I have always been motivated to help people to find their voice and have that voice heard. An interest which lead to a BSc Speech Sciences Honours degree. After graduation I spent roughly 14 years working in the public sector as a paediatric Speech and Language Therapist; mostly in the UK, but also in New Zealand for almost 3 years in the middle of that time. In addition to my job I was a Listening Volunteer with the Samaritans. I did this for about two years during 2010 to 2012, covering 2-3 shifts a week in the Bristol Branch. During that time I learnt so much, not just about listening, but how to truly hear someone. I learnt how to simply be with people during dark times in their lives; listening to understand rather than to fix or solve, and it was such a privilege to do so.
It was in 2009, soon after I returned home from New Zealand, that I met my husband Martin through the online dating site eHarmony. Together we quickly knew that there was a strong connection and that we were well suited. We were living together within weeks, engaged after 3 months and married within the year of our first meeting. Now we live in Bristol with our two young children. Martin and I continue to engage in activities and interests that stretch us to develop, both as individuals and as a couple.
A bit of background
During my 20s I began to address the dark moods I had experienced on and off since late childhood. I did this using a combination of talking therapies and antidepressant medication. In my teenage years I had always found a sense of peace and calm when out walking. Looking back this was a tool I was not always able to utilise. I often did not connect with nature at the times I most needed to.
By 2010 I was in my early 30s and no longer on medication or in counselling. It was then that I completed two of the Landmark Education programmes; the “Landmark Forum” and the “Advanced Course”. These educational courses use transformative learning, which is tricky to explain succinctly. The course content uses several distinctions to bring new thought and focus which I, as a participant, was invited to use to look at my own life. These distinctions were “ah ha” moments for me, and totally transformed the way I perceive the world around me and how I understand and relate to other people.
Finding Fresh Air Fridays
Much later, in 2016 I was coming to the end of my maternity leave following the birth of my second child. I was preparing to return to part time Speech Therapy work in the NHS. Both Martin and I were keen to find some way to help me manage the pressures of returning to my role whilst also caring for my young family. It was in May that year when I went on my Fresh Air Fridays taster session. Immediately I knew this was something I wanted in my life and joined as a member. To get maximum benefit I made the commitment to myself of attending at least one session a month. This took some planning and logistical support in the form of Martin using annual leave to cover childcare. Over time I began to be able to make my own needs more of a priority. It was evident to those closest to me what a positive influence Fresh Air Fridays was having on me.
A turning point
After almost a year of Fresh Air Fridays membership I was still benefitting from my ongoing involvement. So when I heard about the weekend “Leader’s Retreat” I longed to go. Tempted by two nights away from home (the first time leaving my children), all meals planned and prepared, during early summer in the beautiful Wye Valley and with amazing facilitators Ruth and Rose. I was so fortunate that circumstances came together in such a way that I was able to go. That weekend gave me the physical and mental space I needed to reflect on where I was in my life.
I took time to think about what was most important to me and where in my life things weren’t so great. With the support and coaching of Ruth and Rose, I was able to admit something I had known for some time. Something I had known but not addressed. I no longer wanted to be a Speech and Language Therapist. In admitting that to myself and those on the retreat I was then free to explore the implications of such an admission, including where that left me in terms of how I viewed myself and my worth. Being a Speech and Language Therapist was a huge part of how I defined myself. For me that role was an outward presentation to the world of my value. What would be left if I no longer had that?
Within the safe and nurturing space of that weekend I was able to explore that question. With the full support of my family I “retired” from the profession in July 2017. Since then I have embraced my full time role as wife and mother. This was not always easy as I often felt there was an assumption that mothers should work, at least a bit. Anyway, the timing was perfect, enabling me to enjoy the summer with my two children and be fully available, both physically and emotionally, for my daughter as she started School in September 2017.
Fresh Air Fridays gives me the opportunity to think and reflect on where I am in my life, which creates opportunities to make small, positive and effective changes in my life and way of thinking. This allows me to be the best version of myself, more of the time. I am so inspired by what Fresh Air Fridays has made available to me that I want to make this available to others. I completed the Facilitator training in April 2018 and started running my own Fresh Air Fridays sessions in May 2018! Curious? Why not come along to a FREE taster session and see if it could be for you too.