In a lot of ways 2016 was a great year but it was also a really bad one too. Although it started on what seemed like a high with me and Ben flying to New York it wasn’t the holiday that we’d dreamt of. Hardly anyone knows that this time last year I was in a pretty bad place. Following some difficult times for me and Ben related to a business venture of Ben’s (I can’t say more than that) and me being very very unhappy at work I’d slipped into a really dark and down place and it wasn’t until December that I finally found the courage to go to the doctors who told me I had acute depression. It was a relief in a lot of ways. A relief that there was actually something wrong with me and that I wasn’t just too weak to cope with everything that had happened to us in the latter part of 2015. I’d tried so hard to support my husband in everything he was going through that I’d let myself slip further and further and in the end I was signed off work and given anti-depressants, something that terrified me. I’d heard horror stories and I was scared of becoming totally reliant on them or really changing on them.
But in some ways, I was happy. Happy that I could take time away from work, one of the biggest causes of how I felt. I didn’t share too much that I had depression and definitely not on my blog or social channels. In fact, this is the first time I’ve admitted it to more than just my close friends and family. It’s still such a taboo word and an illness that so many people perceive as all in the mind. If I’m honest I felt ashamed. Ashamed I couldn’t cope and in a lot of ways I still feel like that.
I spent the latter half of 2015 coping with nausea and sleeplessness along with other side effects of the tablets whilst trying to enjoy Christmas. But in January 2016 we started the year on a flight to New York. It wasn’t the dream holiday that we’d been booked all those months ago, in June. Because of everything that had happened we didn’t have the money to spend that we’d wanted to and we didn’t also feel like we could make a fuss about the fact we were in New York. So I didn’t share many photos on Facebook while we were there and we stuck to a small budget as best we could. I’d saved up money from the blog to treat myself to some Kate Spade bits but the shopping felt tarnished and not as much fun as my husband couldn’t join in and if he’s honest now wasn’t 100% “there” during the holiday. It had been a tough few months for us both and although it was a great holiday and so nice to have a break neither of us enjoyed it the way we should have. When we talk about it now, we both wish we had the money to do the trip over now that we’re both in a much better frame of mind to make the most of it.
When we got back from holiday I had to return to work and I guess a lot of people who knew why I’d been signed off thought that a trip to the big apple must have cleared me of all my blues and I’d be fine because when I got back, no one said a word. I mean my close friends did, but my work – nothing! No, “Are you fine to return to work?” “Can we do anything to help?” Well the truth was they couldn’t, even if they had offered. I’d been unhappy there since the previous year. I’d loved my job for years. I’d been in that particular theatre for 12 years but things had changed and I was no longer as happy. It had affected me badly. I had nightmares about work, I got to 5pm on a Sunday and felt an impending sense of dread and worse when I was there I felt like I was not giving it my all. Theatre is a job you do because you love it. It’s hard if you don’t anymore. I knew the minute it had affected my health it was time to go. I’d started looking for other jobs in September 2015 and had several interviews, including for Amazon Fashion which I got down to only 4 from 150 people!! But I hadn’t found the right thing yet and as my husband’s work life had also become uncertain I had to stay put in my full-time job, so I plodded on.
I’ll be honest February and March were shit. I tried to keep blogging as I struggled with work and some serious side effects of the tablets including nightmares and insomnia all the while not really telling anyone in the online world. I turned 35 and wrote a post about how I was having my usual birthday panic but this time it was worse as I felt like the years were slipping by and I’d spent several years not being as happy as I thought I could be.
Then in April everything changed.
Firstly, I won an Essex Digital Award for my blog. It was such a boost of confidence for me and my little blog that I worked so hard on. Then my husband got a new job. A great job and one that paid a secure and regular salary. Ben has always been incredibly supportive of my blog and has always pushed me to believe I could go full time. He’s the reason I have photos of me on the blog and I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. So maybe heady with post winning adrenalin I decided to quit my job of 12 years and go full time. I know there would have been quite a few people who looked at me and my blog and wondered how this was possible but I did it for several reasons none of which were money related. I wanted a better quality of life. My job before involved late nights, long weeks and incredible amounts of stress. I wanted to see my husband and my dog more, I wanted to be my own boss and not feel underappreciated anymore and I wanted to see if I had more time to dedicate to the blog, whether I could really take it somewhere. So along with financial support from my husband and despite fears from my parents I made the leap. Knowing that if it didn’t work on the blog I would get a job somewhere else if needs be.
My resignation was met with tears and disbelief. I’d kept it pretty quiet how unhappy I was and so to many my departure came as a shock. The theatre had been like a family to me for so many years and I was sad and scared to say goodbye but knew it was the right thing to do.
After a week, away in Spain with Ben where we both genuinely relaxed and had fun (plus got some kick ass blog content of course) I finished out my last few weeks at my job two days a week whilst starting to work on my blog too. When my last day came, I left with no tears, no sadness just excitement for what was coming.
And I’m so happy to say that from then on, my year just got better and better. I had more time to work on the blog and started forging new relationships as well as strengthening old ones by taking the time to go to press days and meet people. Then one of my best friends and fellow blogger Emma asked me to be her full time photographer. I’d always snapped photos for her and photography is something I really love and enjoy and I found that I had a real knack for it. It helps that we are good friends and we seem to make a really good team. Emma has been an incredible friend to me this year. From her job offer to me to the extraordinary amount of blog advice and pep talks she has given me over 2016, I am really really blessed to call her my friend. She is an incredibly talented blogger and a blummin lovely person and I’m so glad our friendship has gone from strength to strength this year. Plus, she has 5 Chihuahua’s so we bond on a doggy level too. My trip with her to Marbella was one of my 2016 highlights and I can’t wait to have lots more adventures with her in 2017.
But my biggest high point of the year was the 20th July when an email from the gorgeous Hayley dropped into my inbox asking me if I would like to go to NYC for Michael Buble’s perfume launch in August. I couldn’t believe it! It was a blog pinch me moment and the moment I knew I’d done the right thing by going full time. Then my blog won a Thirty Plus award. Another high point of the year and another moment that gave me such a boost of confidence. I was awarded Highly commended in the Next Big Thing category.
2016 was also the year I gained an Essex blogger gang and this has been so important. I went from working in an office with 4 girls to working from home on my own and I was scared I might become isolated and start to feel my depression worsening. To find local people and bloggers to boot, to hang out with has been a god send. First up was Hannah Gale. Hannah is one of those people who I knew if we met in real life we would 100% get on, and we did! It all started with lunch in Ipswich back in June and now not only do I also take Hannah’s photos for her blog but we have become really good friends. She is a brilliant person and once again an incredible blogger. Her blog is just like she is in real life warm, funny and totally down to earth. I also starting shooting the fabulous Erica, another Essex blogger lady who along with having the house of dreams and interiors to die for is once again one of the nicest bloggers you’ll ever meet. I was so happy to meet so many lovely AND local bloggers. Later in the year I got to know Laura too, another local lass. She is so lovely, so sweet and again such a talented lady. I’d watched so many of her hair tutorials on YouTube and it’s been so nice to get to know her in real life.
August came and I finally got to go on the most amazing trip to NYC with other Thirty Plus bloggers. It was incredible and I am so grateful to Hayley for choosing me to go. That month something equally as brilliant happened too. We got a second dog. Something I’d wanted to do for ages and now I was working from home knew we could do. To begin with I’ll be honest I panicked about our new addition Gus as he didn’t seem to be settling or getting on with Eddie our other dog but after a week or so it all changed and I can’t imagine life without him. He is the cutest most wonderful little dog and is such good company for me.
I’m so excited that my blog has gone from strength to strength this year and I’ve had some incredible events and trips this year including the Far Fetch mansion, Buble Christmas Dinner, NYC, Marbella and most recently Paris with La Redoute which was another pinch me moment. I also really enjoyed sharing more DIY posts this year with my Home office post proving so popular and lots of you loved my Painted Pumpkins post too. Come 2017 I plan to do one DIY post a week as it’s a real love of mine and something you guys all seem to enjoy reading.
So now at the end of 2016 things are a world away from where I was this time last year and me and Ben are so much happier. It wasn’t all ups though. Sadly, Ben lost both his grandma’s this year, a hard blow for both of us and his family too and my own dad has been poorly which is so hard for me when I live down South and they live up North.
As for the big D, yes, I do still suffer. I have down days. Blogging is great but it’s also hard. Self-comparison and FOMO can be really negative forces, but I try hard to focus on my own achievements and be positive. I’m so grateful that I get to work from home, walk my dogs every day and spend time with incredible people doing some pretty cool things. But I do still take the tablets. A low dose for now. In 2017 I hope to get my butt to the gym and start to work my way off them with exercise. That’s the plan anyway. But I end the year on a really positive note. I love my job and I’m so grateful to all my family and friends and online peeps who have supported me in 2016. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.
Thank you for reading and Happy New Year