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Do you ever feel you have lost your identity?

As women our identities can change multiple times over our lifespan. Sometimes for wonderful reasons, like marriage or motherhood. Sometimes for tragic reasons, like dealing with the grief of divorce or loss of a loved one.

All these experiences make us who we are today. Our lived experiences shape us and can teach us so much.

There have been so many transformations in my life through many difficult life circumstances.

I became both a coach and designer because of these changes, to be able to support women that are going through the same battles as I have.

We are told that marriage should last forever, especially as Christians, so when a marriage breaks down, we feel a loss of the vision we had for our family.

After 21 years, my first marriage broke down. This was not supposed to happen. I felt a loss for my family unit as it used to look and feel. I felt a lot of fear and sadness. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Christian marriages weren’t meant to break. Christian women weren’t meant to get divorced. I felt a failure. No one ever knows the full story and I was worried what people might think. I lost some “friends”. And even a couple of close family members judged me harshly.

I felt a HUGE loss of a big part of my identity and I’m sure many of you that have been through divorce have felt the same.

After years of studying full time for my master’s degree, I found myself a single mother with 3 children to feed, so had to get a job back as a Registered Nurse in a local hospital. Gosh, things had changed in the 7 years I was gone! Much to learn again, and my confidence took a beating!

Along with the financial challenges, came the identity losses and changes to navigate as a single Mum and a single woman. I hadn’t been single in 22 years!

I found support in my therapists and coaches. I leant on a few friends who had stuck by me, as well as leaning on my faith in God. I prioritised what I needed in life at that point and I slowly learnt to rediscover myself. I started to re-build my life and the healing began.

Once I finished my master’s degree in 2008, I started my first business as a Health and Wellbeing Coach. I was coaching health professionals, mums, businesswomen, and other divorcees. They valued having me as a guide as they navigated their own challenges and life changes, with me sometimes only a few steps ahead of them. They said I helped them and they got great results. So, I kept at it.

Soon it was time to start dating again…gosh, what an identity challenge that was! I had no clue how to navigate that! (But I learnt, haha.)

A new identity came to life as my boyfriend was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. A year full of treatments: 5 operations, 6 months of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiotherapy saw me deep in research mode again, learning more about health and wellbeing and how to support him.

A rocky marriage unfolded after treatment completed. We both adopted MASSIVE healthy lifestyle changes, facilitated by me and all my research, then finally, remission against all odds. He had made it to the 5-year post treatment milestone. Then he left me, to live a single man’s life again. Tragically, he got diagnosed with cancer secondaries a year later, and died suddenly. Bucket loads of identity crises in that chapter of my life! I don’t wish that on anyone.

Single again! Identity changes yet AGAIN…. here I go again.

Running a workshop for women in SA: “Boosting Your Personal Health and Wellbeing”

Along the way, beautiful life changes were happening too. A wonderful identity shift as I became Nanna to my first granddaughter. I had studied and learnt about the benefits of close connections with loving family members, so I decided to move back to Adelaide to be closer to two of my, now adult, children, and granddaughter.

A lifelong passion for Interior Design saw me re-train as I wanted to help interior design clients through their own identity changes and life transitions. I wanted to bring all I had learnt, along with my life lessons as they created new home environments to live in and to enhance their wellbeing.

I had learnt a lot about mental health, wellbeing needs, and how to create a place to call home during or after huge identity changes. I had completed Masters level courses in Mental Health, at Newcastle University. I had a lot to offer other women in transition experiencing similar life and identity losses.

Identity shifts came again, this time due to some joyous occasions in the form of getting remarried in 2020, (2 weeks before the COVID pandemic), buying a new house to renovate and make our home, completing further design and business studies, gaining a blended family (Hubby and I each have 3 adult children), and a new grandson.

Wedding Photo by Catherine Leo Photography

I was still assisting clients through my Interior Design business. I felt that having a home designed for your wellbeing was the missing part of the wellness puzzle, especially as we age and go through these transitions.

More massive changes in the past 2 years, this time in my own body as I traverse through my menopause transition. This has been another HUGE identity crisis! Gosh, why don’t people talk about this more?

It’s a bit like being pregnant without the baby bump to show the world that there is a massive life transition and identity shift in progress, so give me some compassion please, ha ha.

This identity change has been a much bigger one than I anticipated. My body shape has changed SO much, I don’t feel like “the old me I once knew”, and I am learning, slowly, how to accept the new version of me, with added love handles, aching joints, plus much more!

Once again, I turned to a specialist coach to learn more about how to go through this as best I could, to learn to look after myself and be guided and supported along the way.

My husband says one of the qualities he admires most is my resilience to keep going in the face of change, trauma and all the grief and loss I have been through!

And I owe some of that resilience to the coaches I have met along the way.

Yes, even coaches need coaches.

I continue to have the immense privilege of coaching women through their own personal transitions. My clients love that I can relate to them. Having been divorced, single again, re-married, a carer to a spouse with cancer, widowed, become a stepmother, moved house many times, started over many times, picked myself up again many times, as many of you have too, I can relate.

Many of my interior design clients have been, or are going though these types of identity crises. They are setting up a house in a new situation.

They are adding on the new addition by themselves after their beloved husband unexpectedly dies at the start of the project.

They are downsizing and want to make their new home match where they are at in their life now.

They have bravely built a new home after a divorce and need help with the interior layout and furniture selections to create their dream spaces that feel “like them”.

They have retired and now it’s time to renovate the family home to suit their aging in place preferences and requirements.

And the list goes on…

So, how does being a Wellness Coach fit with being an Interior Designer?

Perhaps my story answers that for you. It combines my belief that your home and environment affect your wellbeing, as well as using my past study and life experience to support women through their own life transitions.

If any part of my story brings up something for you, if you can relate in some way, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a message or send me an email.

If you need wellness coaching, interior design services, or both, reach out to me. I am here to help and serve you.

Debra X

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