Running a business with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD caught up with me 3 years ago whilst travelling in Australia.  I’d lived in a van and travelled and worked around New Zealand the year before, but eventually the call for home was greater than to keep chasing the “Instagram Wanderlust Highlight Reel”.  I needed familiarity and a safe space; something I couldn’t find whilst sharing a room with 5 other people on rotation in a hostel in Noosa.  I flew home.  I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to find in terms of work or anything else really, I just wanted to stop waking at 2am with my heart in my throat and tears already rolling down my face before I could work out what was going on.  I was met at the airport by one of my best friends and a takeaway hot chocolate; I can honestly say I have never experienced a sense of relief like that one.  I was home and I was safe. 

The coming months were the hardest.  I had started taking antidepressants in Australia which were used to treat both the depression and the GAD.  My friend got me a job as a freelance market researcher in London where I could work from home most days – perfect considering leaving the house, or even the thought of leaving the house, would often set off panic attacks.  The doctors in Australia had found me a medication which I am still on now.  Anti-depressants can seem like a bit of a taboo subject, but I can hand on heart say I don’t think I would be managing without it now.  The medication I currently take also aid panic attacks and I am on my lowest dose.  Once or twice I have attempted to ween myself off it, but I know that it’s something I need at the moment. 

Whilst working in London, I continued with my floristry training which I had started before I left for New Zealand.  I studied and trained at The Sussex Flower School in East Hoathly and completed the Career Change course whilst still freelancing in market research.  I cut down my hours in London and began my floristry business from my Dad’s garage at home, mainly weddings and funerals, but the odd bouquet here and there too.

I was advised to go to a therapist for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but it didn’t suit me.  I realised I was only continuing to go because she had a Labrador who I had totally fallen in love with, so I looked for something else.  Having trained in Reiki healing when I was younger, I found a therapist who worked with me on that level and slowly I learned to calm myself and in turn was able to lower my medication dose.  I still see her every now and then for top ups of healing, but I am now much more able to work out when I am not looking after myself – even though running a business certainly puts more pressure on this.

I never had myself down as a business owner; I always thought I would work for someone else as all the ins and outs of a business seemed too much for me!  Particularly on how to deal with my GAD day to day when I am a one woman show and rely on myself for everything – opening the shop, ordering, quoting, making, marketing, social media-ing, emails…  In many ways I think running the business has focussed my brain on what’s important to me as a human and what helps me to feel happy.  Of course, there are days where I wake up early (albeit never as early as the 2am Australian wake ups) and find myself stressing over orders or deliveries that need doing or weddings that need quoting, but I now feel like I have the tools I need to not spiral as I have done before.

To-do lists are my best friends now.  I have post it notes all over the place in the back of the shop, all in order of importance and colour coded.  The back of the shop is my “office” (said in the loosest of terms), but it’s where the all important kettle and biscuit stash is, it’s where I sit and reply to emails and quote.  I make sure I do all of my paperwork here and don’t bring it home with me as I found when I was quoting at home I’d get easily distracted and suddenly a quote which should only take an hour was taking me two hours, which would then start the panic as I was left behind schedule and unable to refocus as the stress overtook me. 

The front of the shop is very much the happiest of my happy places. It’s full of flowers, plants, pots, gifts and I allow myself to let it get messy.  Much of the creativeness in my floristry comes from finding freedom with the flowers I’m working with, throwing leaves I don’t like on the floor and sometimes chucking it all down on the side to start again with a new bunch.  I allow myself freedom here to play - I realised I had stopped playing – I was living how I thought I was meant to and I was doing things to try to live up to other people’s expectations when really I needed to step back and think about what it is in life that fills that part of me with joy and creativity.  For me, it’s been my business and the flowers have given me some calm back in my life.  For that I am forever grateful.