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  • Mandy Johnson

FROM BREAKDOWN TO BUSINESS OWNER

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have time to write this blog. I was working full-time as the CEO of a national charity whilst trying my best to raise two children under three. I’d become a nonstop plate-spinner who was rarely home kiss her children goodnight. If you’d asked me if I was enjoying life, I’d have said yes…and I probably would have believed myself.

MY LIFE WAS “PERFECT”

Everything was right on paper – I had the job I’d aspired to and a lovely family. Sure, I missed my children but I thought this was the compromise every working woman had to make. What I hadn’t realised at the time was that, with my diary jammed so full, I hadn’t allowed any time for my own self-care.


There was no room in my life for me.

My lack of self-care started to show at work. My Board were telling me I was doing too much but I couldn’t hear them. As a result, when something particularly stressful happened, I dropped all my plates at once. They smashed.

AND I BROKE

I found it difficult to do anything, go anywhere, or speak to people outside of my closest circle of friends and family. Thankfully I was given help. First medication, then, after months on the NHS waiting list, I was finally assigned to a therapist who specialises in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Her name is Hannah and she changed my life.

SIMPLE THINGS FELT IMPOSSIBLE

When I started working with Hannah she asked me to track how I was spending my time – I recorded every hour of my day. This helped us track what boosted my mood and what dragged me down. One week, I was set the homework of spending 15-minutes each day doing something self-indulgent. I burst into tears. Finding 15-minutes felt impossible. There was always something more important that needed to be done – entertaining the children, washing clothes, paying the milkman – my “to do” list was never ending…and it didn’t have my self-care on it!

What’s worse is that, when I finally tried to give myself 15-minutes, I didn’t know what to do. I’d become so busy being busy that I’d lost sight of any hobbies that boost my mood. I had to re-learn what I enjoyed. When I got into the swing of things I started experimenting; I tried crochet, reupholstered furniture, painting, exercise, started drawing again, and taught myself to sketchnote.

SKETCH-WHAT-TING?


If you haven’t heard of “sketchnoting” it’s a method of conveying information through a combination of hand-drawn “icons” and words. And I LOVE it! Sketchnoting gave me the excuse to be creative and the confidence to start going to conferences again. I didn’t have to talk to people if I didn’t want to – I could just sit there and sketchnote.

PEOPLE LIKED MY WORK

I started sharing sketchnotes on social media and was getting an amazing response. To start with, I thought people were just being nice. Then I started meeting people who’d printed off my sketchnotes and put them on their wall and a dyslexic friend told me he found my sketchnotes easier to digest than long-form writing. I was doing something that I loved, that was good for my mental health…and it was helping others.

MAKING MY PASSION MY BUSINESS

At the start of 2020 I built up the courage to apply for NatWest’s “Back Her Business” – a scheme that’s designed to support the set-up of female-led businesses in the UK. I found out I was accepted and was launched into a whirlwind of getting everything set up to run a four-week long crowdfunding campaign. The money raised from that campaign allowed Sketchnotes UK to be set up, which means that this business only exists because of the wealth of love, support of others.

Some of you have helped me emotionally, some have supported financially, some have helped spread the word and some have helped me practically. Some have done all four. Every single person that uses this website will become part of my journey. I am so grateful to all of you.

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