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A post I never thought I’d have to write…

Sometimes we choose reinvention and sometimes reinvention chooses us. Whichever way it happens, it can be a painful but essential process for us to experience, certainly in business but also on a personal level too.

In December 2017 I had a serious wake up call! I didn’t see it coming and couldn’t accept or appreciate what was happening to me until I found myself sitting in A&E on a Saturday morning seriously unwell. A series of events in my life leading me to complete physical and psychological breaking point. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know I talk about OSM’s, well this was off the scale. More of an ‘OFM’ if you know what I mean.

“Every time I told myself things were as bad as they were going to get something else happened that made things worse. It was hard to see a way through.”

It’s taken me a while to come to terms with what happened and even now saying it out loud sounds weird. It’s not easy to admit that you’ve had a breakdown. To admit that you’re having a mental health issue. But, you have to take it seriously when your body and mind tell you it’s time to stop. It was a tough and painful end to 2017 and the weeks that followed didn’t get any easier. Every time I told myself things were as bad as they were going to get something else happened that made things worse. It was hard to see a way through.

I knew I had tough decisions to make and probably the hardest one of all was the decision to leave my role at River Island. A business I love and an AMAZING team who inspired and energised me every single day! I also knew I needed to take some time out to focus on self-care and getting myself fit and well again. So, I set out to get the help I needed.

I spent a long time trying to get back to ‘normal’ again before realising that ‘normal’ wasn’t the same thing anymore and going back was never going to be an option. I’ve had hours of counselling and therapy, I’ve focussed on eating well, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and exploring conventional and alternative practices to support my recovery. I’ve done more work on myself in terms of self-care and self-discovery in the past months than I’ve done in the last 10 years. I started to find a way through. I started to have moments when I felt even stronger and more confident than I had before.

The past months have been a steep learning curve and although it’s been hell to get through I can see the positives in it now. I’m grateful that this happened to me and humbled to have found a way through it with the help and support of some amazing people. Thank you wholeheartedly if you were one of the people who reached out to me during this time, you helped me get through this, you made a difference, and, I appreciated it even if I wasn’t in a position to reply to you or let you know at the time.

I’ve had moments when I’ve felt embarrassed by what happened, worried about what this would mean for my reputation and future, unable to talk about it. But, you know what, I decided it is ok to talk about it, to be open and honest about it because if I can share what happened to me and how I got through this maybe you won’t feel so alone if it happens to you or to someone you know. I see now that something good can come from this.

From personal experience, I know that sometimes the people who really need help don’t ask for it because they don’t know they need it. They don’t see it coming. How do you help people who don’t know they need help? Something to think about because this matters to everyone.

When you’ve been through it, you see it coming a mile off and can do something about it. So, coming out of this, I’m already physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger and healthier than I ever was before……and I’m not done yet! I already know I’m a better person because of it. I have insights and experience now that mean I’m a better Coach, a better Mentor, and a better Leader than I ever was before. My entrepreneurial soul feels alive and energised!

“HELL NO! Because I found my better self and I know with the work I’m putting in now, the best is still to come.”

So, am I back to my old self? HELL NO! Because I found my better self and I know with the work I’m putting in now, the best is still to come.

Right now, I’m working on fulfilling one of my life goals with a very exciting project, more on this soon. I’m also working on a super-cool reinvention for the HR Entrepreneur’s Network and from April I’ll also be available for CEO/Board advisory work, consulting projects, 1:1 Exec coaching and mentoring. Please do reach out if you’re interested in working with me.

Also, please get in touch if you’d like to be added to my new mailing list as I have so much I want to share with you over the coming months.

See you very soon.


I found my better self, now let me help you find yours.


59 thoughts on “A post I never thought I’d have to write…

    1. Hi Karen, coincidently I also went through a similar experience at the end of 2017. 2018 was the start of making different choices, all of which paid off. I’ve experienced this before, but each time it is different and I now know the warning signs. I’ve just signed up to your newsletter. May I wish you health and enjoyment. Farida

  1. Your bravery has always amazed and inspired me, and this is the bravest thing I have read in a long time. Always here for you and understand what you have been through more than I wish I did…..
    Well done you (both the you who suffered and the you who came out the other side). xx

  2. Well done Karen, great to see you are coming through the other side and speaking out to help others. A wake up call for us all to make time to take care of ourselves, always. All the best for your onward endeavours 🙂

  3. Karen, I have not had the pleasure to read any article of yours before now and to be honestI did not have any knowledge of your posts or even your existence. However, having red your post just now I cannot refrain from thinking “a great mind and a strong, courageous individualwith no pretentions and an inspiring lady and what a pity she is on another continent”. It is people like you Karen who give that special lift up to so many, and so many need it. I would be very interested in learning how you are getting along and what you have chosen to take you forward. You certainely would be of great value to those individuals in workshops learning how to manage and avoid the stress spiral. To saythe least, ss a guest speaker you would be most valuable.
    I will most likely be conducting such sessions in the very near future and would appreciate to get the chance to exchange thoughts on this and similar subjects.
    Thank you.
    Marnie Wilbertz
    I would be happy to connect with you on Linkedin.

  4. Edward Bunker – unfortunate kid, criminal, prisoner, writer, and later an actor in Reservoir Dogs by Tarantino – wrote a line of wisdom in his autobiography ‘Education of a Felon’. It goes something like ‘the times I’ve been hitten the hardest way were those when I didn’t realise I’d need to give up’ … a line I was lucky to read in early days. Then, when it was my turn I did got hitten, but at least I knew where I was wrong. Knowing something seldom lead us to do the right thing. Learning it the hard way is probably just what we, human beings full of fallacies, what we need.
    Thank you for sharing Ms Beaven, and all the best.

  5. I had the same thing happen to me 8 years ago. It put me out of commission for a year! I had never not worked and it started out to be a terribly frightening time in my life. I also did therapy and still do. My time of healing enabled me to start to become someone very different! I became motivated, empowered and very self confident. My passion now is working with patients with mental disorders and trying to help remove the stigma of Mental Illness. I’m 63 years young and I am just getting started! This turned being the best thing that had ever happened to me ! My advice to you is be kind to yourself. You probably feel better than ever but you can’t take on too much too soon . Best of luck to you! Don’t ever be ashamed of what happened to you! Embrace it!!!

    1. Thanks Jeanmarie, I really appreciate your comment and thanks for sharing your experience, so great to hear how strong you have now become and that you are using your experience to help others.

  6. As a HR professional l followed and learnt from your great work at River Island. Also followed your entrepreneurs pieces. Really wish you all the very best and rooting for you as you embark on a new exciting phase.

  7. Evening Karen, any words I’ve tried to type in response sound trite.. So I’ll simply say that I hope our paths cross again soon. You’ve i spires so many already and it clear that you are going to continue doing so! Thank you for writing this.

  8. Karen, humbled and enlighten to have read your post this morning. I had not heard before now of your tough months. Thank you for sharing. All the best to the new you on the new journey.

  9. To my dear Karen, you are an inspiration to so many. Your bravery is incredible. I have always been so proud of you and your achievements. You continue to show amazing courage and I know that this journey will allow you to support others too. Love to you, Nicci x

    1. Hi Nicci, thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and I genuinely hope I will be able to use this to help others. You’ve always been an inspiration to me too. Sending love back to you. x

  10. Itotally relate, I was a rescuer for everyone, then one day as my father was dying I collapsed and has a massive fit, all my doctors were perplexed and used band aid drugs for my symptoms and its taken me ten years to diagnose myself with complex PTSD uncanny because I literally am text book in my symptoms. I’m starting on my journey of recovery now I know how to treat it, and unlike many others I don’t accept that is chronic. I’m looking forward to journaling my recovery and hoping to write a book.

    1. Hi Penny, thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your experience. You’ve been on a long and tough journey and I’m so pleased to hear that you are on the way to recovery now. Journaling your recovery sounds like a great idea, I wish you well with it and know that by doing this you will go on to inspire others.

  11. Hi Karen, what an inspiration. It’s amazing that you have been able to speak out on a subject that so many people shy away from / ignore / smile and carry on hoping nobody notices. I will miss our good morning hello at work but wish you all the very best. Exciting times ahead!

    1. Hi Troy, thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. I’ll miss our good morning hello too, you guys are such an awesome team!

  12. Karen, I have been there. It is scary, it takes time to come through it but you come out the other side a different person. I really think there can be nothing worse at the time and you think everything has gone but it does not happen that way and people do understand. I am back at work but with a different attitude to life and balance . Take care

    1. Hi Michelle, thanks so much for your message, there’s so much of that I can relate to. Thanks for sharing your experience, so glad to hear you got through it and are now in a better place.

  13. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this post. I too hit rock bottom in December 2017 and spent a month in The Priory. I have always admired you and your career from afar and now I feel that not only our passion for HR but our experiences leave us greater connected. I am hoping in the next few months I too might be brave enough to write about my experience but for now, thank you.

    1. Hi Lucy, thanks so much for your message, I really appreciate it. Also, thanks for sharing your experience. So sorry to hear you have also gone through this and relieved to hear that you have been getting the help you need to recover.We definitely need to have a catch up.

  14. You are incredibly brave Karen to write this and share your experience. The secret nature of mental health, the need to be eternally resilient, and yet not enough is said openly. You are inspiring, and courageous. Lets catch up

      1. Hi Karen, be great to catch up and have always found you an inspiration and a like minded HR colleague, and my current work in D&I and your recent incredibly brave post, I would very much welcome the chance to either speak over the phone or catch up over a coffee if you are in town.
        Hopefully speak soon

  15. Well done Karen. Stay strong and take it easy. Time, a positive attitude and help from others are key ingredients on a journey to recovery from any setbacks. Thank you for sharing. We can all learn. Look forward to catching up soon.

    1. Thanks Tea, I really appreciate that. I also appreciate all of the help that you have personally given me during this time, it means so much to me. See you soon. X

  16. Hi Karen, really brave and insightful in reading this and I wish you all the very best as you embark into a new era – take care.

    1. Hi Ally, thanks so much for your comment, I really do appreciate it. I wish you all the best too, it was an absolute pleasure being able to work with you. X

  17. I don’t know you Karen, but felt compelled to write a post to say that its incredibly brave not only to come out the other side, but to be able to share those struggles openly, which will undoubtedly help others.

    Its inspirational

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it and sincerely hope that I can help others here. It really is time to remove the stigma associated with mental health.

  18. I can relate and wish I had the understanding with my previous employer. Would love to join you in your career as I am ready to take on the world with my new skilled self.

    1. Hi Nadia,

      Thanks for your comment and empathy here. Great to hear you’re ready to take on the world. I’ll be updating on my plans here soon so do check back for opportunities to get involved. Take care, Karen.

  19. Karen, I saw you speak today at the CIPD Student Conference and I have to say you’ve really made me take a step back and look at myself and think about whether I am working in the industry I love. I love HR and my job, but I’m not passionate about what my company does. Everything you said resonated so loudly with me that I’m now writing down some thoughts to reflect on and review my CV. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights today. I imagine I’m not the only person who has left with a lot to think about!

    1. Hi Sally, thanks so much for your comment, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the conference and have felt so motivated by it. As I always say, follow your heart and be true to yourself, the rest will fall in to place at the right time. Good luck!

  20. Karen, it was inspirational to hear you talk today at the CIPD conference. Your quiet strength makes one want to sit up and take note. I have just read your story and I’m feeling even more inspired. I look forward to reading more of your blogs and I wish you all the success you clearly deserve!
    Thank you for your presentation today and for sharing your experiences with us.

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. I do hope you enjoyed the conference, so great to be in a room full of so many passionate and engaging people.

  21. This really is brave writing. I have experienced in the past anxiety. Your a very inspiring person. If only more people spoke about their experiences and this would become less of taboo topic.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Emiah and for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it and do hope that you received the support you needed to overcome your anxiety.

      1. Thank you, I am much better now, it took a long journey of looking within and a complete change in career to HR to help that. My only advice would be take one day at a time, take time out for yourself, challenge your fear in little steps & be brave. Sounds like your already on the right path, be proud of yourself. I wish you all the best in your journey going forwards.

  22. Great Post Karen, cant wait to hear about the new things and thank you so much for all your support over the years for MyHRC – we all will await your next inspiring speech and coaching as you are so well regarded and loved amongst everyone in the network.

  23. Karen, a very sad but unbelievably very encouraging journey. Having just read your story, I reviewed your background and honestly believe you are a true living example of inspiration. I look forward to reading more of your blogs and I wish you all the best in the future.

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