So last night, I was sat in the bath contemplating life. How far things had come since the start of Covid 19 lockdown in March. How my life has changed for the better in so many ways.
In February, I began a job that was full time and very busy doing marketing for a newspaper in an office. This was after leaving another job in PR that I loved but had to leave due to my anxiety . In all honesty, we needed the salaried income and I had the technical and people skills to pull it off. However, what I didn’t have was good mental health.
As many of you know, when I was 16, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and developed social anxiety and panic attacks. I spent time in hospital as a teenager and was an outpatient for 10 years (although very up and down with my moods, with moments of stability). Since 2014, I have developed a form of PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, due to the trauma I faced in hospital when I was sectioned for a bipolar episode.
As a result, my mental health was hanging by a thread but I was attempting to live a normal life and work and feel better.
In truth, the workplace had become a great source of stress for me. Traditional workplaces have a ‘show up despite how you feel and we will monitor all your sick days’ policy. This doesn’t work for someone like me with a chronic mental illness. Allowances can’t be made for me despite the law- adjustments can be made but traditional employers want you to be OK and in the office where they can see you and don’t cut you slack either if your health disrupts office attendance.
In February, I suffered such bad panic attacks (whole body feeling fear, insomnia, racing heart, flight or fight, sweats and negative fearful thoughts) about having to show up and prove myself and my ability- that I had to leave the job after a week. I couldn’t get into the office. There was no real empathy- it was- you aren’t here, you’re unreliable, goodbye.
Then Covid struck.
I needed something for me that I could do from home. Something where I could be self employed, where I could work with people who understood that sometimes we all have bad days, we all have to pace ourselves. That it isn’t about ability or disability. In the right environment, everyone can thrive. Everyone can work hard. Everyone can achieve.
No more counting sick days. This was about how well I could do, how hard I could work (I am nothing if not a hard worker) , how much I could achieve and most importantly- going slowly to protect my mental health.
My blogging friend Sarah Cardwell who I met through Twitter and who has written for this blog, had reached out to me in 2019 to join the Body Shop at Home. I had been following her amazingly successful journey- she started her business from home while anxious and not leaving the house. Sarah has been very open about her own difficulties with mental illness but she has achieved more than you can even dream of!
I was scared. I was used to being monitored at work. Having to endlessly discuss the reasons why I missed a morning or full day of work due to my panic disorder. Having to go to review meetings and make targets to improve my attendance or back to work interview meetings. Having to prove that despite having all the skills (including getting my masters degree at 24) , being a published author and freelance journalist, a social media expert and blogger, I still wasn’t deemed good enough because I wasn’t ‘well enough’ on a daily basis with my anxiety to be able to always make it in to the office (and work from home wasn’t seen as good enough even though I hit targets).
I was really terrified to take the leap. I had never worked in retail. I had worked in social media marketing and blogging so I knew that I could create something online. I didn’t have much choice. I had just lost my main income (I earn money from my book and blog but it isn’t enough to live on). Covid was looming. We went into lockdown. We lost a flat we were going to buy because I lost my job.
I didnt know until recently that Sarah was worried that lockdown could mean that the Body Shop at Home would struggle. But what happened was, it thrived!
Set up by Dame Anita Roddick as a way to give people an income around their children, the Body Shop at Home is the direct selling arm of the Body Shop.
Since March, there has been a growth of over 700%, and records are being broken in this industry. The shift to online, contact free and direct shipping delivery has meant that the business has thrived.
I didn’t know what to expect.
I set up my Facebook group and I was loving sharing the products with friends and family, taking my first orders and pampering myself with the beauty kit (it really is a speical kit).
I enjoyed being a part of a new community of friendly, warm and welcoming people- people from all walks of life, genders, ages, with chronic illness and without. There is every kind of person in the Body Shop at Home.
I belong to Region Purpose- Sarahs region as this business gave her a purpose after she had been unwell and she now has a hugely successful full time business.
Shortly after joining and selling £400 in my first month, then £1000 in my second (that was such an amazing feeling), I realised quite quickly I wanted to be a Manager and set up a team- recruiting is hard but worth it to find the right people (and I have been led to them!).
Body Shop was giving me hope- when life had got dark. It gave me something back for myself and to now help and mentor others. I became a Manager in Training with my first 3 recruits and then in August I promoted to be Area Manager of my team, Team Hope. There are now 11 of us from all over the country and we are growing fast- shout out to my team members, who are now friends! I aim to make this my full time business.
I am so grateful to Sarah for persisting with me even when I was unsure.
Since joining Body Shop, my anxiety attacks have lesssened and I engage in regular therapy sessions for them. I take next to no sick days because I am able to run my own workload and help others. I get up excited about the day and week ahead.
Today I woke up to receive an envelope with a rainbow necklace (the sign of our region) and the words from the Wizard of Oz, sent to me and others in our region. The support is just incredible. I would like to end on these words sent to me by my incredible manager who has helped me (and this is no exaggeration) to find my self worth again.
‘Somewhere over the Rainbow
Skies are Blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true’