5-Year Battle with Deep Depression to Creative Genius: Cathy Broadwell’s Transformation Story
Have you ever experienced that gut-wrenching and almost desperate feeling of losing all hope of being fulfilled in life, despite reaching the pinnacle of your career? Of seemingly having it all on paper but feeling almost dead inside?
For many of us, from the outside looking in, we should be happy, right? We shouldn’t really want for anything more? Even if our current realities mean handling huge amounts of stress, experiencing a lack of control or freedom in our day-to-day lives, or having our creative juices sucked out of us…
And what if it took five years to turn things around from seriously tough times, personal losses and struggle to get that hope back?
That was certainly the case for Live Your Legend community member Cathy Broadwell.
“I had a wonderful 25-year long career in the graphic design and marketing industry. I had a graphic design degree and graduated with honors from Drexel University. I worked my way up the ladder from in-house graphic designer, to working at acclaimed graphic design studios and advertising agencies, to finally getting the ultimate promotion—what I always wanted—Creative Director and Vice President of an award-winning advertising agency.
On paper I had achieved everything that I wanted. I was in charge of an entire art department, did performance reviews, hired and fired and found I was a great leader and respected part of the management team for quite a while.”
However, despite all of this, Cathy experienced a series of losses, both personal and professional, that shook her to the core and sent her spiraling into a deep depression over a period of about five years.
From Deep Depression to Incredible Success
You certainly would never guess she’s been through these struggles looking at Cathy today…
Today, Cathy is extremely passionate about tackling and normalizing stigmas in society, including those around infertility, depression, and relationships. As part of that mission, she has created (among other things!):
- a profitable, award-winning graphic design business (Giant Leaps Creative LLC)
- a paid writing gig for a hospital in Dubai writing about her experiences dealing with infertility (Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs), which has almost 1,800 followers, and
- a successful relationship education blog and podcast with over 2,000 followers
SO HOW DID THIS TURNAROUND HAPPEN?
Find out as Leah and Naz chat to Cathy about how on earth she clawed her way back from the depths of despair to run a successful graphic design business and author three blogs, and what the heck pole dancing and eye surgery had to do with it!
Don’t see a video? Click here.
So as Cathy shared in the interview, after giving notice at her job, she followed the omens after typing into Google “I just quit my job, now what do I do?”—and discovered Live Your Legend.
And not just that! The How to Connect with Anyone course was due to commence the day after her quit date. Coincidence? We think not.
Here are some highlights in Cathy’s own words, describing her incredible journey over the past few years…
Life Before LYL
After suffering all of the losses, and staying in—what was becoming for me, anyway—a stagnant job, I just found I couldn’t handle the stress, the lack of control on what clients I worked for, the lack of autonomy, and feeling like my creative juices were running out. My values had changed after all of the losses and I started to wonder if “creating junk mail” trying to force people to buy stuff they didn’t need was not my life’s calling and was slowly killing me. But what else to do? I didn’t know.
I have always been an overachiever for most of my life, having no problems with finding success or maintaining positive habits. All that changed when I experienced a series of losses one after another over a 5-year period:
- my beloved father to cancer and even my beloved cat on the same weekend
- my unborn children to infertility, even after out-of-pocket IVF treatment
- my former band who replaced me unceremoniously when I was grieving my father’s death
- the wonderful guitarist in the next band to acute leukemia
- my mother to cancer and old age / dementia
- my side real estate business failed miserably and we lost a not-so-small fortune
- my identity due to a looonnng mid-life crisis after all of the above and more, as I explored unconventional solutions to help cope and find my true identity, even if it didn’t agree with “society”.
I somehow found myself entering a deep depression [and] I eventually sought therapy, as I knew that I had a problem around the time that my mother fell ill from dementia. I couldn’t take any more, not on my own, anyway.
In short, she almost gave up all hope. All she felt was despair.
Also around this time, I was at a boring, uninspiring job where I felt half dead and under appreciated. This job USED TO be fulfilling. But after 15 years at the same job in the creative field with no upward mobility, coupled with feeling mentally tired, stifled, and inauthentic both creatively and professionally, I had had enough and knew I was in a rut and needed a change.
But unfortunately, it took me five years to finally get to the point where I was ready, emotionally and financially, to take the jump to quit my job and start my own business.
Back then, a typical day for Cathy included:
- I had periods where I cried almost every day. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed at all. I lived with tissue boxes all over the house. I felt lost, hopeless, confused, out of control, and overwhelmingly sad.
- I also felt like very few people really knew me, understood me or what I was going through and also very few wanted to make the effort to try to understand.
- I lost the desire to do some of the things that I had always loved in the past. I began to lose the ability and motivation to perform tasks on my “to do lists”—that was just too hard. I couldn’t cope or deal with it. I started to feel like a victim, and like other people had to take care of me. I eventually went into therapy, which helped some but not a lot.
At work, I became lethargic, I started showing up just a little bit later and later (while making excuses to leave early, too), and in disheveled clothes with no makeup on because I just didn’t care. It was all I could do to get through the day. I started searching the Internet for answers to my problems. I was apathetic about my job.
After several years of this, Cathy feared that this was what her life was now about. She felt that she might never recuperate, heal or recover.
The Wake-up Call
At one of my lowest points, I sought therapy, which did help some. But I was still lethargic and extremely unexcited about my job. Around this time, I would sometimes spend my lunch hour roaming the Internet for ANYTHING that might help me. I found an article called Letting Go of Attachments from Zen Habits. It really spoke to me. I printed it out. I started reading it every day. I kept one in my desk drawer and my bedside table. It became my bible. It helped me learn to reframe how I thought about my “losses”.
- I continued to comb the Internet. And in a moment of clarity, I decided to start blogging. I started a blog discussing relationships, and the very first post I made, I linked to the amazing Letting Go of Attachment article to share it. I received a lot of great feedback.
- Lo and behold, I felt a little bit better. I wrote another post, and got some more great feedback, someone thanked me for writing, some offered me advice. And I felt a little better again. I realized that I was on to something. I committed to blogging once every week. As time wore on, I started to realize that writing that blog was WAY more rewarding than my dead-end job. By helping others, I was helping myself too.
Another pivotal moment was I got Lasik eye surgery. I was actually legally blind most of my life. I literally was not allowed to operate a vehicle without corrective vision and could be fined if I did. After 10 years of scheduling and canceling Lasik eye surgery due to cost and fear of lasers being pointed at my precious eyes, I finally scheduled it and went through with it. I was so blown away by the immediate results, that I admit I felt a bit fearless and in control given that small little success—which wasn’t so small—even though it was at the hands of an eye surgeon, not me. BUT it was me letting go of my fear that helped give me bionic vision for the first time in my life. And success helps beget other successes. I saw that using courage as a tool could be really empowering.
After a particularly awful day at work, I had an epiphany as I was driving home and told my husband that I wanted to quit my job. We both agreed it was the right thing to do. First I was elated. Then I panicked. During a panicky moment where I wondered what to do next, I typed in Google “I just quit my job. Now what do I do?” The very first thing that popped up was Live Your Legend. I clicked on it and started reading. I really liked what this guy Scott Dinsmore had to say. So I subscribed to his free blog, because why not? As I continued to read his posts week after week, I started to get inspired and hopeful, thinking maybe I wasn’t actually completely insane for quitting my job.
I eventually read that he had a course called How to Connect with Anyone that ironically started on the very next business day after my last day of corporate life. I decided it was meant to be and I signed up for the course. After all, I had to learn how to find, secure and retain customers, building relationships that last with clients I was passionate about as I embarked on starting my own business. The course and the support that came from it helped me IMMENSELY as I started my business full of fear and trepidation. I started having little successes, and I again realized that success begets success.
During another epiphany moment towards the end of the course, I offered to work with Scott to help him on his mission of helping others find and do work they love. I realized this as I was working on my Business Plan for Giant Leaps Creative describing my ideal client for my business. As I wrote it, it dawned on me that Scott WAS my ideal client! I used many of the tactics that Scott taught us in the course to reach out and connect with him!
Bumps in the Road
1. Dealing with the grief, sadness and devastation of losing her loved ones.
I allowed myself the space to grieve and cry to “get it out”, spent time alone pampering myself when needed, sought the support of loved ones, received therapy to have my struggles acknowledged and my feelings validated with a professional, found the article on Zen Habits “Letting Go Of Attachment”, started blogging to express myself and in essence sort my problems out with an audience and get feedback.
2. Feeling apathetic, uninspired and “half-dead” at her job.
I analyzed the situation as best as I could. I tried to fix the situation where I could. I assessed whether I could survive if I quit and for how long. Then… I quit.
3. Wondering if she had what it took to run her own business, dealing with the fear and anxiety, as well as the learning curves, and also dealing with the naysayers who say “You must be crazy to do that!”
I joined various blogs that inspired me or gave me guidance. I bought books to help steer me in the right direction and give me information that I needed. I signed up for, took and graduated from the course How to Connect with Anyone surrounding myself with like-minded positive people, and then I rocked the course to the best of my ability. I continue to take courses to this day about anything that I am seeking information about, as well as reach out to my communities for support.
I resigned from my job in March 2014, and actually finally left it mid-August 2014, one business day before I started the CWA course. I opened a business called Giant Leaps Creative LLC, a graphic design company. I am the creative director and owner of the business and I am loving every minute of it. I also have a flexible schedule so that I have time to write three blogs, sing in two bands, and take pole fitness classes. I am my own boss. The autonomy is amazing, as is the potential of where I can go.
Here’s a list of Cathy’s successes overall:
- A successful relationship education blog with over 2,000 followers
- A paid writing gig for a hospital in Dubai writing about her experiences dealing with infertility (Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs), which has almost 1800 followers.
- A profitable graphic design business (Giant Leaps Creative LLC) with a blog that she created from scratch while she was in the How To Connect With Anyone course. This website and her design work have won several national design awards.
- Repairing relationships that had suffered while she was in a five-year long depressive state full of grief and confusion that her friends simply couldn’t understand or relate to.
- She has spoken at an international conference in Berkeley, CA on relationships, as well as appeared on a Radio Talk Show as a guest panelist.
- A published author in the form of contributing an essay to a book through her relationship blog.
- She is 4 years into pole fitness training, achieving “Master” level, and has given three live performances to date. She has also successfully completed training to be an instructor and has CPR training as well.
- She has helped brand her colleague’s new upcoming documentary: The Power of One: Preventing Suicide in America
- She worked with Scott and LYL for almost a year creating some really awesome, inspiring stuff to help the mission and the world at large, including the “Kindness” tee.
- She has expanded her relationship education mission to include a podcast that she launched July 2015 that has over 25 episodes to date. The website is expanded, too to reflect more free resources, as well as offering her services as a relationship and transformation coach. She also leads a Facebook group that has grown to almost 200 engaged members.
The LYL Advantage
As I took the How to Connect with Anyone course, the main thing that I found was HOPE. LYL gave me hope again, about virtually everything. It also helped me believe in myself again. I had forgotten how. I had also forgotten how to be happy and to love my life. LYL helped me remember how to do that too.
The CWA course materials were absolutely fantastic—so many great nuggets of wisdom and exercises that I could use immediately in my life. It also gave me the most amazing community—the Live Your Legend community and beyond. I know this community will be part of my support system for the rest of my life, both personally and professionally. I cannot thank Scott and the entire LYL team enough for everything that they have done for me. It blows me away sometimes. Thank you!
- I subscribed to Live Your Legend blog, and started reading the blog posts on my lunch hour. They slowly gave me hope and inspired me to at least think more seriously about making a change.
- As I read the posts, I eventually learned about How to Connect with Anyone. I decided that taking the CWA course was exactly what I needed to embark on this journey of running my own business. The course itself helped me greatly and helped me realize that leading with generosity and gratitude is a GREAT way to run a business. I also learned how to build lasting and quality relationships, whether for business or pleasure, how to write a successful thank you note, and much much more. My Mastermind group also helped cheer me on along the way, gave me guidance from a team when I needed it, and helped me feel that I was going in the right direction. The support was phenomenal as well as motivating.
- Nazrin Murphie asked me to be a host in my local area. We already had hosts here so I have become a co-host of the Northern Virginia area with Yazminh. I have held meetups at my home several times, as well as helped co-host in our area. Co-hosting these meetings has helped me gain confidence being a leader and ultimately leading my own workshops for my own particular missions.
- I also have become the official “flag bearer” of the LYL flag for each meeting as well. Since I designed it for Scott and Chelsea before their travels, I went ahead and had more printed up. I bring one to every meeting as Scott and Chelsea did and we take pictures holding the flag up. It rocks and helps us stay excited together about what we are doing!
The tools that helped me the most were:
Other tools that helped
- I read Unlimited by Jillian Michaels and that was a very helpful and inspiring book.
- I also like Nonviolent Communication and The Five Love Languages. All of Tim Ferriss’ books, all of Simon Sinek’s talks, and all of Brené Brown’s work.
- And I also took pole fitness classes which helped me realize the immense potential of my body (as well as my mind) to become strong and learn new tricks, literally!
That depends what you count the start date! The last truly happy year of my life until recently was 2006 (the year I was married).
- I lost my father as well as my beloved cat both to cancer in 2007.
- My husband Eric and I found out we were infertile in 2009.
- Then I lost my mother in 2012.
- I started writing my relationship blog in 2013.
- Thus the time period I was off and on depressed was from about age 38 to 44, so about six years (2007 through 2013).
- I received Lasik eye surgery in February of 2014.
- Resigned from my job in March 2014.
- I actually walked out the front door for the last time in August 2014 and started taking the How to Connect with Anyone Course from LYL the very next business day—launching my business Giant Leaps Creative LLC at the same exact time.
Living Your Legend Today
I tend to wake up early, grab a cup of flavored coffee as I go through my emails. I start my day by creating an inspirational poster for my community, which also inspires me and reminds me I can do anything.
I review my to do list in Evernote and decide what tasks I’m going to accomplish that day, as well as throughout the week and review my goals. Then still in either my comfy PJs or my workout clothes, I start tackling tasks. Tasks can be a great graphic design project, an inspiring blog post, or doing administrative but needed tasks for my business, and everything in between.
Sometimes I meet friends or clients (who are typically friends) for lunch or a meeting. Sometimes friends or clients visit and stay at our house and we have a working breakfast meeting. Sometimes I work in my studio, sometimes from the couch or my deck, and sometimes on the road. I get to choose. I decide how my business gets run, soliciting guidance when I need it, and I decide how to keep my clients and colleagues happy and performing at their best, and how to support them. I also get to decide what is important for me in my own life, and then apply that to how I run my business to better help the world at large.
My personal life is also happy, loving and productive. I no longer focus on what I DON’T have, I focus on what I DO have, the positive things that I learned from those that have passed and how I can take that learning forward to help live my legend and help inspire and teach other people. I live my life full of as much gratitude and generosity as I can. I plan to do that to the best of my ability for the rest of my life. I also feel better equipped to handle problems and bumps in the road when they do come up—I evaluate, make a decision and act, respectfully and kindly to help resolve the problem. I’m not perfect but I do better and better, and forgive myself and others along the way.
I also have a big focus on living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy, working out just about every day, taking pole fitness classes, and supporting my pole family as well to further inspire and help create more healthy lives and bodies out there!
Wow! A huge thanks to Cathy for sharing her story. We can’t wait to hear from more of you out there making your unique imprint on the world!
Here’s to being courageous and living a life of choice!
Connect with Cathy and learn more here.
And for the comments… Cathy is happy to answer your questions, so please post some good ones below!
–The Live Your Legend Team