talented seamstress Julie Brown

Inspiring Women: How To Enjoy Life To The Full

Meet my latest guest for my Inspiring Women series.  Julie Brown is a transformational writer and business coach.  Julie helps entrepreneurs get more eyes on their business through the telling of their own story.  But Julie’s had a fascinating journey from Nursing to management in the NHS before following her passion to write.   Julie is also a talented seamstress who has a passion for adrenaline hobbies!

talented seamstress Julie Brown

Tell Us About Your Background And Early Career

I left school at sixteen (wow that’s an age ago).  After a short stint in a council office I trained as a general and then psychiatric nurse.

At the height of the HIV/AIDS scare I became a counsellor working with affected men and women and their family and friends – such a sad time and very humbling.

After moving into NHS management, I worked for the Government as a hospital review manager.  I was responsible for awarding NHS trusts with quality stars or stripping them of existing ones, depending on what I found.

I studied for and achieved a first degree and MBA during my time in the NHS.

A Change Of Career 

 A lot of life changes come on the back of a particular event and this was no exception.

My mum died after a hard-fought battle with cancer and it made me see life in a different way.

It brought on a determination to follow my dreams.  I love writing, am nosey and live close to one of the biggest publishers in the country. Shortly after losing my mum, I saw a job for a writer advertised.

I applied and a few months later took my seat on a specialist magazine with an enormous pay cut to go with it.  I haven’t once looked back. I’d already learnt (from a spell as a single parent) that money wasn’t everything.  Enjoying what you do and nurturing your mental health is just as important.

That job was on Your Horse magazine, the UK’s number one equine mag, and as horses have been a lifelong passion, it couldn’t have worked out any better. I became an editor just five years later followed by a four-year stint as a magazine publisher.

inspiring women julie brown

Diverse publications 

I published a title called Back Street Heroes about custom motorcycles (choppers, as we used to call them) and the people and scene around them. The bikes were beautiful, but it was the people that made it memorable.

Not always easy to work with, but all of them were characters.  Under my guidance we reversed a decline in sales and increased subscription numbers too.

LEAP TO SELF-EMPLOYMENT

When I was getting ready to leave paid employment (scary!) I trained as a life coach after working with a coach myself.  I knew this was something I would enjoy doing and be good at.

Once I’d started down this path and people realised I was a journalist too, I found myself attracting business owners who wanted help with developing their writing skills or who wanted me to write for them – blogs, web copy etc.

This prompted a slight shift of direction and Write Little Madam was unleashed.

I am a transformational writer and business coach, which allows me to use the whole range of skills in my toolkit.

I help business owners get more eyes on their business through telling their own story. Coaching them in writing skills, getting into the press and online and communicating directly to the heart of their customers.

I still work as a journalist for publications and online, which continues to give me joy, credibility and carves me out as an expert at what I do.

talented seamstress inspiring women Julie Brown

A TALENTED SEAMSTRESS  

As a business owner it can be so easy to get sucked into working all day, every day. But I believe that taking time to do a bit of what you love is important and I make sure I practise what I preach.

I try to do a bit of sewing a couple of times a week in the evenings, then will spend longer on it at the weekend. Having a system helps. Cutting out patterns and fabric can be the time-consuming bit, so I do this in bulk, using dead time, like watching TV to cut out the paper patterns.

This means that at any one time I have two or three things ready to sew, so when I have a chunk of time I can whizz along and have a garment finished relatively quickly.

How would you describe your style?

 A little bit eclectic to be honest. I adore vintage clothes (I have a wardrobe dedicated to this) and so I make a fair few things that are vintage inspired. I’m on the look-out for a pattern for flared trousers right now!

At the moment I’m also enjoying Japanese styled clothes, which tend to be loose fitting, floaty and a bit quirky. I choose patterns where there’s room for personalisation. I may change the style of the sleeves or make something shorter for instance.

The big appeal about sewing is that I’m unlikely to meet anyone wearing the same thing. And it’s such a great feeling when people compliment me on what I’m wearing and ask where I got it from. Sewing is also a great distraction as it’s difficult to think about much else when you’re creating.

talented seamstress julie brown

when did you learn TO SEW?

 I didn’t do sewing at school although I was keen to – it just wasn’t offered. When I left I enrolled in night classes to learn, which I did for four years.

I continued to sew for a while and then stopped (family stuff, work etc.) until 2010, when I was working with a graphic designer who enjoyed sewing and was a  talented seamstress.

Through our chats, and her bringing in her recent makes, I caught the bug again and off I went. I bought a 1964 Bernina sewing machine from Ebay and started with an elasticated waist skirt. The joy of sewing soon came flooding back and I now have a much fancier machine!

I have a tendency to take things to the extreme!  While I was working full time as a publisher, I opened a sewing shop in the cute market town we lived in at the time.

I stayed in my job and employed two people to run the shop Monday to Friday. I worked there on Saturdays and also ran workshops to share my passion for creating with others. Sadly, I had to sell my lovely shop a couple of years ago when we needed to relocate. I’ll never forget my little vintage styled shop.

I still attend sewing classes to develop my skills and keep up to date. I have learnt to draft my own patterns, use fabrics in unusual ways, learn tailoring techniques and recently turned my hand to making a pair of trainers too.

MAKE UP DOESN’T HAVE TO BE BEIGE!

 I am very excited about this. I’ve noticed as I’ve aged that people’s expectations of how I should look has changed. I’ve always dressed individually and I adore make-up, but apparently at my age I should be more beige, with conventional make-up and old lady hair (whatever that is). Well, I’m not having it and I’ll continue to wear what I want and experiment with make-up till I can no longer do it (and even then I’ll probably ask someone else to do it for me!) My mission is to get other women feeling the same confidence to do this – to stay sassy until the end.

I’ve created a blog and YouTube channel to share my experiences and also review make-up and skincare to inspire women to try different things. I can help them make informed choices. Yellow eyeliner? Beach tousled hair? Bring it on!  I also write about fashion, vintage and what I call ‘interesting stuff,’ which could be anything I think the more mature women might want to hear about.

inspiring women Julie Brown Still Sassy

A PASSION FOR FREEDOM

 The two things that make my heart race are riding motorbikes and snowboarding.

I’ve been riding for around 25 years, owning a whole range of bikes in that time. I’ve ridden Route 66 (Chicago to Los Angeles), the West Coast of America twice, in France, Spain and Ireland. And done many, many laps of Britain too.

I know it’s a cliché, but the freedom you feel on a bike is overwhelming. When you get an empty road and you can open the throttle and let it go, it’s like nothing else.

Yes, I’ve been scared a few times and fell off twice in America, but the pleasure of riding outweighs the fear tenfold. When you ride you’re so much more involved with your surroundings.

You can hear, see and smell things you never would in a car. And of course, you can carve through the traffic with no bother at all. I always think that owning a fast car would be fab, but even the fastest get stuck in traffic. Not so with a bike.

motorbike inspiring women Julie Brown

LET’S NOT FORGET SNOWBOARDING!

Snowboarding is a relatively new thing – I’ve been at it for about 11 years now. I started when I was between horses and had too much time on my hands.

My son could ski and I joined him for a lesson. I was terrible at it but loved being on the snow (or false snow given we were at an indoor snow centre) and liked the idea of snowboarding more –  it looked so cool. So, I gave it a go. I can’t say it was easy to learn – I walked away from every lesson with bruises, but I kept going back and once it all came together it’s been one of the best things I’ve done.

Now I enjoy a snowy holiday at least once a year and it’s something me and my (now grown up) son can do together, which is fab. We leave hubby behind (he turned out not to be a natural on the snow) and blast around the mountains, laughing like loons the whole way. The mountains are an awe-inspiring place to spend some time. I highly recommend it. If you don’t fancy snowboarding, there are plenty of walking tracks to keep you busy.

To contact Julie

Julie’s transformational writing and coaching business can be found at  Write Little Madam

If you share Julie’s passion for not being beige and would like to learn more about wearing make up and taking care of your skin head over to her blog Still Sassy  or You Tube Channel  to learn more.

transformational writer and coach Julie Brown

 

Would you like to share your story? 

We’re all remarkable inspiring women whether we think we are or not!  Our journeys are fascinating to others and let’s face it we all love cheering each other on!  If you would like to share your story and inspire others then I’d love to hear from you!  Please click on the box below to contact me!

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

Please follow and like us:
error
ali moore BeMoore

Reconnect Your Life & Find Your Roar!

Meet Ali Moore!  One of the most inspiring women I know.  Ali is inspiring on so many levels – ali moore reconnect your life
what’s she’s achieved in her life to date personally and for her business. How many plates she spins and doesn’t manage to drop a single one!   She’s an empathetic and engaging public speaker, as well as a published author of Reconnect Your Life.

She’s passionate about clothes and her signature style.  Ali also describes herself as a compulsive shopper who doesn’t want to be cured!  But that’s enough from me, let’s hear Ali’s story.

Ali – Please introduce yourself

Hi – I am Ali Moore, founder of Bemoore which is a private therapy and coaching practice; specialising in the science of self- esteem.  Working with women to restore that self- esteem platform and feel fabulous about being them.

I am a community Celebrant  and author of Reconnect Your Life – more about those later!

I am married to my Alfie and between us we have 5 children. My girls are 22 and 19 my step children 13 and 11. We also have our joint venture who is 4.5 years old!

Tell us about your childhood and your teenage years

My early years were really quite normal – a good middle-class family. Just before my teenage years however I experienced an awful period of bullying which led not only to me being home schooled for a while but also developing social anxiety and controlling my eating. It wasn’t a great time, but the homeschooling actually was a real blessing and I am forever in debt to the teacher I had and the introduction to topics such as mindfulness and yoga.

You met your first husband at just 15 and soon had two amazing girls while juggling a corporate career.  How did you manage to keep all the plates spinning?

I was fortunate that both sets of grandparents were fully involved.

I had to go back to work financially.  We owned our first home by the time I was 18,  I was young when I had the girls, so in those early days there wasn’t an option to be a stay at home mum.

I think like many women you just get on with it and make it work. You get organised and I did actually love working alongside being a mum.  I think the girls gained from it in different ways.

ali moore radio presenter

Sadly, your first marriage ended after 21 years, what was the catalyst for this?

We got together, as you said,  at a very young age, we had grown up and become different people.

Our son was still born in 2007 having diagnosed with a life preventing condition and I strongly believe that there is no relationship which cannot be impacted by this loss.

We grieved very differently, and I was forever changed as a person. I made a decision about 18 months after that it was best all round we separated.  He has remained very close to the girls and very involved in their lives.

What was your coping mechanism after losing your baby?

Initially my coping mechanism was work.  I went back to work 2 weeks after the funeral. There was no support really offered.

The GP never visited or checked in.  A midwife did come and visit in the first few days – but she was very newly qualified and out of her depth.  I made her a cup of tea if I remember rightly!

I didn’t know about any type of therapy or counselling and it seemed as though we were expected to just ‘move on’ with life!  After a while I was prescribed anti -depressants but overall, I just got on with it. It was later that I realized I hadn’t dealt with it at all.

When your first marriage ended, how did you build the next stage of your life?

I had never been on my own.  I didn’t really even know who I was outside of the marriage and relationship.

But I will be honest and say I threw myself into this next phase. Learning to manage bank accounts and the house things which I had never done.

I persuaded my boss to give me a project in a new role in a brand-new location .  I wanted a fresh start. To not be ‘the women whose life was a car crash’.

I totally changed myself as well, joining a gym and changing my hair.  I qualified as a Life and Business Coach. It was full on in those early years.

I needed to be financially stable to keep the family home for the girls – that was my driver.

ali moore reconnect your life

arrival of the chimp

I am very comfortable now with telling this.  It’s part of who I am and there is no shame in mental health challenges.

Firstly I was very happy at this stage of my life.  Most of the drama was all done. I went out to feed the cats one morning and had a panic attack.  Firmly believing that a chimp had escaped from the nearby safari park !  Convinced this chimp would be in the area and would attack the girls on the way to school.

I knew this was crazy talk, but I also couldn’t step away from the panic.   This wasn’t an isolated incident – it kept happening.  I would have to pull over to check the boot of the car, look under beds in hotel rooms.

We talk about ‘the chimp’  in people’s heads the chattering monkey.  But for me there was a real chimp out there and he meant business.  It was my (now) second husband that helped to persuade me I needed to get some help.

BTW I do know how crazy this sounds but that was the point really wasn’t it! :0)

What steps did your recovery take?

I contacted a local hypnotherapist who had advertised I the local paper for a number of years. I thought she could hypnotise it away!  But she didn’t, instead she made me talk about it.

My interest in therapy was starting to take shape.  I had explored counselling.  I was a trained mediator and of course coaching was now in my life.  But talking therapy and cognitive therapy was pivotal for me.

My next journey started as I decided I would look to train as a therapist.   That initial therapy helped me put the chimp away. But I have continued to explore therapy in different forms.  I  continue now to work on my sense of self.

2013 was a major year why?ali moore reconnect your life

It was a busy year!  The start of another new journey in my life.

My partner asked me to have a hand-fasting (pagan wedding) – I said yes.  A couple of months later we made a big decision.   We wanted a baby of our own.   Interestingly we’d not mentioned  living together neither were we planning our wedding.   But curiously  I felt very secure and it wasn’t even on my mind.

To have another baby was huge… to be able to trust someone that much, to risk allowing myself to be that vulnerable again.

Initially I wasn’t sure I could go through that again.  Or put my family through it again.  But when you trust someone and you are able to be really honest with them it is a wonderful feeling.

So, in 2013 I fell pregnant with our son who was born in the following May.

I also agreed to move my family into one house, sell my house that I’d fought so hard to keep.  I also accepted the change to my whole financial situation, by becoming a parent again after 16 years!

How did it feel to lose your financial independence?

Terrifying!

It was the biggest block for me.  It was the main reason I hesitated and didn’t launch my business initially.  I even took another employed role even after I had set everything up.

I need to be able to contribute.  It was also about feeling secure enough that I could trust this would work.

Previously I had been in a position to take on all the financial burden. If this relationship didn’t work out, then I would not be in the same place.

I like my independence and my own money.  I will not ever have a joint bank account again.

reconnection program

This actually started from a selfish point of view.

I had run a very early version of my FindYourRoar workshop, and the women mentioned about feeling like they wanted to stay together.

It got me thinking that I was really missing that community I had in my corporate life.  I wasn’t a coffee morning mum type of person, I loved networking but that was business.  I wanted someone where to meet new women and to have good conversation.

So, my women’s group open to women from all backgrounds started. It has been slow process to get set up.  This is probably because there is nothing else really out there like it in the evenings.

We pick a self-development topic every month. We chat, discuss, share book reviews and importantly make new connections. I now have an established group in Bedford and Milton Keynes and am considering the next steps to expand this community.

DESPITE A very BUSY LIFE, yOU STARTED A DEGREE in 2017!

I am always learning.  I always have a course going on!  But going to University was a real dream for me. I really wanted to have a Uni Campus experience.  It would be very 1960’s Cambridge in my head – but I didn’t have that option!

There was also the fact that I didn’t have A levels and was refused by a certain University!  Even though I had numerous higher diplomas and was running my own business.

So, I contacted the Open University and they were happy to support me so I’m now studying Clinical Psychology.   I want to do a massive shout out here for those that are learning in this way.

There is nothing easy about an Open University degree course. You are basically self-teaching, self-motivated and self-reliant. I do feel stressed as the schedule is tough.   But I am committed and I loving it!  The other major benefit is being able to help my clients through the additional learning.

celebrating life!

This has been another life changer actually. I have always had an interest in faith.  While I’m a   Pagan I’m hugely interested in other faiths and in the new form of spirituality that’s emerging.

I had attended a very dear friends funeral a couple of years ago and a Celebrant had conducted the service.  It felt really personal, but I was surprised that it contained religious pieces.  I thought it had to be Humanist and this would not be right for me. But I discovered you can be a multi-faith celebrant.   The primary benefit is to give your community a wonderful option of how to conduct those important life transitions.

I am now building up my business and my community, in which to practice.  Once agin I’m  connecting with some new and amazing individuals.

Reconnect your life

In December 2018 I became a published author as part of an amazing collaborative project.

Writing is something I love to do, so after being involved in a collaborative project,  I decided to write my own book; Reconnect Your Life, which has just been published.

I was discovering so many stories and bringing together some great material as I built out my Reconnection Programme it seemed like a wonderful way to share with a wider audience.

Determined not to write a book which just focused on my challenges, but to focus on  something that really gave something back in a useful way.

Reconnect Your Life isn’t meant to be aimed at an academic audience but at real people.  It is not designed to replace true therapy support, but it does give a great start to some of the cognitive practices people can do to improve their sense of self.

ali moore published author reconnect your life

Running A business Networking Group

Running two reconnection groups with everything else on your plate would be enough for most women, but you’ve also found time to take on running a business networking group too!  What is this about and what motivated you to get involved with this project?

I seem to just keep adding to my plate, but actually I see this a lot with business women.  We are used to juggling and we like to have lots of diversity in our days.

I was keen to take the word about my business further towards London. I love the Busy Women Networking groups I attended and love collaborating with the owner Aruna Rao.  So rather than join another new group it suited us both for me to open a St Albans based branch.

ali moore empowerment day

How do you maintain any level of self-care?

It’s a hectic life! But I thrive on this, ensuring I get time to myself during the day. Clearing my diary if needed and recognising the signs that mean I am feeling overwhelmed. I eat healthily and practise yoga most mornings.

I surround myself with people who are of a positive nature.

Plus, my husband is super supportive.  He enjoys cooking and I love eating so that’ s a winning partnership!  We share the home responsibilities … and sometimes nothing is better than a glass of bubbly in the bath!

If you had the opportunity to advise your 15-year-old self what would that be?

Gosh that is a big question! I would say … life is going to be an adventure- there will be wonderful moments and there are going to be times you feel you are drinking the bitterest of lemon juice … but you will rise, and you will shine … stay strong!

WHAT’S NEXT?

My overall dream for the business is to establish the Bemoore Foundation. A place for women of all ages and backgrounds to feel comfortable coming to, for support.   With teenage programmes and funding available alongside the private practice.

We are just launching our first Roaring4Life teenage programme in a local Milton Keynes school, so the future is already starting to emerge.

reconnect your life and connect with ali

As I said at the beginning Ali is one of the most inspiring women I know.   If you’d like to find our more about   Ali’s work then follow her at the BeMoore foundation

 

Please follow and like us:
error
inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Being Homeless Is It Your Worst Nightmare?

Is the thought of being homeless your worst nightmare?  I know it’s mine.inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Heck I can’t even entertain the idea of doing The Big Sleep Out.   Incidentally, a friend of mine did it last year and said that it was incredibly hard.   She also shared with me that they had it ‘easy’ with hot food before and after the event, a ground sheet and an insulating layer of plastic bubble wrap….

The image of homelessness conjures up an image and we often associate it with substance abuse or mental health issues.  But what if you became homeless through a perfect storm of circumstances?  You’d been in full time employment, been living a comfortable life and then it all changed.

My latest inspiring woman interview is with Bonnie S Hardie.   Bonnie is a bubbly, confident entrepreneur, supporting business owners, with her services as a Virtual Assistant and Social Media Expert.  Bonnie lives in Florida with her two gorgeous kittens.  I was speechless when I discovered she’d been homeless for nearly two years (2015-2017).    Her story of resilience and determination is simply inspiring.

What Were The Circumstances Leading To You Becoming Homeless?

Several things led up to my being homeless.  I sustained a severe knee injury at work. I was working in a restaurant and so had to give up my job.    Unfortunately the knee injury had revealed more extensive problems with my knees. While I was cleared to go back to work after the injury I struggled to find a job.

I applied for benefits but it’s an extremely long and arduous process in the US.  I had no choice but to give up my accommodation, as I could no longer pay the rent.

A neighbour and I made an agreement.  I would move in with her and help her with her mother who had Alzheimer’s.  In return for helping her mother at night, when my neighbour worked I would live rent-free.    Sadly only about three weeks into the arrangement her mother passed away.

We then made a new agreement that I would pay one week’s rent and she would pay the next week.    This only lasted about a month before she decided to move to another state.   I was unable to pay for the full amount of the rent on my own after this.

 

homeless living in a tentWhy Didn’t You Consider Yourself Homeless When You Lived In A Tent?

I didn’t consider myself “homeless” because I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on.  I was living in a tent and sleeping on an Air Mattress. Instead I looked at it as being on an extended camping trip.  Albeit without some of the comforts that we often take for granted on camping holidays.

What Was The Worst Thing About Being Homeless?

Having to deal with possums, raccoons and snakes coming up to my tent at night to chew on it!

Being regularly asked if I had any drugs or alcohol (I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs).

Other people. Those who judged me, showed a complete lack of respect and were rude, simply because of the way they viewed someone who was homeless.

The most frightening aspect was not having anyone to trust.

What Were Your Positive Takeaways From Being Homeless

It was down to me I only had myself to rely on.

I am a very resilient person so I dug deep and this helped me to stay strong.   I managed to detach myself from the situation, to appreciate that it was happening for me and not to me.

Luckily I had neither animals nor children, so with no dependents it was easier.   I really learned to appreciate what I did have.  It was a great opportunity to learn a lot about myself during this time.

I met a lot of different people who were also homeless.  They all had fascinating stories about how they’d become homeless.

Very often other homeless people were accommodating than non-homeless people.    They were not judgmental.

 

If People You Knew Found Out You Were Homeless How Did They React?

I did not tell too many people about my situation because I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was homeless.

Those I did tell were people at places where I hung out during the day (Library, Grocery Store, Coffee Shops) and they were generally nice.

It certainly helped that I made an extreme effort to stay clean (showering every day at a campsite). I was always polite to everyone I met and this meant others responded to me more positively.

 

What Impact Has Being Homeless Had On You As A Person?

I am more empathetic and sympathetic towards other people.

Before I was homeless, I got to know several homeless people.  They would come in to the restaurant where I worked.  I was always nice to them and treated them with respect. But being homeless has meant that I’m even more empathetic and sympathetic towards others.

It’s also fair to say that I am much more appreciative of what I have now.

 

It Is Easy To Judge People In A Negative Way Who Are Homeless How Did You Cope With That?

There were always a few “Negative Nellie’s”!   Some people would insinuate that I was: lazy, a scammer, a bum and so on.  So I just did my best to ignore them.

I am the only person who knows everything about what happened during the 2 years that I was homeless. I tried my best to do what I could with what I had.

Has Your Attitude Towards Homeless People Changed?

I was always empathetic to homeless people, even before it happened to me.

How can you judge someone when you don’t know his or her circumstances?  You don’t know the story of why they became homeless.

What Would Be Your Advice To Anyone Facing Homelessness?homeless reframing

Just stay strong.  I know that might sound easier said than done, but try to reframe your negatives into positives.   So for example:

  • I considered that sleeping outside meant I was getting plenty of fresh air;
  • While I had no car, I did have a bike and that meant I got plenty of exercise;
  • Although I had no shoes I had a pair of flip-flops. This helped me to develop a cool tan line!

Are There Charities In The US Who Support The Homeless?

Currently in the county I live in there are no homeless shelters.  There are a few Churches who help the homeless.  But transportation is often a barrier to getting to the facilities.

I applied for and was granted Food Stamps, which helped me to buy food.  But with no cooking or refrigeration facilities my choices were limited as to what I could eat.  Hot dogs or pasta out of a tin were regular meals for me.

How Did You Turn Things Around?homeless mindset and self-belief

It was a long process.

I had to do a lot of Mindset work to get my confidence back.   I had to believe that I had gifts to share with the world.

Luckily I was able to connect online with an awesome Mindset and Business Coach – Liz Hancock from England.

Liz believed in me more that I believed in myself.  It was through her that I recovered my confidence and self-esteem. Without her help I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Liz and the other people in her private coaching group were very supportive of me and they always encouraged me.

We figured out what my Zone of Genius was & I was able to start offering Virtual Assistant, Social Media Marketing and Research Services on Facebook.  I’m now proud to say that I have a great business with international clients and am in a much better place.

Care Bags For The Homeless

A project that I am working on right now is : “CARE BAGS FOR THE HOMELESS” — Putting the following in plastic bags: water — socks — hand sanitizer — tissues — lip balm — snacks ,etc. These can be filled for about $5 each.  My plan is to hand out at least 150 of them.   If you wish to donate follow the link: :

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019.  You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring.  If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error
inspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

Bell’s Palsy Absolutely Made Me More Ambitious

How would it be if, within 24 hours, your face became paralysed? You could no longer eat or drink, your right eye would not close.

Imagine the terror and how those feelings would be for a young woman? How would it feel if doctors were initially unable to diagnose or offer treatment?  This is what happened to Claudia Crawley when she suffered from Bells Palsy.

For many women this would have been catastrophic. But if you’re an extremely capable and resilient woman like Claudia Crawley you don’t let Bells Palsy stop you!

Claudia enjoyed a successful career before setting up her own coaching business.   Awarded Mentor of the Year in 2017 by City University of London.   A published author and in her spare time Claudia is a stand up comedian!

Claudia Crawley suffered from Bell's Palsy

Claudia, Please Introduce Yourself To Our Readers

I’man Executive Coach, Career Coach, accredited Master Coach, Mentor of the Year, 2017 (City, University of London). A co-author of ‘Winning in Life and Work’, ‘The Power of Being a Woman’ and author of‘Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things: 5 Steps To Add Extra To Ordinary’.

I enable women to drive their own ‘careers’,whatever their challenges, current status, or feeling they have run out of road. I help them to get ahead and stay ahead.

What Inspired You To Set Up Your Business?

I’d been a trained social worker and manager with an MBA, for a long, long time, working mainly with women in a female dominated profession.

In the late 90’s I applied for my dream job as a diversity consultant.  I  failed to get it through inadequate preparation.  After that, very disappointed, I lost my way.

In 2009, I had a great job as a knowledge, learning and professional development manager.   This was in a social work organization called CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).  But I was feeling unchallenged and down.   I’d become stuck in my career.

When a woman from another department took out a grievance against me, unsuccessfully I might add, I got myself a coach to help me deal with the stress.

She was a blessing in disguise. Because through this experience I found coaching and realised it was a powerful way of enabling change within individuals.

I decided to train to be a coach and used it to work with managers in the organisation.

When I was made redundant, in 2010, it seemed a no-brainer to use my newly acquired coaching skills.   I wanted to work with women like myself who were stuck or who were managers, dealing with challenges in the role.

What Do You Believe Are The Major Factors That Hold Women Back On The Corporate Ladder?

I support the findings of Tom Schuller in ‘The Paula Principles’.

He found that although globally:

  • Girls tend to leave school with better qualifications than boys.
  • Women graduate with better degrees than men
  • Women are more likely to develop themselves once in the work place

But generally women were operating below their level of competence.

He found a number of reasons for this:

  1. Discrimination – we’re denied jobs or higher pay because we’re women.
  2. Structural issues e.g. getting affordable childcare.
  3. Lack of confidence. Women often lack the confidence to put themselves forward for a job, even when well qualified for it. Men, on the other hand will go for it even when they don’t have all the requirements.
  4. Lack of networks. Women don’t have the same rich network connections as men that can help them climb the career ladder.
  5. Desire for a better quality of life. Women may not want the stress of being at the top. They may consciously decide in favour of a better quality of life and go for a lateral rather than a vertical career. Were the challenges women encounter at the top less stubborn, more women might opt to climb further.

What’s clear is that the world is missing out on the skills and talents of competent women. Studies have shown that the more women at the top the better the organisation’s health.

Can You Tell Us About Your Hobby?Claudia Crawley Stand Up Comedian

My hobby is stand-up comedy, which I discovered by accident.

My life had become a bit dull, full of hard work and long hours and very little fun. When a close friend encouraged me to do a stand-up course at the Comedy School in London, I was a bit hesitant.  I thought, ‘Moi, serious Claudia, do stand up?’

When my partner twisted my arm by paying for the course, well, I had to do it, didn’t I?

Doing my first gig, at the end of the course was like magic.  People actually laughed – a lot. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was incredible.

I well and truly fell in love with stand-up. I’ve done several gigs since then.  I’m currently on another course, which is helping me develop my skills further.

The key thing I’ve learned is that stand-up is not just about standing on stage making people laugh. It’s an art.  There are certain rules.  It has to be worked at and developed if you want to be a real success.

My aim is to use it to take my message into organisations, and make the unpalatable palatable.

 

You Suffered A Frightening Health Problem Can You Tell Us More?

It was a long time ago. I was in my mid-20s when I suffered from Bells Palsy.

The condition came on gradually over a 24-hour period.  It started with a severe headache at the back of my head.  This moved around to the right side of my face.

Simultaneously, I experienced throat paralysis. When I awoke the next morning one side of my face was totally paralysed. I could neither eat nor drink nor close my right eye. I looked as if I’d suffered a stroke.

It took the doctors a while to reach a diagnosis and at the time they had no way of treating it.  Had I been treated, I might now have 100% movement in my face. As it is, I have about 85% movement.

So, now, I can’t raise my right eyebrow.  My right eye is smaller than my left.  That same eye weeps when I eat. My mouth is a little lopsided, which affects my smile.

The nerves in my face seem to operate a bit weirdly. For example, when I blink with my right eye it triggers a tick lower down my face. This gets worse when I’m stressed or nervous.

 

Having An Asymmetrical Face Is Pretty Scaryinspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

The whole experience was traumatic, all the more so, because in this image conscious world, your face is the first thing people see on meeting you.

Imagine waking up one day to find that one side of your face for which you’d been complimented all your life had dropped and was paralysed. Imagine the horror!

So, my self-confidence plummeted and for years I felt ugly.

The worse thing was that it took away my smile, which of course is crucial to forming new relationships. I learned to live with this new identity – I had no choice. But I had difficulty seeing past the damage whenever I looked in the mirror.  Looking in the mirror was something I hated doing.

I also hated being photographed and if the photographer insisted, it would have to be on my ‘best side’. This may explain why I’ve found doing videos a turn off – although I’ve done a few. Possibly a matter of needs must.

Last year I had a session of Rapid Transformational Therapy with Dr Cheryl Chapman. Whilst my face is slightly better, the key thing I gained was the confidence to finally accept myself for who I now am and for how I look.

I no longer notice my facial imperfections in the same way and I’m no longer obsessed by it.

Interestingly it never got in the way of my personal relationships. This is an indication that the problem was mine, rather than other people’s approach to me.

 

How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My husband at the time was incredible supportive. I couldn’t have got through it without him.

My first instinct was to hide away. But how can you live a life in hiding?

Especially when you’ve a large network of friends. I’d no choice but to be upfront with my friends and family about what had occurred. It’s not an illness you can hide after all. But by being open I gained their support.

Did Having Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Confidence And Self-Esteem?

I’ve often wondered why Bell’s Palsy happened to me. What did I do to deserve it?

It’s as if I lost my looks through a nasty cosmic joke. But it’s not the worst affliction I could have had.  Although I thought it was for many years.  Now I’m in a better place emotionally, I recognise that I’ve so much to be grateful for.

Did Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Career?

I guess that unconsciously my career success was compensation for ‘losing my good looks’.  I was ambitious and driven and put everything into climbing the ladder.  However, I couldn’t shake off the self-consciousness that a lop-sided face gave me.

So perhaps I may have been more successful had I not had this experience – who knows?

Has Bell’s Palsy Had An Impact On Your Role As A Mentor And Coach?

If anything, Bell’s Palsy has made me sensitive to the plight of other people, especially to those with disabilities.

I met a man recently who’d experienced Bell’s Palsy and I felt an immediate connection with him. I was able to share my story and empathise. We became good friends as a result.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is a form of facial paralysis. This is what I found on the internet: “Bell’s Palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition”.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Here’s what I’ve learned about the cause of Bell’s Palsy.  It’s when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed, leading to paralysis or facial weakness. The reason why this happens remains unclear, but there seems to be a connection with viruses (including herpes, influenza and respiratory tract infections), stress and a run-down immune system.

The following groups are at risk of getting it: pregnant women; babies; those with diabetes or lung infection, or a family history of the illness. In my case, none of these applied.

Can You Make A Full Recovery From Bell’s Palsy?

Most people make a full recovery within three to six months.  It may take longer for more severe cases of Bell’s Palsy.

In rare cases, like mine, the symptoms may return or may be permanent.

I’m one of the unlucky few.

Did You Get Support From The Medical Profession And In What Form Did That Take?

I got very little support from the medical profession at the time.  The doctors weren’t terribly sympathetic. I felt that they saw it as a cosmetic issue. They did not seem to realise it was one that could affect a person’s mental health and sense of self.

In the absence of a structured treatment package, I was left to deal with it alone.

I tried alternative medicine over a number of years, including physiotherapy, acupuncture and cranial osteopathy, but nothing brought permanent change or enabled the return of my old face.

What Has Been The Most Challenging Thing You’ve Had To Deal With Regarding Bell’s Palsy?

My own feelings: about my looks and my resulting lack of confidence. I’ve only just got to a place where it no longer bothers me thanks to Rapid Transformational Therapy and Dr Cheryl Chapman.

Do You Feel That There Is Enough Awareness Of Bell’s Palsy And If Not What Could Be Done To Increase The Understanding Of The Condition?

Between 12,400 and 24,800 people per year are affected by Bell’s Palsy in the UK.

But there’s insufficient awareness of the condition and insufficient research.  More research is needed into diagnosing, treating and managing Bell’s Palsy and facial palsy generally.

What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Who Is Diagnosed With Bell’s Palsy?

Seek medical advice and see your GP immediately.

Go to the website of Facial Palsy UK and get as much information as possible about the condition and how to manage it.

The absence of information was one of the most frustrating parts of the illness for me. Had this charity existed when I was first diagnosed, I believe it would have reduced my panic and despair.

Are There Any Charities Or Support Groups That Help Sufferers Of Bell’s Palsy?

The charity, Facial Palsy UK, was established in 2012 with the aims of:

  • Increasing awareness of the condition and its consequences;
  • Improving the physical and emotional health of those with facial palsy ;
  • Promoting diagnosis, acute and long-term management and rehabilitation of people living with facial palsy.

One of their roles is to fund raise for world-class research.  When Facial Palsy UK was launched in 2012, very few research projects investigating the prevalence, causes and treatments of facial palsy existed.

Facial Palsy UK has established a Facial Palsy awareness week that runs from 1-7 March each year.  Look out for it in 2019.

Click this link to find out more from Facial Palsy UK.

Winning Pathways Coaching

If you are inspired by Claudia’s story and would like to find out more her mentoring and coaching programs for women, you can find out more at Winning Pathways Coaching. 

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019.  You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring.  If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

Please follow and like us:
error
Breast Cancer Awareness Month Julie Foster

Dancing With Breast Cancer: Happy To Be Alive

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I’m thrilled to share with you the story of one of the most amazing, courageous and sassy women I have the honour to know.Breast Cancer Awareness Month Julie Foster

Julie Foster is, as she says in her own words, a survivor.  But Julie is much more than this.  She is a caring, fun-loving woman who loves helping people.   Julie leads by example and loves to nurture others.

I first met Julie in 2015 when she invited me to her Strawberry Tea Party fundraising event for breast cancer.  She raised £1250 in the space of an afternoon.  The venue was overflowing and the energy amazing.

It was evident that Julie radiated so much positive energy and love for others that they were attracted and wanted to reciprocate.  I wanted in!  So signed up to her regular networking and personal development group.

Julie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when she was 59 years old.  She enjoyed a successful corporate career as well as running her own coaching business.  Julie had everything to look forward to.  She was due to retire from her corporate role, excited about spending more time on her business and quality time with her husband….. Sometimes though, life has some unexpected twists and turns.  Julie’s belief system and positive mindset have played an enormous part in helping her to deal with a very difficult time in her life.

In Julie’s Words…

Julie, please introduce yourself to our readers…

First and foremost I’m a woman, Daughter, Wife/Widow/Mother/Grandmother and a survivor. My mission in life is to enable success in anything.

Was Your Diagnosis Part Of A Routine Mammogram?

Yes it was part of a routine mammogram.  However, due to previous occurrences of cysts in my breasts I attended annually.  Thank heavens I did or this would not have been picked up so early and dealt with so well.

What Did You Go Through When You Were Diagnosed?

A sense of disbelief.   A letter arrived to tell me that because of an unclear mammogram result I should attend a clinic in Luton.  I still believed that nothing was wrong and the re test was normal in the circumstances.

I went through the process with my husband Kevin supporting me.  My mindset training over many years enabling me to keep my options open.  I knew not to create fear in the uncertainty, as this affects your cellular composition.Breast Cancer Supported By My Husband

We were called back to see the consultant  Mrs Brazier, (no joke, that’s her name!).  I saw a picture of my breast on the computer screen.  She looked at me with an expression that told me bad news is about to come.

True enough it was not good.  The x-ray clearly showed some ‘salt and pepper’ markings just behind the nipple.

These markings can be calcium deposits.  They can also indicate cells that are changing or are in a cancerous state.   Mrs Brazier asked me to prepare for a biopsy to test the tissue so we can be sure what we are dealing with.  I thought this would be in a week’s time or some time in the future. NO. She says we will do this right now.

At this point my mind is racing.  My husband’s hands are sweating, while he puts on a brave face for my sake.  I’m starting to feel like this is not really happening to me.

While being positioned on the doctors couch she and the nurse assisting are trying to settle my nerves by telling me that it will hurt.  In fact Mrs Brazier tells me it’s the most sensitive place to have a biopsy etc etc.  So I get all assertive and speak up.

Meditation And My Believes Were Vital

“Please stop talking to me as I am going to meditate my way through this procedure” I secretly wanted to tell them to stop frightening me and putting negative thoughts in my head. This is how I rock and roll!

I then calm myself through practiced breathing and take myself into a place where I focus on a star, a star filled with only light and love.  Silently asking my Angels and Guides to give me the pain relief I need to go through the procedure.  Focusing on breathing and being relaxed and pain free. I feel some tugging and sensations around my breast but no pain.

Bandages go on and I resume my seat with the consultant and my Husband.  Her opening line to me.  “How do you do that?”  I need you in my waiting room to teach all my patients to do that.  Smiling I acknowledged the help I had just received.  I explain I have been practising focused meditation for years so not sure what I can do in the waiting room.

While I believe that I could produce a meditation for people to practice listening to, the challenge would be to get it to them early enough in the fast track treatment that followed.

The Longest Week Of My Life

I am told to expect a phone call the following Wednesday afternoon after the team have studied the biopsy and xrays.  This would be the longest week of my life.

The uncertainty is the thing that drives you mad.  I just wanted to know so I could plan what to do about it.  Any way the call came, and the result was that I had a DCIS.  Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, which means I have cancer cells grade 3 inside a duct behind the nipple.  I am told that it is contained but basically could blow at any time, cells would then be loose and free to spread around the breast tissue.  In the duct tube they were contained and safe for now.

More waiting, with what feels like a time bomb in my body.  The news was shocking and I felt like I wanted to escape, couldn’t breathe in the house, needed to get out in the fresh air. Kevin asked me what I needed/wanted so I asked him to drive us to our favourite spot The Three Lakes at Westmill Farm.  We had spent many happy hours there and I loved the feeling of space.  It was a beautiful day at the beginning of May, nature just budding into it’s glory.  We walked and talked for hours.  Deciding on how and what to tell the family.

I had a week to wait to see the Consultant surgery who would perform the operation needed to extract the cancerous cells.

 

How Did You Deal With Telling Your Family That You Had Breast Cancer?Breast Cancer My Family Organised A Barbecue

To be honest I don’t remember, and Kevin isn’t here to ask.  It’s all a blur of lost days and surreal times.  Walking around in disbelief and shock while trying to function on the outside I was very much in my own head, my own thoughts.

I do remember that my 3 children and my Mum treated me differently, possibly they didn’t and I was interpreting their behavior in a strange way.  They had a look of pity, of fear in their eyes and on their faces as you do when you hear the word cancer it strikes fear of death I guess.

My family organised a Barbecue for my Son’s Birthday.  I was angry with them as I felt the reason for organising was because they feared there might not be many more with me attending.

I don’t do pity and weakness very well.  My belief system is very much based on thoughts become things, so I didn’t want to fuel any negative thoughts.

Can You Tell Us About Your Treatment Process?

Physically I had to loose my left nipple because the carcinoma was too close to it to save. My Surgeon Miss Deol (wonderful woman) tried her best to save it but couldn’t.  After all this is about saving my life not my nipple.

I remember her asking me how attached I was to it, lol.  I replied I had had it for 59 years and quite liked it.  She did offer me a tattoo, stick on or reconstruction but it was too early to think about that.

Day surgery took care of things and I was soon home with my glued together scar and a pack or three of pain relief.  I needed it later that night.

A straight-line scar was all that remained of the offending cancer and for the first time in weeks I felt safe, glad that the time bomb was no more.

After further analysis of the cells and xrays etc I was told that I would not need Chemotherapy, but I would be given radiotherapy.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Personal Conflict Of Beliefs

I had been happy to have the time bomb removed but I was not happy about the radiotherapy.  It conflicted with my spiritual beliefs about healing of cells.  There I was believing that through thoughts I would heal my body and assist it to do so with rest, goof food and spiritual healing.  Being asked to allow radio waves to bombard my perfectly healthy cells, burn tissue away just in case a random cancer cell had escaped and was running around trying to find a home in my breast was totally against my principles.

I was in real turmoil over agreeing to the treatment.  So, over the next few weeks I meditated on this, consulted my spiritual Mentor and others. I read lots of material on the treatment and looked at the benefits v the potential damage to my body.

In the end I decided to go ahead with the treatment and blend the sciences, so I could receive the best of both worlds.  I will always remember the look of relief on the faces of my family when I told them I would go ahead.

It was difficult to go into the chamber every day for 6 weeks and allow them to bombard my body with burning rays.

 

How Did Breast Cancer Affect Your Mental And Emotional Health?Breast Cancer Bra Competition

I do believe that my mental health was pretty good because of all the years of mind training I have done, because I have deep faith and a wonderful family who allowed me to express my feelings, who asked me what I wanted and listened to me.

Emotionally I was up and down and definitely in turmoil over the decision I mentioned before.

I am a natural researcher so I went researching for information on the breast cancer I had and what the treatments would do.  In the end I had books on this and that arriving from every day.  It had to stop.  There’s such a thing as information overload!

In the end I chose to relax and surrender to whatever was to come.

Did You Get Enough Support From The Medical Profession?

The surgical team, including the breast care nurses were fabulous and supported me while I was in clinic and if I telephoned they were very patient and reassuring.

I developed an abscess which created secondary problems for me and they supported me through this very well.

As A Mother, Wife And Daughter What Was Your Biggest Challenge?

Being conscious that my family all needed different things and that I could not always provide what they needed.

My lovely Mum just wanted to put me on the couch and feed me chicken soup!  She wanted to treat me like I was really ill and needed her to do everything for me.  Not easy for me to receive.  However, after discussing this with her I allowed her to put me on the couch and look after me for one whole afternoon.  Then I jumped up and got on with life.  I think it helped her.

Did You Have A Support Network Outside The Medical Profession And Your Family?

I am blessed to have a wonderful network of clients in my business and friends who understand me. My clients collected together items that they knew I would like and delivered me ‘A Box of Love’ I will always remember opening all the little packages and crying at every one because the thought behind the gift was so very meaningful.  They held parties, kept me cheerful and positive as well as allowed me to cry on their shoulders and share my thoughts.

Did You Join A Support Network For Cancer Patients And Survivors?

No.  I didn’t want to spend my time around others who were suffering and hear their experiences.  This may sound selfish and, in a way it was.  I chose to be supported by others who would lift my spirits and make me laugh.

How Did Having Breast Cancer Make You Feel About Your Body?

If you mean my image, then it felt quite odd to look at a body that was no longer symmetrical. Everything about us is symmetrical, well it was for me.  Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror felt very odd.

Looking down on myself was also strange as I was used to my curves and now I had a boob with a straight edge.  I was assured this would soften and round over time and it has.

The abscess caused an unfortunate dip in the center of the scar which I think spoils the amazing job Miss Deol did of trying to retain a natural shape.  I have been offered a fat implant, taking fat from my stomach to fill the gap.  I may have this, not sure.

Generally, I was happy to be alive and worked on being proud of my new original shape and look. My Husband helped me very much to feel beautiful too.

My body is still changing three years on, so decisions about any reconstruction are on hold.  I know I don’t want a stick on, can you imagine? The tattoo idea was appealing but I don’t want one.

What Impact Breast Cancer Had On Your Life?

Interesting question this as I am a person who lives, very much, in the present moment or in the future. Very little attention given to the past unless I am giving it focus for a purpose.

Three weeks after the end of my radiotherapy my husband passed away unexpectedly, so I didn’t really think much more about me.  My health was very good and with lots of rest I was recovering well.  Grief took over really.

I was reflecting on this question and realized I have probably just kept putting one foot in front of another and here we are.  Not a bad thing in my book.

Has Breast Cancer Changed Your Relationship With Nutrition, Exercise and Self-Care?

Yes, all the research I did at the time resulted in my awareness of what sugar does to the body has meant that I try not to eat it too much.  Whenever I can I choose good fresh produce and stay away from sweet cakes. I never did drink fizzy drinks (unless accompanied by Jack Daniels or Gin) so everything in moderation is my philosophy now.

I enjoy food and having the odd alcoholic drink.  Sometimes a Danish pastry jumps into my trolley when I’m shopping!  But I respect my body more now and treat it with kindness.  Not obsession just kindness.

What Would Be Your Message For Women Regarding Screening And Self-Examination?

We are very fortunate to live in a part of the World where we can access medical services, undergo tests to prevent some diseases progressing.  For me I consider screening potentially saved my life.  Self-examination would not have helped me. I do practice this but my cancer was too deep to feel. No lump or anything external to find.

What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Diagnosed With Breast Cancer?

Take one day at a time.  Be kind to yourself, ask questions and have a voice, ask for what you want and persist.  Do not allow fear to take over your life, but allow it to be your friend.  Thank it for showing up, but ask it nicely to bugger off!

Be open to receiving the help that people offer, but let it be on your terms.  Love yourself the hardest you ever have and be grateful.

My dance with cancer was brief, and my recovery has been wonderfully easy, I am cancer free three years on and sometimes I think I didn’t really go through much as I have friends who have gone through worse and are no longer with us.  But, my experience was mine and I honour that now.

Breast Cancer – The Facts (Breast Cancer Care)Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, one person is diagnosed every 10 minutes.

1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month around 5,000 people will be diagnosed.

Breast cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the past 40 years in the UK.

Almost 9 in 10 women survive breast cancer for five years or more.

Every year around 11,500 people die from breast cancer in the UK.

An estimated 691,000 are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer. This is predicted to rise to 840,000 in 2020. For many the overwhelming emotional and physical effects of the disease can be long-lasting.

A Breast Cancer Care survey found 1 in 4 women (26%) found the end of treatment the hardest part of breast cancer and only 1 in 10 (10%) said they felt positive and ready to move on when they were discharged from hospital treatment. More than half (53%) struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment and nearly a third (31%) with depression.

If you want to find out more or get involved in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year then take a look at Breast Cancer Care

Inspiring Women Blog Series

We all have a story to share.  As Julie has shown, her story is an incredible one, of positive thinking and using her belief system to help her at a very difficult time in her life.   Her philosophy that no matter what you dream of becoming it is possible, if you embrace life, if you smile instead of frown, if you laugh and play, if you break free from your conditioning and listen to your soul.  Read more….

Your personal journey can be a real inspiration to others.  It may give them courage to talk about their own experiences.  Or it may help them to seek help or give comfort that they are not alone.

So if you have a story to share I’d love to help you.  It doesn’t need to be in the form of recovery from an illness it can simply be your journey.  Every woman I know is an inspiration.  something that may  gruelling physical or mental

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

Please follow and like us:
error
Alopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia Is Not Just About Losing Your Hair

At 14 years old Julie Williams was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata.

When I met Julie last year I was struck by her positive upbeat attitude and endless energy for campaigning and raising awareness of Alopecia.

Julie is mum to two beautiful children, wife, compliance manager, volunteer with Alopecia UK and Changing Faces.  Julie writes a blog about alopecia, autism, parenting and life in general.

Alopecia Areata Choice Of Hairstyles

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a general term for hair loss affecting any part of the hair or body.    There are different types of alopecia ranging from small patches of hair loss (Alopecia Areata) to total loss of all body hair (Alopecia Totalis).Alopecia Areata

Alopecia can affect the hair on your head, eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and body hair.

What Causes Alopecia?

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder, where your body sees certain hair cells as foreign enemies and attacks them.   It’s not fully understood why this happens or why localised areas are affected. Nor it is understood why hair regrows again.

If you have Alopecia Areata you may be more likely to develop other autoimmune conditions.  Such as thyroid disease, diabetes, vitiligo for example.    But it is not always the case.

Alopecia can affect children, women and men of any age.   It is not catching nor is it related to diet or nutritional deficiencies.    Very stressful events such as bereavement or separation may trigger alopecia. 

Is It Possible To Make A Full Recovery?  

There are treatment options for alopecia which have varying degrees of success for different people. Treatments such as steroid creams, steroid injections or light therapy may be offered to patients through their dermatologist. 

Alopecia sometimes comes and goes.   Alopecia Areata for example, may vary in how many patches of hair are not growing at any one time.  It also varies where on the body those patches are. For some people, alopecia is permanent, whereas others may only experience it for a short period of time. 

There is a genetic predisposition to alopecia, although it is more common in people with other autoimmune conditions.  However, there is no evidence to suggest it is passed down generationally. 

Were You Bullied About Your Alopecia?

I probably was bullied to some degree.  I tend to block out bad experiences and laugh them off so it’s hard for me to recall the detail. Certainly I received more attention than I would have liked as a teenager trying to blend in.

I think for the most part, there was very little awareness of alopecia at the time.  Other children were curious and concerned. They wanted to know if they could catch it, if my wig would come off unexpectedly, that sort of thing. I don’t remember anyone being actively mean to me and I do remember some people being exceptionally kind. I think it’s tough for everyone when you don’t understand why something has happened. 

What Was The Emotional Impact When You Were Diagnosed?

It was very upsetting:

  • I didn’t understand it.
  • Nor did I know anyone else who had experienced it.
  • It was scary because I didn’t know what to do about it.

I felt terrified at the prospect of going to school as I was losing my hair.  When I started to wear a wig. I think it really shook my sense of self. It took me a long time to be properly comfortable with myself after losing my hair – almost twenty years.  Looking back now, I see how much it has affected my self esteem and self worth over the years.

How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My parents were incredible, they listened, supported me, got me some great wigs.  It was very hard for them too to see their little girl lose her hair.  As a parent myself now, I think it must have been as hard for them as for me. Some of my friends were absolutely wonderful.  They very much had my back at school which made a huge difference.

One of the most helpful experiences I had was meeting the lady I got my wigs from.  Due to the nature of her job, she had met many people with alopecia.  When I was in her shop I remember not feeling so alone. 

I have been dealing with Alopecia Areata for most of my life and by far the biggest support has been the charity Alopecia UK.  I only found the charity a couple of years ago and my acceptance of alopecia has changed significantly since then.  It has been incredible to meet so many other people who look like I do and have been through similar experiences. 

Did You Get Professional Support?

Not a great deal, I was sent to a dermatologist when I was first diagnosed and tried a cream for a while but when that didn’t work.  The only option at the time for Alopecia Areata was steroid injections.  I don’t like needles and the the thought of having them in my head was terrifying!

Alopecia UK are doing great work trying to raise awareness of alopecia with GPs.  They are working to ensure GPs receive training on the condition.  I sincerely hope that makes diagnosis easier for people in the future. 

Has Your Alopecia Impacted How You Feel About Yourself? Julie competing in #british10K for Alopecia UK

I’m sad to say that it has had a very negative impact on how I feel about myself for most of my life. It absolutely crushed my self esteem. It has always been there, distracting me, I’ve spent so much time hiding bald patches in my hair, worrying that people will notice I’m wearing a wig, worrying that the wind will blow – the list goes on. 

I’m happy to say that things have changed for me though, since setting up an Alopecia UK support group in North Herts and meeting many inspiring people with alopecia both through that and the wider social network.  I am very much embracing my alopecia.

I can’t say that I am always happy with the way I look, the patchy headed look takes some adjusting to!  But I like the freedom I have given myself in terms of choice in recent years.  From my collection of seven wigs and a number of scarves / buffs / hats I can choose how I want to look every day.  I can decide whether to put my patchy head on show to the world, or rock up with a perfect wig, or with a nice warm hat.

I like that it is now on my terms and I am in control. Alopecia has become a part of my identity and has led to meeting some wonderful people.  I have some amazing experiences that I doubt I would have had if I hadn’t had Alopecia nor embraced it as part of myself.

How Do You Feel About Wigs?  

It very much depends on the mood I am in!

I find them reasonably comfortable most of the time. I’ve always found it better to try them on and see what feels right on me.

I also think it helps to get them cut to suit my face – I really need a fringe and I am lucky to have a wonderful hairdresser friend who will happily cut my wigs to suit me.

They can get hot in summer, or just a little annoying by the end of the day. I often whip mine off when I get through the door at the end of the day.  But I only liken that to friends who can’t wait to take off their make up or bra once they’re home!

I feel fortunate that I’ve got to a place now where I know I can choose my look each day, if I don’t want to wear a wig then I don’t. 

Are Your Wigs An Extension Of Your Personal Style? 

Oh definitely!

When I was a terrified teenager, I just wanted hair that would make me blend in – as much like my natural hair as possible.

When I was in my late teens, I was much more experimental and had some very fun hair.

Now I’m in my thirties, I have a number of styles and colours and I choose what I’m in the mood for and what goes with my outfit. I mostly wear synthetic wigs which require no styling so my perfect hair takes seconds, I love that. 

How Do You Feel About Not Wearing A Wig?  

I am very comfortable with it now but I wasn’t always.

When I lost enough hair to have to shave it again in my thirties, I didn’t wear wigs for the first year or so as my daughter was still a baby and I worried she might just pull it off when I was carrying her!

I wore scarves for a while but eventually I got comfortable with getting my patchy head out for all to see and I have only had positive experiences with people asking about it (or not asking about it).

I’m glad to have had a lot of positive experiences with children at my kids school and in the wider community about it too, it’s great that they will grow up knowing about alopecia and it won’t be unusual to them if they know someone who develops it.  Awareness really does make all the difference. 

What Reaction Do You Get If You Don’t Wear A Wig?  Modelling For Rebecca Violette UK

Honestly, people are kind and considerate on the whole.

I rarely get questions from strangers and when I do, I try to remember that they are just curious.

The hardest thing for me is when people assume I have cancer and I always find it awkward to have to correct them.

I also suspect that the more confident I have become in myself, the less I notice the reactions of others. I think I used to look for it, and see the worst, whereas now I am usually too busy with my children / work / life to pay much attention to what anyone else is doing!  I’m pretty sure they are too busy to pay much attention to me either! 

What Has Been The Most Challenging Aspect Of Your Alopecia?

My self esteem has been very hard to rebuild over the years.  This has been my greatest long term challenge.

There are some things that have surprised me too such as the impact of losing eyebrows and eyelashes.  I really lost definition in my face without eyebrows (mine are now microbladed).  Without the protection of eyelashes I get things in my eye more than other people.  They also seem to dry out more.  Don’t even get me started on a lack of nose hair in hayfever season! 

What Is Your Advice To Anyone Diagnosed With Alopecia?

Two things:

Push hard with your GP and dermatologist to get the treatment and support that is right for you. And don’t give up pushing for it.

Take a look at Alopecia UK and find a way to connect with other people who have alopecia.  You can do this either online or by joining a local group. The knowledge and experience from people who have alopecia and have been though similar experiences before you is invaluable. 

Please Tell Us About Alopecia UKAlopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia UK is a small charity in the UK which aims to raise awareness, provide support and encourage research into alopecia. 

There are local volunteer led support groups (for adults and children) across the UK, online support, annual conferences and trips, lots of helpful videos and factsheets, suppliers directories, and they help to fund research into alopecia – and a lot more besides! 

How can people help Alopecia UK?

Take a look at alopecia.org.uk and follow Alopecia UK on Facebook, Instagram or twitter. Like and share their campaigns – it’s the quickest and easiest way to raise awareness of the condition. 

They are a very small charity and any fundraising / donations are always very gratefully received – more details on the website of how you can help in this way. 

Like to read Julie’s blog then check it out here

 

Would You Like To Improve Your Body Confidence?

If you are suffering from low self-esteem or would like to improve your self-worth why not check out my tips to improve your body confidence today.

Please follow and like us:
error
Inspiring

Inspiring Women Behind A Camera

What does photography have to do with styling?  I’ve decided to revitalise my inspiring women series of blogs but to update them to include vlogs.   I love doing them and I hope you enjoy engaging with them.

Inspiring

Behind The Scenes At Ufurria Photoshoot with Chio Fernandez

I caught up with Chio Fernandez over a coffee a few weeks ago.  We don’t have time to meet very often as we’re both so busy, but the energy is always incredible when we do get together and catch up on each others news.    Chio’s business is forever evolving and gets more exciting every time she enters another chapter.   She always has new ideas about how to tell stories with a lens regardless of the subject.  She works with some big brands like Amazon, Air BnB and is a brand ambassador for FujiFilms, but is also passionate about working with new and innovative brands.

Contagious Passion!

Chio’s passion for telling stories with a lens is contagious.  It’s the reason I love working with her on photoshoots.   We have worked together at least four times and the results have always been amazing and everyone’s had fun.  Chio also shares my passion for diversity and inclusivity.  When I was involved with Models of Diversity Fashion Show she willingly gave up her Saturday to come along and capture the event.

As a brand ambassador for FujiFilms Chio also uses her role to speak at events, such as the Photography Show.  She is passionate about inspiring women to push themselves forward in photography.   Chio believes that women don’t get the recognition they deserve, particularly in photography, because they struggle to self-promote.  Women are more likely to suffer from self-doubt and imposter syndrome.    I will let her explain this in more detail in our interview.

Check out some of Chio’s fabulous work on her website

Inspiring Women Models Of Diversity Fashion Show

Models Of Diversity – image by Chio Photography

Calling All Inspiring Women!

We are all inspiring women.  This is a bold statement and one that I truly believe.  We have role models and people that we look up to, but we should also look inwardly and reflect on our own journeys from time to time.

If you would like to be part of my Inspiring Women series of Blogs or Vlogs I’d love to hear from you.  Just complete the form below. Even if you don’t feel that you are inspiring why not let others help you to see that you are just incredibly awesome!

 

 

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

SaveSave

Please follow and like us:
error
Image Bri Mansys

#DisabilityFight4FashionRight

Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Gemma Flanagan.

In Part One we looked at Gemma’s story and how from being an active young woman travelling the world for her job, she ended up in hospital completely paralysed.    How she was in hospital for almost a year and has had to come to terms with life in a wheelchair.

In this second part of the interview we explore the work of Models of Diversity (MOD).  Angel and her team are challenging the perceptions of beauty as portrayed by the fashion, beauty and media industries.  They are campaigning for change, inclusion and equality.

In this second part we will explore the campaign #DisabilityFight4FashionRight.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

I will share with you how important the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is, not simply for people with disabilities who want to make a career of modelling.  This campaign has a much wider impact offering inspiring role models to others.

Beauty is diverse across the full spectrum of Society.  There are many beautiful men and women who would not fit into the conventional and frankly outdated sense of what is defined as beauty by the fashion, beauty and media industries.

CH: MOD is more than simply fighting for acceptance of disability on the catwalk and is having some great wins – would you please share some of these with us?

GF: For a start diversity embraces much more than just disability. It includes ethnicity, age, size, height, non-binary gender.

Yes we are having some fantastic wins and that we have some businesses and brands we’re talking to. Unfortunately there are a lot who are not so enlightened and so it’s slow progress.

We are in discussion with various brands and some are really embracing what we’re doing. Top Shop are meeting with us and discussions are ongoing.   Jack Eyers is part of this Men’s Fashion Week for TopMan.

Male Disabled Models seem to be more readily accepted and I think that’s because of the association of War Veterans.

CH: Is the UK different from other countries in its approach and acceptance of diversity in the fashion industry and if so how?

GF: The UK is certainly behind other countries. Take the US as an example

There is certainly more diversity in New York Fashion week. In February this included our own Jack Eyers who was on the catwalk. The first amputee to feature in New York Fashion Week.

US Brand Nordstrom takes a more inclusive approach using models who would be considered diverse in all of its shows.

The UK does lag behind not just the US but other countries in Europe.   Our culture is much more reserved. We seem to be more awkward about embracing and celebrating diversity.

Image by Chio Photography

Image by Chio Photography

CH: Is there any sense that the fashion industry will use diversity simply to gain public approval, be seen as ‘doing the right thing’, an act of tokenism?

GF: Sadly there are indeed acts of tokenism. With a ‘hey look at us’ approach and the media attention dies and life returns to the way it’s always been.

We want it become just normal practice.

Our message is very clear.  We are passionate about not having special treatment.

We don’t want to be taken on as models because we are disabled, or due to our ethnic origin etc.

We want to be accepted as models because we have the attributes required for a model: Beauty, confidence, we are professional, able to take direction.

What we are campaigning for is not to be treated differently and to have a level playing field.

 

CH: Of course the campaign that MOD is fighting for is so important for anyone who wants to work in the fashion industry, but what are the effects for people outside the industry

GF: With over 80% of people suffering from body confidence issues it’s so important to celebrate beauty in all its forms.

Before my illness I was size 8, toned and tall. GBS has meant that my body shape has gone through many changes.

I know how seeing someone that I could have related in a role that is all about being visible would have helped me to get through an incredibly tough time in my life.

Our campaign is much more than the modeling industry. We want retailers to think more about Diversity.

  1. How many mannequins do you see in wheelchairs?
  2. Disabled changing facilities are often used as storage space?
  3. Which retailers provide a lower counter facility for wheelchair users?
Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

CH: As an Ambassador for MOD and its campaign for Diversity can you tell us a bit about the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight and what you want to achieve?

GF: To put it simply we are 4 disabled women addressing exclusion of disability in Fashion.

We want to see fairness and equality. We do not want to be shamed or excluded.  We wear clothes, so why shouldn’t we be represented in the Marketing and Advertising campaigns that the industry generates?

Our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight Campaign is simply to ask the Government to Enforce & Regulate strict guidelines to the multiple areas of this industry.

On September 18th 2015 we launched our petition at the House of Lords.   We met with Baronness Benjamin and Baronness Hussein-Ece who were happy to add their support to our campaign.

We have until 23rd March to get 100,000 signatures for the Government to consider this for Parliamentary debate.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

 

CH: Are people being supportive? How are you raising awareness of the campaign?

GF: We had a great response when we launched. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

We are starting launching a UK tour on 30th January and we’re hoping that this will generate more publicity.

It’s actually harder to get the disabled community engaged, their concern is that we’re trying to make money out of disability – nothing could be further from the truth!

None of us get paid for what we do!   We are all volunteers. A lot of modeling shoots and fashion shows are done to generate publicity – we don’t earn from them.

However, as our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is for equality, this will include embracing engaging models on equal terms.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight Tour

CH: How can we support Models of Diversity?

GF: Please, Please sign the petition.  We want as many people as possible to see the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight  campaign and have a chance to support us.

To get this out to as wide an audience as possible we are asking for everyone to SHARE this campaign.

Please put a link on your Facebook Profile, Twitter Feed, Instagram and wherever you hang out online.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who does sign for #DisabilityFight4FashionRight as you are supporting inclusion and fairness.

*Part 1 – read more if you missed how Gemma’s life changed almost overnight – from traveling the world to lying paralysed in hospital.

 

Please follow and like us:
error