“People are afraid of mental illness” says Sefton resident Wendy Lavin, but for her dealing with bi-polar has been a challenge she has faced head on, drawing strength from her own experiences in the path to setting up her own business and becoming a published author.
Ambitious Wendy studied coaching gaining a distinction from Oxford College and was recognised by the Complimentary Medical Association. She wanted to build on this achievement to carve a career for herself.
Wendy was well aware of the battles she would face on the way to success. “I have Bipolar Disorder which has had a significant impact on my life and my career. I have to ensure that I manage it well to avoid episodes of ill health as these can be devastating. This involves a lot of discipline and sacrifice.”
She was determined to utilise her own experiences to support others struggling with mental health issues, and wanted to get it right. “I had come across other coaches and wanted to offer something beyond motivational quotes and inspirational talks.”
Upon learning that local women’s enterprise support agency ‘The Women’s Organisation’ offered free advice, Wendy contacted them to make an appointment.
“The actual practicalities of going self-employed were what worried me, and so when I found out about The Women’s Organisation it was a godsend. My adviser there was great and gave honest and accurate advice. I was also enrolled on free courses in finance and sales/marketing. These courses gave me more confidence and answered the many questions I had. They also gave me the chance to meet other women facing similar challenges.”
Looking back Wendy can see how others have viewed her mental illness as something that would stand in her way.
“The main impact on my business and my career to date has probably been stigma” said Wendy. “People are afraid of mental illness and also some have passed judgement on whether I would be a success or should be coaching others. However once people meet me and work with me I think this changes. My way of tackling stigma is not to be a victim but to be a role model, a trailblazer and to work harder. I undertake service user work with the NHS and am starting to become involved in work to improve mental health services. I am also an activist member of the mental health charity Rethink and this has involved me in a number of things, most recently volunteering at the Time To Change Village in Liverpool on World Mental Health Day.”
Wendy took everything she had learned from her career, her studies and her own life experiences and channelled it all into her book ‘Become Your Own Bi-Polar Life Coach’. “Holding my book in my hand for the first time was one of the best feelings I have ever had! Seeing my business and myself grow as an individual and entrepreneur has been beyond words. I feel proud and grateful. The more I achieve the more I am motivated to do. So rather than let it get me down or defeat me I have turned my experiences of mental illness into an opportunity and the chance to be a role model and to challenge stigma in a positive way. I hope I am a role model to others with this diagnosis. My book talks about my experiences and all that I have learned in coming to terms with and successfully managing my condition.”
Offering support beyond her book was important to Wendy, so she set up ‘Lavin Coaching Associates’ to be able to offer well rounded support. “One of the services I offer is mental wellbeing coaching, working with individuals to support improvements to their mental wellbeing and outlook whether they have a diagnosis or not. Like physical health we ALL have mental health. I also work with businesses to support mental wellbeing policy and procedure and to support the reduction of workplace stress and anxiety. Happier workplaces are more productive and higher performing!”
Self-employment is working well for Wendy and she knows she has made the right decision. She said:
“What do I love about running my own business? There are too many things to name. I am free to make my own decisions and run my business how I see fit. The hours are more flexible and I am reconnecting with myself. It has been a real challenge and requires hard work but is also incredibly empowering. The best reward is supporting people to make meaningful changes. Seeing a client have a breakthrough or working with an organisation to improve their psychological contract with staff in interesting and rewarding. I recently received some good feedback and reviews about my book but one thing that touched me was that a reader said it had made a real difference to their life with Bipolar – I could not ask for more.”
Wendy’s infectious positivity is keeping her business moving forward and she is excited to see what the future holds! “I am looking forward to the future and cannot wait to see what lies ahead. Many people find the unknown scary but as a professional coach I know that the unknown is just another opportunity to learn, grow and develop.”
If like Wendy you would like to build on your biggest challenge and turn it into your greatest success, contact The Women’s Organisation today for some free advice and support via 0151 706 8111 or email@example.com
Wendy’s book can be purchased from Amazon. You can follow Wendy’s positive tips via her blog posts at https://wendylavin.wordpress.com and Wendy can be contacted for coaching or consultancy via firstname.lastname@example.org