I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do, without even questioning if it was right for me. I was climbing a ladder, steadily working my way to the top, without ever asking myself if I was climbing the right one.
Along the way, I collected a degree from Oxford University, a post as a foreign correspondent in Latin America and a coveted role as a political journalist in the British parliament.
Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons
It was only when I got close to the top, with an office just beneath Big Ben and a stylish North London flat with views of tree tops, that I looked around me and asked: 'What was all that about? What have I been striving for?'
You see, there was nobody to share my success with, no special person in my life and no family around me. I had friends, but they lived in their own one-bedroom flats on the other side of town. At home, all I could hear was a deafening silence.
Until I heard a crack.
The crack was on the inside. It was the sound of all the pain I'd locked inside for years breaking out - the pain I'd stuffed down with food, drowned in drink, numbed with sex or avoided with compulsive work, achievement and status. It was the sound of heartbreak because while I had an impressive CV, I was single, childless and approaching 40. It was the sound of loss because my dad had died the year before and I hadn't processed the pain, neither from his death or from the day he moved out when I was eight.
I remember one night during the time of that crack - I was on my knees, by my bed, looking at the ceiling and asking: 'What's the point?' 'God, if you're there, tell me what's the point of my life?'
I call that moment my breakdown, or the start of my spiritual awakening. I finally accepted something was wrong. I stopped trying to hold it all together. I dropped the mask. I surrendered. I acknowledged I needed help. I got signed off my high-flying job.
As I let the mask drop, I slowly came to understand I was on the wrong path. I'd been climbing the wrong ladder and for the wrong reasons. I'd been driven to achieve by my low self-esteem, by my desire to be noticed and universally loved, and by my determination to be perfect at everything I did.
As I healed myself with therapy and support groups and began to fill the deep hole inside me with self-love rather than food, alcohol, male attention or achievement, I found the courage to step off the ladder and to begin to explore my true path - a path that would help me feel happy, whole and at peace.
I began to work for myself at my own pace rather than at the frantic pace I'd felt compelled to work at when I was employed. I began to explore what was on my heart. I started blogging and writing articles about things I truly cared about.
I wrote about the dreadful impact of anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other addictions on our lives and how to find ways to stay sane and well. I wrote about the growing phenomenon of the childless woman, childless by circumstance not by design. And I wrote about love, about how I'd hidden myself away in my work and behind my mask to avoid real relationship because I was scared of love.
The more honest and real I became, the more I grew into my true self. I moved out of the hectic capital and made a home by the beach. I formed a healthy relationship and fell in love. I wrote a book about falling in love and, a few days after its publication, got engaged, and I began to coach other women to find love.
That crack, that breakdown, that epiphany, while frightening at the time, was the best thing that ever happened to me. My mind, body, soul and spirit were trying to tell me something, trying to show me that my sanity and wellbeing lay in a different direction, on a different path.
If you feel a crack or if you suspect you're heading for one, please don't push through it or try to hide it. Don't try to avoid it or beat it by keeping busy, working harder or stepping up another rung on the ladder. Surrender to it. Speak about it, get help and surrender to it. It's trying to show you the way.
And if you have cracked at some point in your life, please share it. Share your pain like Prince William and Prince Harry recently shared theirs. Share it like I'm sharing mine here. Share it especially if you're at the top - in government, parliament, a boardroom or at the top of the football league, trying to look invincible.
By doing so, you'll be giving someone else the permission to share theirs, before it's too late.