Stress is a sign of weakness! It’s all in your head! Why can’t you just calm down and think about something else? In my previous life as a solicitor (whether I worked for large city centre firms, small high street firms, or somewhere in between) these attitudes and other such pearls of wisdom, were espoused by the Great and Good of the legal world, and this attitude is still prevalent in many professions and walks of life. In truth, I suffered dreadfully with stress all throughout my legal career, and this toxic culture of denial and negative judgement lead me to believe that I was weak minded and stupid for letting it get to me.
Terrified to admit it
In the adrenaline fuelled environments that I worked in, admitting to suffering from stress and anxiety was strictly taboo, especially if I wanted to get ahead in my career. On the odd occasion when I did mention it in passing to my boss, the response was either a swift denial of stress, or at best, a curt acknowledgement with the caveat that nothing could be done, it was part of the job, so put up or shut up. As a result, I was terrified of actually admitting it was a real problem for me, and I felt so alone. I felt I had to just get on with it and cope.
But regardless of how much I tried to be strong, the stress got worse. I thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t beat it. I just couldn’t stop thinking about stuff. My sleepless nights, tossing and turning, worrying and panicking about hearings, targets, and deadlines, seemed to last forever. My churning stomach and cold sweats in the morning on the way to work were overwhelming to the point where I was physically sick. I told myself that if I could work a bit harder, I would feel on top of things, and I was failing miserably because I wasn’t good enough to sustain 12 hour days every day of the week, and I was defective because I needed more than 4 hours sleep per night. I berated myself for my failings, and made enormous efforts to never let it show to anyone else. After all, no-one else felt like this, they were obviously all coping marvellously! My answer to stress was to get another coffee and get on with it, try to ignore how I felt and hope it went away.
And so it went on, and I remained agonisingly silent. The stress became worse, my exhaustion grew, my health suffered, my personal life fell apart (several times), and I cycled down into periodic bouts of the most God-awful anxiety and depression over several years. There were times when I felt desperate, and at my worst, I considered giving up completely. I asked myself whether it was really all worth it; after all what was I fighting for? Just to stay in the game when tomorrow promised only more of the same? It all seemed pretty pointless, and I hit rock bottom. Throughout this time, my marriage had failed, I was made redundant, my unhealthy coping mechanisms were taking over, I’d alienated my friends and family, and I was on long term self-destruct.
The beginning of change
Eventually, I realised that I needed help, even though I didn’t want to admit it. I met a wonderful therapist, and began my own therapeutic journey. I started to understand myself and what was happening to me, and I learned to reduce and manage my anxiety. Things that happened in life became more bearable. I met a really great guy (we’re still happily together) and rebuilt some of my relationships (not all of them, as by now, I realised how damaging some of these had actually been). I found a good job. Most importantly, I realised that none of the negative beliefs I had about myself were true; I wasn’t deficient, I was simply a human being, and like other human beings, I was dealing with some really tough stuff. Even after my therapy finished, I continued on my own to learn and research this lethal thing we call Stress and Anxiety. I learned that I couldn’t control what went on around me, but I could control myself and choose how I dealt with things. I learned that none of us gets through this alone and it was because I had sought help that I was in such a better place. The biggest learning was realising that by putting all my energy into denying my stress and trying to carry on regardless, I was actually feeding it, making it grow, at the expense of my own true self and my sanity.
My recovery meant that, for the first time in my life, I was able to think really clearly about what I wanted. I could make decisions based on reality, not my stress-clouded illusion of it. I was in control. I finally felt powerful as a human being and as a woman, and I was free from the suffocating weight of my stress and anxieties that I had carried for so long. It was such an incredible transformation and it completely changed my life. I was finally free to be myself!
One realisation was that my career did not fulfil me in any meaningful way because I wanted to help people in a more fundamental way, people who were going through the same suffering as I had, and so I retrained as a therapist. Giving up my legal career and beginning this work full time was a pivotal, and very proud moment in my life. My passion for this work springs from the fact that I am living proof that when you learn how to free yourself from the prison of stress and anxiety, life becomes limitless!
From my own and my clients’ experiences, I realised the truth. I understand how much it takes out of you to cope with the loneliness that overwhelming stress and anxiety bring. It takes great courage to admit to yourself that there is a problem. And it takes immense strength of character to face that problem head on, to deal with it positively, and free yourself from it. This truth could not be more ironic when compared to the stigmatised and ignorant view that stress is a sign of weakness!
I couldn’t be more proud or happy than when a client says to me “you’ve changed my life”. The value of that (both to them and to me!) is immeasurable. But actually, I don’t change anyone. In my stress and anxiety management programs, I work with people as individuals, helping them both practically and deeply personally to overcome their stress, to discover who they are and what their life can be when stress and anxiety is under control. We work together on making this vision a reality, so they too can achieve that fundamental change in themselves.
Stress is always there, it’s a part of life. There is no magic wand to make it disappear. The truth is that it is how we deal with it that makes the difference. If you would like to talk about your own experiences with stress and anxiety, and discover how you might begin your own journey towards change, please book in a call with me by clicking the link https://smscall.as.me No charge, no catch, just straightforward, honest assessment of your situation, and guidance on what you can do to find your strength, and your power, to begin your transformation.
Kate Thorpe, 5th March 2018
To contact Kate, you can arrange to book your free coaching call by clicking this link: https://smscall.as.me
Or call Kate directly on 07515 152806