I’m so pleased and excited to be officially relaunching my communications consultancy Carlin Creative www.carlincreative.co.uk this coming week after a period when I wasn’t able to work.
The reasons relate to a court case which is in the public domain having been reported in the press. Even if I wanted to, I’m still not legally allowed to speak about it because of a Non-Disclosure Agreement or NDA.
That means I’ve been silenced from talking about a work-related situation that pretty much devastated my life over a long and unforgivable amount of time. Fifteen-years to be precise.
For the record, NDAs or gagging clauses are almost illegal now for these purposes thanks to the work of Maria Miller MP, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
My advice. Never sign one, ever and here is the reason why: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jun/11/ndas-routinely-used-cover-up-mistreatment-work-mps-say
Bad things happen to good people all the time and I am no exception. The Pandemic has been brutal with families at home and across the world devastated by loss, grief and empty spaces.
People have lost their homes, their livelihoods and jobs, have been forced into poverty and relying on foodbanks and financial support from charities, neighbours, family and friends, all due to circumstances outside their control.
My heart goes out to you. I have experienced much of this although my circumstances were not related to Covid.
For me, the only way forward is not to allow myself to be defined by what happened, to look constantly in the rear-view mirror or allow squatters to live rent free in my head.
On the day my case settled in February; a very talented London based journalist friend sent this message:
“What’s most impressive to me is your lack of resentment. It marks you out as an extraordinary person, a Carrie Fisher kinda gal. For it was she who said: ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’”
I don’t know about being anything like Carrie Fisher nor do I consider myself to be extraordinary in any way, but I am fortunate to have DNA that makes it impossible for me to bear grudges. I believe carrying resentment in the end only gives my own power and happiness away.
HOPE NOT HATE
Hating people makes them important, forgiving and forgetting about them makes them obsolete.
When the going got tough, I was very fortunate to have rock solid family and friends around me but I also found kindness in strangers and support and inspiration in odd places.
On one of those days I came across the Bear Grylls book, A Survival Guide For Life. How to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character. It was based on his SAS training.
It appealed to me because as a mountaineer, in a previous life, I understood the value of endurance and that putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard the terrain, is a strategy that usually pays off.
Although it might seem like it; nothing, even pain, lasts forever (although for me 15-years felt like a life sentence.)
In early 2017, with my hair falling out due to chronic stress, I joined ‘The Rise’; a movement of women led by America’s leading Healthy Lifestyle Expert and Transformational Coach, Danette May, although it was called something else back then.
I came across her on my Facebook feed at the end of Christmas promoting a 30-Day Diet and Fitness Challenge in the New Year. There she was, a clean eating goddess making a superfood smoothie, high on energy and life, full of beans and looking every bit as beautiful as the direct opposite to how I felt.
As luck or fate would have it, I was drawn to her energy and my instincts proved right. This turned out to be highly valuable.
It was and still is a global movement of women who are transforming their own lives and those around them for the better. The general theme is women empowering other women; not tearing each other down or scratching each other’s eyes out.
It was the tragic loss of her son and marriage that ended in divorce and near-bankruptcy that in the end would lead May to create and own her own international business, touching the lives of millions of people around the world.
Reviewing her book ‘The Rise’, Kriss Carr, New York Times best-selling author wrote: “It reminds us of the power we each have to turn our pain into purpose and use our lowest points as a springboard to reach our highest potential.”
In other words what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
The book is dedicated to every woman who “wonders if she matters and deep down knows she does. To all the women who are ready to use their voice, to stand on their stories, to remember on a soul level it is time to rise into the fullest expression of who we are.”
It sounds a bit Hollywood, a bit LA but what’s the alternative?
Ruminate, consume, fester, plan, plot, resent, hate? Good luck to that! If the Pandemic has taught us anything it’s that life is way too short for this type of negativity. All that really matters is today; the here and now. Of being surrounded by people who we love and love us back. To be present in places and situations that promote our happiness and wellbeing.
Shit happens to everyone and sometimes it takes a cataclysmic life event to stretch us so far back that in the end it propels us forward. The process in-between is messy. It hurts. It burns. It humbles.
Cynthia Occelli, the accomplished Author of Resurrecting Venus wrote: “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
In my own journey to rock bottom, I have faced despair, cried so hard I thought I would never stop and grieved for the loss of my previous life, reputation, health and career prospects. I have raged for years internally, silenced by a gagging order that puts corporate reputation before my freedom to speak and ability to recover.
Anyone who has experienced trauma or is an expert in the field knows the importance of being able to speak their truth; to have their experiences heard and validated. It is essential to the healing process. Were I to do this, I’d run the risk of being taken to court because I signed an NDA at a time when I was far too frightened and ill to question it.
As things stand in relation to the organisation I used to work for, I will not say a bad word about it. I felt listened to in the end by the right people and a settlement was the outcome. Apart from the specific circumstances, I loved working there. I was proud of it, rewarded for my performance, sent on prestigious attachments and offered more senior jobs.
I might not ever be able to talk about what happened and maybe I’ll never want to, but something deep down inside tells me it was very wrong and there are people just like me all over the world who have suffered deeply or are suffering in silence and in pain.
Then why not do something about it? I have communications, media relations and lobbying skills and I can’t have gone through 15 of the toughest years of my life to do nothing with the experience and insights I have gained from it. So here comes my gift wrapped in sandpaper.
Kerwin Rae, Australia’s leading business strategist and human performance specialist said: “Your current situation is giving you an opportunity to re-evaluate what you really want. We all break sometimes but that gives us the opportunity to rebuild and grow back stronger. The cure for the pain is in the pain. See the gifts that were there all along hidden in the appearance of discomfort. Pass down your wisdom, not your wounds.”
And that is what’s called post-traumatic growth ‘the benefit of positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.’
BACK IN BUSINESS
I didn’t set out to be a passionate anti-bullying advocate. I didn’t know six months ago, I would be back running my own business again or using my voice and reclaimed strength to speak out about the devastating, sometimes fatal consequences of work-place harassment.
I didn’t know there were vast resources online to support people when they most need it; that experts around the world have been fighting for 30-years for improvement; that there are communities and conferences to join. I want to connect people to that.
I’m only just understanding how other countries around the world are light years ahead of the UK and Ireland in how they deal pastorally and legislatively with this complex issue.
A PHOENIX RISING
I would never have dreamed that as part of my Carlin Creative communications consultancy I would be launching a new campaign UNABATED to positively use my experience for the benefit of others. My long-term ambition is to provide support, raise awareness, influence change in legislation, ensure NDA’s are abolished forever and that greater protections are put in place for employees who ask for help.
I do know that I want to put my skills and talents to good use to persuade organisations of the benefits of policies and procedures that are designed to work in the interests of everyone and that the best way of protecting corporate reputation is not to sweep difficulties under the carpet but do the right thing in a timely way. This requires strong and enlightened leadership.
All of this will take time. For now, I’m so proud to relaunch and reinvent Carlin Creative Communications. I’ve animated my company logo along the theme of a phoenix rising from the ashes; not just surviving but thriving in business and life. I am free now and ecstatic to get back to doing what I love.
I have a new client list of like-minded people, ground breaking charities, a social enterprise and inspirational female entrepreneurs who are determined to make their mark on the world and other ethically minded businesses who share my purpose, values and principles.
It was reading Daniel Priestly’s inspirational book Entrepreneur Revolution, how to develop your entrepreneurial mindset and start a business that first inspired me to set up Carlin Creative. Well, it was that and the urgent need for a cover story to mask the obliteration of my CV and otherwise successful career.
In a Chapter, Create the Future, Don’t Consume the Past Daniel writes: “Don’t fantasize about going back to the past as there is simply no such thing. There is no time machine coming to pick you up. You are moving forward in time and the only way things will be better is if you create them as better.”
He subscribes to a theory everything you consume requires energy, either to digest it or to maintain it and that creating is the opposite. When you create, he writes, energy flows through you. The act of creating wakes you up and makes you feel joyous.
I know for a fact that is true. I named my business Carlin Creative because of it.
To anyone in pain or being bullied. Ask for help. It is out there. Then put one foot in front of the other until you walk out the other side.
There are better days ahead. I’ll meet you on the horizon.