When is a breakdown actually a breakthrough?

This is totally out of left field, so bear with me. I may be having a tiny breakdown, or a breakthrough, or just….a weird moment of hormonally induced panic.

So, here’s the thing.

A few things have been going on in my life for the past two weeks, big internal discussions and revelations and changes. One of those things has been my never-ending search for purpose. I’ve talked at length about my writing and starting my self-publishing journey, but I’m not sure that writing alone is it for me. It’s my joy, not necessarily my raison d’être.

For a long time now I’ve been really drawn to the idea of coaching. Life-coaching, I suppose; the kind that helps people transform and grow and find inner peace and confidence and do things that bring them joy. But at the same time, the idea of life-coaching has always struck me as a bit…embarrassing? All I think of is that scene from Friends where Rachel’s narcissistic school-friend explains her new job:

Melissa: I wanted to get out of [real estate] and do something where I can really help people, and make a difference.

Rachel: Wow! So what do you do now?


That’s how I can’t help feeling about life-coaching. Like it’s a job people do when they think they are changing the world, but are actually just being a bit wanky and pretentious.

Nevertheless, my heart is being tugged towards a career of connection and transformation, so I’ve been looking into coaching courses, and wondering if I’m ready to financially (and time-wise) make the commitment.

But whyyyy?

But all the while, I’ve been asking myself this: ‘What do I want to coach people to do? Who do I want to coach? Why?’ For a while I liked the idea of coaching people like me, who are trying to juggle motherhood and finding their own purposeful, meaningful outlets beyond parenting. Maybe even writers, who need to get rid of a lot of mental (and physical) blocks to find the time and confidence to follow their dreams of writing.

I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe it would just occur to me as I trained and researched, and started coaching, perhaps. I’m not one of those people who has an amazing transformational story I can tell to demonstrate the benefit of coaching; I’ve changed, but internally; from the outside my life looks the same as it always did, even if I look at it in a totally different way.

Anyway, these are the things that have been mulling around in my head. So I did what I often do late at night, and asked my inner guidance system to reassure me and give me a sign. ‘I’ll know it when I see it,’ I told myself.


Then today, I attended a mental health event at work. We had a guest speaker who talked openly about her suicide attempts as a teenager and her transformation from deeply depressed to becoming driven to inspire young people. It was a moving, raw and heartfelt talk.

But that’s not what did me in.

Afterwards, students and colleagues came forward with their own stories of depression, suicide attempts and bleak, black despair. There were so many more than I’d expected.

But that’s not what did me in, either.

When I got back to my desk, I logged into Facebook to share a post about the event with students, and I got side-tracked by a piece someone had posted about climate change. It was a really, really frightening piece. But not full of scare-mongering for the sake of it. I can ignore those. This was balanced and heartfelt, and basically made the point that, in the writer’s opinion, with the havoc we’re wreaking on the planet there’s no way many of us will make it to old age. That’s scary enough, but I have two little girls. Two little, innocent daughters. If I don’t make it to old age… What of them?

Ok, so that’s what did me in.

I suddenly felt overwhelmed with horror. I’m great at burying my head in the sand, but I couldn’t seem to stick it in for enough this time.

It was a tsunami of anger at people in positions of power and influence who should effing well know better, and at myself for not taking enough responsibility myself. I felt an avalanche of helplessness for not knowing where to start. I felt guilty for having chosen to have children, for bringing them into such an uncertain, indefinite world that I’ve not played a positive enough part in saving. And I felt absolutely terrified.

Just before I had my first baby, I had a dream where I was standing on a beach, watching a catastrophic tsunami slowly move towards us. All I could think was that I needed to be with my mum and dad, my brother and sister. We needed to huddle together. After my daughter was born I had another dream, but this time the sun was too hot, and the atmosphere was overheating. The end was imminent, and again, all I wanted to do was gather my family under my wing and huddle.

I recalled these dreams as I sat at my desk and had an unexpected cry, hoping nobody would walk in and see me. In an effort to combat the overwhelming fear, I started looking into groups I could join, or things I could do – anything­ – but it all seemed so hopeless and confusing and shouty.

So I went to the toilet and cried a bit more.

Tell me what to do

Then I came back to my desk, stared blankly at the wall, and said – out loud, like a madzer – ‘I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do.’

Nothing happened, until I realised that I had a blank email open on my screen, and that in the top corner was a little Microsoft lightbulb and a line saying: ‘Tell me what you want to do…’

And I stopped crying and laughed, because that was kind of cool. And then I realised that actually what I wanted to do was stop myself and others from feeling the way I did at that moment. I wanted to be able to take someone’s fear and guilt and overwhelm, and turn it into a positive, optimistic and hopeful plan that might even translate into real change in the world.

Heal yourself, heal the world and all that.

I don’t want to be the party-planner version of a life-coach. I want to help people feel like they have the power to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it may seem from the outset.

I want to help people do it without fear of not being enough, or of failing, and with fun and happiness and lightness. And swearing and smut, if you like – it’s your life, damnit.

So that’s my goal.

Changing the world, though. I mean, oof. I’ve got to start with myself, with my life. And you know what that bloody means, don’t you?


I’ve got to dig out the re-usable nappies again…

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