If I hadn’t before, I did in 2014. I lived more vulnerably than I ever had.
In 2014 I finally stepped up to the plate, practiced what I preached, and walked the talk. Fronting up all vulnerable and authentic like, I finally took the bull by the horns and went after what I wanted, head high whilst secretly quaking in my ugg boots, heals, thongs or bare feet… I’m not sure I exactly set out to do it, but I did end up putting it all on the line.
In 2014 I was screwed over, recognised, shafted, demoralised, challenged, looked after, exhausted, respected, loved, stressed and blessed.
2014 was also the year I opened my mouth and spoke up. It was the year I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone, loved more than ever, and sacrificed everything in the name of my dreams or ‘what if…’ before.
As I sit here, I feel incredibly raw but I’m still standing (or sitting) and end the year with more energy, positivity, confidence, faith and strength then I have ever possessed.
I call 2014 my year of living vulnerably
…to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves
– Brene Brown
To be honest I can’t really remember how the year started, and that’s not because I was wiped out or hung over. It just started so intensely. I mean, I was in a job I busted my ass for and had invested my entire self in thus ending up sick from stress and incredibly disappointed in, and I may have even experienced my third car accident in a year and a half. Oh that’s right – my wake up call. It was around May 2014 that ‘the wake up call’ happened, or rather, the Universe forced me to STOP, sit up, and finally pay attention.
2014 – the year that was…
Let’s classify 2014 also as the year I experienced my true wake up call.
I’d thought I’d experienced a few wake up calls beforehand but no, a car accident in your own driveway, well, that’s pretty intense – especially when it involves lurching forward down the driveway, over a bin, through a fence, down a hill, and getting stuck over concrete (luckily) before nearly running over a trailer and through another fence and houses. Hmmmm.
I still drive my car as a constant reminder to be mindful – and because I simply can’t afford to get it fixed as it was my third car accident in one and a half years (one was not my fault!). I really don’t want to go crawling to my insurance company, plus it really is still drivable!
But I digress…
Realising the gravity of my anxiety
For years my focus had been on my depression. So much so that I had neglected to pay much attention to my anxiety. I mean, I knew it was there but I saw depression as the bigger beast. It was only after my third car accident in a year and a half that I realised how much chronic anxiety had impacted – or was impacting – my life. I was sick from stress. The fatigue, eczema, stomach issues, forgetfulness – everything could be attributed to stress. After the car accident I was struck by the realisation that I was chronically stressed and that if I didn’t do something to drastically change my life, then something a lot more serious was going to happen.
And so I bit the bullet and enrolled in an 8 week intensive Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course (MBSR) as my life depended on it, and finally I started to tune in and listen to my heart, body and mind. As I did my body started to tell me that there was one cause to my problems and that it was me. I had been making myself sick for a very long time.
As soon as I decided to put myself first – to focus on my health and well-being, my life began to change. This led to one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make – one that I had been putting off for a very long time. I quit my job and left my 12 year career in project management. With no savings I was absolutely terrified. But I also believed it was the right thing to do.
Quitting my job
In 2014 I finally left my 12 year career in project management knowing that it was not healthy for me nor passionate about it. It’s a challenging situation to be faced with when you are really good at something and have done it for so long that it has become natural to you. But what I finally acknowledge is this – just because you are good at something does not mean it is good for you.
It wasn’t an easy decision to arrive at. I’d invested myself in the company but was eventually – in a way – forced to my decision. The world works in crazy ways though and I accept now that everything happened for a reason, but that didn’t stop it sucking balls at the time! Regardless, I do know that I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in my situation, in not being myself or living according to my values, in doing things I didn’t feel comfortable in doing, in being bored and under-utilised with what I was doing and just not feeling ‘right’. I was also fed up with not being honest. I mean, why hide my anxiety from some people and not others? Why hide the trauma I was going through following the other accident? I mean, one in three women and one in five men are likely to experience anxiety in their lifetime so why keep it a secret, and then, when talking about it, why be ashamed about it?
And so I quit my paying job with no other job to go to and no savings.
Stepping out beyond the comfort zone
Around the same time I quit my job I applied for something called Awesomeness Fest – something I knew was so far out of my comfort zone it was crazzzzy!
Awesomeness Fest was an annual four-day inspirational fest for entrepreneurs and other alternative peeps looking to connect and be inspired to take the world by storm, and it looked exciting! With the likes of Vishen Lakhiani and Lisa Nichols, I knew deep down that it was what I needed, and when I found out partners could come I just knew it was what D needed. And so I bit the bullet after pondering the application for a few days – I just needed something and Awesomeness Fest was it. So I whipped up some answers, submitted them and got an interview, and what was even crazier was that after the interview this little introvert got in! I am pretty certain that some people thought I was going to be indoctrinated into a cult. Me on the other hand – I manifested the intention that it was going to change my life, and in a way it did.
To be honest, attending Awesomeness Fest was literally like being a fish out of water. Whilst at Awesomeness Fest I found myself confronted by old insecurities and questioned myself fully – something I had not done since I was a teenager. I felt so inadequate hanging with the ‘beautiful people’ and the realisation that my body image demons still had a hold over me. I was ashamed of what I looked like, of my figure, my complexion, my self… and so I returned from Awesomeness Fest feeling fat, frumpy and fruitless.
But after a week of ‘woe is me’ I snapped out of it, pulled myself up by the heel straps, and became determined to show everyone who had dismissed me in my life – and at Awesomeness Fest – what I was made of. And so I launched into business for myself and it’s been a crazy ride ever since!
In 2014 I accepted so many things, but most of all that my fatigue will always be present and I cannot have or do it all. This acceptance led me to saying no to a lot of opportunities, jobs, exciting activities, catch ups with friends and family…It also led me to tune out from social media and blogging, as well as turn off the computer – at times against my will.
2014 was also the year that I accepted help. After struggling, living on the bones of my ass and trying to do things myself for so long I reached out, spoke up, talked to people, put myself out there on video, and people responded. It was a risky move – especially the video thing (you can check out a few of them on my You Tube channel) – but it paid dividends and taught me a big life lesson – that there is actually nothing wrong with asking for or accepting help.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
I’ve investigated post-traumatic stress (PTSD) a lot over the past two years following D’s accident, but it has only in the last month that I discovered post-traumatic growth (PTG). This was following the reaslisation I was actually suffering from PTSD…
Well, PTG is the phenomenon where people become stronger and create a more meaningful life in the wake of a staggering tragedy or trauma, which explains a lot of what has happened over the last 6 months especially – as even with chronic anxiety and depression I’ve made it my mission to grow, to think outside the box, and to look at life in a whole new positive way. So much so that some of those close to me just don’t get me anymore, see me as a whole new person or comment that I am not being myself. And the same goes for D…
2014 was year I discovered my voice and was met with others uncomfortability with the subject of depression face on. Truth is, some people didn’t want to hear it. Truth is also that some people STILL deny the existence of depression OR see it as a weakness.
Stepping forward into volunteer roles such as speaking publicly and becoming an advocate for mental health, I shared my warts and all publicly and in person. Risky move, yes, but I needed to help get the message out there that there was nothing wrong with having depression or anxiety. I needed to do my bit to help combat stigma. After all, depression and anxiety are illnesses – they are not weaknesses. And people should definitely not feel ashamed to speak up.
I am enough
In 2014 I realised that I am enough. I am enough as I am at any time.
As an incredibly flawed human being I accept that I am enough, and that that is okay. In fact, it is brilliant. It is liberating. This has helped me to accept my ability as a writer, whilst embracing my notable grammatical flaws and at times insufficient grasp of the English language.
In the end we are all deeply flawed, unique, and beautiful. Yet we are also enough just as we are.
Thank you for being you, and thank you for allowing me to share, and for reading, me.
And so I leave you with these wise words and a TED talk from Brene Brown on vulnerability and shame – as that is one thing that has followed my year of living vulnerably. Many times I have battled shame – be it of my body, mind, thoughts, writing, or self…but it has all been worth it. It really has.
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.
– Brene Brown
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