Mental Health Awareness

I thought it appropriate to Blog this week about mental health.

My first experience of a panic attack was when I was around 21. I was driving, when suddenly I felt as if the world was spinning, my heart was racing and I was going to pass out. I was terrified.

Looking back, I was in a job I hated and I had spent a huge proportion of my life trying to please my family and others.

I married at 23, which looking back now seems to have been incredibly young. I remember feeling immense pressure, not helped by the difficulty of the relationship I had with my in laws. I wasn’t good enough. Those words were painful and a struggle to accept when I was working my socks off to buy our beautiful first home and being the major breadwinner in our relationship.

After my wedding the pressure only got worse from my in laws which increased my anxiety.

I was working in the pharmaceutical industry and really struggled with my panic attacks. I felt out of control. In amongst all of this, I lost my grandmother and grandfather, both of whom were my rocks, the people I could rely on and talk to about anything.

I ended up leaving my job and took time out to help my husband with his racehorses and milk rounds. This was the biggest mistake I made. I ended up in such a state that I couldn’t leave the house. My panic attacks were so bad, I felt I couldn’t breathe.

I missed a school friends wedding because I couldn’t face going, I missed parties, special occasions all because I was too anxious to go.

Luckily I still had enough strength to know that if I didn’t do something, I was finished.

My mum took me to the Doctors and sadly they diagnosed asthma, I no more had asthma than fly. While in the Dr's waiting room I picked up a leaflet of a wonderful local counsellor, anyway, long story short I went to see her. My sessions with her were great. She then referred me to a local homeopath. From here I started to get stronger. I would take myself off for little drives, to get myself back out and regain my independence.

Over time I plucked up the courage to go for a job interview. I couldn’t face driving, so asked my mum to take me. I was ill with nerves, but plucked up the strength to bluff my way though, even making my own demands of wage, car, holidays etc, and I got the job! This was great news, but now I had to sort myself out, I had to fight and not allow myself to be bullied. I was worth something.

4 years after getting married, I had my son. My world. I had never experienced love like it. Being a mother has brought strength and joy to me that I never knew existed.

My husband and I got divorced and to be honest, it was the best thing for both of us at that time.

Over the next few years, I battled with myself. Anything out of my comfort zone was a challenge, but I refused to quit, I had a little person who depended on me.

In 2003 I bought myself a beautiful grey horse, I needed a focus, something to enjoy. We won so many prizes together, he filled me with so much self confidence and helped me to realise I was not worthless, I was not useless and I was definitely not a bad person.

After 6 years I was head hunted to leave my job to work in an event company, where I then became a partner in the business. Everything was great for a number of years until the recession of 2008 hit us hard. We lost the company and I would become a single, bankrupt mum. I was terrified. My anxiety was sky high! I had to go to court to declare myself bankrupt. That day I sat by the river in Newcastle with the realisation that I had absolutely no money or assets, however, I had my son and family and most importantly my health. I felt liberated believe it or not. I was going to leave all that crap behind and start again! I would not let my son down.

I spent my life thinking and worrying about what people thought of me, it nearly killed me. Now my life was about me and my son.

You can read the rest about how I started my company at www.sarahpittendrigh.com.

The one thing in my life that really changed my attitude other than my son, was when I was diagnosed twice with malignant melanoma. When I was told I had cancer, if I ever thought I’d felt fear, I’d felt nothing until then. All I could think about was not being there for my son. I was so very lucky that both of my melanomas were found in the early stages and operations were able to remove them. I’m now in a system where I go to hospital every 4 months to keep an eye on things, but it doesn’t stop the worry of it returning.

This cancer has taught me what and who is important in my life. I am not remotely interested in people’s opinion of me other than my family and close friends. I will live my life exactly as I choose, and encourage my son to do exactly the same. You cannot buy time and therefore it is so important to find out why you feel anxious, what created it and to use every bit of your inner strength to not allow it to take this precious gift of life from you.

I know exactly why I ended up in the mess I did. I was controlled from an early age and was not living the life I wanted. My body was doing everything in its power to warn me and until now I just didn’t understand.

My husband and I remarried after both of his parents passed away, albeit I would like to think we did not part on bad terms.

Control appears to be the key word in anxiety and until we feel completely in control of our own happiness I do not think we can move forward positively. So today is the day, if you feel anxious ask yourself why and start taking control.

Mental Health Awareness - Sarah Pittendrigh

"Sarah is everything a successful entrepreneur should be, creative, tenacious with a clear vision on how to develop her business. She never ceases to impress me with her energy, attention to detail and most importantly, is always comfortable leading from the front with her hands on management style..."

Nick Holmes - Former MD at Rockliffe Hall, Non Executive Director positions at Gisborough Hall, Swinton Estate and Ramside Hall

"Having set up my business when I was 23, Sarah's advice and experiences in the wedding industry were a vital part in the success of my Simply Bows and Chair Covers franchise. As a franchisor, Sarah has always been on the other end of the phone to help me with my dilemmas and pass on her experience and business advice..."

Joanne Smith - Simply Bows and Chair Covers Lancashire

"Sarah was asked to support the wedding product here. Right from the first meeting she was professional, personable and down to earth. She found out as much information as possible, including attending events to get a feel for our product first hand and give her the best insight..."

Ruairidh Taylor - Hotel Manager, Gisborough Hall Hotel

"I hope our paths cross again before too long because I think you’re a brilliant example to budding doubters like me and a flipping great individual too! Thanks again for the inspiration you are and always be aware that folks like me, who’ve had the good fortune to meet you, are better for it..."

Alan Green - Corporate Photographer

"Sarah is an extremely good listener and will look at projects from all angles and give help and advice from her perspective.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Sarah as a mentor and indeed will be back in touch with her soon with regards to my next business venture..."

Katie Lindsay-Brown

"I was so inspired by Sarah’s story, where she had been, what she had endured and the phenomenal success she made Simply Bows and Chair Covers I just knew I had to be a part of this great business model.
I have now been running my franchise for the last 4 years and I love it. Sarah is very supportive, knowledgeable and I know if I need advice she will always be there..."

Adele - Simply Bows & Chair Covers, South Wales

"I joined the team at Simply Bows & Chair Covers Northumberland in 2015, this was a big step for me but Sarah gave me some good advice and lots of support. This was the best move I made and I have not looked back. Thanks to Sarah's guidance and time that she has invested in me, I feel stronger and more confident not only in my work but in life in general..."

Debbie - Simply Bows & Chair Covers, Northumberland