Mental health & connection

Zoe with headpiece smiling

As the founder of something amazing like Bliss Sanctuary For Women, people often ask me how I got started.

Moving to a different country, navigating a different culture & people with different values, starting a new business completely on my own…

Well for me it was about survival and purpose.

I just had to do something to give back whilst dealing with some massive life changes I needed to get myself back on track.

I had to change my life drastically as I was in the grasps of a chronic illness I didn’t understand or even know about at the time, one that was affecting my mental health in a big way. Being in a lot of pain and getting constant migraines that would last for 3 days, I literally couldn’t function the way I was, any longer.

I had my dream job in radio, great clients who were more like friends, lived in an amazing house overlooking the ocean and I was surrounded by family and friends and earning good money… yet I was in pain constantly, suffering anxiety and was fast losing the will to live.

Fast losing the will to live. WOW.

That was my reality.

And nobody really knew about it.

I thought there was something very wrong with me that dying was so close to being preferable to living.

Finally I couldn’t do this by myself any longer. I needed help and after speaking to doctors and mental health advocates I decided to take some time out for myself as I was literally standing on the precipice of a breakdown. Fear ruled my life. The fear of not being in control of my body anymore, my fear of pain, my fear of not being able to support myself financially, my constant fear of being alone.

I learnt that it was this fear that was leading to pretty huge anxiety attacks and much of it was born from past traumas that I hadn’t emotionally dealt with. As well as a physical trauma of a car accident I had just had.

In the years since opening Bliss I have heard so many stories of men and women in similar circumstances. Trauma leading to unresolved emotional issues which then leads to the body breaking down in all different ways.

For me it lead to a car accident which literally jolted my reality and my life and my body, mind and what felt like my soul, which started to shut down. I hear this often. That there was ‘something’ that lead to this spiraling down effect both mentally and physically.

I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I was no longer the vivacious, larger than life, social butterfly and party girl who loved life, people and everything.

I became introverted, I was too sick to partake in social activities. I would have anxiety attacks when out in public. I became too scared to drive in case I’d get a migraine or have an anxiety attack and suffered what I later realized was a ptsd episode when driving in the car. I lost many friends.

Physically I was in constant fight or flight. Like a tiger crouching in the wild ready to take down their prey, or that prey that feels the tiger there and is ready to take flight … imagine if either of those animals was always like that? It wouldn’t be long until their bodies would just freeze in that position and they just wouldn’t be able to function. Let alone a mind that would become paranoid and so tired and unable to rest, be happy or relax. And that is what had happened to me.

Later after going through some cognitive therapy trying to deal with the pain and this ‘new me’ that I just didn’t want to be. I learnt that I had been in this flight or flight from traumas at an early age. My whole life.

I started to appreciate what my body and mind had done together to keep moving forward, to be successful, to have so many friends and a great social life. To essentially be the poster child of joy and happiness and fitness.

But at a huge cost.

And now my body was broken, my mind was still battling to be strong and my soul was tired and disconnected. Who was I anymore?

As I learnt more and more about myself, by no longer ignoring my ‘weakneses’ and facing the things that happened to me and listening to my inner child and inner self and acknowledging EVERYTHING. I started to be able to heal in small ways.

I started to breathe deeper. I started to feel more connected to myself. I started to see myself differently as a true warrior princess who did what she had to do to survive.

I questioned everything. Why? What is the point? Did this really happen or am I just dreaming it? Am I kidding myself? Am I just wanting attention? Am I making this up? Why can’t I just get better? I must be doing something wrong.

Many of these questions I realized had been ingrained from an early age.

The child in me who hadn’t been able to grow. Who had been ignored, abused and told she wasn’t good enough. Who was told ‘everybody else loves you but we know what you’re really like’. So no matter how I was validated externally there was always something really wrong with me.

Finally I saw that child. I acknowledged that child and accepted and loved her. And then I started to heal.

This all took and is still taking a long time.

I learnt that healing was physical, emotional and spiritual.

While you are healing, you still need to live your life. And I had been doing this in Bali running my new business which is now over 5 years old.

I am still healing, I honestly believe it’s part of the human experience to ‘heal’. Every single one of us needs to learn how to heal.

Otherwise why do we ALL go through these times? We ALL have hardships. We ALL go through things so difficult they almost break us. We ALL suffer mental illness at some time in my opinion. I truly believe this. I do not know anyone who has never had really bad anxiety, who has lost themselves and needed to find themselves again. So many people who have needed to reinvent themselves or die.

We all need to decide to LIVE at some point in our life. And this is why mental health awareness is so important, because I honestly believe we will all face it at some time in our lives as part of our human experience.

And then there are those who suffer diagnosed mental illnesses due to our bodies makeup. This is so hard. I have seen this. I may even have this as it has seemed to run in the family. I have been very close to this with friends and adopted families. It is horrific. And people die.

We all need to talk about this, acknowledge this and look after those around us and show them and ourselves love and kindness however hard it is to understand them. Just the simplest and seemingly smallest things can set someone on a different trajectory within their life experience. Kindness may not heal somebody, but it shows them an aspect of love that feeds their soul and contributes in a positive way to their life. Being listened to. Being acknowledged. Being loved.

I truly believe that all illness is associated with mental illness. Our bodies and our minds are not separate, they are the same. We cannot treat one without the other. We need to face our traumas. We need help from others. We need to work on our own self worth and truly decide to LIVE.

And through kindness and love we connect. And that connection is what the human experience is truly about. I firmly believe that the more we connect with others, the more we heal. Whatever it is we are healing from.

So for me, my own healing journey has been based around acknowledgement, giving myself space to reconnect with myself and then reconnecting with others. It has been about creating a purpose in my life which is essentially to help create some space in other women’s lives through Bliss. And that has been so amazing seeing so many women renew their own will to really live life to the full by doing something amazing for themselves. And it has been through kindness. I used to be so unkind to myself. And now kindness it what gives me the will to live my own life to the full.