Written By Natalia Valentina
It’s been a tricky 6 months, hasn’t it? The world has faced uncertainty and we have all been impacted. Our mental health has been tested and now we are left with the aftermath. You are not alone. There are millions of people out there not sure how to re-start this year, recover, and recharge. So, it’s important more than ever now to be kind.
Yes, this year hasn’t been ideal. However, every single day is a chance to restart a new chapter, and we all have the ability to choose how this year ends for us all. It’s about being positive about the future and focusing on the here and now, as well as self-care, and for those around us still struggling. Life will improve, it will get better and we just need to all keep going.
Having reached burnout in my 30’s within my corporate career in London, I knew something had to change. The biggest decision I chose to make was to change my location. London wasn’t doing it for me anymore…Full of pollution, tube delays, crime, and being blocked with opportunities for progression, I had started to hate London. Working within male-dominated environments, being ignored during meetings, spoken over, and pigeon-holed into PA positions during my first few years there, I felt discriminated against as a woman.
I remember applying for a computer programming course, and being the only female on enrollment day. I spent a few thousand pounds on the course, and within the first few hours I knew it would be a struggle. Mocked by the tutor, asking if I was sure I had signed up for the right course, and with no patience being given to me when dismantling and reassembling hard drives, it was being made very difficult for me. I lasted only a few lessons on this course, and I couldn’t take it anymore. At that point in my life I just wasn’t strong enough mentally, so I left the course and lost the money.
Fast forward several years, and back into roles which I didn’t enjoy, and I knew that I was the only person who could change how the rest of my life would pan out. In my head I was telling myself that if I left London, it would mean I had failed, having relocated there from Somerset all those years ago. I was beating myself up, thinking “I’m a failure, what will my friends and family say?” This however was all in my head, I had convinced myself that people would care and people would mock me, but his couldn’t be further from the truth.
We do that a lot in life, we tell ourselves that we’ve failed, and we convince ourselves that people will laugh and mock us in so many situations, yet so many times we are completely wrong! We have created our own stress and anxiety by the negative thought pattern we’ve been responsible for creating. Have you heard of the term Imposter Syndrome? Did you know that six in ten women all suffer with this?
I left London, and I made my way down to the South West, finding temporary roles within Somerset, Bristol, and Exeter. I married, I divorced, and I lost everything along the way. With barely anything to my name I moved into a caravan, and I made it my home. I then secured another local role, and remained in my caravan for over 2 years, and I absolutely loved it!
Situated on a holiday park, with only a few owners, the holiday makers were always happy. They were enjoying their holidays, while the owners were forming a small family community. For once I felt free, and my mental health had never been better. My goal however had always been to live by the beach, and I had been lucky enough to have lived abroad several times over the years, always near the ocean. I felt that I had to be in Cornwall, and was being pulled in that direction.
I started to holiday in Cornwall, found the area I wanted to live in, and then set the wheels in motion. I was struggling with my mental health at work, and was surrounded by male senior management who had disgusting behavior towards women, and enough was enough! After 18 months the company made me redundant, and I knew I had to grab this opportunity with both hands. I moved into a caravan in Cornwall, then into a small one bedroom flat, and I felt alive, I felt free!
I had the beach on my doorstep, in fact seven beaches on my doorstep, and I was able to breathe the fresh sea air every single day. The flat didn’t work out due to noisy neighbours, so then I moved into a two bedroom house. Party animal neighbours again, and it was into another house just opposite, at which point lockdown then struck.
You can already see how so many stressors came into play in a really short space of time. Financially broke, redundancy, continuous house moves, all with an elderly dog who also needed my care and attention, and who is still with me today. These situations were not ideal, and yes, I couldn’t control them, however I could control how I reacted to each and every one, and this is half the battle.
During lockdown my new landlord served an eviction notice following my request for some house repairs. She had wallpapered over damp and mold which was now coming through the ceiling at speed. Considering I’m high risk due to my health, and with not leaving the house, an eviction was the last thing I needed! Determined that this wouldn’t break me, I had already come so far, I would not allow another person to impact my mental health. I found and moved into a new home only five minutes further from the beach, and it is gorgeous. No damp, no mold, amazing neighbours, no nightmare landlord, no stress, no drama, and now very peaceful.
What got me through lockdown…
I kept myself grounded, I went for a lot of long beach walks, and I watched a lot of sunsets. I started to practice mindfulness in order to remain calm, and I saw it all as an adventure rather than as a challenge. All of these things made it possible to get through the last 6 months and without a detrimental impact to my health.
I’ve suffered my whole life now with depression due to childhood trauma, and also suffered like many others with stress and anxiety. I’ve been a victim of DV, and bullying at work on more than one occasion, but I’m still standing today. You can get through this. If I can, then you can, and things will only get better. When you are standing on the peak of that mountain, having climbed as hard as you can, it will be a sweet ride down the other side, and you will never look back. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Natalia is my name, and Beach Happy I became.
About The Author – Hi, my name is Natalia Valentina, I’m 46, an ex HR Manager, and now living in Cornwall. I’ve battled Imposter Syndrome my whole life, and throughout my corporate career.
Growing up being told I was unloved, being bullied in school, ignored by teachers, and being a survivor of DV, if you are told more than once that you aren’t good enough, you start to believe it.
Imposter Syndrome impacted my corporate career and my life physically and mentally, freezing when spoken to during meetings, not going for promotions, and booking annual leave to avoid giving presentations. Always second guessing my knowledge and capabilities, and feeling ignored and insignificant within male dominated environments.Now in my 40’s I finally accept that I am good enough, and I do deserve to be here. Still with a fear of visibility, the long term overall impact from Imposter Syndrome, I’m now facing this challenge head on.