Welcome back to our Brand Transformation Campaign, where we’ve interviewed inspirational women about their own personal brand transformation. Meet Dawn Yvette, who has been transitioning her brand to blogger and photographer after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)?
I set up my own career and training consultancy in 2004, where I specialised in career management with a focus on self-promotion and business communication skills. I had a lot of ambition and a passion for helping improve their success in the workplace. I was fearless and found much joy in creating a business that was from my own vision, using my design skills as well as a newly found entrepreneurial drive.
I had a wide range of clients, from students to successful professionals. As I became established, coaching directors of large corporations and being asked to run training sessions and speak at seminars and events. I wrote articles for online magazines and industry publications. I was known for my passion, creativity and my expertise in career development, self-promotion and communication skills.
What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?
The health condition that changed my life did not start overnight, it crept up on me over the course of a year, I was so busy with my ambition I didn’t have time to listen to my body. It started with me feeling exhausted most weekdays especially after I’d do a corporate training session or travel to see a coaching client. I’d find myself waking up from ten hours sleep still exhausted. My weekends were spent in bed or on the sofa, where I would try and recover but a weekend of rest was never enough.
As the business began to grow and become more demanding, I struggled to keep up the pace but continued to put all my energy into my work. Then one month in 2008 I got a flu virus that I couldn’t recover from, I became mostly bed/sofa ridden for many months feeling seriously unwell. I struggled day to day with even the simplest of tasks that as healthy people we take for granted, eventually, I had to close my business. After having many tests to find out what was wrong, I finally got diagnosed with condition the Fibromyalgia.
How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?
With no understanding or support from my GP, through sheer determination I managed to recover significantly from this chronic illness, this was done with the help of private specialists. I made it my full-time job to get well, working holistically with mind body and soul. I changed my body with nutrition, acupuncture and for my mind I had meditation, and for the soul, I practised restorative yoga.
I used the little energy I had to work on myself, to find meaning out of the situation. I had a strong belief that I would eventually come through the other side of the illness with a greater knowledge of myself and started journaling, which lead me to rediscover my love for writing. I began to do online writing courses learning about ‘life writing’ studying memoir and personal essay, this fed my soul and allowed me to find some purpose.
What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?
My business colleagues and clients were mainly surprised to learn of my condition. I did as best I could to keep in touch as I recovered, and many continued to request my services and ask when I would return to work. I had some very supportive friends and family throughout my illness and recovery. I found many of my friends who I would socialise with didn’t understand the illness and got frustrated with me for not going out or being my usual energetic self.
What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?
Yoga was the most valuable resource for my recovery; the lack of mobility weakened had my body. It wasn’t just a form of exercise, the practice of restorative yoga allowed me to focus on physical and mental relaxation. Once I began to find balance through regular practice, my body started to heal itself slowly. When I had a peaceful mind and stronger body I was able to think more clearly about my lifestyle. When I began reading about Yoga’s ancient philosophies, it gave me a deeper understanding of why in Western society we are getting more of these often ‘stress-related’ illnesses.
How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?
I didn’t choose this path; however, it lead me to reevaluate what success meant to me as I moved ahead into a new way of life. I had to let go of some old beliefs, I could no longer allow my career to define my self-worth.
Two years after I was diagnosed with a chronic condition I felt I’d recovered well enough to the point that I could start a family, I was in my mid-thirties and realised I had a choice to make, to start a family or go back to my business and the career I’d left behind. I ended up having two children within a space to two years, it the best decision I could have made.
After I had my second child I realised I wouldn’t be able to return to the career and business I had before my illness. It took me a long time to let go of my past vision for my life and recognise that I was fortunate to I have an opportunity to be with my children during their early years.
The quote ‘Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.’ is one that now I make sure I remember, I am a driven person I now have to learn a way to have a healthy work/life balance.
I am currently enjoying taking some time to work out what my new ‘mid-life career’ will look like. I am starting by reworking my blog ‘Dawned Upon’ and it feels a great place to start.
What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?
If there were one piece of advice with or without a chronic illness or disability, it is to honour yourself, take time to rest. Create a place in your home to relax and then practice self-care, this can be mindfulness in some form or yoga, meditation, mindful colouring, or listening to music. Also get outside, be with nature, take up gardening, walk the dog do anything to regularly help you to pause the mind and get back in touch with to your true self.
© Dawn Yvette and Dawned Upon
Thanks for such an inspirational interview, Dawn!