Believing I Was Worthless Lead Me to a Suicide Attempt
“I was 30 years old and living back at my parent’s house due to a failed suicide attempt.”
If someone had told me 18 years ago that I would be married, with a child, and running a successful business, I would have laughed in their face. I was 30 years old and living back at my parent’s house due to a failed suicide attempt. I couldn’t see a way out and spent my days in a black fog of despair and numbness. I won’t go into the details of how I got myself into that place, but it led me to thinking that taking a handful of paracetamol, washed down with a bottle of vodka was the answer.
“I may never have discovered my creative streak had I not been in the pits of depression.”
In hindsight, I don’t think I really wanted to do it. I just couldn’t see a way out but couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. I was extremely lucky to have an amazing support network, including my ex-husband, who I’m still very good friends with (but that’s another story), who helped me crawl out of the black hole and start to rebuild my life. I started taking anti-depressants and had months of CBT where I bared my soul, cried buckets, and unpacked all the baggage I had been carrying since school where I was bullied for years. I didn’t realise how much of this had been slowly eating away at me and eroding my confidence and self-belief to a point where I believed I was worthless.
Creativity was another saviour to me. I discovered a passion for paper crafting which proved to be an amazing distraction for my troubled mind. I started to design cards for friends and family (which were pretty rubbish looking back!) and decided to start up a Facebook page to see if anyone would buy them. Over the next few years, this led to offers of design work from some of the UK’s leading craft magazines and my own website with a very loyal customer base. I see this as one of the positives to come out of such a dark time, as I may never have discovered my creative streak had I not been in the pits of depression.
Eventually, the sun started to break through, and I began to see a pinprick of light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel.
I still had a long way to go, but because I had opened myself up fully to the process of therapy, I was starting to reap the benefits. I came to a point where I wanted to tiptoe back out into the world again and start living and, as much as I loved my parents to bits, I needed my own space!
So, I decided to dip my toe in the world of online dating. It was terrifying! I had met my first husband when I was 16 and I was now 30 and things were a lot different in the dating world. However, I must have done something right, because after a few dating disasters, I met my now husband, Rich and as corny as it sounds, we just clicked, and I knew he really was the one.
It was really scary plucking up the courage to tell him about my mental health struggles, but he took it all in his stride and stuck by me, even when I was at my worst.
“I felt like I was back in the school yard being the last girl picked for the sports team.”
Having given up my job after my failed suicide attempt, I was venturing back into the workplace. I felt like a child on her first day at school. I remember my legs being like jelly as I drove myself away from the comfort of my parent’s house into the unknown of a new job and a getting to know a whole set of new people who were already established as a team.
I didn’t realise how much of a knock my confidence had taken until I started that job and I felt like I just didn’t fit in. I think people thought I was stand-offish, but in reality, I was just terrified and felt like a shadow of the person I once was.
To be honest, I’d never been the most confident of people in the first place, but this was on another level, and each day I felt like I was back in the school yard being the last girl picked for the sports team.
With Rich’s support, I found another job which I settled into much better and I felt like things were on a much more even keel for a while
“I’ll never forget the look on Rich’s face when I told him I felt nothing towards her.”
A house came up to rent in my local village and by this point, I knew that Rich was my future. We decided it was a sign and moved in together after only 6 months of dating. Things were finally coming together!
In 2007, our beautiful Megan arrived, and I was hit with post-natal depression. Back were the feelings of numbness and despair, only this time, I had a little person relying on me and I’ll never forget the look on Rich’s face when I told him I felt nothing towards her. Everyone tells you that when you hold your baby in your arms you will feel a rush of love like never before, but I didn’t feel that way and this led to such strong feelings of guilt and shame and wondering what on earth was wrong with me. I didn’t see that it was the depression taking over. Rich again took the brunt of everything I threw at him, but we made it through together and I’m very thankful for his broad shoulders.
Over the following years, I had a few struggles with depression but eventually, the periods between each bout grew longer and I felt my confidence slowly growing.
Things were ticking along nicely work-wise and I was approached by an old boss and her husband, who were setting up a fostering agency and wanted me to be their office manager. It was a great opportunity to start working with a start-up company and gave me the opportunity to shape my role and I never turn down a challenge!
I spent 6 years there and I can honestly say, there was never a day when I didn’t enjoy going to work, as corny as that sounds. We were a small but perfectly formed team and I had forged great relationships with the foster carers and was in awe of the amazing work they did.
Sadly, one of the Directors became seriously ill, which led to their retirement, and the agency was taken over by new management. I struggle with change at the best of times, but everything felt different and not in a good way. The family-friendly ethos of the company seemed to have been lost and I felt trapped in a role I no longer loved.
“I thought I was the bees knees with my new laptop, Instagram business account and Facebook page, but I was missing one important thing…..clients.”
Now, I am known for being impulsive, and doing things on a whim without fully thinking them through but deciding to start my own business is to this day one of the most impulsive and risky things I’ve done!
We had no savings, I had no experience of running a business, but fed up with feeling disillusioned with my job, one day I decided it would be a great idea to set up as a self-employed Virtual Assistant – what could go wrong?!
Looking back, I can’t believe I took such a risk without properly considering it, but as usual, I let my heart rule my head and SRM Virtual Admin Services was born. I’m sure everyone thought I was mad, but thankfully they stood by me and went with it, and I am so thankful to this day that the risk paid off because it was literally the turning point in my confidence journey.
I thought I was the bees knees with my new laptop, Instagram business account and Facebook page, but I was missing one important thing…..clients.
It’s cringeworthy looking back at my first few posts on Instagram, but after a couple of months, I got my first enquiry from a local businesswoman who was setting up a networking group and membership and needed help getting organised.
I reluctantly agreed to a Zoom call (I didn’t even like talking on the phone, let alone doing video calls!), hit it off and ended up working together for over a year, and she was the catalyst that propelled my business forward.
She recommended me in a Facebook group to a journalist looking for a Virtual Assistant. She had a column in one of daily newspapers, as well as running a PR agency and being a single mum to her two boys – she was completely overwhelmed. Again, we had an introductory Zoom call and she is now my longest serving client having now worked together for five years.
“It was a sign of how far I had come.”
What a five years it has been too!
I’ve been given some amazing opportunities following her referring me to her contacts and have been lucky to have worked with some fabulous people.
One of the highlights was being invited to an awards dinner I had helped to facilitate at The Savoy in London. The same me that was like a scared little girl going back to work, got herself dressed up and walked into a room full of 300 strangers (including some very well-known people) and loved it! Don’t get me wrong, that scared little girl was still inside, but it was a sign of how far I had come that I managed to push through that fear and do this thing that was so huge to me.
Megan has been a huge driver in pushing myself out of my comfort zone. She struggles with anxiety and I’m always encouraging her to try and push through her fears to make the most of opportunities. I had spent too many years letting my fear stop me and I didn’t want the same for her. I figured that the best way to encourage her to do this was to set an example to her and be the best role model I can. I wanted to show her that she can do hard things, even when she’s scared, and that’s how her confidence will grow. I just want to make her proud.
“The biggest thing of all is that I’ve began to believe that I deserve it.”
In the last few years, I’ve travelled to London on my own for meetings, even staying over on one occasion (which may not sound like a big deal, but to me it’s massive believe me!), I’ve won a business award and been a finalist on a number of occasions, and the biggest thing of all is that I’ve began to believe that I deserve it.
In 2022 I rebranded as Shell Creative VA, as I wanted to incorporate my creative side into the business and focus on supporting female business owners to design amazing digital assets and resources using Canva. It’s been a great move and I’ve now set up my own Facebook Group, The Canva Café, as well as offering 1:1 Canva mentoring sessions to provide bespoke advice to business owners wanting to uplevel their design skills.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought we would be able to afford a holiday either.”
There were times over the past few years where we barely had two pennies to rub together, but last year we set sail on a Caribbean cruise, our first foreign holiday as a family, and we made the most amazing memories. In fact, I’ve now discovered I have an addiction to cruising as well as crafting and we have another one booked for next year.
None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and friends and pure grit and determination to fight my way through.
If you are going through hell right now, keep fighting, because there is an end even though you might not believe it right now. Take every day as it comes and treat yourself with kindness and compassion, because in years to come you will look back like I do and feel proud you didn’t give up.
About The Author
Shell Stead/ Creative Virtual Assistant
Shell is an award-winning Creative Virtual Assistant and Canva Designer offering design services to female entrepreneurs who want their business to stand out from the crowd with professional, eye-catching graphics and resources. An organiser, a listening ear, a problem solver and a cheerleader, Michelle is the wing-woman you need to beside you to grow your amazing business. Shell Creative VA was founded in 2018 to help support overwhelmed female business owners to gain clarity and headspace to enable them to reach their goals. Shell’s superpower is knowing what you need before you do!