Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

How A Tangle With A Bulgarian Juggernaut On A Snowy Motorway Changed My Life

how_a_tangle_with_a_juggernaut

I haven’t always been a kickass blogger and personal development crusader.

Well, I’ve always been kickass, though I haven’t always believed it (OK, some days I still don’t believe it, but I’m having a good time anyway).

After a Degree, a Masters, and a year of working and travelling, I spent 14 years in business, as a psychologist and business consultant. I was successful, and worked with some amazing clients, including Vodafone, the John Lewis Partnership, Barclays Bank, Marks and Spencer and Diageo among others.

So how did I transition from that corporate world to being a permanent global traveller and heroine of my own adventure story?

Settle down, and let me tell you a story…

A DISTURBING REALISATION

In 2012, vying for the next promotion opportunity in the consultancy where I worked, I had a revelation.

I didn’t want it.

I’d been working in my industry for 12 years, and for nearly 10 with my current company.

I loved my job, the people, my work – but it didn’t love me.

It was heartbreaking. Everything I had been working for, suddenly didn’t feel like something I actually wanted.

But it didn’t come out of nowhere. Not really.

I had some health issues, chronic ones.

On the way to delivering my first training course for the company I worked for at the time, ten years before, I’d had a car accident. A lorry had pulled into my lane on the motorway and smashed into my car. I’d been lucky – very lucky – and had come away with just some mild whiplash.

But a few weeks later, months later, the whiplash hadn’t gone. I had a ‘difficult’ right shoulder, where the pain would flare up every now and then. I couldn’t seem to get rid of it for good. And as time passed, the periods in between flare ups got shorter and shorter, until eventually, after a few years, the pain was constant.

And worse, it started to spread. When I started to have pain in my right hand and forearm, I was distressed, but it seemed logical. But when the pain seeped into my hip, and my lower leg and foot, I thought at first I must be imagining it. But no, it turns out, chronic pain is insidious, and can ‘spread’.

After a few years of this, and every kind of Consultant, physiotherapist, osteopath and masseur and more, and treatment that ranged from injections of botox into the shoulder (which had some really nasty side effects) to pills, pills, and more pills, I was diagnosed with chronic pain. The kind that you ‘manage’ rather than ‘cure’.

That was a bit of a low point.

For the next few years I struggled with balancing a successful career as a psychologist and management consultant – promotions, key clients, ground-breaking projects – with the pain.

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

(Well, actually, illness to injury, but we won’t quibble).

And then about 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Luckily, I don’t have it to an incapacitating degree, and we fixed the ulcers it had caused at the time, but then I was managing two chronic conditions.

It was tiring, and not much fun. Mostly, my life consisted of working 10, 12, 14 hour days, and pain-management related activities.

And then another promotion opportunity came up. A big one. A title I had wanted for years. Another step on the road to success.

I had booked a little cottage away in the English countryside around the same time, and in that cottage I had what, to me, was a terrible realisation.

The idea of the promotion brought me no joy. No excitement. All I felt was resignation and exhaustion.

What was the point of a successful career if I had no life?

Why was I expending so much effort on my work at the expense of my friends, family, and relationships?

How had my identity narrowed down to work and pain?

METAMORPHOSIS

So instead of going for the promotion, I resigned from my job, and decided to go travelling for a few months. My only criteria were that the place was warm, cheap, and far away from my current life. A friend was living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it seemed as good a place as any, so I headed there.

After three months there, I realised it wasn’t enough. So I extended my trip a few months and looked for some work opportunities in SE Asia. I was lucky enough to be able to draw on my networks, and was able to do enough work to keep me financially stable. A few more months, and I extended my trip again. And finally, after a year here, I went back to the UK and sold my car, put my possessions in storage and rented out my flat, and gave myself the freedom to stay and develop a different kind of life.

A life that has me at the centre. Where I can explore who I am, what I am, and what brings me joy.

A life that has involved fun, friends, travel, yoga school, learning to drive a scooter, and work in China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, France, the UK and many more countries.

A life that has enabled me to design two blogs, which in turn led to the creation of this blog, where I share with you my experience both professionally and personally. Where I share stories and connect my heart and brain in a way I haven’t been able to do in business before.

In the last few years, people have called me inspiring, stepping out into the abyss without a safety net.

I know I’m as scared as the next person (sometimes more).

But my philosophy is to understand what is really important, create a life around those values, and then start putting one foot in front of the other to get there.

If you would like to make the journey with me, you can join me by popping your email in the pink box. I’d love to have your company.

 

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23 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • El D September 16, 2014, 9:07 am

    Very interesting, El. You definitely made the right decision.

    • Ellen September 17, 2014, 6:18 am

      Thanks so much. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s worked out well so far!

  • Kate Downey-Evans September 16, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Great blog Ellen and the people who have told you that you are inspiring are right!

    It’s an amazing thing to be successful in business – all that hard work and training paying off. But it’s truly wonderful to be successful in a way that personally counts for you, deeply and profoundly. And to develop the self awareness to constantly evolve what this is and apply your talents in a way that serves your true purpose/calling.

    Good for you – clearly the right decision, but not to underestimate it takes guts to trust your instinct like this.

    All the best,

    Kate

    • Ellen September 17, 2014, 6:22 am

      Thanks Kate, I really appreciate the comment! I would recommend everyone continue to develop their self awareness throughout their lives, I think the better we know ourselves, the better we can nurture ourselves, and give of our best to the world and those around us.

      I think there’s also something about working with the decision you make – there are countless possibilities out there for all of us, even when it doesn’t feel like it, but once we’ve made a decisions, it’s worth really going deep into it to see how you can make it work for you.

      Keep reading :-)

  • Haydn September 18, 2014, 1:13 pm

    I love what you’re doing Ellen. Inspiring to hear about someone who has the taken control, and resisted the temptation to conform with other people’s expectations!

    • Ellen September 18, 2014, 3:20 pm

      Thank you so much Haydn, I really appreciate you commenting, and I hope I can keep inspiring you in the future.

  • Nicole Monahan September 18, 2014, 3:03 pm

    Hi Ellen I love reading your posts. They inspire me daily and show what we can do when we put our mind to it. Keep blogging, you keep me smiling.

    Thanks, Nicole

    • Ellen September 18, 2014, 3:26 pm

      Thank you so much Nicole! I really appreciate you sharing – this was a very vulnerable post for me, so it’s great to hear that it’s inspiring – and even better to here my sense of humour is shared by others out there! :-)

  • Tess bullas September 18, 2014, 6:24 pm

    I think you’re really brave El – most of us wouldn’t dare to leave a successful career and fly off into the sunset. So glad it’s worked out for you, I always love reading your posts!

  • Ian September 18, 2014, 8:39 pm

    Great post ells – and fair play for making the massive life change work. I hardly recognise the chatty young graduate from the BPS conference! xx

    • Ellen September 21, 2014, 1:07 pm

      Thanks! Yes, I definitely think I’ve gone through quite a transformation in the last 16 years or so!x

  • Aras Androck September 21, 2014, 6:58 am

    You surely made the right choice. Yay for that!

    • Ellen September 21, 2014, 1:08 pm

      Thanks! Yes, I think I did, though it took me a while :-) But hopefully it will inspire a few others that the ‘path less travelled’ is one worth taking.

  • Kellie October 13, 2014, 4:33 pm

    Hey Ellen, it’s great to read about others following a similar path to my own. I’m very much at the beginning of my journey. We’ve been on the road for 10 months now and are working away at making this an indefinite adventure. It’s so inspiring to read about others that are have already carved out the path. Looking forward to following along.
    Kellie recently posted…SMILING MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER THAN CHOCOLATEMy Profile

    • Ellen October 13, 2014, 5:05 pm

      Thanks very much Kellie :-) Yep, you’re definitely not alone, there are a surprising number of people who’ve opted for something a little different these days. But the main thing is to find the path that works for you – and don’t be afraid to experiment along the way!

      Good luck and hope to see you here again.

  • Jim April 23, 2015, 11:56 pm

    Hi, Ellen! I knew you live in Thailand, but the road that took you there, I had no idea. Your story is inspiring! It so happens that just now some inspiration is exactly what I need. Thanks — you’re brave to share.

    • Ellen April 24, 2015, 10:33 am

      Thanks Jim! I really appreciate that. It’s definitely one of those posts from the heart :-) Wishing you many inspiring days.

  • Yvonne Culverwell August 10, 2015, 7:28 am

    Hi Ellen

    I agree you really are a very inspiring person.

    I really think that you have done the right thing by finding yourself a lovely little place to settle down. Although you still seem to do a lot of travelling it is for the right reasons, it is for yourself and your happiness.

    I would also love to travel one day. I live in South Africa and have never gone outside the borders of our country yet can you believe it.

    Thank you for your inspiration.

    Kind regards
    Yvonne

    • Ellen August 12, 2015, 8:48 am

      Thanks Yvonne, that’s really kind of you, and I’m so glad you feel inspired. I hope that you get to travel at some point – I think it’s a wonderful way to stay curious and keep an open mind, and often gives us a new perspective on things in our own lives.

      Wishing you a most lovely week, Ellen x

  • Suzie Cheel April 6, 2016, 2:03 pm

    Love your story, inspiring and courageous xxoo
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…April Heart Whisper Oracle Card ReadingMy Profile

  • Elle April 8, 2016, 2:41 am

    What a wonderful story of resilience and grit and love. Your love of life led you to say no to what wasn’t working and yes to the scary unknown adventure that you now lead. Bravo Ellen.
    Elle recently posted…4 Evening Rituals That Will Make You HappierMy Profile

  • Page April 13, 2016, 3:04 am

    Do you ever feel it is too late in years. At almost 70 with chronic health problems I am not sure it is possible. I very much was inspired by your story. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Ellen April 18, 2016, 4:39 am

      Page, thank you so much for your comment. And no, not at all! It’s never too late for anything. Which is not to say it’s not sometimes a hard road, but I really feel that one of the key things that helped change my focus was ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which is all about focusing on the good things you have, instead of the difficult. This is because the challenge with chronic pain, as you know, is that it never goes away. But the more we put our attention on something, the more it’s magnified. It would be worth checking out, or some of the books and resources on it. And the very fact you are reading personal development blogs means you are already focused on making your life better. Wishing you the best on this journey, and feel free to drop me an email ellen @ ellenbard.com if you think I can support you.

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