IT WAS LIKE A LIGHTBULB SWITCHING ON
Chrissy’s anxiety was spiralling out of control so she sought help. This led to a lot of soul searching, a brand new career and ultimately the end of her marriage. Here she talks candidly about the struggle involved – and why it’s all been worth it.
Three years ago I was in a very difficult place. My job no longer made me happy and the stress of it was making me ill. A trained mental health nurse I’d gone up the career ladder very quickly, and found myself managing mental health services in Holloway Prison.
Initially it was an exciting, creative role, but we were increasingly restricted about what we could do. Instead of creating we were cutting and it didn’t feel good. I felt emotionally in pain because I couldn’t make a difference to people’s lives. I knew I had to do something different. I briefly tried working as an organisational consultant but I hated it as that didn’t make a real impact on people’s lives either.
“I felt stuck and I couldn’t see a way forward”
Then I went to a life coach to help me give up smoking. When I told her how I was feeling she said ‘This isn’t really about giving up smoking is it?’ She was right. I had a massive problem with anxiety. I was in this very stuck place. She worked with me on the roots of my anxiety and pointed out how transferrable my qualifications were. We delved into what made me tick. And through that process I was able to rediscover – or discover for the first time – what I really wanted to be doing: coaching people who are struggling to find their way in life.
It was like a lightbulb switching on. I remember sitting in front of her and going “Oh my God, yeah I could do that!”. On my own I would never have figured it out. It took someone else to put all the pieces together and help me find a way forward. And I wanted to do that for other people.
I launched my life coaching business, Back To Life in 2016, still working part-time for the NHS as a consultant. It’s been a slow transition, but I now have a number of clients, people who’ve lost their way. They are often mildly depressed or showing signs of anxiety – drinking excessively, not sleeping at night and feeling very stressed. They wake up one morning and go ’How the hell did I get here? This isn’t making me happy,’ and I know how that feels – it’s almost painful not knowing which way to turn, like you’re stuck in concrete. You can see all around you but choosing which way to go is difficult.
And for some what will happen as they start to make changes in their life is they’ll get to a point when they stall, because they’re making such extreme changes that they’re scared it’ll result in them leaving their partner. And this is what happened to me. My ambitions changed and his didn’t. If your partner isn’t coming with you and making changes too, it’s a risk.
“It didn’t feel brave when I ditched my old life – it felt like necessity”>
My business is in its early days and I’m still making it work for me. But at least I feel free. Freer to run the business the way I want to. I wasn’t running it with my whole heart when I was still married. Back then I actually didn’t want to be too successful because of the impact that would have in our home. I have been more successful since I left the marriage and feel free to do anything now.
One of the hardest things was leaving a career where I was well respected, and the big question for me was “Who am I going to be if I’m not this well-respected nurse manager who people call for advice? If I walk out who the hell am I?” And I struggled with the idea of loss of status… That was a biggie for me. And what was my identity, post-split? I was his wife for a long time, would I still have friends, would anyone like me, would our friends be on his side – was I a terrible wife? These were all massive mental blocks to me doing anything. It took me a long time to feel ready to leave the job, and longer still to leave my husband. And as I discover my new identity I know without any doubt that I’ve done the right thing.
Words: Louisa B