IT’S HARD ON OUR FINANCES BUT I’M RETRAINING
Georgia knew her line of work no longer suited her. But staying unmotivated was not
I’d been working as a journalist for years, first as a beauty editor for women’s magazines and then as an online editor. Starting out in the magazine industry in the 90s was a lot of fun – everything I’d dreamed of as a teenager. But as time moved on and the industry changed I found myself losing some of that enthusiasm.
Then after having my son in 2012 I became self-employed. I had a steady stream of work and was lucky to be able to work from my own office at home and have the flexibility around my son’s nursery and school pick-ups. On paper everything was good. But it felt like something was missing.
Copywriting commissions kept me busy but I didn’t find the work particularly fulfilling. I think I was also in denial. I convinced myself the freelance lifestyle was the dream set-up but as I spent more time on my own, old social-anxiety issues began to resurface.
One of the big turning points was moving up from London to Leeds. My husband got a promotion shortly after and was away quite a bit, while I was at home and didn’t really know anybody. I had a nice house and a relatively stress-free lifestyle, I felt I should be happy, but there was just this gnawing sense of dissatisfaction I couldn’t shake off.
I’d had problems in the past with anxiety and depression and feeling quite isolated, I thought I might be in danger of getting low again. So I decided to go to a local mindfulness group to meet people and see if it could help with my anxious tendencies. The mindfulness was transformational. It really helped with my perpetual over-thinking, which meant I was able to see things more clearly and assess what was really important to me.
I started looking back at my life and thinking, “What have I actually achieved?” No longer caught up in the buzz of working in the London media world I felt I needed something different to motivate me – something more meaningful to me. It sounds like such a midlife cliché but I wanted to do something where I could ‘make a difference’. I just didn’t know what.
“I was looking back at my life and thinking “What have I actually achieved?”
I’d always been interested in the idea of working with people with anxiety and depression but couldn’t afford to retrain to become a counsellor or psychotherapist. I was particularly interested in helping teenagers because my anxiety problems stemmed from my teen years. Then I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. Mindfulness! It had had a transformative effect on me and was something I felt passionate about – surely this was my path.
I was surprised to get straight onto the part-time mindfulness Masters Course at Bangor University. I think what I lacked in psychology qualifications I made up for in enthusiasm and my personal experience of mindfulness. I was still freelancing, but I didn’t mind any more as I had a new challenge to focus on, and felt with absolute certainty that I was heading in the right direction.
I looked into what I could do with mindfulness as a career. Without a clinical background my main option was to set up a business teaching mindfulness courses to the general public. And for a while I got a bit carried away fantasising about teaching groups from a Scandi-style wooden studio at the bottom of the garden.
But this didn’t feel quite right. I was just chasing a lifestyle again and it wasn’t why I had gone down this path. I wanted to help people with mental health struggles – the people who needed it most. So after lots of research online, I finally found an NHS role that looked promising – a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner.
PWPs deliver low-intensity treatments to people with common mental health problems. The training is a year long, during which time you’re paid a salary, and spend four days a week in clinic and one day at university studying for a post grad certificate. This really appealed to me. Plus, it would give me valuable clinical experience and a possible route to eventually teaching mindfulness on the NHS as a cognitive behavioural therapist.
When I’d been at my lowest ebb with depression in my twenties, there had been nothing available for people like me on the NHS so to be part of a service like this, which was accessible to everyone, would be a dream come true.
In theory financially I could do this but I knew it was an ambitious plan and I’d heard the training places were like gold dust. I’d be competing against young psychology graduates while I’m in my mid-40s and from a completely different industry. My life experience and lived experience of anxiety and depression would be an advantage but I’d need to get some experience working with people with mental health difficulties first.
So, since the beginning of the year I have been volunteering with MIND the mental health charity as a peer support worker and befriender, work that I find incredible. It has absolutely confirmed this is the area I want to work in. I also teach a local mindfulness group in my community, which I love.
“I feel more fulfilled, satisfied and happy than I have in a long time, in spite of the hardship”
That’s not to say it’s easy. I’ve given up freelancing altogether to dedicate as much time as possible to volunteering so we’re living off one income, which is stretching us financially. And of course I’ve had to fit the voluntary work around school pick-ups. But I feel more fulfilled, satisfied and happier than I have in a long time, in spite of the hardship. For me, doing something helpful has given me a sense of motivation that I definitely wasn’t getting before.
For MIND I help facilitate mental health skills workshops and you see this change in people, the sense of release they get when they connect with others and learn new ways to manage their struggles. It’s given me a type of happiness I haven’t experienced before. After working in an industry full of young media types it gives me such satisfaction to work with people from all walks of life.
Motivation is key to being happy. If you’ve got that powerful sense of motivation behind what you’re doing you’re more likely to stick at it and to cope with the knock-backs. I’ve had to accept a few setbacks along the way but always I remind myself why I’m doing it. That motivation means there’s absolutely no way I’m not going to do this.