Sarah Hussey sat outside with her dog.

A guest blog by Sarah Hussey.

Possibilities and Perspectives or What You Get When You Begin to Heal.

My little blog, How Headship Broke My Heart, was viewed over 400,000 times! It connected me with all sorts of wonderful people, and I even appeared on the local news! So, for anyone who is interested, here is an update from my current position in a brave new world.

As I write this, I am sitting on a blanket outside a beach hut close to where I live on the Isle of Wight. It is a Tuesday, term time and 2 o’clock. I am calm and I am breathing. It feels alien and amazing all at once. I am not in front of a screen (I am handwriting in a notebook), and my phone is on silent. I am calm and I am breathing. I do not have an emotionally dysregulated child (or two) with me, building Lego to calm down (neither do I feel the need to explain this to a member of staff who perceives this to be a reward!). I am calm and I am breathing. I am guessing that my blood pressure is fine, and I have a distinct and welcome lack of pains in my chest, head or arms and no sign of overwhelming feelings of anxiety. I am calm and I am breathing.

I am also very lucky.

It has been six months since the cardiac events that hospitalised me and scared myself and my family to distraction. Six months since I admitted to myself the impact that headship was having on my physical and mental health. I am still taking extensive amounts of medication daily and cannot do everything as ‘full on’ as I used to. I know I cannot go back to headship and stay well, and I am still waiting on a decision about ill health retirement (patience has never been a virtue of mine). On reflection though, I am not just lucky, I am lucky to be alive.

During the past few months, I have started to heal, and I have realised much about our education system and about myself. I maintain that the system is broken and serves neither pupils or school staff. It has slowly dawned on me that I am just one person, and that I cannot and should not do the job of five. And I finally recognise that I deserve a ‘good life’, but that doesn’t mean I can’t care and support others along the way.

Don’t get me wrong – I miss the school community deeply. It is a wonderful concoction of families and staff that I have invested my time and emotions in. I miss contact with the children, cuddles, jokes, comments about my outfits and, of course, the joy that good education brings them. I have learnt that I thrive on human contact and interactions and on some days I feel the loss of them.

However, there are many, many things that I do not miss. In pole position is jumping through hoops for an invisible inspectorate. Followed swiftly by the absolute ridiculousness of testing children for government league tables and allowing them to feel the pressure of these nonsense exams! After considerable rumination, I think that my third position would go to the daily difficult conversations and conflict that now makes up a large part of the headship role. I could go on…

For weeks after I was signed off, I didn’t know who I was – I had lost my sense of purpose. But over time I started to return to myself and remember who I was before I broke. I naturally have days when I am anxious about my heart health. I suffer with angina quite regularly and although I know how to treat it and what to avoid, sometimes I worry that the pain will turn into something more sinister. I have a wonderful therapist, who quickly identified that I have trouble slowing down and want everything done immediately (there has even been some discussion about ADHD – who would have known?). Her services are provided by the wonderful NHS, free of charge! And amazingly, my internal monologue telling me what a failure I am only pipes up occasionally and is no longer on a permanent loop!

If you are still reading, well done – stay with me as this is the important part! During the healing process I have been blessed with two life affirming things – possibility and perspective. I have possibilities stretching out in front of me. I am training to be a performance coach (with NLP), and this is teaching me valuable lessons about life and how we approach it. I am excited/terrified about supporting others to gain clarity and reach their goals. My mind is working overtime, ideas jumping about. Could I write a book? Train others to coach or teach? Run a cake shop that sells books? Become an influencer? A stand-up comedian? A pub landlord? (Okay I agree not all of them are sensible ideas!) But it is time to set some new goals, use my skills in a different but not less important way and how blooming exciting is that?

As for perspective, it is a game changer! All of the terribly important things that kept me awake at night, that I wanted to do better – they are no longer important to me. I did my best and that was enough. When you are in the midst of a busy life, in stressful situations, your perspective can be lost, normally shortly after your sense of humour!

Perspective has made me look to the future. When you suffer trauma of any kind you need time to adjust (recognised by therapists now as Adjustment Disorder). Knowing that you have risked your health for your job brings both clarity and perspective.

It is an obvious thing to say, but it is something we forget. You have one life and how you shape it is in your hands…

I believe in helping people be the happiest, most effective and most authentic versions of themselves. Through my work as a teacher, coach and wellbeing expert, I nurture self-belief and self-awareness and remind you that not only are you not alone, but you have more control than you might imagine. You deserve, not just to survive, but to thrive.

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