Mental illness, medication and me.

Today, a friend posted on Instagram about her recent struggles and how her mental health has deteriorated enough to warrant new medication. She was already taking anti anxiety meds and how now been put on an anti-depressant of sorts; I know this because I’ve been prescribed both in the past. Anyway having only known her a short time I have seen how she’s gone from being quite guarded about her struggles with alcohol and her mental health to opening up and sharing her journey in such a brave and beautiful way.

On the flip side I was talking to another one of my new sober pals this week and she was telling me about how bad her anxiety gets. I have suffered from anxiety in the past but nowhere near as severe as this. It made me sad for her. Knowing that your thoughts can become so intrusive and debilitating that you start to believe the most ridiculous things that then impact your daily life. Anxiety is not just getting stressed and worrying, it can be so much bigger and scarier then that. When I asked her if she had seen her GP about it, she said she was worried they would think she was crazy. I didn’t like that she would even consider using those words but then I remembered how I often used to call myself crazy when I was with friends. It was a way to make light of something that was actually pretty frightening and serious.

Anyway the point of this post is to actually tell you about my experience with mental health and medication. I’ve been on and off medication for about the last 10 years or so. I’ve been on a variety of different things, mostly antidepressants, occasionally meds for my anxiety and once I was even on a lovely cocktail of stuff for my depression, panic attacks and insomnia. Over the years my thoughts on taking medication for my mental health has varied. There are times when I’ve been prescribed something and been reluctant to take it. Times when I’ve been so desperate for some sort of respite for my mind and haven’t given my prescription a second thought. Almost every time though, when I have gotten to the point of stability, when my moods are less turbulent I’ve always slowly come off what ever I was taking. I think the reasons were based on a mix of the physical affects of the medication but also the idea of having to be on them.

I have been on my current meds for a little over 2 years now. I am taking Sertraline and up until last month I was on the maximum dose. Now bearing in mind that they probably weren’t even doing what they should have been doing while I was drinking, I’ve probably only really had the full benefits for the past 6 months. Still, I made the decision last month that I wanted to start decreasing my dose with the hope that eventually I will not need them. That was until a few days ago.

Glennon Doyle was someone I hadn’t heard of until earlier this year when I saw the front cover of her new book, Untamed plastered all over instagram. At first I thought it was just another quit-lit type affair which I’m not against but doesn’t quite float my boat all that much; so I didn’t really think anything of it. But more and more people were declaring it a ‘must read’, so last week I used one of my free credits and got the audible version. The verdict: not quit-lit, but instead a compilation of stories and life lessons which I think most of us would benefit from hearing about. There was a little too much motherhood talk in there; which obviously is no bad thing but just not something I can really relate to. Some people think it’s a bit heavy on religion but that part didn’t bother me, in fact I love learning about people’s faiths because I’m a bit weird like that. Anyway the point I am trying to get to is she talks about her mental health and medication. She made a really good point in that why would we decide to stop using something that is making us feel better. Surely the point is that it’s working and to stop it would leave you at risk of suffering again. This made me think about the times I’d come off my medication after months of feeling better only to relapse and sometimes find myself in even worse of a situation.

One thing I want to make clear is that I’m not someone who would opt for medication if there are other options. The idea of filling my body with chemicals I know very little about doesn’t bode well with me. And don’t worry the irony of that statement isn’t lost on me, I clearly didn’t include alcohol in that category for many years. But I live in different times now and having removed one of the biggest toxins from my life I am much more cautious about the other things that go into my body. So I am very much open to healing of a different nature and undergo regular reiki therapy courtesy of my lovely Dad and I practice meditation. And of course there’s what I believe to be one of the best medicines out there; the art of conversation. Therapy is in my opinion underrated and should be considered by everyone whether they think they need it or not. I think people would be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of talking to someone about their life, even if just to use the other person as a sounding board.

Basically what I think I’m trying to say is that don’t see medication as too much of a big deal when it comes to mental health. If you have tried alternatives and have seen little improvement then just be open to the idea. At least go and talk to the GP about it. They can’t force you to take anything and even I on many occasions have come home with a prescription and never had the medication dispensed because I’ve decided against it. So whilst I don’t think my mental health has ever been this good I have decided that I will stay on my lower dose for the time being…and possibly forever. Because right now, that coupled with the other things I do seems to be working really well. So I see no reason to change it.

Vulnerability is…

“ She threw away all of her masks and put on her soul” ~ anon

Being open and honest is something a lot of people struggle with. Vulnerability is not for the faint hearted. It’s scary AF but what I’ve realised is that without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in certain situations we are always going to be holding back. Not being who we really are.

The need to be seen is increasing all of the time. People want to be noticed, want their voices heard, their wins to be applauded, and their pain and suffering to at least be acknowledged if not understood. The whole world is screaming ‘but what about me?’. Has it always been like this or is it that we are all so busy in our own lives to even notice what’s going on around us?

Vulnerability probably means something different to everyone. For me it’s opening myself up to hurt and ridicule. Which sounds bloody ridiculous because on some level I consider myself an open book. But I also think that comes from years of therapy and my empathic need to help others. As a child I was very much the opposite, no one knew what was going on in my head. In fact, I was so shy I barely spoke. Go figure!

Now I share a lot. On my social media, through my blog and with friends. And yeah it’s personal stuff and some people don’t understand why I feel the need to do this. Am I over sharing? Is it attention seeking? Or am I just trying to be real? To be honest, I hadn’t thought that much about it until this week when I was listening to my new audio book, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (obsessed!). The whole book is about vulnerability; what it is to be vulnerable, the ways in which it shows up and it’s necessity.

Do we really need to bare all? Well of course we bloody don’t. Everyone has the right to be as private as they like and people don’t need (or want) to hear all about your dirty secrets. But if you want people to really know you, I’m afraid you’re going to have to open up a bit. But being vulnerable is more then just opening up. Being vulnerable is going for your dream job knowing that there’s a chance you might not get it. Telling your best friend that you want to be more then friends without knowing if they feel the same. It’s telling people you no longer drink alcohol because you mostly drank to drown out the demons screaming in your head and those demons were getting louder and required more drowning out as time went on. All of these things are you putting yourself out there, letting yourself be seen but knowing that the potential to get hurt, disappointment, judged or worse…dismissed is there.

So how do you know what to open up about and what not to? I think it comes down to knowing why. What’s the purpose behind you sharing? Is it to help others? To improve your life? Of course you can share what ever you like but that doesn’t mean you are being vulnerable. You need courage to be vulnerable so if you’re just sharing something and it’s not affecting you emotionally I’d say you’re probably just trying to seek attention. And I’m not saying that’s bad because there are times when we need to be grabbing peoples attention. But that’s not vulnerability.

I think vulnerability also comes from caring a lot about what it is you’re doing or how you are showing up. For me this blog is me being vulnerable. I love to write, I think my written word is more powerful than when I talk on video for example. I try to write about things I think people will relate to, things that make people feel less alone in the world. While at the same time just simply writing about my thoughts and experiences. The truth is I’d love to write professionally but the thought terrifies me and I’d have to step even further into the vulnerability arena to find out if I’m good enough…and I’m not ready to do that just yet!

Basically I think vulnerability is taking a leap into uncertainty. It’s baring your soul not knowing how it will be received. It can be the biggest and best game changer ever. Or could leave you so badly bruised you recoil once more. All I know is that despite me having spent so much of my life recoiling I know that I have to keep trying and putting myself back out there because if I don’t, well I may as well just stay in bed for the rest of my life. And I just don’t think there’s enough on Netflix for me to maintain that kind of lifestyle, you know?

And it was all going so well…

Don’t you just hate it when things are going so well and all of a sudden, out of nowhere life, the universe, whatever you want to call it puts a stop to it? And it’s even worse when you have no explanation for it? Like, I seriously don’t have time for this bullshit. This week was meant to be full of productivity and progress, instead it’s been a bit like mouldy cheese. That might be the worst analogy ever but I think you know what I’m getting at.

For a start my early mornings haven’t been as early as I’d like and come to think of it my sleep has been a little bit disturbed lately too. So because my day has been starting later, I’ve been skipping bits of my morning routine just so I don’t get too behind with other things. And as a result that 30min slot I’d allocated for working out has been conveniently bypassed. But I’ll come back to that little faux pas in a bit.

Anyway after last weeks Arbonne revelation I decided that this week I was going to get stuck in with getting my coaching business off the ground and be proactive with all my Bee Sober ambassador stuff. Unfortunately my brain didn’t get that memo and just decided that this week it didn’t really want to do a fat lot. Every post I’ve tried to write, every email I’ve wanted to send and every idea I’ve had…all started well and then, nothing. I’ve parked so many things I’m almost out of coins for all the meters I’ve got running!

By hump day I’d all but given up. I’d spent all day helping my Dad decorate the front room, my head felt like it was going to explode by the evening. So much so that I had to cancel my walk with my mate Kass and instead I just crawled into bed at 8.30pm. I thought a good nights sleep would help but I was wrong.

Yesterday I woke up in wobble central. Not been there in a while. I kept tearing up over such small things and all I really wanted to do was nap. All day. I tried to focus on getting all my homework actions up to date from the business course I’m doing with Laura at the moment. The training videos from this week were so good and I really thought I knew exactly what I needed to do. And I did, except when I tried to write I just kept hitting brick walls over and over. Which infuriated me even more and in the midst of a teary rage I suddenly remembered I was still the size of a baby hippo and had failed miserably at doing any form of proper exercise. So in an effort to feel even a tiny sense of accomplishment I joined a gym.

Later that evening I battled on with writing content for my blog. There was something that had been tapping on the inside of my head for a week or so now and I thought by writing about it, it would stop said tapping. But again the words just seemed stuck. Where they’d gotten stuck I don’t know but they just weren’t coming. So I did what any coach does when they feel like they’re going nowhere…they call their own coach.

Laura has already gone above and beyond as a coach and often feels more like a very supportive and reliable friend. I didn’t want to take up too much of her time so I sent her a voice note asking for advice. Considering I started blubbing half way through she managed to figure out what I was saying and gave me some very helpful guidance and we worked through some stuff before I called it a night.

So was today any better? Ummm, it was actually but still far from really productive. I didn’t wake up until 7.30, it’s taken me all day to write this blog post (which isn’t really all that) and I’ve not done much else. BUT I did go to my first gym session in three years…yes, THREE years!

Sometimes even with the best intentions, with our plans all laid out in front of us life just doesn’t play ball. Things get in the way, our energy is off or quite simply we just can’t be arsed. What we need to remember is that a few days of feeling shitty and not getting it done isn’t going to make all that much difference in the long run. Focussing on what didn’t go well is just going to fuel the negativity so instead we need to try and shift that focus on what did go well.

I know it’s easier said then done because I lived in the land of negativity for years and couldn’t see a way out. But I learned to adapt my way of thinking, and although I need a reminder every now and again (we are all human) most of the time I know how to make that mindset shift. It takes patience, practice and perseverance but when you get there it really does take away so much shitty stress that so many of us put ourselves through when we really don’t need to.

If you’ve read this and know exactly where I’m coming from. If you’ve had similar days or weeks of feeling like you’re going nowhere fast and ended up hating on yourself for it. Then rest assured it’s not as bad as you think and I can help you see that too.

And guys!!! I went to the frickin gym! I worked out for a whole hour. AND I enjoyed it.

Who’s in charge here?

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all” ~ Oscar Wilde

No, but really. Who?

We are born. And then we die. And that time in between, somebody else is always in charge! Who the fuck decided that?!

I mean, I can see that having a more experienced human in charge of us until we can make our own decisions is a decent idea I suppose. Else we’d be eating dirt for years and I know I personally would have probably never learned to drive (reoccurring childhood dreams…terrifying!). But even then, who decided adult age? Who thought it was a good idea to let us run wild, doing what we wanted at 18? Why not let the older folk remain in charge until we were 25, 30? Okay, that’s ridiculous I know. But you see what I’m saying don’t you?

It doesn’t stop there either. Even when we are legally allowed to do what we want and make our own choices, there’s always still someone in charge. Your boss, your bosses boss, your dog, the custody officer, some knob head we voted in to be in charge. Like, how did all this even start? Who decided? Gahhhh, doesn’t it make you mad?!

Before I continue I’d just like to say I’m not mad at my dog. I love my dog. He’s a little shit. But I love him. A lot.

Ok, so what do we do? How do we take our power back? Because if you hadn’t noticed, we are so used to someone being in charge that we let people take over, tell us what to do, impact our decisions even when we don’t have to. Just have a think about everything you’ve done today; was it because you wanted to or because it’s just something you do because every does it or that’s just what you were told to do? It the same as doing things to keep others happy or because you feel you should. That again is you not being 100% in control of your decision.

I think for everyone it comes down to individual choice and priority. What matters to you the most and do you need to consider someone or something else when choosing how you live your life? For example, where you live. Let’s say you want to move to Australia; how much of that is in your control? I know that I’ve had friends who have not made a move like this because family have not wanted them to. But let’s say you’re single, no legal reasons why you have to stay in the country and there’s a job out there waiting for you. But family or friends or even your current employer are begging you to stay. And they are pulling on those hearts like you wouldn’t believe. We really need to follow our heart more than we follow other people’s. Why do we value their feelings more than our own?

I think it comes back to the impact of social conditioning. We are taught very early on to consider other people’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings etc. But at what point did that turn from a consideration to an obligation? People think you’re selfish for putting yourself first but I don’t think we do that enough. And I hate that we have to decide to ‘be selfish’ to follow our heart or do what’s best for us because it’s not selfish. It’s just us making a decision based on what WE want or need over what other people want or need.

Of course there’s a balance to all of this and if you can find it then great. But I really think there aren’t enough of us tipping the scales in our favour. We have our proportions all wrong.

I’m very quickly approaching 40 and I’m only just realising all of this now. On Sunday I had a lovely conversation with a new sober friend I met through this new Bee Sober initiative I’ve joined. She’s almost 20 years younger than me and we had lots to chat about. But what I loved the most was that everything I’m realising now, she’s realising too. And that fills me with a sense of hope I suppose, because that’s one person who has figured out that she’s in charge before it’s too late. Before she starts doing things to please others, taking on jobs because she thinks she should, putting her dreams on hold or worse; not following them because of what others might think.

Up until now I’ve had a lot of regrets in life. And I was terrified that’s all my life would end up. A big fat regret. But I swear every little thing; good and bad was just getting me ready. It was preparing me for my next chapter…sorry, book. My coach said book, which I think sounds fitting because chapters are a continuation of what’s come before. Well I want that story to end, I want to close that book and it can go back on the shelf and gather dust. Because it’s time for a whole new book. And the story will be of how I decided to take charge of me. A story of no regrets.

But I thought you were doing better?

So did I, so did I…

And I am, but doesn’t mean I don’t feel the not so good days. And now I really feel them. Like intensely. Without alcohol I feel everything.

This weekend something felt off. I didn’t start my day as I usually do. There was no meditating, no connecting with my higher self and no visualising a beach or a meadow. I figured one day ‘off’ wouldn’t hurt, except that it’s not something I need to take a day off from because I enjoy doing it so that was definitely a massive faux pas on my part.

So my day continued, I felt deeply un-zen like but Disney’s Aladdin was on TV so it wasn’t all that bad. After I’d finished my magic carpet ride I decided to pick up a drawing project I’d started when I was in India. When lockdown started I couldn’t get the art supplies (posh paper) I needed so I put it to one side and just assumed I’d find my wanna be artist vibe again at some point. Turns out some point was Saturday.

It was a pleasant couple of hours because the rents were in another room and I was blasting some killer tunes; and by killer I mean the likes of Carly Simon (you’re so vain) and The Boss (Badlands). I know, I know I have THE best taste in music. Born in the wrong decade possibly, but still!

It was my turn to cook dinner on Saturday so I made a start early because I quite like having the kitchen to myself. Nothing fancy, just a roast chicken dinner and a vegetable pie for my Dad. But I never keep things simple and of course had to make the pie from scratch (pastry included) and have proper roasties. We are not the traditional Sunday roast type people so on the odd occasion we do make a roast dinner we tend to go a bit overboard for a midweek (or in this case a Saturday night) dinner. So anyway, I cooked, we ate and then we retired to the drawing room and finished the evening with cigars and a single malt. Obviously not, in fact I think I barely sat around before I decided to go up to bed.

Having not meditated in the morning and with my head still in a bit of a funk I decided I’d give it another go. I’d also read something about a lion and gate being very significant in the astrology realm so I found something fitting on YouTube and closed my eyes and went on my search for the lion and the gate. For those who are interested this is the guided meditation I followed Lions Gate, I found the experience quite incredible actually so give it a try if it’s your thing.

Doing anything remotely relaxing at night time normally sends me off to the land of nod pretty quickly these days but on Saturday those bloody negativity gremlins started whispering in my ear didn’t they?! Little fuckers with their creepy sniggering and giggling. I needed a distraction so I consulted Amazon Prime and it came up with the goods. A very interesting documentary about the civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Look it up, it’s an excellent watch – An Ordinary Hero. That was another big sign that I wasn’t feeling joyful as I tend to find comfort in dark depressing documentaries or episodes of Greys Anatomy that are particular sad when I feel like shit. So I watched about an hour before eventually falling asleep.

Yesterday morning I woke up and instead of learning my lesson from the day before I again decided not to doing any of my usual morning stuff. I didn’t even journal and I really should have. Because I knew what was bothering me and I needed to get it out my head before it started to fester and grow arms and legs. But I didn’t did I? No, because I’m an idiot.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything productive done so I opted to chill in my room, finish watching my documentary and write content for my blog. None of that happened, instead I napped. It was a good nap. My mind rested and the gremlins stopped laughing at me for a little while.

Didn’t do much for the rest of the day. Went outside for a bit to collect worms for my mums compost bin. That was fun. I like worms. Watched a bit of TV, had dinner and then sat in the conservatory with Louis and finished my art project…again with some cracking tunes. I then ended up having a good cry because, well I’m not sure to be honest. I just felt like there was this immense pressure building up in me and I needed to let it out. So I cried. It helped.

I don’t want to go into what happened that put me in such a weird headspace all weekend. What I do want to say is that even when you’re in a stronger place mentally it doesn’t take much for something or someone to make you wobble. And for anyone who has struggled with their mental health, self sabotaging thoughts and anxiety you’ll know that a wobble can spiral very quickly. And 6 months ago I definitely would have spun out, fast. I would have resorted to alcohol which would have led to more self destructive behavior and I’d be feeling ten times worse today.

So yes, just because I’m doing better doesn’t mean I don’t get knocked down or hurt. Yes I’m stronger but I’m also still a very sensitive person. And life is particularly confusing right now so try not to be a shitty person. Especially to those that don’t deserve it.

Be a voice, not an echo

I’m trying to listen to my intuitive self more these days and it’s been telling me to speak my truth about this, so here goes…

It’s coming up to a year since I joined the network marketing industry, specifically Arbonne. Before I go any further I just want to say I have no regrets for joining, I love what I do and I’m fully behind the ethos of this company. What I do want to do though is share my thoughts and experience so far. And it’s going to be a no holds barred type of post. Honest and raw, but also 100% MY voice, sharing MY view point. These are purely my thoughts and no one else’s.

I feel like this industry is very much like marmite; you either love it, or you hate it. There are probably some who plod along in the middle of the road like clients or beneficiaries, but the majority are very much anti-MLM or ‘this is the best industry ever and I can’t believe it took me so long to jump on board’. So clearly I’m Team Love. But not for the reasons you might think. And not without a few sticking points which I’m going to share with you.

Like I said it’s been almost a year since I first heard about Arbonne. Although I got started towards the end of last year my mental health wasn’t the best so I had to put my venture on hold for a few months. At the time I had mixed feelings. I was relieved that I could step back because the intense excitement within my team and the community, although motivating was also a bit overwhelming. But I was also worried that I was going to get left behind. Which is a ridiculous thought to have because there is no behind or ahead; everyone is just on their own journey.

The phrase ‘stay in your lane’ is not uncommon in Arbonne. We are reminded that comparing yourself to others is nothing but detrimental to you and your business. Which of course is pretty obvious but we all know that society has conditioned us to keep checking to see where everyone else is at. Comparison is the thief of joy as they say. I’m so bored of hearing that phrase. I’ve said it myself many times I’m sure but ffs, we know!!! But we just can’t help it!!!!!

So with my blinkers on I did what was required during my little ‘career break’ to get myself back in a good head space. After which I jumped right back in with all four limbs, like a frog and this time I stopped looking sideways and focussed on the path ahead…for about a month before the sodding blinkers fell off I started looking around again. But that’s clearly something I need to work on.

So I was back in business (quite literally) and this time I was armed with a load of personal growth and valuable life lessons. I was also 3 months alcohol free which allowed me to find my own brain and think for myself, which is handy when you’re trying to build your own business. I also paid more attention to other people in the business, not for comparison but to observe and learn in order to figure out what kind of mentor I wanted to be. In this industry you can only reach a certain level of success on your own. In order to get get promoted further ‘up the ladder’ you need to build and lead a team. That’s why I’m not overly a fan of using the phrase ‘be your own boss’ when talking to potential consultants. Because yes you can decide your own hours, your working location etc but you are guided by your upline and you have to follow the company regulations. Now don’t get me wrong, this is no bad thing. In fact, it’s pretty brilliant if you think about it. It’s like you’re building a business without the hassle of figuring out all the back room stuff. You literally just have to talk to people, place online orders and the rest is taken care of. So why is it so simple and why do people earn lots of money for doing…not a lot? Well, what I’ve learned is, yes it’s a simple process but it’s definitely not easy. And the reason that consultants have the potential to earn so much money is because the organisation doesn’t pay out for high end advertising using celebs who don’t even use the products. They create the marketing material, send it to us and then we use it to give new and existing clients the lowdown on the products. We also use the products, so you’ve got real life people with real life results. They also don’t have to pay out for brick and mortar stores because everything is purchased online. And the difficulty comes from getting people to listen. For many reasons this industry has been tainted. By dodgy companies, people who haven’t been successful and those that just simply either don’t understand the business model or that think it’s ‘wrong’. But also and I hate to say it, a small percentage of consultants who work their business in a not so attractive way. I’m going to explain what I mean by that in a second, but here’s what I have to say about all the bad press in general. Nothing is perfect. Nothing. Every organisation has good and bad in them depending on who you listen to. I’m not saying ignore everything you hear. I’m saying listen, and then do the research before deciding for yourself.

Now back to the not so attractive ways of working the business. Firstly, a reminder that these are my perceptions and my perceptions only. There appear to be a lot of what I like to call MLM-robots in the industry. Because so many people join without any experience they rely on their upline/mentor team to show them the ropes. Which is fine, part of the deal is we get ‘on the job training’. The problem starts when the training, guidance and/or ‘how to’ examples are repeated over and over. People will only join you as a client or team member if you are genuine. And why are people going to believe that you’re genuine when you are spouting the exact same words as all of the other consultants in your wider team? I’m not saying what we are taught is wrong, far from it. What I’m saying is that the hunger for success is so strong that some consultants see how well their mentor has done and think they have to literally replicate to be successful themselves. That’s where the cringey messages and tactics come from. Now I totally hold my hands up because I was one of them at the start as well. I’d like to take this moment to apologise to everyone that had spammy Shaena in their inbox. I’m so sorry for being that girl. I’m sorry you had to suffer my ‘pass the vomit bucket’ messages. I just didn’t know back then, I was stupid. I was an idiot.

Ok, where was I? Yes so the robots, some of them are successful, some are not. What I don’t want to be is the person who is so desperate for that success that she loses her identity and forgets why she’s even doing this. I don’t want to be a sheep. They say this business is a numbers game and that after so many no’s, rejections, ghostings, verbal abuse etc you will get a ‘yes’. I believe that’s true but I don’t just want any yes. I want the right yes. I want the people that say yes to see me for who I am. I want my clients to know that I’m here to help them with their health and well-being. I want my consultants to know that I’m the kind of mentor that will help them play to their strengths, support them through the good and the bad and 100% respect their decisions and choices in terms of how they run their business. You’d think this was a given but believe me, it’s not!

This industry is tough because of the negativity that surrounds it, the robots and the fact that society like comfort and tradition. To a lot of people this isn’t a legitimate way to earn a living, they don’t trust buying from unconventional sources and it’s just not what they’re used to. Fear is what makes it hard for us, for me. People are scared of different so they won’t take a chance. My job is to educate them and show them a different way.

Many consultants are a lot further along in their business building venture than I am. Like I said each consultant is on their own journey. Obviously I am keen to progress and there are times I wish things were moving quicker. But then I stop and remind myself that for whatever reason THIS is my journey. The duration, the obstacles, the highlights, the breakdowns. They all have their purpose and I’m learning to accept and embrace that now.

But most importantly I’m learning that my voice is the most integral part in all of this. If I don’t speak my truth, if I don’t own my journey then I’ll just be a number. And I’ve been that number before, in organisations where you do as your told and you follow the rules. It’s suffocating and it can be soul destroying. The whole point of me doing this was to become my own person and do the things I’ve always wanted to.

I want to be the consultant that helps you become better. In which ever way you need to. I want to help you be happier, healthier and more hopeful. I don’t just want to be the girl that helped you order some skincare or got you a decent discount on ethical beauty products. I want to be more.

I want to be a voice. Not an echo.

Authenticity or attention seeking ?

If I’m honest, I don’t even know anymore. I guess it’s subjective? I could post a picture on here where I think I look nice and some would think I’m trying to grab attention. I suppose I am in a way, but not necessarily because I’m all ‘look at me, like my photo’ but mostly because I want people to read my captions. Again, not for popularity purposes but because I think at least some of the stuff I have to say might be helpful to someone out there. And I think if we’re all honest a slightly more aesthetic photo is more likely to get someone to stop scrolling then one where I look like shite.

They say social media, (Instagram in particular) is a highlight reel of people’s lives and people only post what they want you to see, which I agree with to some extent. But I think it totally depends on what you are using it for. My Instagram has gone through phases. It started out as an app where I posted the occasional photo before transforming into quite a health and fitness page. That phase of my life was inconsistent to say the least. I was either all in or on the couch. And if I was on the couch my mental health struggles were often on fire, fuelled of course by alcohol. Either way at the time I thought I was being authentic. But was I really? I know for a fact everything I posted was real, but it’s more what I ‘chose’ not to post that puts a question mark over my integrity. The bad workouts, the unflattering angles, the sweat patches. The stuff that basically didn’t look so pretty or impressive, that was kinda neglected so maybe I did only show the highlight reel.

These days those who’ve followed me through my trials and tribulations will see that my Instagram is focussed on my lifestyle blog, my mental health and soberiety, my health and wellness business AND me just sharing a bunch of life lessons and lightbulb moments because….well because I believe that I have some things of value to offer people. Whether that be nuggets of wisdom, solutions to problems or even just a friendly face and an ear to listen. And I think this is the first time I’ve really appreciated what it is to be authentic. I think I can safely say that prior to February 11th of this year I wasn’t authentic. I wasn’t going around trying to be fake but my mental health was so bad at times, even I didn’t know who I really was. And I’m pretty sure if you don’t know who you are, you can’t be authentic.

When I stopped drinking on February 11th 2020, I started a new journey. One of self discovery, personal growth and just learning to understand myself better. Only now do I think I’m seeing my true self, and that’s why I think it’s only now I can say I’m being authentic. And I think when you achieve that level of authenticity you start to notice those around you that aren’t quite there yet. I’m seeing it everyday in my business, all over social media and even in people close to me. It’s not their fault, they might not even realise. And being true to the core, voicing YOUR beliefs, following your own path even if it means upsetting those around you is not easy! In fact it can be really fucking scary.

I saw a post on LinkedIn a few weeks back. Someone asked a question and it turned into quite a…I want to say debate but it was actually more like an excuse to take the piss out of people who show emotion. So the question was something along the lines of ‘why do people feel the need to cry on their social media?’. Now, there wasn’t much more said in the initial post but the comments…wow! Some of the words I saw: Attention seeking, no-one needs to see or hear that, have some dignity, why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call someone? Ridiculous, cringey, how embarrassing. These comments went on into the 100s! I was stunned and to be honest extremely fucked off by these responses. Someone’s tears could literally be a cry for help because they have no one else to turn to.

I try not to get into these keyboard battles but I took this one personally. So I rolled up my sleeves and started typing.

My response

I did get a response from the author of the post about it being jest but in today’s current climate, when mental health struggles are rife I didn’t see the funny side of it. What it did get me thinking about was the actually meaning of the phrase ‘attention seeking’. Am I right in thinking we use this with a negative connotation attached? Because that’s the only time I’ve ever heard it used. And when you think about it, all it means is looking to gain somebody’s attention. So really, this could be for all manner of reasons. You could be seeking attention because you’re in danger, or trying to get yourself noticed for your talents, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because you’re desperate for validation or want to have all eyes on you. And personally, I think showing that kind of raw emotion on social media whether it’s intentional or not is closer to authenticity then it is to attention seeking. Maybe I’m wrong?!

I’m noticing that this post does not have a clear direction. I don’t feel like it’s heading towards any big finale. Which I find disappointing. I always like to end with something poignant or dramatic. But perhaps this post doesn’t have a clear ending because there’s no clear answer. Being authentic is more than just being yourself. You have to know what that self is. And what I’ve learned is that through no fault of our own too many of us don’t really know who we are. Society has moulded us without us noticing and sometimes it takes a big life event (one that perhaps say involves wearing masks and staying indoors a lot) to make us stop and ask ourselves the questions. Am I being my authentic, true self? Am I attention seeking or just trying to stand out? Whatever your thoughts and opinions I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves…and probably more than once!

Connect with me

“Social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer.” ~ Leonard Mlodinow

No, I don’t mean send me a message. I mean, actually connect. Let me explain…

As a species we are not meant to live like lone wolves, we are hardwired for connection. The need to be social is in our make up. But I’m not talking social like going out with your mates on a midweek bender. No, I mean on a deeper level.

We want to be seen for we are. We want to be understood. And that only comes from a true connection, a meeting of minds or better still a meeting of souls.

When we lose someone in our life whether it’s at the end of [any kind of] relationship or saying goodbye forever it frickin hurts. Or does it? What is that feeling? We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives and we call it pain or hurt. But it’s not the same as feeling physical “my finger has fallen off” type pain is it? Turns out social pain is a thing…a real thing. So if you have to take time to heal from physical pain then why is it any different when you suffer the loss of a human connection?

Now I think there’s a whole heap of shit that needs exploring here but I want to go back to the ‘need’ rather than the ‘loss’. I think our need for connection is underestimated. I always used to think I was over reacting when I got jealous of people hanging out with friends or partners even if they were technically ‘staying in’ or ‘doing nothing’. For me, who was going home to her dog (momma loves you Louis) their none plans were still better than mine. And yes, I know it sounds pathetic. And yes, there were tiny violins everywhere. But it doesn’t take away from the fact I felt shit.

But now I know it was more than me just throwing myself a pity party. I mean, of course it was mostly that. But It was also my need as a person to have that human connection. Like we genuinely need it for health reasons, it’s been proven! It reduces anxiety, depression and low self esteem. Those who lack human connection are said to be prone to inflammation, heart problems, ageing and devastatingly, suicide.

And it’s more than just having someone to spend time with or talk to. We emanate those we connect with, consciously and subconsciously. So not only is it important to make and have connections, it’s important that we be aware of how those connections impact us.

Anyone keeping count of how many times I’ve used the word ‘connection’?

One final point on this subject which I’m now realising is HUGE is connections with a purpose. I worked 5 years in a job where I was surrounded by people all day. I made some very good friends there, but some connections weren’t as strong as I thought. But such is life. Now I’m self employed and with my business being an online one you might think connections are a scarcity. Well it’s actually the complete opposite. I may not be meeting people face to face every day but the connections I’m making are meaningful. They have depth because we are connecting over things like mental health, insecurities and sobriety. People assume that I just ‘sell products’, and you can call it that if you want. But it’s not really like that. My business is about making connections with people, getting to know them and finding out ways in which I can help them. It doesn’t always result in me selling a product and it doesn’t have to either. My aim is to help, in any way I can so if that’s just having a chat, offering suggestions or even signposting them to something else then that’s what I’ll do.

So like I said up top, connect with me. Whatever your reason I’m here to help you, listen to you, laugh with you and if you want to, put the world to rights with you! ✌🏽

A Sober Education

Who’d have thought? Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips in 151 days. I am pretty proud of myself but not because of my incredible willpower or determination, because to be honest it’s not really been like that for me. Not this time around anyway. I can’t really explain why but I’ve not really had any cravings, moments of ‘my life is going to be so fucking boring now, why could I not just drink sensibly like all the normal people out there?’ or even felt the need to fill the giant vodka bottle sized gap in my life with alcohol free beverages. It’s actually been pretty smooth sailing….so far. I am under no illusion that this is going to be a doddle and I’m never going to think about alcohol again, because that’s just stupidity at its finest. I am yet to try sober socialising, I have my first sober birthday since I was 17 coming up in a few months (and it’s a big one!) and I’ve just realized that if I ever decide that looking for love is a good idea again I’m going to have to go on a sober date! FML!

Anyway I digress. So, proud. Yes I am. Why? Because it’s given me the opportunity to go back to school. Sober school that is. No, not the online one. The imaginary one I made up so I could be a student again. A student of life! I’ve just said that out loud and I sound like a twat, but stick with me here.

I’ve learned more in the last 5 months than I did at school, university or in any job I’ve had. It’s been an incredible journey so far, so many light bulb moments and epiphanies. When alcohol was my pal, I spent so much of my time confused, lost, misunderstood. In fact I didn’t even really understand myself if I’m honest. I didn’t know who I was and now looking back, I think I spent too much of my time trying to be like other people just to fit in. No bloody wonder I was depressed. Feeling like you don’t belong or unsure of your identity is not a nice place to be. It’s actually incredibly lonely and I think as a society we underestimate the impact loneliness has on people. You don’t have to be elderly to be lonely, in fact I think older people accept loneliness better than most. I know for me watching people in my life; friends, colleagues etc go about there day to day lives with their families, other friends, partners made me feel like shit. It’s not like I didn’t have friends I just didn’t have a regular crowd to hang out with so to speak. So I hung out on my own…well, maybe not completely alone. Had my buddy booze there with me didn’t I?!

So what’s so different now? Well, since me and alcohol parted ways I feel like it took with it the dark cloud that used it hang over me, so I can see so much better now the skies are clear. I can see myself again and as a result I’m more aware and less dismissive of the impact my thoughts and actions have on myself and others. Having this clarity and self awareness gives me a sense of control that I didn’t have before. I always thought I was in control and it was my decision to do the things I did but if I wasn’t myself, how could it have been?

I’ve also done a lot of soul searching since going sober…wait is it going or getting? Anyway I’m talking actual soul searching. The spiritual kind, where you try and connect with your higher self and see the bigger picture. I never thought all that stuff was a bunch of crap, but I also didn’t think it was for me. Turns out I was wrong. Not only is it very much me and has opened up a whole new world for me, but I actually think everyone could do with checking out their spiritual side. You don’t even need to meditate, just google soul vs ego and I promise you, you’ll find out a lot about yourself!

Having found spiritual Shaena my life is so much more peaceful and calm now. I get less irate about things and even if something really annoys me I try not to react, but instead pause and take a breath. I also have way more patience and I find myself enjoying the simplest of things. I can’t even remember the last time I was in a bad mood which is saying something considering my whole life used to be a bad mood.

There’s so much more I could say about sober life and I’m sure you’ll get plenty more snippets in future blog posts but the last thing I want to mention today is people. I have made the most incredible connections via Instagram, I’m honestly blown away. I’m no stranger to making friends online, a few years ago I was following this fitness program and connected with a few girls who were doing it too. I think that was in 2015, since then I’ve been to 2 of their weddings, had 2 weekend cottage breaks with them and there was even a trip to New York! Madness! Anyway the sober community on Instagram is so welcoming and supportive. Obviously you don’t click with every single person but in just a few months I can definitely say I’ve gained at least 5 new friends. It’s funny actually, so many people worry about their friendships changing when they decide to stop drinking. I get it, I was worried too. But it’s true what they say about people all having a different role in your life and not everyone is there to stay. When you make changes to your lifestyle, some people adapt and evolve with you but others, their role in your life comes to an end. And that’s ok, because chances are you new lifestyle choice will bring a whole bunch of new people into your life.

So here’s to 5 months and to my continued education at sober school.

Cheers!