The Night that Everything Changed (brief chapter excerpt from Jess Leggatt’s book)
The years leading up to my ‘Tipping Point’ moment in life, were deeply challenging. I spent several years wrestling with a number of health issues, trying to stay on top of my daily anxieties and fears and hide my personal inner struggles as best as I knew how. Late one night, during a very challenging time in my life, I jolted wide awake, heart pounding in my chest, sweat dripping down my forehead, body trembling – and a crystal clear realisation that I needed to change everything around for myself. I needed to find a different way to live.
Since my late teenage years I would have bouts of pain, fatigue and days of feeling exhausted. There were times when I felt like I was just getting by, but never truly feeling well. I was known as the ‘sensitive one’ and a self-confessed perfectionist with a strong willful spirit to push myself to my limits and achieve, even at the cost of my health. I was a high achiever from a very young age, stepping into leadership roles whenever I could at both primary school and high school ,and taking on mammoth projects in in my university years, pushing myself to the extremes, just because I thought that was the right thing to do. From as early as I can remember I had a very familiar and unhealthy relationship with a high wired nervous system. Symptoms of anxiety were a familiar guest of mine.
Having always had a just get on with it attitude and a strong ambitious desire to move forward and lean into life, I did just that, I just got on with it. Only the people close to me really knew what was going on. I was always very conscious of putting on a brave face; internalising my problems and hiding behind my bubbly personality, my constant busy-ness, and my outward achievements.
But, I think there comes a time in everyone’s journey when the big tests of life seem to come all at once, and you are finally thrown that curve ball you just can’t dodge. The one that bowls you clean over, and forces you to sit up and listen, and start taking notice.
It’s what I call, a crisis point. The point in your life where you are forced to stop wrestling with life, and start rebuilding yourself, from the inside out. This came after the birth of my second baby.
This is my personal account of the lead up to the night I realised I was trapped, and how I freed myself to find a better way to live.
In the years leading up to my beautiful second daughter’s birth, and the 18 months that followed, I was thrown the proverbial curve ball…or two… in a very short space of time.
After surviving an exhausting 12 months in a high pressure management role whilst pregnant with my first child (with 24 hour morning sickness that lasted all of my pregnancy… argh…!), the wheels started to fall off the wagon, just a little.
The birth of our first born daughter was an amazing highlight and a heart warming reward after a difficult 12 months, and me and my family enjoyed a beautiful year of bliss. But, our little blissful rest was short lived as things got murky again, and the inevitable ups and downs of life unfolded.
Not longer after falling pregnant with my second child, I entered into what I like to call my life-changing Tipping Point. In very quick succession, over a short amount of time me and my family experienced some very traumatic losses. Within the space of 18 months we lost two close family members very dear to us, witnessed traumatic touch and go life emergencies with those we love, and were facing the prospect of complete financial ruin.
It was during this time that we also lost our successful business. After 7 long hard-working years of running a business, and building a healthy financial reserve, we lost it all, under some very ugly circumstances. Gone. With one fell swoop, our world turned completely upside down. We were staring down the barrel of the worst possible financial scenario and started selling off our cars, goods and assets just to survive. It felt like we were losing everything. At one stage, after several months of dealing with legal fees and going in and out of lawyers offices, we were facing the prospect of losing our house, both our cars and our freedom. This carried on for a good part of 8 months, before things eventually sorted themselves out. I was heavily pregnant, ready to give birth to my second baby, exhausted and an emotional train wreck. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.
We had lost so much in such a short space of time. As you can imagine, the physical, mental and emotional upheaval eventually took its toll on my heavily pregnant and exhausted body.
After nine months of carrying my second child, looking after a bouncing toddler and dealing with the trials and challenges of life, I gave birth to our second beautiful healthy daughter. Life seemed to brighten for a short while as we celebrated new life and joy into our family. But, 6-weeks later, I was tested again.
Not long after giving birth to my baby girl, the final straw came to me in the most unexpected circumstances. After a routine phonecall to my Mum to check in with how my sister was progressing with her pregnancy, I was facing the shock of hearing she had just been raced to hospital in an ambulance. My sister (who happens to be my best friend!) and her baby son were fighting for their life in a traumatic birthing emergency. Through sheer miracles, after being born with no heart beat and no sign of life, my little nephew was able to be resuscitated and after several attempts from some quick thinking doctors, was brought back to life (and is growing up as cheeky as ever). My sister also fully recovered from the ordeal with no ill effects. But, at the time, I was facing the almost unbearable prospect of losing my darling sister, my best friend, and her little baby son. I was once again facing the fragility and impermanence of physical life, and it literally scared me half to death. After enduring the shock of this traumatic experience, on the backdrop of our financial crisis and our very sad personal losses, I was pushed into a state of perpetual and debilitating grief. The trauma and shock to my nervous system started to really take its toll. After fighting so hard for so long to keep it all together, my body finally crashed.
I was left deflated both physically and mentally; my immune and digestive system started to fail, and I felt like I was crumpling into a complete emotional wreck. I had a new born baby and an energetic toddler to look after, and no way of knowing how to get out of bed each day. Anxiety really took hold and I started isolating myself; putting on a brave face whenever I could, for the sake of my babies and those who were concerned about me. I lost an incredible amount of weight and my clothes no longer fitted. Things got pretty bad for a while, and life started to spiral out of control. I had never felt so scared, isolated and defeated in all my life.
But, during the hardest week of my crisis point experience, I had one of the most life-changing self-realisation awakening moments of my life. Things were about to change in the most unexpectant ways.
After getting up to breastfeed my 8 month old baby and then falling back to sleep with exhaustion I woke up again with a fright, jolting upright in bed. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I couldn’t breathe. There was fear gripping my heart and I knew I wanted things to be different. I didn’t want to suffer like this anymore. I was at my crossroads. I tackled the big questions.
Do I keep spiralling down, or do I reach out and start making things different for myself?
Do I keep paddling madly underneath, suffering in silence and missing out on the beauty and joy of life?
Or do I find another way, a better way?
Do I give up hope for a better future, or do I rise up, take a new breath of fresh air and find a new way forward?
I realised that night, that I had to find a new way to live. A better way forward. I was desperate to get better. I was desperate to get my life back.
So, slowly and surely, I began to design a wellness program for myself; and started trying it on for size. It literally turned my life around!
I started small. Baby steps. I tried to remember what I had taught my patients as a therapist. I started to read, learn, and sink my teeth into the knowledge of those who had been through the same thing as me, but had found a better way forward.
I started to do things differently, one day at a time. I chose little things, and put them into play, step by step.
I learn’t how to meditate, I joined a yoga class, I ate better, drank more water, got outdoors, connected with nature, moved my body, breathed deeply and sought psychological support to help get my mind and body back in sync.
I worked out what foods agreed with me and gave me health and vitality, and what foods left me deflated, agitated and tired. I overhauled my diet.
I started to reconnect with what mattered to me, thinking about the things that nurtured my creativity, stirred my inner desires, uplifted my spirit and made me excited about stuff. I made time for myself to do the things I loved. Things that gave me meaning and purpose and drive.
I researched, inquired, and sought out new scientific discoveries, and traditional old age methods to enhance health & reprogram my physical, mental, spiritual & emotional welbeing. I put them into play in my own life.
I got help, sought out integrated medical care and looked into a functional medicine approach to help support my system & heal my body.
I changed my thinking, opened my mind, connected to my spirit essence and dreamt of the possibility of a life that was balanced, vibrant & flexible.
I learn’t to let go, to forgive, to cultivate compassion and kindness in my heart, and to nurture myself emotionally, spiritually & mentally. I asked for support.
I reached out, started to talk about what was going on for me, nurtured my loving relationships and learnt how to expose my vulnerability. I started to truly care for myself. This was new for me, but I did it anyway, I acknowledged the guilt, surrendered the resistence and gave myself the kindness and compassion, my body and mind so desperately needed. It worked.
Gradually, bit by bit my body started to gain energy & new vitality, my mind found stillness and peace, and my heart had a renewed sense of wholeness and oneness with the things that mattered in my life. I could think clearly, my pain receded, and I started to experience life in a whole new way. Things started to get easier, better. Finally, I had clarity.
Eventually we began to recover financially from our losses and things started to unravel. Life started to pump with new hope and vitality and my husband picked up work again. Our family rebuilt itself and started to heal, and I started to thrive once more. Our baby girls were happy and settled, and life started to shine with new vibrancy.
‘Whole-life wellbeing’ was becoming my new experience, and life started to unfold with more ease, joy and centredness. Finally, I had traction.
I’m back into life, and, oh so better! Actually, I feel more physically, emotionally, and mentally energised and vibrant than I did in my 20’s!! I still have to work on some things; this is the journey of life, and yes, I am continually reminded that whole life wellness is a lifelong pursuit. But, when life hurls those inevitable curve balls again, I now have the tools and resources to hit my reset button, and get things back on track quickly and with ease.
I am on my whole life wellbeing path and feeling more balanced, vibrant and wholesome, than ever before.
Yes, my journey to wellness has been a bumpy one, a path full of trial and error, endless research and loads of personal triumphs and challenges, but I am truly grateful. Because helping others find the strategies that will positively change their health and happiness, and live more enriched, satisfying lives, has become my life and heart’s work.