My story is not unique. It reads like the prologue of any chick lit book. For years, I spent the majority of my time almost exclusively motivated by work and professional achievement. I walked into Cosmopolitan as a work experience student in October 2003 and fell in love with publishing on the spot. I fetched lunch and made tea and dreamt that one day, I would sit in a corner office. And so I set about doing just that, devoting myself to learning everything I could about every aspect of the publishing industry. Dabbling in different departments and taking on different rounds, until eventually I did find myself at the helm of a glossy magazine.
But when I finally looked up and took a breath last year, I had the same bombshell moment that has inspired a thousand podcasts, self-help books and Reese Witherspoon movies: on paper I was “living the dream” but in reality I was physically and emotionally tapped out. I’d been struggling with hormonal problems, anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion for almost two years.
I lived in a permanent state of panic, I rarely had a period, I was glued to my phone 24/7, I felt trapped by a huge Sydney-sized mortgage and life was well, just not that much fun. While I was in it, I thought this was what adulting was all about. I had my dream job, a big house with a backyard and a crushing sense of dread I couldn’t shake, what more could a girl want? When I finally stepped out of it I realised just how depleted I was.
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It’s a scenario psychologist and author Gemma Cribb, founder of the Equilibrium Collective knows all too well. “We live in a world where our heroes are often people who have achieved fame and fortune. We tend to measure our own worth by similar markers of status and financial success. Most of us spend a large part of our lives in the pursuit of money,” Gemma says.