I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while, but because there have big changes for me recently and you may notice some differences on my social media in the next few months, now feels like the right time.
What I hope is that if you are going through a tough time, you read this and trust that you can come out of the other side.
I also wanted to be very clear that what you see on social media is just a fraction of what goes on in real life. It makes me very conscious of how I word comments on other people’s posts because who knows what they are dealing with?
At the start of January 2021 I decided to separate from my husband, someone who I had been with for 21 years, married for 11 of those. It was a tough decision but one I knew was the right thing to do for both of us. I am a very different person from the 19 year old when we first met. Neither of us have done anything wrong, but sometimes people just grow apart and change, that doesn’t make it any less difficult.
In some ways, it can be harder because there is nothing to blame and get angry about, and I agonised for months as to whether I was doing the right thing and for the right reasons.
I had to keep reminding myself that it felt huge because I was immersing myself in the problems, and that people went through this all the time get through it. I didn’t really think too much beyond the conversation that I knew I had to have.
At the time of writing, my ex and I are still trying to get on and trying not to make it more difficult than it already is. There have been some knee jerk reactions and some temper tantrums, but through it all we have tried to communicate as best we know how. I thank counselling for this, we had about a year and a half of it and it really helped us how to understand how to get the best out of hard conversations.
I’ve made no secret of my depression, I’ve mentioned it over blog posts, video’s and in my podcast, at the moment, it’s much closer to the surface.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a fascination with how the brain works, how moods are effected by chemicals and outside influences, and I’ve done a heck of a lot of self development to try and understand myself a bit better. Going down that route has introduced me to mindfulness and some more ‘woowoo’ aspects like Tarot (yes, really!), but I’m finally starting to feel at peace with myself, although I have got a long way to go.
For anyone who has never had depression, it’s difficult to explain, and when I try to explain sometimes people still think it’s an ‘off’ day.
Mine is classed as ‘mild’ depression and I was first diagnosed at the age of 15 after my dad went into prison. At 16 while I lived in a women’s hostel, I was prescribed Prozac which I came off as soon as I could for whatever reason I had back then!
Maybe I thought it was just because I was going through a difficult period, but depression has followed me throughout my life, I just didn’t accept it for a while.
I can function most of the time, but every now and again I get sucked into what I call Fog, it is difficult to function and do the most simple tasks, my mind feels like its in cotton wool, my normally positive attitude turns to not even negative, but indifferent. It can take me hours to get out of bed – this bit may sound normal, but it’s like I’m being pulled down by a physical weight. And of course there is the sadness, great waves of it, for no particular reason.
Obviously during this particular time of my life, I’m much more susceptible to the Fog, but I’m also now aware of it, the episodes are shorter and I’m trying to be kind to myself. Through meditation and various self development techniques I am able to watch the Fog approach and understand what is coming and it can help make those times less intense than usual. But even then, it’s sometimes not enough.
Here are some of the things that have helped personally helped :
Okay – hands up if you think meditation isn’t for you? Keep your hands up if you also haven’t tried it, or only tried it a couple of times. 😉
I resisted meditation for the longest time, probably because I didn’t understand it (put it this way, it’s not about not thinking). However I read a LOT of entrepreneurial books and there are some common themes among a lot of successful people, and meditation is one of them so I decided to give it a try.
It’s by all means not a quick fix, and it probably isn’t for everyone either! But what I’ve found with meditation is, over time, I’m a much calmer person, someone who isn’t as quick to react, and someone who listens to their own body and mind. It kind of snuck up on me that this had all happened, but I can really see the difference now.
I have only been practicing meditation for about a year, and I’m only human, so of course I have some mahoosive down days and over reactions still, it’s just that I can deal with them in a much better now, and boy oh boy has it helped in these last few months.
I love journaling because there is no wrong way to do it.
I use it as a brain dump of how I’m feeling at that particular time, working through anything that I have on my mind, not worrying about grammar or spelling. Getting everything down on paper and out of my head really clears my mind. There’s no one judging or accidentally influencing, it’s just you.
I end it with a few lines of what I feel really grateful for (a cup of tea, a friendly smile, hearing the birds). It doesn’t take long, and I do this every morning as a way to put myself in a positive mindset for the rest of the day.
Personal Development & Change
I love reading, always have. When I created my own business, I started reading a lot of books about being an entrepreneur which led to reading about what habits successful people have. I was hooked, still am!
Some of the books I have read are a bit ‘woowoo’, some of them mention God a lot (I’m not religious) but I think with any of this kind of thing, you take what you need from them. Three books in particular which have impacted me a huge amount are:
The Miracle Morning: I saw the author speak at a conference and was blown away by what he had overcome. It’s this book that started my own morning ritual at 6am to help me have a positive start to the day. During a time of upheaval, it’s been fantastic to have this steady routine in my life which doesn’t change (unless I have had one too many wines the night before that is!)
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People : If I show you a copy of this book you will probably laugh at the amount of post-it notes in it – pretty much every page has something valuable to offer around communication, attitude, perception and it’s told in a way which just makes sense!
The Power of Now: This book has been by my bedside and my morning read for about 6 months, I actually started reading it again immediately after I finished it. I’d probably say that this isn’t one for someone starting on the self development path as some of the ideas are pretty hard to grasp but when you do, your whole perception of how the world works will change.
I kid you not, I used to hate running, like really hate it. But I hated the gym even more so it’s the only thing I could think of to keep fit outdoors. I pushed myself too hard (5 miles when I had never ran before), got shin splints, beat myself up and told myself that running just wasn’t for me. That was about 15 years ago.
About a year and a half ago I started running with a friend, doing the Couch to 5k app. It felt ridiculous at the time because it starts off so easy and for such a short period of time, but it worked! We gradually built up to 10k and have done several organised races. This and doing some personal training sessions meant that my fitness gradually built up over time, for me though, the fitness was secondary, the main thing was how running and exercising made me feel.
On a run, all my worries, over active thoughts and stresses get pounded out. I concentrate on my breathing and what’s going on around me and here’s the big thing; I don’t take it seriously. I do like to push myself still, but in little ways like when I feel like want to walk for a few seconds, I’ll see if I can do 10 more steps, or get to that tree over there. By doing this, I’m pushing my mental boundaries in little ways, and it makes me realise that half the time it’s not my body wanting to stop, it’s my mind!
I’ll stop to take photo’s, or if a great song comes on and I think I can get away with it, I’ll dance while running. I’ve learned to be kind to myself, knowing that if I get out for a run, then it’s better than not getting out at all, so if I have to walk, that’s fine!
Have you managed to find any positives from the lockdowns we have had? Mine was hiking, not just for my usual couple of hours, but finding routes on my doorstep where I could do a 15 mile circular route or a one way trip with a pickup at the end (when lockdown ended for this one obviously).
Being outdoors for that amount of time I found brought me a peace I very rarely feel, and the connection to nature becomes so much more pronounced!.
Sometimes I hike with a dog or two but I have done a few long distances on my own too. It’s from these walks that I realised that I want to do much much more; longer distances, overnights, just to keep walking. Have you ever made a decision and it makes your insides almost vibrate with how right it feels? That’s how it feels when I think about doing something like that, a personal pilgrimage so to speak.
It goes without saying that the dogs have been my lifeline, not just during this last few months. Generally, in this last, very strange year, I think a huge amount of people have come to a realisation about just how important dogs can be for positive mental health.
Making the decision to get our first dog Scout wasn’t one we took lightly, but this hound has completely changed my life, and I’m not over exaggerating! And extending to a total of five hounds means there can be a constant, joyful distraction from any hard times. For me, getting a dog was always a lifetime commitment. I know that sometimes there are very hard choices to be made and circumstances change so when I knew I wanted to seperate from my husband, one of my biggest priorities was making sure that the hounds were going to be okay.
My life is going to be very different going forward, and I have had to make some difficult decisions but for me, rehoming wasn’t an option unless I had exhausted every other avenue. Thankfully, right now, that doesn’t look like something we have to do.
So, what does the future hold now? My income as a photographer probably won’t sustain me financially, especially in my current location. I’ve decided to set up a separate business as a Virtual Assistant for dog brands – my coaching starts next week and I can’t wait! I adore making new connections with people and brands who have a similar ethos and love of dogs.
Fur & Fables will still be here, don’t worry! The great thing is that I can still do Sussex & Surrey shoots, but it’s likely to be at set times of the year, the rest of the time I’ll hopefully do a bit of a tour around the UK, and (if my dreams come true), photographing around France and Europe too.
I’m very aware that this is my story, and if you wanted to make changes in your own life, some of this may not work for you. But maybe you could take a look at your story; what you love and what gives you joy – follow and really listen to your intuition, and grab hold of those things.
Also, have you found something that works for you already? Or have any books really changed your life? I’d love to know!
I’m here if you need to talk, and if you managed to get to the end, thanks for listening.