Are you positively thriving or merely surviving? That’s the question posed during Mental Health Awareness Week, which ended on Sunday.
I wonder what your answer would be.
Most of the time, I’d say I’m thriving, but it wasn’t always the case. As I wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post last week, there was a time in my late 30s when I was barely surviving. In fact, I actually questioned the point of going on.
I was in a high-flying job that I’d loved at first but that was suffocating my soul and causing me stress. My father had died the year before and the sadness I’d buried – both about his death and the fact I’d felt distant from him my entire life – had caught up with me. A relationship had ended, triggering grief about all the losses from my past. And I was approaching 40 with no partner, no children and no prospect of either.
In short, I was devastated by how my life had turned out. I felt hollow, empty and lost.
Today, my reality is very different. I’m in love, engaged to a wonderful man and loving my work as a writer and coach. I live with my partner by the Dorset seaside and spend my weekends lying in the sand dunes (weather permitting), potting sunflowers and watering tomatoes.
I made a choice.
I made a choice to love myself, care for myself, understand myself and prioritise my dreams. The transformation didn’t happen over night. It was a gradual process with some backwards steps. But it happened. It happened because I found the courage to question whether I was climbing the right ladder and then, when I had my answer, to step off it and take a different path. It happened because I found the courage to look inside myself and understand what was blocking me from love and then dismantle those blocks. And it happened because I found the courage to identify my fears and walk through them.
So if you’re surviving, rather than thriving, can I suggest you make a decision to change that? I know it’s not easy. I know it requires stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks. But life is short and you were always meant to thrive, not just survive.
When you choose to change, remember to get support. Ask your friends to encourage you or hook up with an accountability buddy. Or join a group, in person or online – my Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole, is free and for women everywhere who want to live wholeheartedly, or there are lots of other groups out there.
If it’s time to step off the ladder you’re climbing and find a different path, get support with that too. Find someone to hear your ideas and your fears. Or bring a cheerleader on board in the form of a coach (I’d be delighted to help).
And if you’re single and don’t want to be, make a commitment to yourself to explore what might be blocking you from love. If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of suggestions in my book, How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. But if you’re looking for some real-life support, think about joining my How to Fall in Love course that begins June 12. I’d love to help you transform your relationship with yourself so that you can fall in love with another.
As I write all this, I have to stop and pinch myself. Am I the same woman who used to dash across London to a stressful job as a Reuters reporter in parliament and return home exhausted to an empty flat and a meal for one? Am I the same woman who for years after leaving that job, struggled to know what to do with her life? Am I the same woman who was prescribed antidepressants, took one pill and then stopped?
Yes, I am the same woman. I still have my struggles, I’m still anxious at times and I’m still finding my way. But I have transformed. I am a happier, calmer, saner version of me. I am settled. I am in love. I grow tomatoes.
So if you’re merely surviving, take heart from my story. With some courageous choices, you could be thriving too.