Mental health is a subject that’s increasingly in the spotlight.
For many, dealing with your own problems can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult.
Sheryl Andrews is one of those who has faced struggles in life but has since turned things around and has even made a career out of it.
She has now written a book to support those who need help.
Sheryl, 49, from Gosport, is a communications coach and helps people with all different sorts of problems to communicate effectively with others.
Divorce, and grief over the death of her mother, left her close to a breakdown.
Now remarried, she has learnt to deal with her own low self-esteem and self-criticism and is happy in her own skin for the first time in a long time.
‘When I wrote the book I thought “How far back do I want to go?”,’ she says.
‘But the more I do the work, the more I realise it’s been an underlying issue since I was a child.
‘Doing this, I got some clarity and understanding of what was happening.
‘It’s not about understanding why people do and say one thing and think and feel differently to that.
‘It’s about trying to make sense of the world. It’s taking the words literally. I had to work out what love really was.’
Everything changed for Sheryl in 2006 when she was going through a divorce.
‘The catalyst for change came in 2006. I was a consultant for Slimming World and I applied to be an area manager,’ she says. ‘I was divorcing and needed a job with a salary to get a mortgage to buy out my ex-husband. I had reached the point where I thought that something had to change.’
Sheryl got the job, but shortly afterwards her mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which had a huge impact on her.
‘I buried my head in my work,’ says Sheryl, who was consumed by grief.
‘I didn’t want to think about it or feel it. Two years later, I reached burn-out. It was killing me and taking me away from my family.’
So in May 2008, Sheryl decided to leave her job. She went back and finished a coaching diploma which she had started but had been unable to complete.
‘When my mum was dying, for the first time in our lives we sat and listened to each other,’ Sheryl says.
‘We just wanted to understand each other without making comments or judging or commenting about what the other had or hadn’t done.
‘All of those experiences told me how good it was to be listened to.’
Following her mother’s death, Sheryl spent a few months as a stay-at-home mum, but she soon grew bored and wanted to return to work.
She decided she wanted to help others by encouraging them to talk. She started her own business as a communication coach.
‘I attracted a lot of self-employed working mums who were having trouble with their daughters,’ she says.
‘The reason they weren’t able to listen to their children was because they weren’t happy about the work they were doing, or because they weren’t happy in their marriage.
‘I spent a lot of time working out what people really wanted. It’s about having the courage to say it.’
Sheryl’s business was launched in December 2008 and three years later she began to have problems with her own daughter and struggled to put her own advice into practice.
‘My daughter started coming home from school and was screaming and shouting and kicking. She was really angry,’ Sheryl recalls.
‘She left school and went to college and it got worse.’ The irony of being a mother-and-daughter communications specialist wasn’t lost on Sheryl. Her daughter ended up on the streets, refusing to live at home.
‘She would rather be there than live here which broke my heart,’ Sheryl adds.
‘I felt a fraud in the work that I was doing and my business started to fail. I broke down and was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.’
With her new husband’s support, Sheryl hired a coach and went through the whole programme herself and learnt how to deal with her problems.
‘That’s when I had to learn to trust myself and take my own advice,’ she says. ‘I needed more confidence in myself.’
Sheryl and her daughter, who was living on benefits, went to Egypt together and started to rebuild their relationship. ‘I wanted to remind her what it was like to not be on benefits,’ she adds.
‘She was in a council flat and was trapped. We had a really nice holiday.’
Her daughter, now 22, has moved on and has made a success of her life. She is now a social worker.
‘I’m really proud of myself for the part that I played in it,’ she says.
‘That was in 2014 and that’s when I committed to writing the book.’
Sheryl now feels happy. She has three step-children as well as her own son and daughter.
As well as supporting parents, a large portion of her work is in business coaching. It involves supporting local businesses to improve their communication skills in the workplace.
‘For the first time in my life, I have got peace inside,’ she said.
‘I always questioned the world and how I fitted in and how I belonged.
‘But now I feel very proud of the book and the difference it is making to people’s lives. I am determined to get it out to more people. It’s done my confidence the world of good.
‘But it was one of the hardest things to do – to write it. What I say to people is that you, as a person, matter. Everybody has a value to add and everybody makes a difference in this world.’
To see a video of Sheryl, go to portsmouth.co.uk.
MANAGE YOUR CRITIC
Sheryl’s book, Manage Your Critic, is a practical guide for parents, managers and entrepreneurs.
It focuses on applying models and principles to prevent people from being so self-critical.
‘It’s about coaching people about how to go from overwhelmed to clarity,’ she says. ‘The book is about listening skills. If I hadn’t had them, I wouldn’t have known how to get out of the problems with my own daughter.
‘Going from unhappy to happy is a step-by-step process.
‘It’s about getting the message out that it’s important to be heard and to understand that most of us aren’t taught to be listened to and understood from a young age.
‘If we became more aware of the complexities of listening, we would become more compassionate.’
Sheryl is donating £2 from the sale of each book to two local charities – The Southern Domestic Abuse Services and the Square Pegs charity.
To buy a copy of the book go to amazon.co.uk.
Alternatively, pick up a copy through her website where there are lots of tips on communication, manageyourcritic.com.