OK, so I’ve probably been holding back from this big old rant because it’s gonna be brutally honest and it makes me feel vulnerable but I just need to find my baws and bash on because it is totally honest and there’s no wee ‘oh hey, I love pizza and beach walks’ bullshit that really matches just spewing out the truth so you can really see who you get when you work with me. I ask you to be your authentic self in front of my scary camera lens so I’m gonna do the same here…grab a tea, this will take a while…
I’m currently sitting at a very different place for me than ever before. I’ve come out of the other side of total burn out - work-wise, mentally, physically too. I’m doing a lot of reassessing, figuring out what my honest goals and wants are, looking at the big picture. The last 3 years have been a proper rollercoaster and I’m gonna overshare about that in the hope that it maybe explains who I am a bit more honestly.
3 years ago my kid’s dad and I split after a very unhealthy and unhappy time. I’m pretty sure I went through undiagnosed post natal depression. I’d had to have a planned C Section because of previous surgeries and my milk didn’t ever come in although I spent the first couple of months of my kid’s life attached to breast pumps while trying to project manage a renovation and keep my business going from my mum’s spare room. I grew very resentful of my body which I’ve never had much confidence about but now I didn’t have any in it’s abilities either.
I left that situation with incredibly low self esteem, lots of unnatural anxieties and stress, I’d lost sight of who I am and was working at avoiding dealing with anything. Initially, I felt a huge sense of relief paired with a bunch of anger at some of the fallout and isolation I found myself dealing with. I felt pretty lost and I was also stuck in the house we’d renovated for around a year afterward, surrounded by failure and memories I was desperate to move on from, while we had a ridiculous and incredibly stressful legal battle. That winter my kid had recurring and terrifying nosebleeds, waking up covered in blood and needed blood tests for Leukemia and all sorts. Thankfully, he was fine. It was not a relaxing time, everything was feeding my fear of loss.
The following year my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemo. This was sandwiched by my dad having emergency treatments in hospital. I shot a whole heap of wonderful weddings that kept me going but I was struggling to keep up with all the other parts of running a business. I shot 10 weddings in the 6 weeks between selling our old house, buying a new flat and packaging up/unpacking with the ‘help’ of a 3 year old. Then, a few months later, just after my mum’s treatment ended with positive results we lost our friend, Scott, to suicide.
I really lost it when he was missing. Kind pals drove me around the coast road trying to find him, texting some pals who were doing the same, desperately hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be true. He had been there for me over the last wee while and was honest, hilarious, cheeky as fuck and supportive despite his own struggles. He means a great deal to me and many of my pals. I have never allowed myself to grieve before. I suppressed most negative emotions. I’d sometimes sink into a dark place and either isolate myself or go out and get wrecked and lost being busy with work or whatever else I could do to avoid just feeling those feelings. However, this time around I didn’t have the choice. All of the things that had happened all hit me at once and I just buckled underneath them all. I had really pushed my own resilience past my limit. Being a self employed solo parent pushed me into asking for and accepting the help I needed. I had to be ok, I had no choice other than to face everything and work through it. And it has saved my life and is making me a happier, stronger and more confident person. I’ve learnt so much from these past few years.
Therapy has taught me so much about myself, my patterns and where they came from. I’ve always struggled to really feel my emotions in my body, if that makes sense. I have had suspected Crohn’s disease in the past which lead to several emergency operations. Those happened at a time of great stress. Since therapy, I can feel when there are knots in my stomach, tension in my back and neck. I notice when I’m clenching my jaw. I hadn’t really been very aware of that before except when I was very ill with Crohn’s. I’d tried very much to avoid it. Sea swimming was a wee epiphany for that. I’ll go on about that in more detail soon.
While I started therapy and had to allow myself to sit with and experience all those negatives I was still trying to work, get my kid sorted for his first year at school (not lose it too hard in front of him), and work as best I could. I talked a lot to friends. I am lucky to have some very very good friends. But most of the time I spent with them involved sitting in my favourite bar drinking too much wine as I wept through my feelings and stories. Acting like a real prick to someone kind when I’d had too much to drink one evening earlier this year made me realise just how unhealthy some of my ways of coping or unwinding had become. I think we can all be guilty of allowing what start as fun ways of de-stressing to become unhealthy and toxic patterns. That just helps us avoid negative feelings instead of processing them and seeing that they too are transient and hold value. I’m going to write more soon about how much I’m loving finding some self confidence and feeling more present through being sober.
It’s not an easy process going through therapy and some times it is dark as hell and quite lonely. But I would recommend it to everyone. We all carry so much crap around with us, which we project onto those we love or we people please or we isolate or overcompensate or fall into habits, addictions or have thought patterns that are unhealthy and hold us back from really living. I’d say to anyone struggling with anything, whether it feels like a small recurring thing that niggles at you or you know you have some brutal trauma that you haven’t worked through, ask for and accept the help you need. It won’t be easy but you will never regret it. Research, read up about your feelings and experiences, learn that you aren’t alone in any way, challenge the patterns you rely on, talk to people you trust, change your experiences, process why you feel shame for just being human, give yourself time and rest to process it all gently, don’t pressure yourself to think whatever it is will resolve instantly. Don’t put it off until you reach crisis point. Therapy can be preventative, confidence building and explorative, it’s not just for those in the real shit.
That quote above, I read it recently and I thought ‘I love that and those kinds of people, I totally agree’ but didn’t even think to apply it to myself. So i’ve written this and now maybe I can!! I hope I don’t sound like some smug preachy asshole, I very much don’t feel like one. I’m saying all of this because the whole process has made me reassess everything, including my work. it has made me face most of my deepest fears and I’m still here. Not perfect but growing, accepting and trying. I am also still guilty of sometimes sabotaging myself and holding back. I want to involve the positives I’ve learnt in my work, to grow communities, to share the dark so we can really value and enjoy the light. It all goes to inform how I live and work. Tiny changes. Here’s my manifesto for the future.
I want to share as I rebuild - I want to keep exploring my own creative voice. I won’t reduce myself for anyone - I am not too much and I don’t feel too much. I am passionate about the things I love and that is a wonderful thing. I want to enjoy my work and to feel really enlivened by and grateful for all my shared experiences. I want to keep sharing the hard stuff incase it helps support someone else in kick starting whatever they’re blocking themselves from. I’ll keep on sharing my experiences and lessons with honesty, try to quit sabotaging myself, manage my time in healthy ways. I’m gonna keep on talking about having body confidence, trying to live in a more sustainable and kind way, what I’m learning from the self care my therapist and experiences are teaching me, the books and resources I find helpful…
I feel really positive and calm just now. I know that I’ve still got plenty of battles to fight - rebuilding a business that’s been a little neglected while I work through all of this, learning healthy ways to manage time, finding a space to work from out of our home so I don’t feel isolated and making sure I don’t fall back into old patterns…but I feel a new confidence that it’ll all work out how it should. I’d love it if you came with my on my wee journey.
I’ve left comments on incase there is anything you want to share directly here. And my unhelpful words project is still open to anyone. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to take part. See my previous blog posts for more info on that.
Thanks for reading and I really do love pizza and walking along the beach.