REAL LIFE STORIES
Ruth, Wales

Believing that you can make a difference; our journey with anorexia.

As I reflect back on my life so far I can see so many of my turning point moments being the lows not the highs.

In 2009 life felt like it had never been better my business was flying our children seemed settled in school and we had had a dream family holiday in Florida, it seemed as though things couldn’t get better. The following year however I experienced what felt like my world falling apart.

It was Easter morning and our beautiful 12 year old daughter broke off a centimeter square of chocolate ate it with relish and declared she was full! I looked at her and saw that she had diminished before our eyes. I reflected back on what she had eaten recently and realise I couldn’t remember when I had last seen her eat a snack. Then followed endless months of waiting rooms, clinic rooms with squidgy chairs and a box of tissues and always somewhere the weighing scales that became both our greatest fear and sometimes our greatest need.

Whilst we waited for a diagnosis of anorexia (at the time it was necessary to lose a certain amount of weight over a certain amount of time), Katharine became skinnier and we all became unhappier. As the books I read by professionals for professionals explained to me that people die of anorexia my search for answers became ever more urgent.

I was fortunate in that my work as part of a sales team had me understand that I could take responsibility for outcomes in my life so I had a belief that I could make a difference. I eventually came across a book written by another mother about the work she did with her daughter in a similar situation. I began to work with Katharine to help her view her life differently. It was a painfully slow process and it felt like it was two steps forward and one step back. After about a year and a half she began to creep back to a healthy weight.

As we came out of this dark time I realised I wasn’t the same person and though I had been coaching in my business for 15 years I had no formal qualifications in coaching so I went and took some. During this process we were asked what we would like for ourselves going forward and I realised I wanted to be outside more. I started coaching people outside and I saw the magic that arose when I did.

Several things happened along the way. From my journey with Katharine I had a frustration that it hadn’t been straightforward to find the skills that I needed. When I did find useful tools I discovered that there were things that were really simple, though not always easy, that made a real difference. I wanted everybody to have access to simple ideas that make a massive difference to good mental health.

Additionally when Katharine and I wrote a book about our experiences I realised that all of the key conversations we had were outside when we were walking.

I had always loved group work and as all these ideas came together when Fresh Air Fridays was born. A self development community that provides programmes for individuals, organisations and businesses to support people in their own wellbeing and help them create the lives they want to lead. It hasn’t all been plain sailing and some of my greatest learning moments during the growth of the business have been when it has all felt really hard.

I am now blessed with an amazing business partner in Rose Dixey and our co-creation in Fresh Air Fridays is going from strength to strength supporting people in different areas as well as being an absolute joy.

I have had moments of guilt about my new found purpose coming out of Katharine’s pain, but we are now both grateful for all the learning we had on that journey and know it has made us both who we are today.

Katharine is doing really well and currently studying Cognitive Science at Edinburgh with an interest in how psychotic drugs can support people with mental health conditions.

Key things for me in the whole process have been the belief that I can make a difference to the outcomes in my life; the support and belief of other people and tuning into myself and hearing what feels right for me.

For more on what I have learnt through this journey you might want to check out this blog, https://www.freshairfridays.co.uk/mental-health-awareness-week-personal-story/

Ruth is the founder and Co-creator of Fresh Air Fridays, a coach, wife, mum, and lover of the great outdoors.

 

 

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