In the evenings, I could often be found crying on Keith’s/my mum’s/my best friend’s shoulder. I was also suffering from IBS every day without fail – even when I was on holiday or away from work. I had tried all sorts of pills to try to fix my troubled tummy, but to no avail.
Alongside the anxiety and IBS I was losing weight, permanently tired, nervous and shaky, with a racing heart from the effort of trying to hold it together each day at work. Most people had no idea just how bad I was feeling inside, as I tried to keep the ‘sunshine Ang’ image going, but all the while I was desperate not to fail/crack up/quit/be a disappointment.
I didn’t really realise how bad it had got, until it got better.
My tipping point
I woke up one morning, unable to control the tears and unable to get out of bed – but not able to explain to a bemused Keith what was wrong. I just felt terribly sad. The thought of going into work filled me with dread. I took a day off, and over the course of the next few weeks realised that if I didn’t do something, my helpless feelings were going to overwhelm me, which had the potential to seriously damage my relationships, health and happiness.
With the unrelenting support of Keith, and a book that completely changed my thinking right when I needed it, I started to hatch a plan that would enable me to take control.
I decided to save up enough money to enable me to leave my job, work my notice, take a few months off, and then look for something else. By making a plan, and working towards it, I felt re-motivated to get through each day, knowing I had a way out, and also knowing it was on my own terms.
I won’t lie. Handing in my notice was still extremely difficult. Despite knowing that I couldn’t continue the way things were, a part of me still felt like quitting made me a failure. But, after a year of preparing, I finally went through with the plan and to my tremendous relief, it felt great. I was empowered, and in control. Yes, I was also scared, but in a good way. It was a feeling of excitement and liberation, knowing that I now had time to replenish my energy stores and emotional reserves, and to figure out my next steps.
Little did I know that this experience was just the beginning.
Fast forward two years from leaving my last job. After a couple of months of working on our garden, spending time with my family and letting the stress slide from my body, I found a new job. And in a bid not to end up in a position too similar to the one I chose to leave, I went from working in a university setting, with its endless committees, meetings, IT problems and cash-strapped procedures, to the money and testosterone-driven world of institutional stockbroking.
You’re right. Shock is not the word! But having chosen to make this change, I grew to enjoy it. I loved how different it was to my previous working environment. It was also a less stressful job and I ended up with a great boss.
So far, so good. Things, though, were still not perfect by any means.
The working hours were long, as was the commute – leaving the house at 6.30am and not returning until 7.30pm. The environment I found myself in was materialistic and at times, insincere, driven by the money-hungry culture. And after six months or so I was starting to get ill on a regular basis. I had lots of good stuff going on outside of work (including our engagement, and the arrival of nephews and nieces) but I was too exhausted to enjoy it all, and I was still no closer to feeling like I had found where I was supposed to be. But I had the opportunity to take up Pilates on a regular basis thanks to our swish new offices being big enough for a class each Monday, (this was to become one of the best things I ever did) and plenty of food options at lunch time….tick, tick!
Unfortunately, most of the food options did absolutely nothing for my health – not that I realised it at the time. I was eating heavily-processed convenience food for breakfast and lunch (think almond croissant, followed by hot chocolate, followed by whatever sugary baked good happened to be around for someone’s birthday, followed by a cheesy tuna panini or chilli chicken fried rice). Dinner was often quick pasta and sauce or a sneaky takeaway. I still snacked on plenty of fruit, but my body didn’t really stand a chance from the onslaught of nutritionally empty beige food I was hooked on. And although I didn’t put on weight on the outside, on the inside I was weak, exhausted and my nerves were shot. Still though, I hoped I could deal with it all, and I told myself I was lucky to have a ‘good’ job given the financial climate.
Tipping point. Take two
Two weeks before our wedding day – redundancy. A surprising, and rather nasty bolt from the blue. It was tough to deal with, particularly as it was such a shock, but it forced my hand, and for this I will forever be grateful. This time, I had an opportunity to get things right, and after the wedding I gave myself the space to really work out what I wanted my future to look like.
This still proved difficult – I became torn between seeking out another ‘proper’ job, with its security and predictable routine, and doing what I was starting to realise would make me (and as a result, my husband, friends and family) happy.
For no good reason, I was very scared about other people’s opinions of my choices (a classic trick; putting negative thoughts in other people’s minds without their consent), and I was letting these anxieties rule my decision making and keep me from taking action. Sound a bit crazy? Yes. Easy to resolve? Hmmm….not so much!
Time for real change
Luckily for me, a friend thrust a copy of the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by the inspirational Stephen Covey, and the The Primal Blueprint, into my hands. I devoured the 7 Habits in a few days, and everything became much clearer, very quickly. By working through the simple exercises in that book I realised a few home truths that were nothing short of a revelation, and I started to figure out the way forward. Most importantly, the book helped me to work out how to build my life around those things that matter most.
I started to tell people close to me of my plans, which made them more real, and with that, I started to get the confidence to go out and make it happen. The result? A part-time ‘proper’ job, but one that was more in line with my values and which wouldn’t monopolise my time and energy, and a decision that took some serious courage and a leap of faith (but made so much sense nonetheless) – signing up to a Pilates teacher training course.
I am still on that path now, and have never been happier. The Pilates training forces me beyond my comfort zone frequently – having to study anatomy theory, standing in front of a class of strangers to teach, approaching trained teachers to ask for advice, practice hours etc. None of it is easy. But then, who said it should be?
And of course, cutting down to a part-time job plus paying for a course and a mortgage equals less money to spend on stuff. But, as you have probably gathered from other Live Simple blogs, we were starting to realise that stuff doesn’t matter. A roof over your head, food, water, security, good friends and family? All important. But stuff? Nope. The fog has lifted. I’m taking back control. Working towards a future that actually inspires me is worth so much more.