‘I looked at myself and saw an old, washed-up woman with nothing to offer. I wanted to go to bed and not wake up.’: Woman shares self-discovery journey, ‘Life is a story we get to write’

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“Learning how to rise again when the chips are down and everything seems to be against you is possibly the most enlightening situation you can ever find yourself in. When I left a bad marriage at the age of 40 with two little girls (aged 1 and 4), no money, no home, no career, ill health, and a lot of debt that had fallen into my name, I fell hard. I had lived a relatively happy-go-lucky, charmed life beforehand, a great career, lovely home, nice cars, expensive restaurants, exotic holidays, busy social life, great family, good health and I never worried about money. There was always plenty.

So when I walked away from my marriage and lost everything it hit hard, really, really hard. I was left looking at being housed by the council with no income and the responsibility to shield my two little girls from the dramatic change to their lives and the battle between their parents.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

To say I hit rock bottom a fair few times is an understatement. I always thought each time I hit, there wasn’t anywhere lower I could go and then the universe would surprise me with a new low! It almost became comical… I couldn’t believe this could get worse! But once I had really hit rock, rock bottom, I knew the only way was up and to get there I needed to find an unwavering faith in myself. And so began the battle with my ‘self’ to believe in me. A battle that raged and created a war in my mind and life like nothing else I have ever known.

I literally had to learn how to breathe underwater whilst someone stood on my head (metaphorically speaking). I couldn’t change my situation until I accepted it and trusted there was a way to get myself out of it and that’s exactly what I did after a lot of soul-searching.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

I learned how to create opportunities for myself and the life I desired by literally doing a marketing project on myself (which sounds a bit random but my background is in marketing working in London agencies with really exciting and successful brands). I’ll tell you more about that later, but this is where my head was at. When you go through life there are phases and stages that are built-in for you: school, college, uni, career, marriage, kids, work at sustaining all of that, retire, die (very generic I know but it’s just an example of what happens in my world).

Getting divorced at 40 with two kids and my career behind me, I felt like I had fallen over the edge of a cliff. What was my path forward? No one had planned this out for me… I didn’t have a knight in shining armor to save me; I had no infrastructure to my life anymore and I had two little beings who were almost completely dependent on me.

I didn’t know what the f**k to do. So for a long while, I panicked.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

I looked at myself and saw an old, washed-up woman with nothing to offer. My youthful looks I had taken for granted when I was younger had disappeared before my very eyes and I was suffering from chronic fatigue and terrible digestion. Eating just hurt my stomach and my head. I was frightened and I didn’t trust my judgment anymore. The most pressing thing I needed was money but I was totally constrained in going back to my marketing career as I had a baby and a toddler and was 5 years out of the workplace. In that time, the whole marketing environment had moved into the fourth industrial revolution whilst I had been down a rabbit hole stressing about not being able to breastfeed (stress is a b*stard!), changing nappies, and trying to hold my life and marriage together whilst putting on a happy face.

I know I need to address the bad marriage bit and there is a lot I could say but there is no point in going over old ground. The crux of the matter was my ex-husband and I had very different opinions about how we wanted to live and this turned to resentment on both sides and a toxic situation that made me very ill. His beliefs were very deep-rooted and I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself because I was too empathetic of his situation which made the whole thing a total mind f*ck and moral dilemma.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

My soul started to wither as I tried to change myself and my values to adjust to the situation I found myself in and although my mum had told me to be ‘the strong one’ and accept things for what they were my body, mind and soul would not allow it and I got more and more rundown and ill. Two bouts of shingles, hives on my neck, a crippling headache by midday every day and a nasal drip. I wasn’t in a good state but I made the decision to leave even though that meant walking away from every bit of security in my life because I felt like I was dying (sounds melodramatic but that’s where I was at).

So that’s how I found myself lost, totally and utterly lost and broken and alone (apart from my kids of course). My path forward was clouded in heavy fog and my internal compass was f*cked and I was frightened and I just wanted to give up. I wanted to go to bed and not wake up again.

But! I am such a lucky person, I was born into an amazing family where I have experienced divorce and a successfully blended unit and I have experienced so much LIFE. I have traveled the world and seen awe-inspiring sights. I have peed in the shadow of Everest and drunkenly danced on the streets of Rio Carnival. I have been reckless and wild, met amazing people, and made incredible friends so I knew it was possible to be happy but getting divorced felt like a wrecking ball had hit me (go, Miley) and I lost my place in the world. Sometimes mum, sometimes alone. Not part of a unit, no longer invited to dinner parties. I’d gone from being a social butterfly to a recluse. I hated myself and my life. I felt like a total failure. How had I let this happen? I wasn’t alone in these sentiments as they were words I heard echoed from others I trusted to catch me. How had I let this happen? Why couldn’t I have been happy and stayed as I was? Why rock the boat? Typical Sarah. It hurt to feel so undermined.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

My poor girls, there was no game plan, I hadn’t had the time to even think about one. I just wanted to book myself into a respite home and get myself back on my feet but of course, that wasn’t an option. I had a divorce battle on my hands and two children to raise and it turned out no one was going to get me out of this mess. It was down to me to sort it out.

So I set about my brand strategy for myself and looked at my mission, my vision, and my values. I always thought I was a pretty quiet, timid person with not much to say for myself. I didn’t have a voice as such and for the last 8 years I had effectively been a ‘Stepford wife’ but looking at what drove me and my values, I suddenly realized I was actually a pretty passionate person with strong views.

I wrote down my mission/my why or ‘Ikigai’ as the Japanese call it and it was as follows: ‘To be a healthy, successful and happy role model for my children.’ Simple as that (if only J). I then looked into my vision for myself, how did I want to show up in life? As the victim of my reality or as the hero? Life is a story we get to write and I became impassioned about the concept of ‘intentional living’ of changing your path from fatalistic to pre-destined.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

I discovered self-image is, in fact, a really big deal as it defines who we are to ourselves and the world. I decided I wanted to be a mixture of Elle McPherson with a little bit of ‘Patsy’ from Ab Fab thrown in (balance is key). For me, mind and body are totally connected and when I eat well and take care of myself, I feel well. Fun is also really key, so stripping out alcohol forever didn’t appeal to me but in the short term, I did. I set to fairly extreme levels of self-care, cutting out wheat, dairy, and sugar from my diet. Not an easy task but with almost zero social life (which prepared me well for the Covid year), it wasn’t too hard. Within weeks, I grew stronger and combined it with gentle 10/15 minute jogs out in nature and a weekly yoga class and I felt like a new woman. My confidence built and I started to see the old me peering out from between the thorns that had grown.

Now onto my values, they are my anchors, my internal compass. They must be lived by in order to have a happy and fulfilled lifestyle which can be a huge hindrance as mine rule out a lot of things! I value time over money but it’s hard to have one without the other. I value freedom when it comes to relationships and mutual respect I don’t like ‘ownership’ and I found myself owned financially in my marriage and I didn’t ever want to feel that powerless again. My body is my temple and my soul is a force to be reckoned with. I stay as close to nature as possible with clean foods, natural skincare, and paraben-free living wherever I can.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

I believe life is an adventure that must be lived at all costs and that it will hurt but without hurt, we cannot experience joy. Following our passions is key to fulfillment and although this may not be the route to making millions, those millions can often come at the cost of our happiness. I see a future where alternative power creates an energy revolution and embraces that change. I am a trailblazer that refuses to conform as I did it for so long. I would rather experience the adrenalin of driving fast at a brick wall but I am learning to enjoy meandering in the slow lane through the countryside.

Yes, this means I quite often run headlong into walls and I have found myself in a heap on my living room floor (comfiest place for a breakdown) many a time but I have learned to pick myself up and dust myself off quicker each time (also known as resilience) but it also means I have taken risks I never would have considered before and they have taken me to places that I never dreamed I would go.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

Life is an adventure again, I feel like I have just discovered the meaning of life but I am still getting to grips with how to use this information as it goes against everything that I am programmed to believe.

I have learned I can manifest what I want when I really put my mind to it and the best time to manifest is when your desire is at its strongest…. hence a complete rock bottom scenario like mine gave me a lot of power to recreate and it really, really worked. Little things all just came together to make the impossible possible, you couldn’t have written it. I knew then I must trust life. In the words of Abraham Hicks, (I can’t remember them exactly but something like this) when you go to a restaurant and order your food, you don’t keep going into the kitchen to see how the chef is doing and interfere you trust you are going to get what you ordered.

I am consciously styling my life, hence my Instagram. I believe if I live by my mission and values and trust in my vision, then it will come true, which I can tell you is super hard when you are a control freak and have parents and friends that just want to see you take a stable job and stop living in fairyland.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

Following the road less traveled is a bumpy ride but I am discovering more and more people who are waking up to life and realizing living on the hamster wheel isn’t fulfilling enough. I want to experience great adventures with my favorite humans and see a world where altruism is at the heart of everything we do. Where each person can shine in their chosen field of purpose and the 9 to 5 is a thing of the past. I don’t want to work myself into the ground, miss more formative years with my precious, beautiful girls and then retire when I’m too old to enjoy life. I never want to retire from life. I want a lifestyle that is sustainable and exceptional.

It sounds too good to be true and a very selfish way of living just enjoying myself I’m sure, but surely that’s the goal? I have decluttered my life to fit with my vision/conscious lifestyle. Too much going on takes time, energy, and money; three things that are in precious supply to me. I dream of moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle but I’m too much of a sophisticated hippie, I like nice things, and those nice things are created by someone so passionate about what they do that the energy rubs off on me. I have a capsule wardrobe where I only own the things I love and I invest in my clothing. Quality over quantity is where it is at in everything in life. Buying cheap doesn’t have long-term benefits and doesn’t support the environment and I just don’t have the space for lots of stuff. Buy less live more is my motto.

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

I guess the moral of the story and my real takeaways from reading this back to myself is to have faith in yourself and trust your intuition. There aren’t any magic pills out there that are going to change our lives, that comes through sheer determination and belief in ourselves and the human spirit is an absolute ball breaker. It takes a lot to beat it.

Energy work is simple; if you think positive you attract positive and vice versa — I think therefore I am. We become who we think we are. What we focus on expands whether it is good or bad and only we get to decide what to focus on. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, I have days when depression clouds my judgment and there is nothing I can do to get away from it but to ride the storm. I am peri-menopausal now and my hormones are hay-wire so I do my best to balance them in order to keep my thoughts under control, to keep my dream alive.

Rebecca Price Photographer

I have experienced mind shattering but amusing rejections through my dating experiences post-divorce, which I write more about in my blog and I have come so close to achieving my dreams, only to have my hopes dashed at the last minute that sometimes I have considered giving up and going back to doing what is expected of me but then I remember my why…. I am breaking this cycle for my girls so they will follow their passions and live a fulfilled and loving life. I didn’t leave an unhappy marriage just to settle for a new unhappy.

There is no other choice. I am grateful for everything I have and everything I have experienced. Without it, I would not be the person I am.

We have one life….and that goes by in a flash. Live it. It’s never too late to start again and this time do it with wisdom, experience, and an appreciation like never before. Be the trailblazer. The game-changer. The life-giver. Our energy burns bright and radiates to others when we live completely and authentically and that is what we are here to do. It’s your mission if you choose to accept it.”

Courtesy of Sarah Miller

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Miller, a 45-year-old divorced mom of two little girls who lives in Surrey, UK. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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