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EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

YOUR RIGHT TO DOWNTIME: KATIE NORTHWOOD

Samantha Wills

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I saw a woman; a strong amazing woman, right after she’d had an anxiety attack. Not a tough day, or a busy week, or a stressful month. An anxiety attack.

She was exhausted and drained, and though I hadn’t noticed right away, she had lost her spark.

She had recently started a new job but confessed to me afterwards that she’d pushed herself for all the wrong reasons. She wanted a job that her kids were proud of. One that sounded impressive to say out loud.

This ‘impressive’ new role had managed to take her down within a few weeks. It was wrong from the beginning, but she was out to prove (to others) that she could do it.

I had seen her too frequently to notice the change until that day and kicked myself for not paying more attention.

She said with such confidence that what she needed more than anything was a break. To reboot, to reassess and to rethink where to go next. I was proud of her for taking a stand and protecting herself. Here was someone who knew what she wanted, and what she needed.

Then she doubled back and asked me if that was wrong.

How could it be wrong? I asked. I've never known you to quit anything, so if you’re feeling you need a break, take one.

Do you think it’s overreacting? Am I overthinking this?

Here was this woman, someone who had been a single mum for 20+ years, questioning if, despite such a physical response to a situation, she was being ‘silly’.

I was more upset at her lack of self-care than anything at that point. A panic attack, resulting in her being physically sick, and here she was asking me if I thought she was overreacting.

Why is it not ok to take time to fix yourself? Why is it not ok to get to a point where you can’t go any further, and do something about it? Why question your decision-making skills when it comes to your mental health?

We all accept stress as part of life and develop coping mechanisms, but we are still humans with a limit.

A particular stand out from working with the Foundation has been the common thread of these amazing women who have given themselves permission to take a break. For health, family, emotional needs and other reasons. It’s not a sign of weakness or defeat to remove yourself from something if it’s no longer working for you. (I’m pretty sure she’s actually said something to that effect to me before!)

But isn't it funny how we seldom follow our own advice?

Would you tell me I was overreacting if our roles were reversed? I asked her.

Of course she said no, but still couldn’t let herself feel comfortable, or deserving of making the decision to leave the situation she was in.

It’s old, and it’s been overused but it’s so fucking relevant – life’s too short.

Specifically, it's way too short to stay in a situation that you are miserable in, and more importantly, one that is taking from you – mentally, physically.

It just got me thinking about the importance of knowing your limits and when to call it quits - and that it's ok.

 

Oh and this woman - she’s my mum.