Coaching is all about transformative change. For example, as a career coach I work with clients who feel unsatisfied or paralysed at work and want to explore their options, including moving into a new role (either internally or externally) or changing direction. I also work with individuals who have been made redundant and need support to navigate what for many is a sudden and unexpected change in circumstance.
Indeed, when it comes to managing the unexpected changes life will inevitably throw at all of us, I’ve become quite the expert. As some of you will already know, the biggest adjustment I’ve had to come to terms with was waking up one morning and not being able to get out of bed. Although my mobility had been rapidly deteriorating from about the age of nine, nothing prepared for me for the fact that, before reaching puberty, I would lose the ability to stand or walk. And to make matters worse I was in absolute agony as Rheumatoid Arthritis spread to every joint in my body.
Back in the day (the early 1980s to be precise) it was extremely unusual for children to be diagnosed with this incurable destructive disease of the immune system. Even the Harley Street specialist my parents took me to see didn’t really have a clue as to what was wrong with me. A diagnosis was eventually made but the cause was unknown and that remains the case today. This was of course frustrating for my parents who wanted answers on what the condition meant for their little girl longer term. But at no point did they look for a scapegoat or act like victims (or indeed treat me like a victim). They tried to stay upbeat, taking on board all the recommendations made by my doctors, physiotherapists, social services etc. Together a comprehensive rehabilitation package was put in place to help me make the transition from a sporty netball enthusiast to a full-time wheelchair user. And although endless challenges awaited (more about these in future blogs) I grew stronger and taught myself more creative ways to cope with my limited mobility in a world where ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’ were not on anyone’s agenda.
However, the results weren’t instant because as the magnitude of what had happened to me started to become clearer depression crashed into my life like a wrecking ball. I became withdrawn, stopped eating, had nightmares about my future and felt absolutely worthless.
I was put on anti-depressants. Thankfully, the treatment worked successfully for me. Combined with counselling my mood soon lifted and I started to think more positively about my future.
Although, coaching is not an appropriate intervention for individuals suffering from mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, I decided to write about it because unexpected change can of course be a trigger. What’s more I believe it’s really important for the stigma associated with anti-depressants to be lifted so wanted to support all the other people who like me have had the confidence to talk about it.
Lastly, I also wanted to share some of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt about coping with depression. Firstly, remember that change is inevitable so the bad times will eventually pass. Secondly, the sooner you acknowledge and accept the change, the sooner you’ll be able to move forward positively. Thirdly, don’t feel embarrassed or awkward to talk about it or to ask for help. It’s absolutely fine not to feel fine. But remember nobody can take your place on the journey. Eventually, you will need to take the first step and beyond. After all, as any coach will confirm, self-empowerment is what will ultimately result in lasting and transformative change.