It was really hard for me to write this because let’s face it, putting your life story online is pretty daunting.
BUT I do feel it’s important that you are able to relate to me.
Online business is hard because we lack the interaction and engagement we get in real life. I’m passionate about people sharing their stories online as a way to connect with people.
This is me. This is my why.
I started out with what Brene Brown calls a SFD (shitty first draft) which enabled me to just get everything on paper without any thought about grammar or punctuation.
Then I cut out a LOT of stuff…here’s what was left. Be warned, it’s still really long!
Chaos & Alcoholism
I’m the eldest of 5 children and have 4 younger brothers.
My childhood was very chaotic due to my Dad’s alcoholism. I remember once having to pack all my things up when I was about 8 years old, as we were being evicted by the council for not paying our rent arrears. Thankfully a kind elderly couple in our village who my dad had done some gardening work for offered to pay it for us on the day we were due to leave. I remember feeling vulnerable, scared and angry with my Dad. He had been so desperate for money, not only had he not been paying the rent, he had been also breaking into our electricity meter and taking the money out to buy booze.
The lack of money meant we couldn’t afford to run a car, so we rarely left the village we lived in. We’d frequently ran out food and electric – “Mum! The leccy’s gone again!” we’d shout as the house was plunged into darkness. As a kid it was actually quite exciting to sit around in the dark with only candlelight to rely on. I was often sent down the the local shop to put stuff ‘on tick’ (take the goods now, pay up on payday!).
Being the eldest girl, I loved playing mum to my 3 younger brothers. I have fond memories of making mud pies in the garden, picking apples and blackberries, going to the stream to catch tadpoles, cycling round the village and building dens.
As a pre-teen I was exposed to drugs; I remember running down to the local dental surgery in the early hours with my mum to phone the police secretly (she was the cleaner there and had a set of keys). My dad had invited random people back to our home from the pub after closing time and it turned out they were all using drugs.
Eventually we got some family support, as someone reported my parents to the NSPCC, who then referred us to social services, so although the drinking didn’t stop, we had a social worker who came to our home to help our family.
My dad died aged 50 from alcohol related illnesses in 2000. I grieved for the father I had seen glimpses of; the man who loved growing vegetables, the man who liked to make people laugh (like really make them laugh, he was quite the comedian), the hard worker providing for his family. I was frustrated and angry he couldn’t overcome his addiction for us. He didn’t get to meet my children and I’ll always feel sad about that. As an adult, I can finally understand how his addiction took over his life.
My mum finally left my dad when I was about 14 (for my step-dad, who is still her partner), but the family ended up splitting as my 2 eldest brothers wanted to stay with my dad. I was relieved to be away from the chaos but I was stepping into more upheaval as we didn’t have anywhere to live and I missed my 2 middle brothers terribly. The council wouldn’t rehouse us as it was deemed we made ourselves intentionally homeless, so we ended up living in a tent for a few weeks and then a caravan for a few months. I was fortunate to have an outreach teacher come to the caravan to tutor me a few times.
We finally got housed in various B&B’s, which although weren’t great (we had to be out of the house after breakfast and then couldn’t return until 4pm) it was a roof over our heads. After a few months were housed in a flat. Mum went on to have another son with her partner – my 4th and final sibling.
I completed my schooling, scraping through with a few GCSE’s to my name and went straight out to work when I was 16. My first full-time job was working as a Grill Chef in a local cafe.
Over the next few years I had various jobs, ranging from retail to factory work. I also lived and worked in London for a short time until I met my husband at age 21 and ended up moving back to Devon, UK. We were together for 7 years before getting married in 2001 in Mombasa, Kenya.
We’d been together for a couple of years when my husband was diagnosed with the life limiting condition called Cystic Fibrosis (CF). There are thousands of genes that make up the disease, and he has a milder form of CF than many sufferers, hence him being diagnosed as an adult (it’s usually picked up in early childhood).
He’d had various lung related conditions including asthma and pneumonia as a child and young adult but it wasn’t until he saw a locum GP who put two and two together and sent him off to see a specialist. I think I was in complete denial to start with, we both were and didn’t realise what a huge impact it would have on us.
Having CF means my husband has a strict daily medical routine. There are often times when he has to go into hospital for medical treatment, or he is so ill that I need to care for him. These times are particularly tough going and now of course I’m so grateful that I have the ability to work flexibly around the needs of my family.
Becoming A Mum
After we’d been together for a few years, my partner and I decided we wanted to start a family. I’d always wanted to have children in my twenties and with us both being from larger families, we were keen to have a large brood of 3 or 4 children…or maybe more!
Unfortunately life doesn’t work out as you expect it. After a few years with no happy news to share, we discovered we couldn’t have children naturally. People would tell us to go on holiday, just relax or stop trying because then it would happen. It didn’t and it wouldn’t. Unfortunately there was no chance of conceiving naturally.
If you’ve ever experienced infertility along with IVF/ICSI/IUI etc. you will know how much it takes over your life. We spent over 25k on various treatments and procedures at different hospitals, hoping that it would work.
We missed out on holidays, days out and family events because we were either saving money or I was a hormonal wreck and couldn’t bear to be around pregnant women or friends with babies. It was awful and I hated feeling that way but I was never going to give up.
Finally, after over 7 failed cycles, I got pregnant and in 2005 I had my first child, a baby boy. I’d mentally prepared for a serene (!) birthing experience but it ended up being a back-to-back labour and was a stressful 37 hours long. It was quite apparent after he was born that he was struggling to breathe and and he was rushed to special care after contracting pneumonia in the womb. I remember asking the doctor if he’d make it and she said “I don’t know” – I felt like the bottom of my world had dropped out. Thankfully after fantastic NHS care he was eventually well enough to come home.
Eighteen months later we had more fertility treatment for baby #2; sadly one of the pregnancies ended in miscarriage but we tried again and my daughter was delivered by C-section, beautifully pink and healthy, in 2007.
Wanting to expand our little family, we tried for a third baby but it wasn’t to be. Due to my age at the time (38/39), my hormone levels were much too low and our 3 cycles failed. Of course I was very upset, but feel incredibly grateful to have son and daughter – they’re amazing!
Starting out in business
After the struggles to have my two beautiful children, I knew for sure that I didn’t want to head back to full-time working, so jumped at the opportunity to start a business with a direct sales company in 2008.
I quickly discovered that I loved blogging and social media as a way to grow the business and I had a fair amount of success. You can find out more about my business journey below:
Debt & Anxiety
In 2012/2013, things really took a turn for the worse when my husband became really ill and had to give up work. We were really struggling because of the reduction in income. My businesses at the time weren’t bringing in enough money to cover our outgoings.
We were poor. Living on overdrafts, credit cards and benefits, we racked up a lot of debt.
I couldn’t see the woods for the trees and when I worked on my business all I could think about was how to bring in money FAST, rather than the bigger picture. I was working in my business with no direction and no clarity.
I honestly thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. My mental health really suffered as a result of all the stress – I wasn’t sleeping properly, so couldn’t focus at work and kept having anxiety attacks.
As you can read on my about page, I did eventually manage to turn things around!
Since running my own business my own personal development has been one of the most amazing gifts to have given myself and I keep a positive mindset and practice daily gratitude…but that’s not to say everything is perfect!
Anxiety and depression can occur at anytime and I still struggle with anxious thoughts and feelings – it’s something I need to be mindful of, as it’s all too easy to slip into those overwhelming thoughts if I don’t look after myself properly.
So, why am I telling you all this…and what does it mean…
Well, there’s no shiny spoon or easy shortcut to success.
You have to do something you love, keep super positive and be kind, always.
Success is a journey – you need to embrace and enjoy the here and now.
You have to be determined, resilient, driven and very persistent. It’s called GRIT – watch this amazing TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth about resilience…
I’ve been there, I’ve failed and got back up again. Not just once, multiple times (yes, there have been times when I’ve thought I must be crazy to carry on!).
If I can do this, you can too.
If my story has inspired you in some way, or you have your own story which you think would inspire others, get in touch with me – I’d love to hear from you.
Read more Success Inspo from other amazing women in business on my blog.