My story written on 29th January 2022 (part one)
It began in June 2020. I went for a walk, in summer amongst the apple blossoms. I loved the apple blossoms on the tree. Picked a crab apple and a small twig with leaves attached. They inspired my first collection, Apple.
I also made a patterned clay slab based on the Bo Kaap pastel-coloured houses in South Africa. Architecture informs my art. I cannot really remember what started me making earrings. I do remember that I was unwell. I had been on long term sick leave from my full-time office job. I was finding it difficult to recover from depression. I remember my older sister, Angel, doing daily workouts with me. This was the start of the pandemic. Uncertainty. I was scared. I would go out for walks on my own locally.
Finding a business name and designing a logo
I remember Angel encouraging me to sell my earrings and telling me to set up a website. It was overwhelming. Then she sent me a link to a Wix site she had started for me. I was angry. I wanted to build it myself. I did not like the colours or the logo she made for me.
I like the name, Pink Lime Mango, that Angel helped me chose. It was difficult finding a business name that was not already taken. So, lots of brainstorming and checking registers for listed companies.
I wanted something that was easy to remember, short and would work well for a URL and social media handles.
I am grateful to my sister for giving me the push to start my own business. It has been a great learning experience and I have met so many amazing people along the way.
If you are thinking about starting your own business, go for it! It is worth it. Just be prepared to work hard and have a lot of fun. :)
I tried to design my own logo. I painted a black and white logo. I thought it looked OK. That will do, I thought. Looking back, it was awful (see below). So eventually I paid 20 pounds to a designer on Fiverr for a much better logo. I got the logo files and stationery which I needed to get started on my website, social media, and packaging.
I really struggled with the basics. My concentration was so poor I could not even read a paragraph in a book. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety made me feel like the simplest things, such as designing a logo, were like climbing Mount Everest.
I was determined to do graphics myself. I have a master's degree in fine art. I thought. That I should be able to do this. I had not used to Adobe packages since 2014, when I had left university.
At that point I was using free software packages like GIMP and Inkscape for Photoshop and Illustrator, respectively.
So, my mental health was low, but additionally my fatigue was bad. I could only exercise for 10 minutes, then I would have to sleep for a few hours. I would be out of breath and exhausted while exercising.
I have a myeloproliferative neoplasm. MPN for short. This rare blood cancer may be causing fatigue. It is hard to work out if it is anxiety causing fatigue or my blood cancer. Either way, I must rest when my body or mind is tired. I find this difficult. I am so wired/hyped/excited by business, creating new products and learning new skills. I push myself. I want to do the best I can, so I push myself hard. I want my business to succeed, so I keep going. I must weigh up the fact that after, say, doing a day's painting of walls, I am going to be tired for the next two days.
When I have energy, I go for it. I fill the day with tasks. When I do not have energy - I will be working from my bed. Writing content, uploading to social media, editing photos, creating graphics.
On reflection, if I do not take breaks, I will ‘burnout’ as my son recently said. I am now thinking my perspective is skewed. I was taking Sundays off, but I often slide back into working without realising.
I am dedicated and committed, Passionate about what I do, but I do not switch off. Like my son says, I need a day where I do not think about my business. Every month I attend a creative writing group for people with cancer. It is part of an arts on referral scheme. My social prescriber, who was lovely, lost contact with me during the start of the pandemic. So, all my links to workshops were missed. I was contacted via Southmead Hospital about their writing group and various workshops, so I decided to join. I am sure I was nervous. It was online on zoom, so at the start I was anxious about technology, what I look like on camera, embarrassed by my messy house in the background, so many things.
Showing my face on videos
A key issue was. “Can someone tell if I'm depressed?”
I recorded a video for a job application. It took a lot of attempts. I found it hard to portray myself as upbeat and confident. My voice was monotonous, but that could have been put down to nerves. I watched that video and I remember the boost it gave me when my siblings and in laws said I would get the job and it was good etc. It felt great.
I still have that video and I know how ill I was, how depressed I was, when I filmed it and it makes me emotional. I can see my face not having the fluidity or natural expression in detail. I can see that. More importantly, I can see more expression in my face as I continued with filming myself for earring try-ons. This was for Instagram. My first Instagram lives, I looked like a bunny in headlights, but **** it, I did it.
I have that fear of the video being permanent- that I would be ridiculed forever or worse still stalked by a nutter. It feels so vulnerable and challenging for me, as a person who wants to feel safe by hiding away from social media. I have valid reasons for wanting to protect my identity. I have a history of trauma. There is a person I do not want to see or for him to see me. I am incredibly strong now, but then I thought it was safer to hide. That by even discussing events, I would immediately be singled out as vulnerable, and that would mean I was an easy target for it to happen again. No, I am strong as **** now.
For years I felt like I had the words (about trauma) written across my forehead for everyone to see. That it seemed visible. I believed everyone could tell that something awful had happened to me just by looking at my face. So yes, now I think about it- no wonder I find it hard to make my photos and videos public.
I am not the only one to experience trauma. I cannot tell if something awful happened to someone. I might notice they look tired and wonder if they have not slept well, but I do not assume anything else. So likewise, people might not assume anything about me.
Why I work from home and how mental health affected my ‘working in an office’ days
I was unwell and I started my jewellery business is the gist of it. Or shall I say I was recovering from PTSD, anxiety, and depression and I started my business. I was unable to get out of bed, before I got to June 2020, I had various episodes of depression. Its only now I can see how serious it was. It took me around three hours each day to get up out of bed, shower, and dress. Everything slowed down. In fact, I still have times like this, but I try not to put pressure on myself.
Working from home has been a godsend. I can fit my work in around PTSD - if I get triggered, I use my grounding techniques. I look after myself, rest and keep warm. I could not do that when I was working in an office. I dissociate. I have trouble planning journeys when I am having a difficult day. So commuting was difficult. My lack of concentration and tiredness made driving hard. I would be exhausted after my journey into work as I would have to focus so hard on driving safely for 40 minutes. I would be tired from lack of sleep that I would want to fall asleep as soon as I got to work. My anxiety was so high, I felt tired all the time. I worried about everything (I still do). That is exhausting for me, my family, and friends.
I was not recovering well. I wanted to go back to work. I can remember my counsellor telling me that I was tired, and I did not believe her when she said I needed to take time off to rest. She was trying to tell me I was unwell, and I did not listen. It took a few months before I could say to my doctor how I felt. I left it too late, so I was off work for a few weeks. then a few months, then a year passed.
Every single week. I thought that I would be coming back either the next week or the week after. I was convinced. I was fine. I was not. I was depressed. So, I tried to go back to work. It was too soon, and I got worse again. Work tried their best to help me by giving me time off for counselling during the day, which I would make up the hours for on another day, but I really struggled. I had eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Looking back to that period of time, in 2018, I was making jewellery.
To be continued…