I’m a huge introvert and I’ve battled depression on and off over the last 20 years.
For the longest time I’ve struggled with extreme shyness and social anxiety – often being misunderstood as rude, whereis I was secretly suffering from a panic attack and wishing I could hide or go home. At its worst, I was agoraphobic – struggling to drag myself to the shop to get a loaf of bread to feed myself. Not that that bothered me. I hated myself so much, wavering from starving myself through to over exercising and binge drinking. I didn’t treat myself well at all and was my own worst critic.
In saying that, I was also a high-performer. Even though I had no idea what I wanted to do in life – aside from travel (escape…), I excelled at whatever job I landed in, culminating in 2008 when I was awarded the highest award for excellence in project management. In hindsight, this should have been an amazing time of celebration and success, but I had burnt myself out physically and mentally. And when I started to experience bullying at work as a result of my success – from my female colleagues of all things, well, I decided enough was enough and quit.
Lost and struggling
In 2010 I found myself lost and struggling to get through every day. I had left my job as an awarded project manager burnt out and in the grips of depression again, but had landed in another job where myself and others were subjected to severe mental bullying. I was struggling to deal with the death of my beloved Nan, and to make matters worse, my social anxiety was back with a vengeance, threatening to destroy my relationship of 6 years.
Lucky for me a friend referred me to a Young Women’s Leadership Program whereby my life started to change. Over the space of 6 months it helped to pull me out of the gutter and show me that I was someone and that I could overcome anything. We were introduced to the concepts of mentoring, volunteering, social media, and were tasked with identifying our passions. When I couldn’t identify my passions, I was devastated. I mean, what was a person with no passion? But we were encouraged to keep searching, and on my way I wrote my first blog post for an online leadership community called ‘Emergen’. I mean, if there was anything that could fire me up it would be writing? I had loved writing as a little girl.
“The same person who would never raise [their] hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationship into the real world.” – Quiet, Susan Cain 201
I still remember that evening. Sitting there about to select ‘publish’ on the computer screen, and then doing it and being so scared. It was only a little post, but I felt so exposed. I didn’t need to be though. I soon wrote another, and another. I liked it. So I decided to start my own blog – just a small, little personal blog. Nothing major. Just a way to develop a bit of a writing routine. That’s all…
‘Reflections from a Redhead’ was named after my hair color – something I was teased about, and something I hated up until my mid-twenties. But since I now loved it why not champion it and show others that they can rise above things too.
A catharsis of sorts
Blogging has been a cathartic journey of self-discovery, opening up a world of opportunities and giving me a way to find and develop my ‘voice’. Sure, it hasn’t been easy, and there have been many ups and downs, but 3 years later my life has transformed:
- I am comfortable in my skin: I love my hair and I love myself;
- I’m happier, healthier and no longer depressed;
- I’m outgoing and confident;
- I no longer live dominated by fear;
- I have so many new friends;
- I have [too many] opportunities and passions…
- I’ve climbed the Great Wall of China;
- I can’t stop writing;
- I’ve volunteered for numerous organisations;
- I’ve designed and published ebooks;
- I’m engaged to a wonderful man who has stuck by me for 9 years;
- I’ve succeeded in some incredibly tough environments and jobs;
- I’m starting to get out there and speak publicly;
- I am starting my own business;
- I have helped, and am helping others through sharing my stories;
- I want to live.
We all have the ability, the difference is how we use it.
Most importantly it has helped me realise that I can help others. After all, that’s what life is about, and if I can help one person, than it has all been worth it.