When life is but a dream – an uplifting story in the battle against mental health issues

JUST six months ago Shirley Bartlett’s life today was but a dream. She was in an office job with lots of uncertainty and constant change, which meant stress and morale in the office was low.
As National Mental Health Week (Sunday, 30 September to Saturday, 6 October) draws to a close, the Thurrock Independent tells the story of a local woman to give others encouragement that they too can feel better, and hopefully it will not always be bad.

“I USED to really enjoy my job, but in 2016 there were a lot of internal changes and hundreds of us were forced into different roles, as the company battled to manage our country’s changing times and technology took over.
“It meant longer hours, weekend work, potentially less pay, increased targets and no more home-working. I’d been home-working for 16 years so this was a massive change for me.
“It took its toll on my health and I was off work with stress for four and a half months. It helped me to settle my stress levels and I returned to work, everything was fine and then there were changes again. I was prescribed anti-anxiety tablets to help.”
Shirley’s mental health began to suffer, with symptoms that included debilitating migraines.
She couldn’t just walk away from work, there were bills and a mortgage to pay and it’s no longer easy walking straight into another job. She says:?“The tablets began to help and then more stress. Then the company announced there would be redundancies and they were seeking people to volunteer. I couldn’t believe it – this was my opportunity to do something positive with my working life.
“When one cat flap closes another one opens.”
Shirley, who lives in Parker Road, Tilbury, looked at the financial redundancy package the company were offering did some sums and use the money to create the life she’d always wanted and one that would help improve her health.
“I’d always longed for that flexibility and freedom to be my own boss, so I decided to invest my redundancy money into the opportunity to run my own business, We Love Pets.”
Shirley opened for business in August 2018 covering a wide area, Chadwell St Mary, Chafford Hundred, Grays, Orsett, Tilbury and the surrounding towns and villages, offering dog walking, boarding (from November 2018), cat sitting and other pet care services.
“Following in my dad’s footsteps,” she says.
Shirley’s dad (pictured left) had been a business owner all his life, which enabled him to manage his own time.
“He was around so much when we were growing up, and then he had the flexibility to enjoy valuable time with his grandchildren. He was always happy.
“Dad first set up his own dog walking business in 1995 and I just loved how much freedom it gave him.
“Mum and dad used to have dogs stay overnight, or sometimes for a month or more, when their owners were on holiday and it was just the best experience for them, and us!
“A home from home setting for them. I too will be offering dog boarding from November when my license comes through from the council – I can’t wait.
“It’s a wonderful alternative to kennels the owners and their pets have a stress free experience and the pets continue to get the family setting and attention they’re used to.
“I’m also looking to recruit dog boarders in the area.
“It’s all making a positive change to my mental health – the fresh air and natural daylight has helped me regain a healthy mind as well as physical fitness and I’ve managed to stop my medication. I’ve also not had a single migraine since leaving employment!
“I particularly love meeting new people, not just my customers, but also other dog owners on my walks. I’m also looking forward to looking after other interesting animals like tortoises.
“Two of my favourite places are Belhus Woods and Chafford Gorge, both are lovely places for the dogs to enjoy water, woods and lots of natural wildlife.”
*If you’d like to find out more about the services Shirley offers contact her at: grays@we-love-pets.co.uk or call 07808 580 654.