Category Archives: Honestly Speaking

Losing my mind and finding my purpose

When we returned to our Balinese home at the end of our UK the summer, eight weeks of constant moving, emotion, comfort eating and lack of exercise took its toll. My joy at being back, was tempered with the realisation that we had only three months before our permanent move back to the UK to launch Fox & B, the womenswear label Denise and I have created. I’m excited to launch this new business, but also rather overwhelmed by the amount left to do in this short few months and shaken by the depths of my sadness at saying goodbye to the life we’ve created here, to the kid’s school and to the vibrant community that surrounds it and, perhaps most of all, to my business partner and friend of twenty years, Denise and her family, who took a big leap of faith to join us here, and who I know, I can never coax back to the UK.

Back in Bali, but slipping into depression

Back in Bali, but slipping into depression

I began sinking into depression, a state I am no stranger to. My limbs felt like dead weights. The smallest of tasks took a ridiculous amount of effort. I wanted to sleep all the time. The joy had slipped away from all the places I’d normally find it. At a friend’s ‘Desert Island’ party, I used up the last of my reserves to appear happy and ‘normal’. Before I could leave, the tears were streaming down my face and I knew I was in trouble. The next day I cried and cried. Then somewhere in this dark, foggy process, something utterly magical happened that changed EVERYTHING…

I felt compelled to share how I really felt on FaceBook.

This may not sound like a biggie, but if you have ever suffered depression you will understand the fear that people might find out. You will understand the shame of not being able to cope, the feeling of failure and the abject terror that this time you won’t make it out alive. It is not to be confused with ‘feeling depressed’ but I understand when people make this error, because the name is so misleading.

Anyway, I am not a big social media sharer. It took years for my friends to coax me into joining Facebook and many more, before I actually used it. Only the move to Bali changed this and I started to see the positives of instant connection with distant loved ones, but also the negatives of ‘the perfect life’ it tends to project.

For whatever reasons, I had a sudden urge to blurt the truth of how I was feeling and as I started to write, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders, just verbalising the mess in my head, began to make sense of things. I realised I was grieving! I was grieving for Bali and our life here, for the friends and kiddies I wouldn’t see grow up, for another chapter ending, and just realising ‘why’, made me feel a bit better. I pressed ‘Post” and off it went into the ether.

I sat back with tears streaming down my face and waves of realisation washing over me. I realised that…

  1. I was not just grieving for Bali but for other, older grievances.

  2. I have yet to fully process my past and that it will cripple me, unless I work out how to acknowledge, forgive and fully release it.

  3. There may be a reason I’ve experienced past pain and hurt. I may be able to turn it around if, instead of running from it, I can sit with it, tend to it and watch it blossom into something good and that to do this I will need to trust and be brave.

  4. It is not what happens to us that matters, but how we react to it and what we do with it, that counts.

  5. There may be more to my story…and then I started to feel scared, because I realised also that…

  6. My book is already half way through and the pages are turning fast. If I want my story to go how it plays out in my head when I meditate, swim or dance, when I embrace blue sky thinking, then I need to crack on and make it happen!

…and suddenly I am facing my biggest fear – that all my crazy hopes and dreams will forever remain just that, that I will never make a difference, never discover my true purpose and that I will die wondering ‘what if?’

I feel a sudden sense of urgency, the same one that made me share my experience of depression, and I realise it’s my own hopes and dreams! They’ve rushed to the surface and are hammering to get out, to be made real! Holy shit!

she decided to start living the life she'd imagined

And then my laptop starts pinging. Ping! Ping! Ping! Messages of love and support are pouring into my Facebook page. Ping! Ping! From all around the world Ping! Ping! For days and days.

Something that I thought would ruin my professional reputation and send friends fumbling awkwardly for the door, instead, results in a tidal wave of love and support. Ping! Ping! I discover that the moment I jump, a multicoloured net of friends, family and clients appear, from all across the globe, to catch me!

It is the most magical, humbling experience. I feel loved. I feel like the luckiest person alive. I receive messages from people who suffer the same way with depression, but have been too ashamed to admit it to anyone, who felt like they were the only ones. I get messages from people I’ve never even met before. I make new friends. I feel buoyed up in a sea of humanity and it’s right where I’ve always wanted to be – listening to people’s stories, speaking my truth, sharing, feeling connected, making a difference, as small as that may be. I feel like I’ve come ‘home’ and that my purpose lies in here somewhere. That this was all meant to be, that everything is beginning to unfold exactly as it should.

So I am reminded once again how worthwhile it is to keep pushing though the fear of rejection or humiliation or whatever else it is that stops you being fully, 100% ‘you’. It’s been a long journey for me to accept the melancholy that is part of my psychological makeup, to stop trying to hide it and ignore it and distract myself from it and to just accept it. If I allow myself to feel it and to trust that when I do, rather than killing me, it might actually teach me what I need to know, to live the life I’ve always dreamed of…a life of compassion and sharing, of helping and connecting deeply with all kinds of different people, of lifelong learning and new experiences! I love the sound of that life! Already, just sharing my experiences of depression, has brought me some of that life and that makes me so happy! It makes me feel alive!

My default setting is actually really positive, I see the best in people until proven otherwise. I expect things to go well if I put in the work. I get hilariously excited about the smallest of things, going for a walk in nature with my husband, rummaging around an antiques fair or snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie with my kids. I am a hopeless enthusiast when it comes to anyone’s personal development or new entrepreneurial ventures and frequently have to stop myself jumping in too many projects at once (or my husband will!).

But I also have episodes of depression, and as much as that is not a state of being that’s embraced socially or viewed as healthy or attractive, I need to stop trying to hide this part of myself, because none of us is perfect. I hate the culture of ‘perfect’! I mean perfect is so uggghhh! Its so dull. If I hide my so called imperfections, if I hide a sizeable chunk of what makes me ‘me’, then I’m encouraging others to feel ashamed of their imperfections too and I would HATE to be the person who does that to anyone! I’d be adding to the problem.

No matter how much it scares me to show these less attractive aspects of myself to others, to post my messy internal wanderings on my blog, before I’ve finessed them into something I feel happy to publish, I am determined to ‘just do it’, because in a frantically busy life of parenting and working and launching a new business and moving house and country again and this and that and the other, I’m damned if I’m not going to sprinkle something raw and honest and meaningful into the mix, because not doing so, for any protracted length of time, makes me depressed!

There, I said it! I don’t actually know WHAT I said or if it makes any sense to anyone else, but I feel like I got something out of my system that will make me feel (a bit) more sane today! Haha!

If you made it to the end of this meandering ramble, well done!! and thank you. Please do let me know if any of this strikes a chord with you, so I know I’m not just talking to myself. Although, maybe its better that I am…at least until I work out what the hell I’m doing…but where would be the fun in that? Right? Real, not perfect – maybe that should be my new mantra!

Leesa x

Ditching the Mum Tum Part 3 – Comfort Eating

If you read Part 1 & 2 of Ditching the Mum Tum, this is where I hit my first hump in the road. I blew three months of good work attending classes at Motion Fitness, the moment we landed back in the UK for our eight-week summer holiday. It was great to re-connect with friends and family, but exhausting being the constant house guest, living out of a suitcase, moving every week, working throughout and tag-teaming with Roland to keep the kids entertained on the long school holiday. Healthy eating and exercise went out the window.

One too many of these pub lunches!

One too many of these pub lunches!

It was also an emotional trip, especially in Ireland. I think for a great many of us, going ‘home’ is not all roses. I had some wonderful reunions. I have some very inspiring people in my family. Sadly most of them where not around during my childhood and I sorely wish that they had been, but we cannot change the past. We can change our relationship to it though and this is something I realise I need to do because old hurt is so damn sticky! It can cast a shadow over the present and rear its head every time a similar relationship or experience arises. I am tired of this broken record. Different time, different person, same bloody dynamic! I get the feeling that no matter how much ‘work’ I do on myself and how adamant I am to rise above it, my psyche ‘control room’ will continue to regurgitate past experiences until I figure out a healthier way of coping and flick it to ‘done’ for good. For now I’m stuck in old patterns, which include seeking comfort in food and whatever else got me by as a child, but that doesn’t serve me so well now.

A happy reunion with Domino, Charlie & Mariad Whisker.

A happy reunion with Domino, Charlie & Mariad Whisker.

I gorged myself on all the foods I’d missed in Bali. Everyone we visited wanted to feed us tea and cake, scones and jam, cheese and wine. Initially, I was in heaven, but I grew increasingly frazzled and sluggish as the trip wore on. The week we flew back to Bali, we were presented with a beautiful box of cupcakes and I remember feeling sick (of the food and myself!) as I tried to force it down. The tide had turned. Before catching our flight back to Bali, I sprinted to to TK Maxx and bought myself three new exercise outfits & two new swimsuits to disguise my bulging tum and motivate me to get back in the game.

The final cupcake (cue Europe soundtrack)

The final cupcake (cue Europe soundtrack)

 I would love to hear from anyone who’s experienced similar setbacks. How did you get back on track? How did you change old unhelpful behaviour patterns? Or have you experienced a ‘stuck record’ scenario? Did you find a way to release it?

Leesa x

Ditching the Mum Tum – Part 1

In my last blog post I promised to share some of my own personal journeys and I’m jumping straight in here with my current quest to get in shape and ditch my mum tum.

This is a challenge for me because I love food, I hate exercise and I’ve tried (and failed) many times to reverse the creep in dress size over the past decade. I got away with it in my twenties because I’m naturally a slim ‘vata’ type build (more on Ayurvedic doshas another day if you’re interested). In my thirties the tide turned, my metabolism started to slow. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue and banned from strenuous exercise (not that I ever did any!) but two pregnancies took their toll, my size crept from a UK 8-10 to a 12-14 and I had no way to work it off. I did what was allowed, swimming and walking, I cleaned up my diet too, but the weight didn’t shift. What I’m doing clearly isn’t enough.

Now in my forties and living in the tropics there’s nowhere to hide. Its a beach and pool lifestyle. You can’t cover up. Its too hot! It doesn’t help that Bali is the land of the body beautiful. They’re everywhere in their string bikinis and pneumatic boobs, frolicking in the sand with their cute kiddies, zipping around on motorbikes with babies strapped on their backs and I feel like a big, old, saggy mum. It doesn’t matter if this is really how I look, because its how I ‘feel’ and I am sick of it!

Now, as someone who sees the beauty in every size and shape, I’ve also questioned my own desire to get back to my old size. Am I being vain? Does it really matter? I’ve got plenty of larger-sized friends and clients who look amazing and inspire me. I don’t want to become a gym-bunny. There’s so much else I’d rather send my time doing, but I DO love clothes, I love to play with style and my increasing size and tummy are limiting my options to express myself in that way and THAT makes me sad.

I don’t want plastic boobs and a six pack, but I do want to be a lithe old lady. I want to be able to hike off into the sunset with my husband and jump into freshwater lakes. I want to wear gorgeous clothes. I fancy I might have some kind of gyspy re-birth in my sixties and wear my hair in long plaits with a fedora, a silk blouse and pair of cigarette pants. I may or may not be riding a white horse…I think I’m somewhere in Spain… or maybe its California, anyway, the point is I will be fit and slim and I’m going to need some help getting there!

Enter Mel Bomba of Motion Fitness Bali. I heard about Mel before I ever discovered her discreet fitness studio in the heart of Seminyak. A friend called her Bali’s answer to Tracey Anderson and I was straight on the internet googling her. Her website terrified me. There was something about group workouts being good because “nothing brings people closer quite like misery and physical suffering.” This kind of talk turns me right off. I have learnt from experience and Adrenal Fatigue that if I push myself too hard (my natural ‘Vata’ inclination) I can short circuit my nervous system and tip into crippling depression and anxiety. I have learnt that I need to take things slow and build steadily. This is hard for me, because I am ridiculously impatient with, and demanding of, myself but I have trained myself to curb those inclinations and be smarter.

So, six months ago I went to my first group workout at Motion and here’s what I wrote when I got home….The class is not dance, but the music is GREAT! It lifts my spirits and keeps me going through the toning exercises. Everyone sweats buckets. The women in the class look AMAZING! The woman who set up next to me had the most beautiful long, lithe, toned body. I figured she was some little twenty year-old until she turned around and I realised she was over fifty. Now THAT, inspires me. The women to my right, probably late forties, also with a fabulous body, revealed stretch marks during one exercise and I’m thinking, ‘Respect. You didn’t always have that body. You made it.’

Mel inspired me straight off and here’s why. Her body is a work of art! I mean, it is incredible! There is not one inch of fat on her. Every muscle is defined and yet, she doesn’t look weird or masculine, but pretty and strong. I am fascinated by this body that is so clearly loved and valued and nurtured and taken care of. I am ashamed I’ve neglected mine so long, but no longer. Its all change for this Whisker. I am gonna be a lean mean fighting machine. Ooh yeah baby!

Mel smiles beautifically as she leads us through warm-up and then the tempo shifts and we’re punching hand weights in the air and doing kicks with leg weights and everyone’s sweating buckets and glugging on bottles labelled ‘Slim Tonic’ and I realise I am way out of my depth! This is a level of hard I’ve never encountered, but the results are all around me, so I knuckle down. I am mindful not to take the heavy weights like everyone else, but still its hard. I actually imagine Mel’s super-toned arms are mine to get myself through one set of reps! Then I start to lose the plot and I’m laughing helplessly as I try and fail to keep up. My brain is cooked. “Look at the state of me! Hahahaha! I’m like Mr Bean in lycra! Oh my god, this is too funny! Oh stop! I’m gonna wet myself!” So that’s me entering the delirium stage, which transitioned to involuntary grunting through each rep, collapsing in a sweaty heap on the floor between sets and weird self chat “Ohmygod. Ok. Ok. Ohmygod. Ok. Keep going. Pheufffff. Ok. Ohmygod.” By the end of class, I look like a total rave casualty…all dilated pupils, looking lost, but euphoric. Mel came over to introduce herself and say ‘well done’ and all I could do was mouth the words ‘thank you’ and hobble out the door. I feel insane, but happy. If I am not totally unable to walk by Thursday I will definitely be back for more!

So there you have it, my first step to getting into shape and ditching my mum tum. More to come on that, but what I want to say is, if you connect with any of what I’m saying and are thinking about trying something new, just do it. It is so worthwhile. I feel so proud of myself for going to this class. I felt so nervous beforehand, but everyone was new once and everyone’s so focussed on their own stuff, no one’s judging. Even when its new and its hard and you’re clearly the weakest link, it can still be fun and make you feel amazing.

Lightbulb: this is how people create the habit of exercise: they find something they LOVE! When something is so fun and makes you feel so good, you will find ways to do it, to fit it into your life.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post. Well done! And thank you so much for reading. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts if any of this strikes a cord or if you have any tips for me – on writing or on ditching the mum tum.

Leesa x

Mel Bomba of Motion Fitness Bali

Mel Bomba of Motion Fitness Bali

Sharing Your True Self – Okay, I’ll Go First ;)

So, I’ve been tiptoeing around my blog and social media accounts for, well, too long and today I’ve had something of an epiphany. My whole service, my whole reason for doing the work I do as an image consultant and personal stylist is to help women find their true style and, in doing so, unlock their true potential, but here’s the thing…how can I expect my clients to expose their true selves to me if I won’t first share my true self?

Now, I’ve been doing this work for 13 years and back in the day I used to travel to every client’s home, all over the country and spend a day, doing their consultation, assessing their body shape and colouring, getting to the nub of their personal style, then ruthlessly weeding every unflattering or un-‘them’ item from their wardrobe before working out the gaps and creating a comprehensive Wardrobe Plan of exactly what was needed to give them their perfect wardrobe and style. I am nothing if not thorough.

One day I showed up at a new client’s home and we started talking and I realised she was shaking and I asked if she was ok and she said she was just so nervous about our day. I was totally shocked! I mean, I genuinely could not understand why anyone would feel nervous about me coming over and helping sort out their wardrobe. I mean it’s just ‘me’ and we’re about to have such a fun day! Then it occurred to me, this woman has no idea who I am. I mean, she know’s who I am professionally, maybe she’s read about me, but that is one tiny part of me, the glossy professional ‘style expert’ me and so to her mind, she was about to open her wardrobe, (which she is utterly ashamed of) to someone who is a total style expert. I mean, my God! That is terrifying! This woman deserved a medal!

So anyway, we had a super fun day and the following week we bought and styled up all her new outfits and I am delighted to say, that she looked every bit amazing on the outside as she is on the inside, and still does ten years later! But the point is, I realised that day, what a leap of faith each new client makes when they book in with me and how vulnerable it feels to expose a part of yourself that you’re not confident in.

So I’m gonna go first! I’m going to use this blog to share who I really am with you, so you know I’m not some distant ‘expert’ but a very real, finding-my-own-way, super compassionate person who will certainly never judge you for not just ‘knowing’ how to look your best, because there is loads of stuff I am quite frankly rubbish at and I am going to share these journeys of my own self improvement on here for your entertainment (because I have a creeping sense that this may be fairly humiliating, but also hopefully an interesting and useful process) and because when I learn anything useful or meet an amazing teacher or discover a great service or product or whatever, I want to SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! Because I am a ridiculous Personal Development enthusiast and because I’m old enough not to worry so much what people think anymore (and nor should you) and because it’s FUN!

Yay! Let the fun begin!

Leesa x

No need to hide. I ain't gonna judge you :)

No need to hide. I ain’t gonna judge you 🙂