A caring leader makes a difference

Gratitude to a Leader who cared

It’s mental health awareness week and feels like a safe time to tell a small part of my story and shed some light on what drives me to do the work I do. Once I push post, it’s out there.

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting on a flight from Auckland to Palmerston North. The South Westerly is strong, yet up here above the clouds it’s still with sunshine. I’m on my way to a place where I had some of the best and worst moments of my life in the few short years I lived in the region.

Back then in 2006, I thought the geographical move would represent a new start. It kind of did and at the same time definitely didn’t. While I met stunning friends in Palmy, I also went through a time of making really bad choices. This part of my life eventually led me to a solution in the shape of a strong, caring and very intuitive CEO.

The bad choices I made eventually led me back to Auckland to be with my family. A few months later, I was sitting on a bench seat at the edge of a Papakura park. It was 2008 and I was trying to fathom the shock of being told my Palmerston North house was scheduled for mortgagee auction. The locksmith was there changing the locks. It was out of my hands. Only two weeks earlier the mortgage company had agreed I could pay off the two months of arrears. I never got that in writing.

How did I get here? 

Let me take a brief step back. Six months earlier, I’d walked out of an emotionally abusive relationship. How I found the strength I’ll never know. It wasn’t until I was many years past this moment that I could see how manipulative, unpredictable and forceful he was. My parents had plucked up the courage to beg me to leave him. They could see the damage a mile off and they were worried for me; for my mental health and for my life.

He didn’t want me to leave and wouldn’t budge from the house. So I walked out. Just like that; I left everything. Every one of my possessions. My business. Everything. I naively thought he’d at least contribute to the monthly mortgage payment. He was after all living there. We’d only been together three years and guess whose name the mortgage was in? Mine!

He eventually left the house taking most of my furniture, but I did manage to tidy the place up and rent it out. Three months later, the tenants were a month behind in rent and it was discovered that they had pretty much trashed the place.

Many ‘together’ people would take one step at a time and deal with this situation methodically, asking for help when they needed it. I didn’t.

Blocking out reality 

Back to that bench at the park in Papakura. I was well on my way to getting drunk to make the pain go away. The feelings that went along with the shock of knowing I’d lost my house was aloneness and feeling like a massive failure.

I had a number of issues:

  • Dealing with the inner turmoil of self doubt and fear from years of emotional abuse

  • Facing financial hardship 

  • Alcohol dependency

The raw truth

Back in 2008, I had zero idea of who to turn to and what to do about what I saw as a hugely embarrassing situation. I knew I was an alcoholic. I’d been in recovery for almost four years before I got into the relationship with him and then relapsed. I’ve spent many years trying to run from life and living with suicidal thoughts. God willing, in November I’ll be 10 years sober. I kept the truth of my drinking and feelings hidden. On the outside I pretended to be fine and my performance was convincing. On the inside I was waking up every morning wishing I hadn’t. 

The house was sold at that mortgagee auction and I did experience financial hardship, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It took me another six months before I reached out for help and got sober. From that place, I very very slowly started to get well.

The saving grace of a Mentor

Three years later, I found myself re-employed by an old manager of mine who was now CEO of a successful business. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. It was then that I was able to rebuild my life financially; and just as importantly, emotionally. She didn’t wait for me to speak up. She trusted her intuition and coached me closely until I became stronger. I eventually became one of her top performers.

This is a massive part of what drives my business today. I completely know how the right job with the right leader in the right environment; aligned with your values can heal. Truly heal.

If I can go from a place of being completely lost and alone with my intense emotional pain, to being a strong, independent and loved woman; anyone can!

Today I help others transition, both in their careers and life. Yes I have qualifications and loads of experience, but it’s the rawness of my life that makes me care. I truly believe that paying it forward is the finest way I can thank those who have supported me.

As I said at the start, Mental Health Awareness week felt like a safe time to tell my story.

Brenda xo






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