Our best lessons are learned through making mistakes, and growing through hard experiences. It’s hard to reflect on an experience when you’re living in it though. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to reflect and really understand how I ended up where I am today.
In 2015, I was living in Fredericton, New Brunswick in a super cozy apartment I loved. I was running online group programs, and had an office downtown where I ran my private practice, and became part of a great team of other professionals. I was in business for myself full time after years of working towards that.
That fall, I was in Manitoba for a month staying with my mom. My mom had Alzheimer’s disease, and was in a nursing home in her hometown of Dauphin, Manitoba. During my visit with her, I met a guy online. On Facebook, actually, I mistakenly commented on one of his pictures thinking it was my other friend Chris. This guy Chris was from my hometown but lived in Alberta. We were friends on Facebook, even though we had never actually talked in person (found out later he had a crush on me when he was 16… awww).
After a few months of chatting with him, I flew out to Calgary to meet him. A few more months passed, I fell in love, and I sold all of my things to move to Calgary to be with him. This seems crazy… and I guess it kind of was. That’s always been my style though. Follow your gut and your heart, and make it work. And in my defense, my 2 brothers lived in Vancouver and Calgary, and I had family in Manitoba, so I had a plan B and C in case this guy was a dud. :p
At the time I was more than confident I would successfully continue my nutrition business online. Which is what I wanted. Work from home, work where and when you want. That was the dream!
(Photo: My office before I moved to Calgary)
My Time in Calgary
I would wake up in the early morning, and would dedicate time to a morning routine: coffee, gym, walk outside, educate, and goal set. Then, I’d start my work day: social media posting, planning, checking-in with clients by email or Facebook. I never changed out of gym clothes, or put makeup on. I could go for personal appointments when I wanted. Take days off if I wanted. Working with clients from all around Canada, and US. Traveled around for business events and training.
Chris would come home, and I was so excited to see a person in physical form, I would squeeze him, update him on everything I did that day, and literally talk him to sleep.
I had moved out in December 2015, and this was my life until about 8 months later in August 2016 when things started changing. I couldn’t explain why. Business was going really well yet, I really couldn’t motivate myself to do more, or anything for that matter. I had lost my drive, I was exhausted, and had completely lost my interest in everything.
I would do a very max of 2 hours of work per day, and lay on the couch in my PJ’s for the rest. After close to a month of this feeling, it got much worse. I was feeling lonely, isolated, and didn’t care about anything I used to care about. It *seemed* (even to me!!!) like I had built the lifestyle of my dreams, so it was very confusing.
Those few months were tough. I didn’t recognize myself at all. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any excitement for anything in my life, or the work that used to light up my life. I had nothing left to give.
Then came the kicker. In late October 2016, my mother passed away from a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I had spent the days and nights leading up to her death in bed with her, holding her hand, and essentially watching her fade away. Although she was sick with Alzheimer’s for so long, I wasn’t prepared for the grief that followed her death. The experience of losing someone you fought for your whole life is shattering. My whole world got even more turned upside down.
I struggled with about 4 months of depression, piled with grief until out of desperation to get out of my thoughts, out of the house, and out of my PJ’s, I applied for a part time job: bartending! Something low stress, with a super fun staff, to get my mind off life.
Then another opportunity popped into my life. My dietitian friend was working at a nutrition consulting clinic in Calgary called Simply For Life, and told me about a part time dietitian opportunity there. The company was founded locally in my hometown province, so it peaked my interest. I was hesitant since I had put all my energy towards developing my own online consulting business, but I applied for the position anyway.
I was offered the dietitian job the following week. And that was my turning point. That’s when my mood starting lifting again. I now had HUMAN contact with people, and with my clients. I could hug them, I could create a personal connection with them, I could have coffee with them.
For the months that followed, I worked as a bartender/server at night, I worked half days as a dietitian at Simply For Life with my face-to-face clients, and kept working with my existing online clients. Although, I was definitely still grieving, and recovering, I felt that the little spark in me was actually still in there.
(Photo: My mom and I in September, 2015)
My life now
Chris and I moved back home to New Brunswick in the summer of 2017. We exchanged vows, and got married in July at Chris’ family cottage with our closest family members and friends.
I transferred to the Simply For Life in Fredericton, which happened to work out perfectly since the dietitian there was going on mat leave that same month. I started seeing all of my clients there. We bought a farm-style house unseen on a gorgeous piece of land. Our move back was pretty seamless; everything seemed to fall into place with ease thankfully.
This summer, 2018, two full years later from the first signs of the depression I experienced, I feel I am fully myself again. It felt like forever, and took a lot of ongoing work, and life changes but I’m relieved to say that the depression and darkness are now a memory, and an experience I can reflect on.
(Photo: Our Wedding, with my brother the officiant)
Here are 3 lessons you may be able to relate to your life and experiences:
Lesson 1: Sometimes your direction or goals are the wrong ones
I had pushed very, very hard for a business idea that I thought would make me happy. I threw all of my energy, all of my money, and well, all of my heart into a business idea that made me miserable and depressed. I didn’t listen to any of the signs that I was headed toward a burnout and depression. I just kept pushing toward my goals until I mentally and physically could NOT push any more.
It took me a long time (well… until now, really) to admit that the direction I was going in wasn’t the right one for me. For me personally, doing business completely alone, and alone at home was just not the right move. I love people. I thrive when I’m connecting with people (not computer screens). I am an extrovert. I love hugs and high fives. I love being in a community, and in a team. I had to have the courage to admit that, and admit that a change needed to happen.
Joining the Simply for Life company was not easy for me; I was super ashamed and embarrassed actually. I felt like a failure. But that was just my ego talking…. When really, it ended up being the best business and life decision I made. On top of being face-to-face with my clients, I gained a whole team of people behind me. Other dietitians, other entrepreneurs, other people who were just as passionate about health and helping people. The ability to brainstorm ideas and challenges with other colleagues. Big team meetings. A whole team of people supporting the ideas, the marketing, the programs, the resources, and the list goes on. THAT is what I want in my life.
Yes being a solo-entrepreneur is a cool idea, and really great for some people, but it is definitely not for me.
So what does that mean as a lesson for us? Take a look at your goals you might be pushing really hard for. Maybe there’s a reason it feels so hard. Are the goals you’re striving for really the best decision for you? And, take a look at your life. Is there something you know you want to do but feel like you’ll be judged for it? DO IT ANYWAY. Because everyone who truly cares about you, will only care that you’re doing what makes YOU happy. That is all that matters. We only have one kick at this can. I hope you have the courage to start over or change directions if that’s what you want. I hope you have the courage to do it before it forces you to.
(Photo: Simply For Life Team, Annual General Meeting 2017)
Lesson 2: Do the best you can, and know it’s good enough
Sometimes life throws you in a direction that you feel powerless in. Life Circumstances are VALID.
Have you heard the saying “you can have results OR you have excuses”?
When I was in the depth of the depression and grieving, I honestly could not get out of bed some days as hard as I tried. It wasn’t a matter of me “letting go of my excuses”or “taking responsibility for my success”, and just doing it. The guilt I felt for my “excuses” was half the battle and held me down even more. I already felt like a failure, and the idea that it was my fault somehow, just added even more self-loathing to the mix.
If you are going through loss, life changes, illnesses, whatever it may be for you, and you are finding it really hard to eat healthy, work, exercise, work towards a personal goal; I urge you to see that the reasons you are struggling are VALID. So let’s look at WHY instead (instead of just shaming you), and HOW you can move forward.
Be kind to yourself! Don’t add guilt to your already full plate. Ask yourself: “… what do I need right now?”, “… what can I do right now to maybe move one step forward?”. And sometimes, that might just mean eating a meal, eating a healthier meal at a restaurant, or going for a 10 minute walk with a friend. And you know what, sometimes that is darn good enough. Sometimes it’s good to push, and sometimes it’s good to rest.
Lesson 3: Human connection is really important
Getting a job where I was connecting with people again saved my life. It’s as simple as that. Find people that enhance your life. Connect with them in person.
Texts, emails, and Facebook are NOT the same. I do understand the convenience of being online, and of online programs – that’s why I threw all my eggs in that basket! However, what I learned is that nothing beats a face-to-face relationship when you’re needing support, and working to change.
Ever notice how good it feels when you finally meet your friend for coffee? Make an effort to do that more. It’ll be good for you, and you never know what that friend of yours may be dealing with either.
I only have the strength to sort of talk about this now.I could write a book about my depression and grief lessons, and about self-care but I will wrap this up. To be honest, I never thought the darkness would lift, and that I would even care enough to share this story. And here I am today, in a completely different place I ever thought I’d be, and in the best place I could be. When you’re IN it, it’s hard to see anything at all. Reach out to people who understand, and can help you see hope.
If you are experiencing depression, or other mental health challenges, reach out. Every region has local mental health associations that offer free services with counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. The Fredericton Mental Health Association phone number is (506) 453-2132. By calling that number, they will connect you with someone right away either in regular office hours or their emergency crisis team.