The sun is shining, I’ve been on a few errands, I’ve not been glued to Twitter/Facebook/a computer screen all morning and I’ve had a lovely lunch with my husband at our favourite local restaurant. And in an hour I’m going for a massage at my local spa.
Life is good. That’s the story I’m telling myself today, and indeed the story I tell myself on most days. It wasn’t always like this, though. As we munched our way through a delightful fishcake, I told my husband the story of my nervous breakdown.
OK, I’ll admit that nervous breakdown might be a slight overstatement (that’s another story) but it was certainly a major burnout and one of the lowest points of my life – at least that’s how my memory is creating the current narrative.
I was in my early 30s and had been the editor of a pop magazine (Record Mirror) for about 18 months. While on many levels it was an exciting and glamorous job, it was not one to which I was best suited. I absorbed responsibility like a sponge and never learned how to delegate, thus leaving my deputy with little to do while I struggled to cope with the workload.
My colleagues, most of whom I considered to be friends, treated me differently when I was their boss. This was a psychological shift that had taken me unawares and I felt rejected and alone. As I was a people-pleaser I tried to involve everyone in the decision-making process when all they wanted was leadership.
To compensate, I partied too hard and that, combined with stress, tipped me over the edge. I woke up one day and realised I couldn’t do it any more. The doctor diagnosed nervous exhaustion and put me on antidepressants. I resigned a month later.
The story I told myself for years afterwards was that I wasn’t cut out for the top job, I must avoid stressful situations, I couldn’t take on a responsible position again and I certainly wasn’t a leader.
This narrative resulted in a long period of hiding in the shadows and not fulfilling my potential. In fact it’s only now that I feel I’m getting anywhere near coming out into the light. That’s how powerful these life scripts can be.
So I ask you again. What stories are you telling yourself? Are they good ones or are they holding you back? Don’t let them push you into the shadows – the world needs your light.