2022-2023, my first normal years after a few traumatic ones.
This post will talk about sexual harassment, addication, illness, death, grief, but also support, regained confidence, gratitude, friendship and new strengths.
In 2017 while doing my relatively easy core work with existing clients (maintenance/care plans for small businesses with their WordPress sites), I was inspired to start a new business project, but instead, everything came to a stand still.
I’ve recently relaunched my project and it will is now live. It’s necessary for me to talk about what has happened because, thanks to my experience, I can now be in a position to support other people who are going through difficult times in their life while running their businesses. This subject will be covered for Interaction.Site members, in the “mindset” category.
This post is going to be very personal and I’m feeling very vulnerable sharing it. Some of the mentioned topics are very private but if publishing this might help even one other person, it’s necessary. It’s also beneficial for myself, as going public on these topics is helpful! I need transparency now that I’ve recovered, regained my power and have a lot to share!
These are the events that impacted my life so much:
In 2018, the #MeToo movement was very prominent on social media, and an event shook me to the core. I’m only now starting to feel better. It was something that happened to a person close to me. It also rekindled something that happened in my early teens. The vast majority of women or people who identify as women, as well as some men, have experienced sexual harassment, assault or rape. Yes, #MeToo! Statistically, so have about half the people reading this! For me, I believe that it is the sexual harassment at the age of 12 that made me a “demisexual“, who needs a strong bond and immense trust before anything happens.
I may publish another article on this topic! And about how I’ve been unconsciously using smoking and being overweight as “turn-offs” for men (I call those “men-repellents”).
The death of my parents
My mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2016, underwent chemotherapy and surgical removal of her bladder and had lived with a stoma and pouch since. She was physically very diminished and it was mentally difficult for her to have a pouch. I tried to support her as much as I could.
At the end of 2018, my mum received the very bad news that her bladder cancer had returned in the form of metastases in other organs. And as my dad was much older than my mum, I knew this would be the last Christmas with my parents. I spent the next months in between fighting the insurance company that wouldn’t cover, possibly life-saving, experimental and very expensive immunotherapy for my mum, all the paperwork to get my dad into a care home, and commuting every day to visit each of them in separate hospitals. My dad couldn’t stay at home on his own because of the macular degeneration that had left him almost blind in his last years, as well as the orthostatic intolerance that had increased with age and could cause him to fall at any moment. He never did make it into a care home.
I felt a lot of anger at the Swiss medical system and a lot of helplessness at the way the current system makes us live in smaller apartments and didn’t allow us to have my father with us, as previous generations did in larger family homes. I think we need another article to talk about all this.
My mother died in July 2019 at the age of 72, and my father in November 2019 at the age of 94, in no condition other than being so weak due to starving himself to death after my mother died. His then skinny body couldn’t fight off pneumonia that ran through many patients in that hospital in November 2019. They died after 51 years of fused love and 50 years of marriage, which they didn’t even get to celebrate together because they were each in a different hospital! They only spent my mum’s last week in the same hospital, and this photo was taken a few hours before she passed away.
My children and I were very close to my parents and I was devastated that my children had to go through grief at such a young age, and that they won’t be able to spend more time with their grandparents as I did with mine until I was 30. My parents and children were very close, living 300 metres from us and from the school, with my children going to my parents’ for lunch at least twice a week. They spent quality time together and my children will never forget them, nor the “generational transmission” they received.
The death of my cats
As well as losing my beloved parents, I also lost (in 2018 and 2019) the 2 cats we’d had since 2002 and 2003, the cats who had been there when my children were born, who had moved with us to our new place in 2010, to whom my children were also very attached, the cats that have been there through sad and happy times. Some people who don’t really love animals said “they’re only cats”, they didn’t understand …
Being the emotional support person
Then, in the autumn of 2018, a member of our family fell from a height of more than 10 metres (he survived but was so badly damaged). The reasons behind this event and the fact that I was the emotional support for another family member took a huge toll on me.
The Covid Pandemic
In 2020 and 2021, I think the whole world has suffered the trauma of the Covid pandemic. I must admit that I quite liked the first lockdown because it allowed us to be in a less frenetic mode, everyone at home, the world being a ‘calmer’ place. One of my children was very happy to learn online rather than go to school, and for a few months we didn’t have to deal with his school phobia. But the cancellation of my dear event I was co-organising (WordCamp Geneva 2020), as well as the one I was due to speak at (WordCamp Paris 2020), and not being able to see my friends, was tough for me. I’ll say more at the end of this post about how grateful I am to so many friends.
What’s more, the pandemic caused me to lose a few friends who turned into conspiracy theorists. One of them even told me I was dangerous when I posted “vaccinated” on social media. I understand that trauma pushes people to go where they feel understood, I’m like that too. But for me, it’s hard to comprehend the loss of all rational thought, which turns people into spreaders of fake news, blind believers in everything they are told and putting science aside. I’ve seen some of them get drawn into cult circles and become followers of esoteric or absurd theories. I used to be very understanding, and I always try to respect all differences and the fact that we don’t all believe in the same things and that’s normal, but at this level it was disheartening and very sad, and it led me to be more easily fed up with this kind of discourse.
Discovering ADHD and mental health
During the same years, I recognised many of the ADHD symptoms in myself after one of my children was diagnosed with it. I understood why I was so messy, disorganised, and prone to leave one task for another as soon as the interest shifted. It explained why I have so many projects in “coming soon” mode, why administrative and boring tasks are such a burden and difficult to tackle, and also how I recognised those symptoms in several family members.
We also carried out an assessment on one of my other children to determine whether he was on the autistic spectrum. He isn’t, but he has certain characteristics, particularly in terms of social difficulties and expressing emotions to the outside world. I even wondered about it for myself, because as a child, I was the “weirdo” of the class, I felt so different and never seemed to fit in, but no, I don’t have any of the other characteristics.
For me, seeing a therapist has proved very beneficial. I’m pleased that seeking help for mental health problems is becoming less and less stigmatised. If you’re experiencing difficulties, remember that there’s no shame in asking for help.
After 11 years without smoking (having stopped during my first pregnancy in 2007), I started up again in 2018 because of stress, then I painfully switched to “vaping only” at the beginning of 2022 but I’ve been back to it “for special occasions” for one year now (in public settings, see above: “men-repellent”), but also too often now alone as well, but will switch back to vaping only again soon!
A new post about addiction in conjunction to ADHD is coming, in which I might also talk about how alcohol has ruined the lives and marriages of some of the people around me, and how I’m happy to drink no more than a dozen glasses a year.
All this led to me being in survival mode for a few years, and I couldn’t do much other than still trying to be a good mother, which is already a full-time job. All the reasons above and another very specific reason also put an end to my marriage, even though we are still a family, living together and on very good terms. (Joël, I’m not sure you wanted this to be made public, but I needed it, and I thank you for all your support over the last 21 years and for being an great person and father!)
I know I’m lucky not to live in a country at war, not to have lost one of my children, to be in a privileged position that allows me to travel wherever I want. I know people are suffering in many different ways and that what happened to me here = “that’s life”. I think we can’t compare ourselves to others when it comes to traumatic events and that a similar event may not affect one person at all but affect another a lot (for example, I know that early miscarriages are devastating for some women, but I’ve had three and I didn’t take it particularly badly). There is no scale, hierarchy or level of how each person takes and reacts to what happens to them. Never say “it’s nothing” or “there are things worse than this” to someone who opens up to you!
Now and the future
Since 2022, I’ve overcome all that. I’ve found ways around the problems associated with ADHD that work for me today. I have a new strength, a regained self-confidence and a strong desire to help others. Other people may be faced with their own worries, while at the same time managing their business and their family. That’s why you’ll find the “mindset” category for Interaction.Site members.
Sharing our struggles and victories, and getting support from others, are powerful resources. Being a solopreneur or working alone does not mean “being alone”.
Coworking time, accountability and mastermind groups, the exchange of ideas in the members’ area, and the opportunity to meet up in person at events are invaluable.
In addition to my therapist, I’m very grateful to the people who have been there for me over those years, it’s so important to be surrounded. Sometimes it’s good to get together just to have a good time, to laugh, without bringing up any personal subjects, and with others it’s the sharing of more personal conversations that is beneficial. Sometimes people come into your life temporarily, which is fine, and sometimes we make lasting friendships. Every bond between two people is unique to them, and sometimes special and precious.
One person was there for me from 2018. At some point we would meet almost every week for lunch and talk about issues we were facing in our personal lives and our respective marriages. That had a great positive impact on me and, I hope, on him.
Participating, organising and volunteering at WordCamps and meetups (WordPress events) have been the light in the darkest moments. Someone once told me “WordPress is just a tool”, whereas for me it’s a warm international and welcoming community and, above all, a place where I’ve met people who have become dear friends.
It is also gratifying to realise that some of our actions have an impact on the tool that powers 43% of the web and which, beyond businesses making a living, enables people and non-profit organisations to have their voice heard, including people from under-represented groups who would not have had a voice before the internet era.
I want to thank 2 specific persons attending WordCamp Milano 2019 (you know who you are). They surrounded me with emotional care as my father had passed away a few days before and the funeral was going to be a few days later. I decided to attend anyway as that’s what my parents would have wanted for me. I had just met that lady 5 minutes earlier, and got a comforting hug from her when she found out about my dad and this is something I’ll never forget!
Thank you also to my dear friends from the Swiss WordPress community with whom I always have a great pleasure to organise events, and now act as “a bridge” between the Swiss community and the global one (more on that in a future post).
Feeling welcome throughout the years in Italian events (attending WordCamps Milano and Torino since 2016 and now Verona), France and now Spain is also something very important. When I was younger, I would have feared “not fitting in”! Not anymore as I have now the self-confidence that allows me to be very genuine with people. Even, there are places where people make you feel unwelcome, it’s rarely the case there, generally in the WordPress community, and especially in the places I mentioned.
Increasing my commitment as a WordPress contributor to the global community and being recognised for it has also been a motivating and confidence-boosting factor. The paramount of which was to participate to the Community Summit last August.
I have always been proud of being a kind person, full of empathy, caring and respecting other persons, and I must say that receiving the same from others has been very rewarding and supporting! It makes me love life, love people in general and love them. Thriving together!
And now: to new heights!
A big thank you to the 2 friends 🧡 who read the draft of this post, helped me to edit it, and gave me the courage to publish it!