my body had had enough.
I fell off a metaphorical cliff and just kept falling. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety – what a combo. I became a shadow of my former self. Usually chatty, outgoing and raring to go; I became disconnected and numb; unable to make even the most simple decision without it causing some kind of panic within me. I felt broken. Family were worried. Couldn’t understand. I didn’t have the energy to explain or the words to articulate it. I was fortunate to be able to get help quickly. I know I am one of the few. I worked with a psychologist and started taking medication. I still use both of those ‘tools’ from my toolbox today.
Some days it was hard to get out of bed. Some days it still is. My definition of success was a far cry from what I was doing three months prior. If I got outside to the Pret on the corner then I was winning at life. I watched a building being built as I lay in bed. The days blurred.
I remember having a conversation with my dad when I was at my lowest. I said I would use this experience to help others. I didn’t know how, or in what capacity but it’s something that I was quite indignant about, given my circumstances at the time.
I was keen to talk about my experiences with depression and anxiety. So people knew they weren’t alone. Because it can be really bloody lonely. Isolating.
I spoke to every team member when I returned to work, explaining what had happened. Not in great detail but enough for them to understand. In the same way that if I’d broken my leg, the story of how it happened would have been discussed.
18 months after my breakdown, I’d decided on a career change. From corporate marketing to becoming a qualified life coach. I’m keen to help people that resonate with what was going on for me three years prior to my breakdown. Overworked. No boundaries. Running on a treadmill to keep up with everyone else.
Do I think a life coach would have stopped me from the path I found myself on? Perhaps not. But had I been given the tools to define what success really looked like for me, been encouraged to live my life more aligned with my values and encouraged to focus on myself, then things might have been different.