Life catches up with us all at some point or another. Others may see me as being positive, humorous and always up-beat but deep down it is quite the opposite. I have always been very good at hiding my feelings. Afraid to let them go in case others would see that I am weak and vulnerable. I would rarely cry and only in private. No one would see me cry even at funerals (I would avoid them). No one would see me showing emotion, I would not allow it. Then again, I did not know why I felt like this for a long time. I lost friends and hated the idea of leaving the house for social events.
My Masters and creating The Branding of Me helped at the time as I found something I loved doing and it kept my mind busy. In 2018, I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to pursue a PhD so I pushed pause on The Branding of Me. My feeling at the time was that I could excel my business with additional knowledge and experience in the world of academia. However during this time, the pressure felt like a large boulder pulling me lower into a dark place. But I kept smiling. After a year and half the smile cracked. I cracked. I disallowed others to see my weakness; my self-doubt and trying so hard to please others.
I needed help. After going to my GP (something I still doubted) it turned out that I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and undiagnosed post-natal depression. I was too worried about showing my ‘weakness’ that I let it go too long. My daughters were 13 and 11 at that stage. After seeking help, it was time to look after me. I began to speak to a therapist once a week for the next few months and all that fear, anger and shame was shared. I realised that my depression began to surface after two miscarriages and remained with me after having my two girls. The realisation of all this came crashing down while also letting go of the pain, a little.
I thought long and hard about my PhD path. My ideas were not matching with what my supervisors felt was ‘best for me’. I got the support from one of most sought-after fashion designers in the world to work with me on my research on consumer engagement on visual based platforms, but my supervisors did not agree. This hurt me hard. I realised the path wasn’t for me.
What I missed most about my time in academia was my love for sharing knowledge with practical teaching. A place where I felt it wasn’t work but more of a release of me being me. It is amazing how life plays out even during the darkness; light came through. A friend of mine was beginning her own PhD journey and leaving her lecturing role in Griffith College Cork. I bit the bullet and sent an email. Low and behold I landed the lecturers role. My confidence began to grow, and I adore what I do with Griffith. It is an amazing place to work, and I have rarely come across so much support from management and co-workers. It is challenging and stressful at times, but I can say with confidence that I know how to cope and drive through.
After nearly two years with Griffith, I feel that I have the drive to resurrect my other passion – The Branding of Me. Giving this up for my PhD seemed like the right choice that the time. I still do think about where it could be now if I didn’t give it up. But that triggers some anxiety, so I don’t dwell on it. It is what it is and if I didn’t go down the PhD route, I would not have learned so much about self-image, engagement with social media and visual platforms. I would not have gained my teaching hours either which led to my role with Griffith College. All positive thoughts there.
I am delighted to be able to juggle both roles now. I feel more organised, my thoughts are clear, and I have structure in my life (even during Covid). I have had many internal chats with myself (“internal staff meetings”), but I know that I can ask for help, I know I am supported, I know that I am able to manage and I know who I am. I have changed my diet and I haven’t taken a drink of alcohol in over a year and a half. I try to get out for exercise (I miss the gym). I have bad days of course as this shadow is a part of me. I will keep trying not to lose control of it but come to except it.
I am happy, I am sad, I am getting older, I am confident (at times), I am a lecturer and a business owner, I am a sufferer of anxiety, I am coping with panic attacks, I am a mum of two wonderful daughters, I am a wife of a supportive man, I am a daughter and a sister, I am me. This is Me.