On the surface Kerry was living the dream, yet underneath she was empty, sad, and desperate. Personal setbacks gave Kerry the jolt she needed to change everything
I’m Kerry Lyons. The creator of The Imperfect Life website and planner. And
I live with depression, with pride.
You see, day-to-day, my time is now filled with coaching women through the adventure of turning their daydreams into their day jobs; helping them create the businesses they were made for, and designing products that support them on their journeys. I can say, hand-on-heart, that I love what I do. But man, it wasn’t always this way.
Let me take you back to 2006. Justin Timberlake was bringing ‘SexyBack’. Gnarls Barkley was ‘Crazy’. And I didn’t have a clue whose life I was living. I was 25, and ripe for what I’d later learn was a quarter-life crisis.
I’d always been a hyper, happy-go-lucky girl, and my life until that point had been filled by an almost manic pursuit to achieve big fat checks through the societal tick-boxes of life.
Long-term relationship? Tick. High grade GCSEs, A-levels and degree? Tick. Dream career as a graphic designer straight out of uni? Tick. Owning my dream car three months into my first proper job? Tick. Owning my dream home? Tick. Regular, sun-soaked holidays? Tick.
So why did I feel the most empty, the most sad, and the most confused that I’d ever felt?
Well, I’d people-pleased myself into oblivion. On reflection, I can see now that I’d been a sponge; absorbing and responding to outer expectations, and finding myself in a life that society informed me I should have, without stopping for a minute to listen to what I actually wanted.
But that wasn’t even the toughest bit. You see, I felt all this. I was aware of all this. But I wasn’t ready to face any of it. The truth hurt. And the idea of changing, outwardly ‘failing’ or disappointing people, was so unbelievably crippling that it kept me exactly where I was.
For two whole years.
I remember my decision-making process at the time was to just ‘pretend I was fine’. If I just ignored this pull, this sadness, this emptiness, if I just painted on a smile and tried to be like everybody else, it would eventually – poof – go away.
But, of course, it didn’t go away. In fact, it got way, way worse. Because, as it turns out, when you overrule and ignore your feelings, intuition, and instincts, your mind, body, and even the universe, will gather forces to find a way to get you to listen up. And boy, did they.
Towards the close of 2007, I sank into the darkest depression of my life. I could barely get myself out of bed. Washing and drying my hair physically hurt every single follicle on my head. Getting dressed was a mammoth task. My favourite foods tasted of nothing, and everything I used to love doing just felt hollow. It was like I’d lost the ability to feel anything but pain. And worst of all, I felt like such a burden to those closest to me because I couldn’t explain what I was experiencing.
Learning and seeking what you want and need is not selfish, nor is it self-serving. It’s self-love
The bleakest moment came when I was attempting to dry my hair one evening. I already felt defeated knowing I had to somehow get myself up and out to work in the morning, with tears streaming down my face as they so regularly did. And a voice inside me poked: ‘What are you doing Kerry? This isn’t living. Why are you even here?’ And my response to that was absolute agreement; there wasn’t any point in living the way I was. Things would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here.
The thought of this being ‘the end’ shocked me. And as horrific a headspace as that was to be in, I’m genuinely grateful that things got that dark. Because this is what brought the fighter out in me; my inner coach, who had been there all along, rooting for me. This is what jolted me into fighting for my life.
And that’s when things started changing, slowly and painfully, but changing all the same. I realised that I couldn’t get better by myself anymore, so I finally started working with a psychotherapist who helped me pull out and work through so much ‘life gumpf’ that I’d unknowingly buried. But as helpful and groundbreaking as that was, I was still filled with so much resistance to change.
So, as ever, the universe swooped in and got me to pay attention in the most heartbreaking of ways. I lost my pet after 14 gorgeous years together, my dad got unexpectedly sick and was rushed to hospital, my nan passed away, and I lost one of my closest friends to breast cancer at just 26 – all within the space of a few months.
The trauma and acute awareness of my mortality jolted me into action like nothing before. Within weeks, I handed in my notice at my ‘dream’ job. I’d sold my ‘dream’ home. I’d ended my 12-year relationship. And I’d moved into my dad’s spare bedroom shortly before running away to the west coast of America and emigrating to Dublin soon afterwards!
It was life-changing action. I tore up the script of my life. And slowly, with each big decision I made, for myself, my life-cloak of solid-black darkness began to get shafts of light punching through.
Fast-forward 13-plus years and I’m out the other side, living the most insanely imperfect-but-gorgeous life with my husband David, and our daughter Lola, while building the most fulfilling business I ever could have dreamed of. I’ve spoken at big events, I’ve launched an online training academy, and I’ve single-handedly raised more than £21,000 on Kickstarter to bring the flagship edition of The Imperfect Life Planner to life.
And this is why I live with depression with pride; not only because it was the catalyst that helped me step into the life I now have, but also because it continues to challenge me, help me grow, and help me deeply connect with my clients. I’m by no means ‘fixed’, and life is far from perfect. But I now know I don’t want perfect. I just want a life that’s mine.
If you’re reading this, feeling that you can relate and you’re wondering how you can begin to create change, too, please listen to yourself. Learning and seeking what you want and need is not selfish, nor is it self-serving. It’s self-love. And there’s no better gift you can give to those who care about you than a you that loves herself, and the life that she’s in.
Kerry is running another crowdfunding campaign in early 2020 for the third edition of ‘The Imperfect Life Planner’, with some incredible rewards available for her loyal backers. Connect with Kerry on Instagram @kerrylyonsco
Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr, says:
Kerry’s story shows us that true happiness doesn’t come from the way others perceive us – or even the way we think others perceive us – it’s what is going on inside that really matters. We can have all the things we are ‘supposed’ to have on the ‘checklist of life’, but if there’s that nagging feeling that things aren’t right, we can’t brush those feelings aside and hope they go away – we need to step up and do something about it.
Kerry sought professional help and that began her journey to finding a way out, and discovering who she really was inside. As Kerry says, if this message resonates with you, it could be time to create some positive
changes for yourself, too!