How did I get here?

NB: Below is the intro to my new book The Impossible Dream of a Life Less Frantic and How I Made it Happen. If you would like to know what my book is about before reading the intro, click here!

HOW DID I GET HERE?

I remember the exact moment with frightening clarity.

Ant and Jaden, my husband and child, had left for the day and I was dragging myself around the house. Aimlessly tidying here and there, I contemplated my day and found little joy in what lay ahead.

I was about to enter the kitchen when suddenly I pulled up short.

A little devil had appeared on my shoulder and without pre-amble, whispered to me in a venomous tone:

Ant deserves better, you know. He deserves better than a sad-sack wife who is just existing her way through each day. Maybe it’s time you took yourself out of the picture. He’d be better off if you were dead.

I reeled with shock. I knew I was in a bad way, but I didn’t realise I was that bad. How on earth had I gotten to this level of hopelessness? To the point where suicide was presenting as an option?

I knew the answer, of course.

I’d spent my entire life following the well-trodden path of a type A personality:

Highly driven? Tick

Compulsive multi-tasker? Tick

Constant need to over-achieve? Tick

When I started running my own business six years earlier, the need to over-achieve became a killer. I couldn’t deliver anything at the expected level. I had to surprise people. I needed to hear them say, “Wow, no one’s ever done this as well/ fast/awesomely as you have”. Naturally I couldn’t keep up such a high level of delivery so I started to fail.

And I wasn’t just failing my clients. I was failing at being a mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, boss, homemaker and person too.

And it completely did my head in.

Ironically, the more I failed and the unhappier I got, the more I took on. It’s always been my standard coping mechanism for any problem: do more. Try to be awesomeness personified for even more people.

The more I took on, the more life got out of control. The less control I had, the more anxious I got. Anxiety led to stress, stress led to depression, and before I knew it I’d spent the better part of two years firmly in the grip of this unholy trifecta, plunging steadily towards oblivion.

So how did I reach this point in my life where death seemed a viable alternative? And what steps did I take to bring myself back from the brink?

Well, it’s a long story. And it all starts … here.

Comments

  1. Cathy says

    Really looking forward to reading your book! I also have a tendency to take on too much and looking forward to reading your journey and hopefully getting some ideas I can use

  2. Rachel Armstrong says

    I’m a perfectionist and over-committer from way back and currently have that failing feeling that you speak of in your post. I’m so looking forward to reading about your experiences and I imagine you have many words of wisdom to share. Best of luck with the book!

  3. Romy says

    I can relate so much to your words as I’m currently going through my own crash to the lowest point (again!). I’m also a typical Type A and do a million things at a million miles an hour, reaching unthinkable heights, and then one final straw and it all comes crashing down. This crash was so enormous and my emotional, mental and physical health sunk to previously unfathomable lows. So this time, I’m determined to ‘fix’ myself and after 36 years of over achieving Type A, I am trying to find my own ‘life less frantic’ by reassessing every aspect of my life and trying to retrain my ways of being. It’s hard work, but I know it’s essential. I’m really looking forward to reading about your journey and how you have managed to find peace with yourself and balance. I need proof it’s attainable! I have never commented before but have been lurking for a while, relating to your every word. I am hoping to start my own blog soon recording my own journey, but have to get over the ‘overwhelmed and self-judgement’ phase of the crash first!
    Thankyou for giving me hope!

    • says

      Romy it IS really really hard work. And when the going gets tough, it’s really hard not to revert to what you know. Which isn’t helpful is it? But I can assure you, it can be done and I hope there’s lot to learn and take-away from my experiences :)

  4. says

    You and me are kindred spirits, far too alike and the one thing I hope I learn from your wise words is how to not travel the path you did and how to travel the road less frantic whilst still achieving as much as you have x

    • says

      Aw Tessa, we are aren’t we? But I can already see you’re a bit further along with taking steps to find the right balance. And I hope my experiences can keep you off that path I travelled because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

  5. Vic says

    How to be ME, as well as a mother, wife, friend… and keep up with my own life juggling work, family, children, home (and hopefully one day finding room for something creatvie for myself!) without exhaustion, tears, chaos, frustration, and overwhelm.

    Really looking forward to reading Kelly,

    Thank you x

  6. says

    Hi Kelly, I am looking forward to reading your book but also hopefully there is a section of your journey where you accept that you alone are enough for the world. That all your family needs is you. That you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. No excess projects, business or helping others. Can the type-A personality sit still for a few minutes without the doubts and thoughts in your head? Congrats, on writing your book-turning a negative experience into a positive-you go girl!

  7. Bambi Ward says

    Hi Kelly,
    I really admire you for having the courage to tell your story. It obviously resonates with a lot of people.I’m interested to find out how you turned things around,whether you found greater meaning in your life in the process,and what you learnt along the way that can help others in their journeys. It is a privilege to journey with you. Heartfelt thanks. :)

    • says

      Thanks so much Bambi … I HAVE had several moments where I have just wanted to run for the hills and not commit all this stuff to paper! But then I remember I know so many people like me, and if I can help even one of them, that will be worth it :)

  8. simone says

    Kel, so much that you write I can relate to and your tips have been amazingly helpful. I’m looking forward to hearing how (if?) you switch off from business and enjoy down time, being able to happily ignore those niggling tasks on your to do list…..is this possible?Thank you Kelly :)

  9. says

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I look forward to reading.
    I hear so much of your experience in mine already… instead of “do more” mine was “try harder”. xx

  10. says

    Oh my gosh Kel! I’m kind of speechless. You have scared me a little bit. Your description of yourself sounds so much like my boy, and it kills me to see my own child struggle with these feelings. So what I am looking forward to is more insight into what I can do as a Mum to help him. You give me hope that life can be turned around, so that it can be enjoyed, and not just endured. I can’t wait to read it.

    • says

      Miss Nat – whenever you share about your little boy it resonates heavily with me. I really hope what I share gives some insight that is of value. We can chat more in Melbourne lovely lady :)

  11. says

    Oh my head is full of questions, my heart knows alot of the answers already… I see myself making my head question my own life with your story.. every mother has a different story, but alot of the time the story is very similar in very different ways…

    Thank you for sharing your story! I really am looking forward to reading your book.. knowing it has already helped me realise a few things about my life in that short snippet!! Powerful words Kelly! Very moving.

    • says

      I can spot people like me a mile away Yvette and I know you’re a bit like me from way back in the Lock Stock days – anything that has to be done has to be done WELL! But I am so happy to hear just that short piece made you think and assess and question. It’s when we stop questioning and just think “well this is how things are going to be forever”, that’s when we lose hope :(

  12. says

    Hi Kelly, how incredibly brave of you to share this personal story of yours. I really admire those that are prepared to open up and share their vulnerabilities with us and provide a very special message for others to in turn learn from. You always sound so upbeat and organized and up to date with all you do. I want to learn how to achieve that kind of happy balance in my life. I find that since I’ve become a mum, every time I throw myself into my art and aim to achieve my goals and personal achievements I end up in a heap exhausted, run down and frustrated that I can’t achieve things in the time frame I’d like to. I feel like my life is in both fast forward and frame by frame all at once if that makes any sense?! Liza xxx

    • says

      Thank you Liza – I have to admit it was really hard re-visiting that moment and even harder was admitting it happened. But I have tried to push past that fear because I think much good can be achieved by putting it out there :)

  13. Lauren says

    Really looking forward to reading your book Kelly. I’m in the midst of overwhelm at the moment where nothing I do seems to be enough – although I thankfully haven’t reached the point which you describe in your intro. I’m sure it’s all in my own head but it’s awfully hard not to listen to the negative things you tell youself. I really want to learn about how you’ve managed to slow things down for yourself and hope that I will be able to implement some of that into my life too. And how you conquered those negative thoughts!
    Lauren xo

    • says

      That chatter in our heads – it’s so hard to know when to listen to it and when to tell it to be quiet! It is a constant battle for me too! I hope my words over the coming months can help with the overwhelm Lauren – it is a feeling I know too well :(

  14. Jacquie says

    Hi Kelly, I’m really looking forward to reading your book. My middle son who is 6 is a perfectionist & gets himself all worked up if he doesn’t achieve what he wants. (In anything) While I love his focus & determination I’m also very aware of helping him to relax & let things go. I can relate to some of his thoughts but not all of them so I’m looking forward to reading more of your story. Thanks for sharing, Jacquie.

    • says

      Thank you Jacquie – and what a wonderful and aware mum you are … I think by just being aware of your son’s traits, that will make a big difference for him as he grows up!

  15. says

    Well I’ve read Chapter 1 already and I’m keen to hear what happens next! Knowing what I do about you through your blog, I can see how those early clouds were gathering. Scary thought for a mum with 3 kids… I wonder what seeds I’m planting in my kids now! Thank you for this insight. It’s given me a lot to think about!

    • says

      Oh Karen trust me, if your kids are anything like me, you’re not planting any seeds … everything I did came from within! BUT, as I said to Jacquie above … simply being aware of what might be going on in your kids’ heads would be of huge help to them down the track :)

    • says

      Ha ha Liz – I recognise people like me from 100 paces and I can see lots of me in you! I hope my journey is of some help for you … although I too have already learned lots from you and your blog :)

  16. says

    Honestly, I’m the most easily flabbergasted person I know and can’t wait to learn from the way you made sense of the world, and how you chose to treat yourself kindly. I could really use a few of those lessons.

    x

    • says

      LOL ‘easily flabbergasted’ … I love your way with words :) And gosh, it only took me 34 years to learn how to treat myself kindly. I hope it doesn’t take YOU that long!

  17. BossyMummy says

    I love your blog, so am really looking forward to your book. I can relate in so many ways with the type A personality and taking on so many things and ending up not achieving in all you set out to. Can’t wait :)

  18. says

    As someone who is just coming out of too many years suffering from anxiety, coupled with massive feelings of failure in my inability to carry a pregnancy, your words resonate with me.

    I think, on the whole, we are always much harder on ourselves than others either would be or even think to be. We judge ourselves harsher, push ourselves further and are more disappointed with ourselves if we aren’t achieving or doing what WE think we should be.

    I consider myself less of a woman because of my inabilities when it comes to pregnancy, I feel a failure because of it but the one person who’s opinion matters the most to me – Guv, doesn’t seem me like that or think of me like that and he’s lost the exact same thing as I have because of my issues carrying a pregnancy but yet I can’t see his view of me, only my own tainted one.

    I’m looking forward to reading your book Kelly because I KNOW you came out the other side because you’re writing about it. I know you’re facing a happy future because you’re here, telling us about it and now living it with your impending new addition[!] and so I’m looking forward to reading how you came to this point in your life now, maybe I can follow in your footsteps and bring some peace & acceptance to my own life.

    xx

    • says

      Aw Rach I REALLY hope I can help you find that little bit of peace and forgiveness your soul needs and deserves. Your journey has been such a rough one and is a perfect example of just how bloody unfair life is :(

  19. says

    Oh Kelly, you gorgeous, gorgeous girl. I’m so sorry to hear what tricks your mind played with you. I’m also relieved you managed to work past it. You brave soul. Stilling my Voice of Doubt is an ongoing challenge for me. I’m looking forward to finding out what methods you employed. J x

    • says

      Thank you lovely lady. I am constantly battling the stupid voices in my head, but that was certainly the most malevolent voice I have ever experienced!

  20. says

    Hi Kelly – just reading the first part of your post made me think of myself 6 years ago. Suicide was never something I thought would be a part of my thinking, but undiagnosed depression over a number of years led me to that as an option too. I could picture how and when and where…. but it was when the movie in my mind played my husband finding my ‘sleeping’ body – and all the hurt and confusion and not-understanding-why that would cause him – that I stepped back from the brink and realised that I needed to find an answer. That thought process became my benchmark for mental well-being and I am pleased to say that, with some excellent help and support, I have never been that bad again.
    I have never heard anyone else talk about it like you just have, so I am fascinated to find out how you have dealt with it, and how you have made the life changes that I believe you have to make in order to make a long-term recovery, and how you have reconciled that with your Type A personality.
    With 1 in 5 people in this country being affected by depression, your book has the power to touch so many. Not enough people write about it or talk about it. It is still a mysteriously unseen, misunderstood illness and taboo topic.
    All the very best with the book. I look forward to reading it, and continue to enjoy your blog posts and other writings as well.
    :) x

    • says

      I can tell you Em that it was REALLY hard to write the post above so I am not surprised how little people talk about these things. But I think we are getting better at it. Thank you for sharing your experience too … it is good for me to know as I write my book how many people in the world have experienced similar things to me.

  21. Amanda says

    I am a stay at home mum to two beautiful children and I have a wonderful husband, I feel lately that I have been so horrible to them all, sometimes I do believe that they deserve better, it’s the little things that get under my skin, the small stuff that shouldn’t matter, I feel like some days I do nothing but yell at my kids then when my husband comes home I snap at him too. I am hoping that your words will help me get out of the rut that I am in and just become a better person to myself and to my gorgeous family. Thank you for sharing your book with us xx

    • says

      Oh Amanda – I do know that feeling well. It’s a horrible way to be :( I hope that you might see something in a few chapters’ time that might help. I will try to write fast!

  22. Carly says

    I admire you for being so honest and open about your life. I know someone very much like you and I often worry about her taking on too much. Maybe your book will give me some insight and help me understand her more? P.S. I love reading your life-hacker tips.

    • says

      I know soooo many people like me who do ‘too much’. It’s the main reason I am writing the book actually! I definitely hope I can help you understand your friend a bit better Carly :)

  23. Kylie W says

    WOW, your description of your Type A personality describes me! I never really stopped to think about it much, but being able to tick all those boxes, no wonder I’m always up & down and struggled being just a stay at home mum – I thought it was just because I was an older mum who worked for 12 years before having a baby, so wasn’t used to sitting around home having idle time (I also suffered from post-natal depression). When I was made part-time at my full-time job (before children), I went out and got a weekend job which I still worked when my other job went back to full-time, leaving only because at 4 months pregnant I was suffering from fatigue.
    My 5yr old daughter is so much like I was as a child/teenager it’s scary and my son suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem. I’m looking forward to reading your book, maybe it will help me & my children.

    • says

      It’s funny you know, my son is only three but I can already see him exhibiting certain perfectionist like traits. I am keeping a VERY close eye on him and also trying to make sure that there is nothing I am doing from my end to help his built-in perfectionism along. Genetics has a lot to answer for doesn’t it?!

  24. Lynda says

    I’m really looking forward to reading your book and understanding your journey to finding the life you want. I’m currently in the process of doing the same thing so it will be interesting to read about your journey.

  25. says

    Wow Kelly, I never realised how bad things were for you. I guess the temptation when you’re overwhelmed or depressed is to try to hold it all together and hope that no-one notices you’re falling to pieces. I can relate to some of this and I’m sure many others will too. Take care. x

    • says

      I am actually ashamed I let things get as far as I did. But as I told my psychologist, it was almost like I HAD to let them get that far in order to justify taking the steps I did to change things for the better. Terrible!

  26. says

    Hi Kelly, motherhood poses particular problems for the Type A’s… it’s good to give perfectionism away. I always joke that some days even being good enough is too hard work and slack mothering does have its merits. Hope so, am doing it now!! Good luck with your book, releasing chapters is a great way to do it.

  27. says

    Kel, I smashed out the first chapter on the train this morning. Twice.

    As school captain, house captain, head of the debating team, winner-er of everything at the year 12 awards night, compulsive over-achiever (double degree…do your best), all nighters at uni to get a perfect score, gosh I related. ‘The Smart One’ at school, annoyingly so. Barring life in Trinidad – This. Is. My. Life.

    Thanks so much for sharing – I cannot wait until the next chapters. Especially if it helps me learn how to turn my life down a couple of notches. (tellingly, this is the first book I’ve so much as looked at since our beach holiday over six months ago – I’m ‘too busy’ to read…)
    x

  28. says

    As a chronic ‘under achiever’ I think we come at the same issue from different ends of the spectrum – but we end up in the same place! “Life happens while you’re busy making other plans” (and for me “too many other plans”!!) x

  29. says

    Ah yes, I too tend to take on so much I end up burnt out. I found becoming a parent slowed me down a little.. at least for a while.
    For me i’ve found I thrive when i’m busy but I definitely need more balance in my life. Can’t wait to read each chapter & follow your story :)

    • says

      Ooh I thrive when I am busy too!! And I *think* I have finally found that magical thing called ‘balance’. I am sure it might all go out the window when baby #2 arrives!

  30. says

    Kel, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only just read your first chapter……silly life getting in the way of good reading ;)
    So, your intro made me so sad and very scared for you, such a fine tightwire to walk! Now I have read chapter 1, I just want more. It’s incredible how our younger years set us up for a lifetime of expectations, whether high or low.
    I think my “keep everyone happy at all costs” personality has about 99.99% to do with my childhood, when keeping the peace was a factor of survival in my little head. Makes me sad for my younger self, but it’s amazing what a smile can disguise. I think my turning point was finding someone as broken as I was, and together we seem to have been each others’ “glue”.
    I’m desperately trying to ensure Bell always feels secure, a massive contributor in my mind.
    Thank you for being so generous in sharing this with us Kel xx

    • says

      It shocks me how bad I let things get Lise. But I look back now and wonder if I didn’t let things get so bad, would I have made all the changes I made?! Life … you are a funny bugger sometimes :(