One of my favourite things about blogging and the online world in general is the way it connects you with people. A couple of months ago I got a lovely response to my newsletter from Laurie.
When she told me about herself and the story of how her beautiful clothing brand, A Woodland Gathering, came about – I couldn’t not ask her to share it here on Blue Jay of Happiness.
Thankfully, she was happy to indulge my questions and talk about her mental health and how it lead to her launching her own creative business.
Speaking up and telling the world about our mental health is a big step, but it’s the only way we’ll normalise the conversation and give others permission to tell their own story. So a huge thank you to Laurie for doing this, it is more powerful than you know.
OK, enough gushing, let’s get on with the interview…
Can you tell us how A Woodland Gathering came about and how your mental health played a part?
A Woodland Gathering was officially born one year ago. After a long on-off battle with anxiety, the symptoms came to a head a few years back. I completely lost control of my mind, I lost my job and became a complete recluse. I couldn’t understand my behaviour and fear of everything until a psychiatrist diagnosed me with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
Devastated and desperate, I started selling some of my creative outcomes online to provide some sort of income. It was a make or break situation for me.
Creativity is a massive part of who I am. My options were either use it to my advantage and create myself a financial income to support my family, or continue falling down the dark hole. So the idea for A Woodland Gathering hatched and here I am.
How did starting your own business affect your mental health?
It has not been an easy journey, partly because I find selling myself and the social aspect of networking and marketing very difficult, however, it’s a journey that is also helping me overcome so many fears.
Previously I worked in a hospital, surrounded by people. Now, I work from my studio at the end of my garden. For me this allows me to work without the social worries and responsibility, it’s very liberating. It can get lonely at times, however, I like my own company too (I’m never truly alone, always with an audiobook or podcast).
OCD is largely about control. Running my own business allows me to be in control, which in turn lessens the anxiety.
The way I see it is, yes, it’s hard work and really tough at times with long hours as the solo designer/maker/marketer/PR/orderer/packager and everything else involved but it’s still easier for me than the social responsibility of my previous life.
You seem very much connected to nature which is beautiful to see, do you have any tips for living more slowly and consciously?
Yes! Along with regular medication and therapy it is an essential part of life for me to be connected with the Earth. I like to be outside in quiet places, hearing the trees in the wind and the birds sing, it’s grounding and calming. On difficult days, it clears my head.
I’ve tried to meditate the traditional way so many times and failed, due to my ever wandering mind. Nature and fresh air are my meditation. The connection with nature really helps.
I pack up a picnic blanket, water and snacks, a notebook and pen and warm clothing (preferably layers that can be removed) and I walk.
I walk until I find a peaceful spot that feels right. It’s amazing the ideas that come on these ‘earth days’ usually by the end of the day I feel relaxed, calm and have a notebook full of ideas and doodles.
As a society we often focus on the negatives related to mental health, what can you tell us about the positives you’ve experienced?
My mind is both my best friend and my worst enemy. My mind creates wonderful things, I know this because I have the most amazing customers who tell me often. I feel blessed to be creative and have the ability to not only imagine something but make it too.
It’s the best gift I could ask for but it comes at a price. My worst enemy! The fear, anxiety and panic. The two, creativity and mental health, often go hand in hand.
Would I change my mental state? No.
Why? Because I’d lose my creativity, myself, who I am. Me and my worst enemy will never be friends but we are learning to get along.
Finally, what are you hoping for 2018?
This year I’d like to start using my blog more often. I’m not a natural writer, which scares me a little but this year, I want to document the process of my business, life, mental health, motherhood and nature.
Also, I’d love to attend a few events and meet some online friends in real life. Now, if you’ve read up to here you will know how much of a big deal that will be. I feel ready though, bring it on! (Well, today I am anyway, that’s the thing with mental illness, one day you’re great and the next the world is coming to an end.)
What I hope you take away from this interview is not only that Laurie is all kinds of awesome, but that mental health is a part of us, not the definition of us.
Our minds are beautiful in their own unique way and as Laurie says they can be our best friends or worst enemies. It’s about learning to make peace with the worst enemy, and not letting it stop you from fulfilling your dreams.
If you would like to share your story here on Blue Jay, whether it’s about mental health, creativity or simply making shiz happen, please drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org let’s inspire each other.
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