My business has come about from a changing year in my life. Prior to this pivotal year I worked in interior design initially, and then the contemporary art world for the last decade. I battled my way through the commute into the city every day and I dragged myself home again at night exhausted. I managed the stress and my anxiety because my career was everything to me. It was exciting, edifying, and very social. I loved working with contemporary artists as well as old masters. I enjoyed access to some of the most incredible international collections, first-rate exhibitions and projects, the biggest names in curating and research, and I was living and breathing this world. I’d always had a desire to start my own business one day, but the exact details were yet to become clear. I found my fulfilment in the arts and I couldn’t see that ever changing.
Then I suffered trauma from a sudden tragic event. My entire life turned upside down. Like a tornado had ripped through everything I knew. My sensory perceptions were off, my mental state was fragmenting, and for the first time in my life, I was medicated and in therapy. Through no fault of my own – this was thrust upon me. I couldn’t get on a tube; I couldn’t go to work; I couldn’t be around loud noises or in crowded spaces because I could go into shock or panic easily. If a stranger touched me, it could feel like my skin was burning. If anyone came up behind me or into a room I would jump and often go straight to panic. I couldn’t feel anything emotionally other than sadness and anger. I was signed-off work for the first time in my career, and the only way to navigate my illness was to tell doctors, the therapist, and as many close people around me what I was recurrently feeling and experiencing. It isn’t like diagnosing a broken leg. There is no x-ray of your traumatic thoughts – I must persistently and exhaustively communicate why I am in distress and what I need.
I developed ticks, which privately can be comforting to me, but rather scary at times when I am in public. Often, I’d start to tick, and strangers could not help themselves but look, and then I would get more anxious and tick frantically. I had to wear sunglasses indoors as well as outside, as my eyes became very light-sensitive. There didn’t seem to be a normal anymore – ever since the trauma surfaced, I’ve felt like I am living in a tense film – continually looking over my shoulder, regularly suspicious of strangers approaching me, anticipating the worst might happen.
When I go into panic mode I cannot speak, I gasp to breath and I feel terror. I’ve encountered a lot of people who unfortunately did not understand what they were witnessing and so they sometimes hindered, and sometimes became aggressive towards me. If that happened, I’d need my medication and it could take me quite some time to recover. Memories of malicious things that have been said to me during episodes continue to be vivid and can induce panic if I reflect on them. It would be easier to stay at home and avoid other people altogether, but it would be no quality of life in comparison to the freedom to go outside and make friends.
This is how I dealt with it. I made a decision the first day I was signed-off work. I was not going to lose myself in this illness. I would maintain my sanity no matter what paranoid thoughts came up or how deep the pain was running inside me. I developed routines for myself, I decluttered my mind and my space which was a very emotional process. I spent more time on hobbies and ideas for creative projects, and I focused on building up my physical strength while I had to accept that I was now mentally vulnerable. I worked to remove high stress from my life, rationalise with my triggers, and allowed myself to explore challenging emotions; I refused to go under.
That is when my business All Silver Clouds became clear – I had to leave the chaos of the city, at least for now, and be kind to myself for the sake of being well. With a diagnosis of PTSD and panic disorder I have a strong desire to reach out to people with this condition. I also want to reach anyone who may be finding it hard to manage low moods, motivation, letting go of items from the past to live in the present, and to anyone who has the desire to achieve new goals with advice and support.
I find organising and interior decorating very therapeutic, as well as a joy when I am working with my clients. I also love one-to-one time with people, getting out in the fresh air, or starting new hobbies. For those who feel they are struggling I want to share my methods for building personal strength. I want to reach out to people who are feeling isolated and hopefully inspire them to reconnect with other people, and to love themselves too.
If you are suffering, if you struggle to find motivation, if you feel hopeless don’t give up. I can really truly say that in my life I am doing things now I never saw possible before; very positive things that I didn’t see myself committing to - or having the confidence to manage. I’ve found that trauma is so sudden and frightening that I’ve become very self-aware and my inner personal strength has got me through; I wanted to support myself. I am relying on myself first. I am not afraid of any of my emotions anymore, good and bad, I can handle it. I’m always aware of my vulnerability but I am also continually realising my strength.
Now I want to share my experience and advice to help other people reach the goals they want to achieve, and manage adversity with a positive mindset. Every cloud has a silver lining...
Over time I would like to build a network of people who can form a circle of understanding and support to those who are feeling alone through mental illness.
Please do connect with me - I’d like to hear from you – even if it is just to say hi at this stage. I keep my subscribers updated on workshops and events, and I am always delighted to hear from you...
See the website for advice, support, and who to contact for urgent help see the website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help
How to get help in a mental health crisis, and details for helplines and coping tools: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/getting-help-in-a-crisis/
If you need urgent help please contact the Samaritans by free phone: 116 123. See the website: https://www.samaritans.org/
If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline: 0300 304 7000, and see the website: http://www.sane.org.uk/