Photo: Loulou Storey
I had it all planned. 32 weeks into my pregnancy we'd move from London to Brighton. I'd pop back into my favourite jumpsuit straight after delivery and set up a profitable styling business during maternity leave. Obviously home and work would be perfectly balanced.
Instead, after having my daughter Lola in July 2015, I was in complete and utter shock -- depressed, but unwilling to admit it. I found myself overwhelmed, lost, trapped and fearful of the future. I deeply worried about how I could possibly match the childhood I had, how I could live up to my own mother. I felt resentful and very emotional when I was stuck at home on a Saturday night, grieving for a previous life and for my loss of freedom. Still functioning but full to the brim with debilitating thoughts.
Instead of the new life I'd dreamt of with me as an energetic, present and fun mother, I had anxiety attacks, a lack of connection to my baby and lies about how thoroughly I enjoyed life as a new mum to my family, friends and doctors. It peaked when we were travelling back from a family wedding in Spain and I was so gripped by an anxiety attack that I couldn't board the plane, let alone cuddle and comfort my screaming daughter.
Yet, I didn't want anti-depressants. The thought of taking medication to fix these emotions made me uneasy. PND is a serious illness and with many friends close to me benefiting from antidepressants I'd seen their positive impact but I was unwilling to admit that that was my answer. I had to see if there were other options out there to fight my way through this very personal battle.
Responsibility hung heavy on my soul. I wanted to run away -- from my body, my baby and the reality I had created. Gradually I realised that I had to face up to me and the reality of my life and fight for the future I desired. Taking control of how I looked was the first step: committing to getting dressed everyday.
I let go of the tracksuit bottoms and baggy t-shirts. I identified changes I could make quickly that would make a difference. My go-to pick-me-ups were lipstick, stacking my favourite rings and swapping in leather leggings. I started dressing smarter than I needed to and got creative with what I owned.
As my confidence grew, I remembered the power of vertical dressing and added in duster coats, sleeveless waistcoats and scarves. I got creative with what I owned and turned to tonal dressing (an outfit all in one colour but in different tones) and rediscovered the effectiveness of opposites attracting (e.g. feminine and masculine pieces together).
I stopped torturing myself with clothes that didn't fit. Those I packed away under the bed, only keeping in my wardrobe clothes that I could actually wear.
For me holding on to my appearance and fighting for maintaining a standard helped me to have hope that things could and would get better. Seeing that hope, whilst having a sense of control in the situation and believing in change for me were and are crucial elements. It had to go and in hand with a good diet, seeking help, exercise, time with friends and constant self-work (gratitude, yoga etc) but the foundation blocks were committing to getting dressed and feeling good in my clothes.
I realised that I was connecting not with fashion but with a state of mind. Not just looking good for the sake of it, but seeing that style is about care and attention to our own needs. I was saying that within this new world of true responsibility I still had a choice to be whoever I wanted -- to be playful, to be glamorous, to be grateful, to be edgy, to be me.
Truly showing up for me everyday in small ways signified the small steps to long term change out of anxiety. BUT none of this would have worked without vulnerability and truth. There has to be a point where I recognised that things weren't right, it has to start there.
Now, as a Style and Confidence Coach, I meet amazing women and help them reclaim their identity too. As I have experienced, we all have the power to transform into positive, confident women and learn to thrive everyday.
Find me here: www.instagram.co.uk/thestylingstorey