It was February 2014, and I was four months into a new job which I knew was a mistake. Then the panic attacks began. The first time I had one, I was sitting at my desk in the loud, open-plan office, looking at an accounting programme I couldn’t get my head around.
Suddenly, my vision blurred, and the floor swayed underneath me. I started sweating, palms clammy, heart thudding in my chest. I closed my eyes, and the world stopped swaying for a moment. My mind raced. What was happening? I left my coffee in my favourite Mr. Happy cup on my desk, grabbed my bag, left the office in the corporate risk consultancy and took the lift down to get some air by the riverside. It was a freezing February day, grey and overcast with an icy wind. The cold air felt good.
The panic attacks got progressively worse and I eventually went on sick leave, unable to leave my home for a period. I felt helpless and ashamed - I had rent to pay, and was scraping by on my salary, with very little left over each month; yet I wasn’t able to bring myself to quit until I got sick. The experience left me mentally and physically drained.
It wasn’t the life I’d pictured as a child, stuck sitting at a desk in a toxic workplace, unable to connect with the work or my colleagues. By the time I was 11, I’d already lived in 4 different countries, and moving around very much shaped the person I became and the career I eventually chose.
I finally quit the corporate consultancy, handing in my notice and left London, having long overstayed the time I planned to be there. I vowed never to let myself get so burned out mentally or physically, and not to end up in such a precarious financial position. They were hard lessons in learning resilience and to trust my instinct. After that, I decided to launch my freelance career, and vowed to work for clients and businesses whose ethos aligned with mine, and who I could help with my writing, research and editing skills. But it wasn’t an easy new path to forge.
At the same time, I faced lots of changes in my personal life; shortly after I got married to my long-term partner, we had a daughter, and then moved from Edinburgh to Beirut eight months later. It was a lot to get my head around - raising a toddler, learning Arabic, finding my way around a new country and trying to build up a client base at the same time!
Now I write for international news outlets and magazines, and consult for businesses and start-ups in the food, FinTech, recycling, real estate and agriculture industries. So one day I might be writing the brand story and tone of voice for a new Middle Eastern food brand, and the next I’m reporting on the effects of the pandemic on education in Lebanon. I work with people and businesses from as far afield as Japan, Nigeria, Lebanon, and across Europe and North America. Having grown up in five countries, I love using my language skills and working for people from different cultures and backgrounds.
On a personal level, I’ve found immense humanity amongst the people living in Lebanon, despite the poverty and security challenges facing so many here. Whether it’s the poor Syrian concierges whose children my daughter befriends, who bring out platters of fresh fruit, home-baked biscuits and offer me tea every time she plays with their kids; or the strangers who gladly helped me by entertaining my daughter in the early days when I was trying to buy groceries; there are countless stories like this every day.