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How I made work, work for me

Monday, 08 April 2019 Bethany

Bethany’s anxiety and depression got so bad that she quit her job and withdrew from the world. Here she blogs about how learning a new skill and starting her own business has transformed her life.

Bethany who suffers from anxiety, panic disorder and depression, runs her own business.

I have ran my small business for almost three years now, but before I started this, a tough period in my life saw me crippled with anxiety, panic disorder and depression. I found myself with no job, money and no way to get by. Starting to learn a new skill helped me see the light, leading me out of a mental health crisis and into self-employment.

"I quit my job, stopped seeing friends and Family and stopped leaving the house altogether."

I’ve always suffered with mild symptoms of anxiety- but this particularly bad episode started with work related stress and grew and grew until I quit my job, stopped seeing friends and family and stopped leaving my house altogether. Before I knew it, I had barely left my room for three months. Everything triggered a panic attack - sitting in a bath that was too hot, seeing an unknown number call my phone, taking the bin out, a knock at the front door, pins and needles in my leg, running out of milk, texts from friends asking to meet up, everything triggered an overwhelming sense of fear that I couldn’t put into words.

I couldn’t face anything, and I couldn’t explain it to anyone. Panic and worry shrunk my world until I was almost outside myself. Days where I’d have to be alone, I’d lie rigid on my bed scared to move, counting down the seconds until my boyfriend would be home to scoop me up and tell me I was OK.

For a long time I refused to admit it was a problem and I shrugged off any concern shown by loved ones. I didn’t seek help - I was too scared. Scared of dying in the doctor’s waiting room, scared of the ground swallowing me up from the sheer embarrassment of admitting my darkest thoughts, petrified that I’d be sent away with men in white coats. I felt it had gone too far - I had no job, I was losing friends, I’d let everyone down; I didn’t see how any doctor or mental health professional could help with that.

"One day, my dad sat me down and he told me about his own struggle with depression and anxiety. It was a huge relief that someone else had felt this before and survived to tell the tale."

The turning point was when my parents drove a six- hour round trip to take me back to my family home for Christmas. They knew I wasn’t coping and even when I got back to their house I barely left my room. One day, my dad sat me down and he told me about his own struggle with depression and anxiety. Hearing him tell me he’d shared some similar feelings and experiences lifted so much weight off my shoulders. It was a huge relief that someone else had felt this before and survived to tell the tale.

After this, I realised I didn’t want my lovely family to feel worried about me anymore. I needed to get myself right not just for myself but for those that had been concerned for so long. I started by just making sure I got up, dressed and washed, then taking a short walk every day. At first, because my panic attacks had got so bad, I could only go to the end of my street and round the corner a few times, but after a few weeks I was taking a couple of hourly walks a day. I felt so good and strong for doing this. Even though I was still feeling incredibly anxious, I had achieved something in my day.

"Being self-employed means I am in charge of my own life. I can control my schedule and take a step back if I’m having a wobble."

The fog was lifting and I was finally starting to find joy in things again. I started to teach myself to crochet as something to keep my mind active. I made blankets and little crochet animals, and I started experimenting with my own designs and making small wall decorations. Friends and family encouraged me to start an online shop to sell them. So I did! And here we are. My business has grown 100 hundred times since those crochet days. I now make all different kinds of home and wedding decor alongside DIY kits for people to learn and follow my patterns. I am still battling some aspects of anxiety, but I have finally sought help in the form of CBT and I am mostly better, and running a full time business.

Being self-employed means I am in charge of my own life. I can control my schedule and take a step back if I’m having a wobble.

But of course, it’s not without its negatives - not least the fact that you are the one responsible when things go wrong And just like any work, it’s so easy to find yourself overwhelmed with to do lists, emails and deadlines. As I found out three years ago, work stress can be a breeding ground for any sort of mental health issue. The majority of us have to work, so if you find yourself struggling whether that be in an office working nine-five or at a bar working five-three or even if you are self-employed like me, here are some tips to balance work related stress:

  • You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Ask for support, if you can, from friends and family - even if it is just help with making meals or doing household chores.
  • Don’t wait for people to reach out for you if you need support.
  • When you find yourself overwhelmed, say no to things that aren’t a priority. 
  • Prioritise you. Always.
  • Keep track of how you are feeling - check in with yourself weekly, or even daily and if you need time out, make sure you take it.
  • Celebrate your achievements. Print out good feedback, or nice emails and keep a folder that you can look through when you have periods of self-doubt.
  • Remember its ok to have days where you don’t feel 100 per cent up to doing everything. Take your time. On those days, always honor your needs.

I hope this blog post can help anyone struggling with the daily grind, or inspire those who want to try something new. Remember it’s possible to change your life and make work, work for you.

Read our advice and information on managing stress.

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