How Dealing with Mental Health has changed my life... for the better

I have wrote and rewrote this blog post quiet a few times and also not been 100% sure whether to share everything or not. But I feel as today is World mental health day it is the right time to share my story.


I’ve been at different events and starting to see more and more people recently and I’m very aware that no one actually knows what I’ve been up to. Which in all honesty I’ve quite enjoyed. When I started this bog I had so many high hopes for regular posts, and I’m sorry for falling short on that. But one of the main things overall is that I wanted it to be an honest account of what I get up to, feel and go through. So that other hairdressers/creatives/people can feel like their not alone and can truly understand what goes on in my world. Now please don’t read the following thinking I want any form of sympathy, its what happened and what’s going on, hopefully it can be enlightening and maybe even help others.

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Everyone knows I shaved my head for mental health back in November, I’ve had close family and friends that have suffered with mental health, some very serious cases and others slightly more mild but no less a struggle. Ironically a few weeks before shaving my head I began my own struggle with mental health, which actually made it even harder and even more important that I do it. The last thing I wanted was to go home and go live to what ended up being over 2,000 people (thank you again to everyone that tuned in and donated) but it was actually one of the things at the time that helped me a lot. So many of you reached out to me with your own battles and I really appreciated hearing how my small act helped you too.


In November last year I had a small break down. Now I say small because I know people that have had very serious mental health issues and in comparison mine is small, but none the less life changing. In the weeks and months after, it made me really re-evaluate my life and it’s direction. Since I left school I have completely thrown myself into work, which was fine because it was my passion and I loved it. I’d spent the last 10 years chasing after dreams I’d had since I was young. During the race I’d put myself in to be successful I’d alienate myself from friends and family, and made myself ill many times. Whilst in this sprint mode I hadn’t stopped to re-evaluate my dreams, my goals and my direction, and if it was actually what I still wanted.


After the break down I felt numb for a very long time. Once I was able to piece myself back together, with the help of very special people in my life, I had to start looking at changes I needed to make short term and long term. One of which was my work-life balance, I didn’t have one! People would always talk about that balance and I never thought it was important if you loved what you do. But what happens if what you love doing burns you out so much you stop loving it?! In January I left my job at Jamie Stevens to give myself time to rest, rethink and rebuild. I also started therapy in January, which I still go to weekly. My plan originally for this blog post was to write it after I had finished therapy when I was ‘better’, but actually I’ve come to realise I’m not ‘ill’. I was actually ill before the break down, hence my mind screaming that to me. Actually now more than ever I’m looking after myself and being far more self aware.

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I have spent the last year ripping myself open and delving into the deepest and darkest parts. I’ve learnt as soon as you’ve shon light into the dark it’s not scary anymore. I know myself better now than I ever have, the good, the bad and the damn right terrifying. And most importantly I’m learning to accept all of me, not just the pretty insta filtered me, but the raw to your core me. This year I spent time on building up the important relationships in my life, and that included the one I had with myself. I took myself on a lovely relaxing holiday, on retreats and to every type of mediation I could get to. I’ve had proper days off, like actual stay in your pj’s all day eating pesto pasta days off!

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People talk a lot about mindfulness and wellbeing but how many of us actually practice any of it or even understand it? Us hairdressers are renound for putting people before us, we’re taught from a young age in this industry that clients come first. Have we ever paid attention to the fact that if we’re not 100% we can’t give 100%? We spend 40-50 hours in the salon, not taking a proper lunch break or having time to even pee, absorbing all our clients emotional dramas. Then we push ourselves outside of the salon, so that we can still have a name in the industry and step up our career ladder.


As creatives we are emotional beings, but do we actually tune into them emotions and know what to do when we are feeling certain ways? Are we actually listening to our bodies, our minds? I certainly wasn’t. One of my main goals from such a young age was to live in london. I hit that goal last year, and it made me question everything. I’m a very structured person and I’ve always found it healthy to have lists and plans. Each goal I hit I can tick it off the list and move onto the next one. But actually last year I ticked a pretty big goal off the list and had no passion left for the next one, nor did I feel them goals were still what I even wanted. Sometimes we can be running so much towards something, even the goal in front becomes blurred. The industry that I feel in love with at 18, the dreams I had, and the life I had been sold by many that had come before me, wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. I had fell out of love with it all.


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So I have spent the last 10 months learning how to breath again and only doing work that I genuinely enjoy and get pleasure from. I have yet to set myself new goals and am giving myself a year of just enjoying life. 1 year out of a lifetime is nothing (I keep telling the control freak within me). So far it’s actually been one of the best years yet, I’ve worked with brand new creatives on fashion films and editorials; had the opportunity to work on large campaigns, both industry and consumer, and I’m looking after my gorgeous clients and enjoying meeting new clients that come my way. I was a key member backstage on The Voice UK for a second season, under Alchemey for the eye. I’ve also completely loved having the time to learn something new, wig making. And the cherry on top is a British Hairdressing award nomination for HAIRDOTCOM artistic team. Something I’m sure I’ll talk more about in another post.


So all in all, it doesn’t matter how busy you are day to day, it matters where you channel your energy. I’ve learnt saying NO is such a powerful thing, and honestly once you’ve said it once it’s not that big a deal the next time or the next. The world does not end. I always felt I had to be productive- doing ‘something, anything’ to be deemed successful, but actually just like art success is in the eye of the beholder.


It’s great to see more and more people taking mental health more seriously, we all suffer with it, just like we all suffer with physical health over our lives. I’m still finding my balance and that will always be evolving over my life. I had a lovely conversation recently about the fact that our lives can jolt and take so many random turns, each one making us focus on something more important to us at that time. In an industry and society that has a lot of expectations it can be hard to do what’s right for yourself, because you get wrapped up in what you feel you should be doing, but it’s just THAT it’s what you feel you should be doing. No one actually really cares what your doing because they’re too worried about what they’re doing!

 

I urge anyone struggling to reach out and remember there’s always different paths up the mountain of life and sometimes the longer one is a healthier one-

‘For an arrow to go forward you have to pull it back first’

Therapy, books and podcasts have been extremely helpful to me in learning how to be more self aware and rebuild for a healthier life. If anyone wants to reach out and to know what I’ve been reading/listening too please feel free to message me. I’d also love to know what you’ve found helpful so comment below and let’s build a community of loving our minds & emotions.


Love & Positivity

The Hair Geek UK

The Hair Geek UK- The Story So Far...

I think before I continue with this blogging business you need to get to know me a bit more. So let's dive right in...

 My Boys Hendrix & Gatsby on the beach with me in one of my favourite places Amble, Northumberland. 

My Boys Hendrix & Gatsby on the beach with me in one of my favourite places Amble, Northumberland. 

I'm Ashleigh Hodges, aka The Hair Geek UK, I got this name from a friend (I can't even remember which one now) who was laughing at the amount of courses etc I was going on when I was first starting out. Then it kinda stuck. I'm a very ambitious, passionate, yet quite typical 26 year old. I tend to work 6 sometimes 7 days a week, but when I'm not working I throw on a pair of mom jeans, my old skools & a fur coat (of course) and go for brunch in vintage emporiums looking at all the stuff I didn't realise I needed in my life. Currently residing in northampton with my boyfriend of nearly 7 years, Matthew Gavin, and my boys Gatsby & Hendrix, two cheeky & gorgeous fur babies. I have recently started a new adventure commuting to london and working for the award winning team at Jamie Stevens Kennsington. Passions of mine include hair (oF course), food, interiors, and looking after our world as a happy feminist.

 

So how did I get to this point in my life?

This story starts with a broken heart. Let's go back to 2010, yep only 7 years ago, the year that changed my life and mind set completely. In 2010 I met some of the most important and influential people in my life today-

My bestie/sister sarah, Matt, Errol Douglas and Jamie Stevens now my boss man.

 

At the time I was just finishing off my NVQ level 3 Hairdressing apprenticeship at my mums salon, Flame Hair Studios. I flew through my apprenticeship, completing everything plus extra units in only 2 years (told you I was a Hair Geek), well I had been doing hair since I was 11 years old. I had just found out I hadn't made it through to the final of a college competition and was devistated, all I wanted was to see my boyfriend of 3 years, to cheer me up. He came up to northampton that Saturday, I picked him up from the station we came back to my parents house and he broke up with me out of nowhere. Now this was the guy I thought I'd marry, for all the ambitions I had in life I think I would have compromised it all for him. I was broken hearted.

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This was the biggest turning point for me. I realised I would have edited my future for someone that could just through it away. I vowed then to become my own strong independant women. The first day I felt like myself again was a month later when I was Invited to assist on the northampton matrix show. I was surrounded by passionate hairdressers and that's what I wanted in life. From that day I through myself completely into my career. I was on every course, till matrix asked me to come on board as a educator for them, the youngest one to date at 19. The stage was where I saw myself so I starting asking every inspirational hairdresser to assist them.

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Errol Douglas said yes. So I travelled up to Leeds (I had never been up north before) and assisted him on a huge show he was doing for Matrix. I made myself indispensable and made sure he wouldn't forget me. I was then asked to assist him on a regular basis on shows and shoots. This is when I got to meet my now boss man Jamie Stevens, Jamie was working for Errol at the time, so I'd quite often help Jamie out on things too. I wanted to learn as much as possible to one day be in their shoes.  Errol then put me forward to apply for the FAME team. I didn't think I was ready, but had nothing to loose, if anything I would learn a lot from the process. I look back now and think I was very nieve when I entered and I think that was perfect, if I was entering now I would over think every part of it & perhaps wouldn't have completely been myself. At the 2011 fellowship luncheon I was announced as a 2012 fame team member along side three other amazing hairdressers. It was such an honour.

 After I was announced onto FAME Team at the December 2011 luncheon with my fellow team mates- Rebecca Hunt, Isabella Hyde and Ryan Harris

After I was announced onto FAME Team at the December 2011 luncheon with my fellow team mates- Rebecca Hunt, Isabella Hyde and Ryan Harris

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Fame team was the best year of my career. But when you finish you think oh my god where do I go from here? You don't want to be forgotten, so you have to work even harder to keep progressing up the industry. I went back to asking the people I'd met over the year to work with them, and tried to usilise the contacts and knowledge I'd just been given. I worked on numerous shows for fashion week and shot for different brands. Matrix then bought me on as a guest artist and I was finally being paid to be my creative self. This gave me the opertinity to really invest in myself and my career, I was able to start doing my own photo shoots and showcase myself on stage at all the events. I made sure I was seen everywhere. I entered everything. I then won creative heads IT GIRL 2014 (top female under 30) and matrix global started to take an interest in me. So for the last few years I've been able to fly to and from New York and across Europe working on shoots and shows to showcase my creativity to them. The goal is to be an official global ambassador for them, and strengthen the female talent they globally have.

During this time the fellowship asked me to become a project leader for them and look after their finishing school- the project x team. This was a huge honour and such a great way for me to give back to the organisation that started my career. I think a lot of people didn't think I'd successed at this, seen as I was younger than most the students paying to be on it. That really frustrates me in not just our industry but in life- you work your arse off for years to have experience yet people focus on a number. Anyway I definitely proved them wrong and had a extremely successful two years, with two brilliant teams who have now gone on to become the next generation of hairdressers for our industry. From this I have been able to progress through the organisation and recently been elected onto the fellowship council. I am hoping I can keep progressing the fellowship and really mold the industry of the future- where gender and age doesn't matter.

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I get to do some bloody amazing things in my career, I recently got to work on the tv show The Voice, not only is that awesome I get to do it with people I love being around. But I've only got to this point in my life through pure hard work and determination. I like to think I'm a role model for any hairdresser wanting to make it. I came from a salon no one had heard of, in a town no one has heard of, and because of my hard work everyone knows what I'm about now.

 

So that's a brief insight into my career so far and how I've got to The Hair Geek UK in 2017. My plan for the imidiate future is to move to london, once Matt gets settled into his new job, find my feet on the fellowship council, build up a strong clientele and work with the amazing creative team at my new hair home Jamie Stevens Kensington, and really prove to matrix global they need me on their team.

Life goals- change the world. I know, I know I can't do that, but I can help to change the world around me, and that's the plan. I want to be one of the people moulding hairdressing for future generations, proving females really can get to the top, that age really is a number and it's all about experience, and that you can do all of that whilst living a happy and healthy lifestyle. Well let's see... 7 years ago no one knew who I was and look how that's worked out, you just give me another 7!

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