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Hannah: Welcome to Happily Ever After the podcast, which seems to talk about all sorts of different things. But one listener described it as the place where we talk about what everyone else is thinking, but maybe not saying out loud. I am your host, Hannah Harvey. I'm a writer and a parenting blogger at Mums Days dot com. That's M.U.M.S.D.A.Y.S dot com. If you wouldn't mind subscribing and leaving a review, that will be amazing because it basically means more people can find the podcast. And I also would really, really, really love to hear from you. So please could you contact me through Instagram @Mumsdays? You can message me anything really, but you know your stories of life and heartbreak or any thoughts she might have on the episode or any questions you want answering. And as always, you can find the details from this episode in the show notes.
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Hannah: Hello and welcome to another episode of Happily Ever After. It's me, Hannah. And today, I'm joined by Leeanne Bennett. Hi, Leeanne.
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Leeanne: Hello. Hello.
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Hannah: Lovely to have you on.
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Leeanne: Oh, it's been a long time. This has been sort of something I think me and you wanted to do for a little while, so I'm excited. Yeah. Yeah.
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Hannah: So we go way back. Firstly, we knew each other because back in the late noughties, and you might not believe this, everybody, but Newcastle's tech scene was properly banging, wasn't it?
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Leeanne: It was amazing.
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Hannah: It was like all the best parties with all of the free booze you could possibly want were the tech ones. Yeah, and I feel like around the time we met, you were still working for like one of the main organisers of these parties.
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Leeanne: Yep. Yeah, it was great.
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Hannah: Did you have a good time?
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Leeanne: I loved it. And you know, I love a geek. I love a geek. And these events were full of them and these were just like really, really interesting people. And you just, you could just unveil those layers of them. And it was just it was great fun, wasn't it? Just, Oh, it was creatives and geeks and it was it was it was amazing. It was a great time to be in that scene, I think. Yeah.
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Hannah: Yeah, for sure. My other memory of it is that you were like the IT couple, you and your partner at the time. I remember being like, Oh, there's those guys and we love them and we try and find you.
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Leeanne: That's so interesting. You just don't think of yourself as that, do you?
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Hannah: No, no, no. And obviously that and it's that scene where I met my husband, who I am now divorcing. And then the other weird side to all of this is that you had another hustle where you were doing beauty stuff, which, may I add, you still look bloody stunning.
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Leeanne: Oh, thank you.
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Hannah: Absolutely. I need you back in my life advising me how to make my face look like yours.
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Leeanne: I can definitely give you tips on the best cheap products. Having gotten divorced and having to rethink my finances. Definitely need to do a segment on that.
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Hannah: Yeah. Well, let's do a little appendix just on that. Yeah. But you came to my hen do and did everybody's did like massages and everything. Which is like another weird coincidence.
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Leeanne: Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?
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Hannah: I know. Like 12 years ago. So can you fill me in on everything since then?
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Leeanne: Oh, goodness, yes. So much has happened as it does so. Yeah. So I think since then I sort of. Well, I had my daughter had my daughter, so I went through four rounds of IVF to get my daughter. So miracle. Miracle baby. Really?
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Hannah: Oh, and how old is she now?
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Leeanne: She's nine now. So yeah, that was amazing. But obviously puts a lot of pressure on relationships. But we got through that. That was great. And I think when Georgie sort of hit, oh, I don't know, Georgie maybe was sort of nine months and I was, you know, I'd set up what was called sort of Low Fell Parents. It was just a Facebook group because I recognised that there was so many women. You'd go to these baby groups and it was so focussed on the baby and you could see these women and you just think, Wow, like we all need some support here. We're all doing this for the first time. And so fast forward to over a year and a half. We used to meet up and all of these women that we'd met on Facebook group, the Facebook group and things, and it was a great support for people. But we were so big a group we couldn't find a location. So I set up a social enterprise and and it was bigger than I thought. It was set over three floors and it was to support women and their kids and women's mental health. And it was brilliant. It was the best venture I've ever done. But I think because of that and I want it to be I wanted it to be so amazing for women that probably I. Didn't. I was out there, I was doing my thing. I was doing what I'd meant to be doing, and I was getting so much joy from it. Stressful as well, you know. But it was amazing. But I think that put an awful lot of pressure on my relationship.
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Hannah: Okay, so the social enterprise, was it like a cafe type hub?
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Leeanne: So over three floors. Yeah. Ground floor, cafe with play space purely focussed on getting people to connect with each other and combat social isolation. Allow the kids to play while mum got, you know, some good locally roasted coffee, some cake, you know, and really good food because I don't know about you, but whenever you went sort of soft play and stuff, it was always like really bad coffee. And you do like a cookie that you could smash your teeth with or whatever, you know. So it wasn't great. And you know, you felt as if you were transported into a place that was no longer you. You know, I think about you, but I loved hipster coffee, coffee before and I love hipster coffee now. So I wanted a business that could give people that.
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Hannah: Amazing. I like literally live for coffee so.
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Leeanne: We need that, but we need the social connections as well, don't we?
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Hannah: Exactly. And knowing that like the anxiety of. Once you're there, what's it going to be like? Is all sort of taken care of?
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Leeanne: Absolutely. And it was such a welcoming environment and that was had to be the core of it for me and the team I had. There were amazing people who created that environment as well. So a lot of kudos to them. And then there was the middle floor. We had all the baby classes there, first aid courses, we had Bump Club. So that was basically you came along when you were pregnant because the emphasis was on, you know. Once you've had the baby, it's like, Oh, how do I get to know all this information? How do I meet people? But actually, if I can get you to connect while you're pregnant, it's sort of eliminates some of that. So it was connecting people from the point of pregnancy right through until kids were going to school. So it was just a real community and I loved it. And I kind of get this.
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Hannah: And I take it that's no more?
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Leeanne: So the reason the reason I got divorced really was unfortunately, because. My ex partner had an affair with one of my members of staff.
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Hannah: That'll do it.
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Leeanne: That'll do it. That'll do it. Yeah.
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Hannah: Ah sorry about that Leeanne.
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Leeanne: Yeah. You know, these things happen in my eye was definitely off the ball and. And my full attention was on my daughter and the business. And it was also on me transitioning from who I was to who I wanted to be. And it was only after having my daughter that I was able to focus on who I really was and wanted to be.
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Hannah: Yeah, I totally get that.
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Leeanne: Yeah. And so it was part of like this fitness journey as well. I was doing something for me. It's taken me a long time to figure out that I needed to do something for me. So. So I had the business that was that was great. It was hard, but it was great. Had Georgie, that was hard. She was great and had this marriage. That was hard. But wasn't great. And you start thinking about the effort versus reward. And, you know, I don't believe anybody should have an affair. I think you should that you should deal with your crap before it gets to that point. But we all know these things happen, don't they?
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Leeanne: And so it did but I don't regret it. And I don't hold any remorse. And I don't hold any grudges because. I'm so much happier now, and it set me off on a path that maybe I was already on anyway. Maybe I'd established it to begin with.
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Leeanne: With my fitness journey and with running the business and things. But it solidified in me that I need to strive for more.
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Leeanne: And it needs to be for me. And so it did set me off on this path of, okay, so what? What do I want to do? But actually, I made a lot of mistakes on the way there.
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Hannah: Well, we all do. It's so interesting to hear you say that because it feels like. A version of how I ended up splitting up like not the same kind of thing. I'm not saying that, but I just feel like when it finally came to an end, I was like, Oh, that was meant to happen. So however awful it was, it allowed me to finally leave because I'd been needing to for a while. But that one thing that happened gave me the final like, push, I guess.
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Hannah: And it was like the universe going, Come on, you need to leave. Here's a reason.
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Leeanne: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we all need that because, you know, especially for us women of our age, we've been brought up on Disney. And Disney was, you know, you have this person who looks after you and it's all magical and lovely and we should all strive for that and. That story doesn't play out for most of us.
00:11:09 - 00:11:28
Hannah: No. And even if people are still. You know, if they're still in a very long term relationship. There's a lot of effort and to and fro ing and compromise and all of that stuff that goes on to keep it going. It's not all rainbows and unicorns.
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Leeanne: Far from it. What I've discovered, getting older and going through this is that no matter what relationship you're in, whether it be with a friendship, a friendship, or your partner, family, all relationships need fostering. All of them need effort or they need energy put into them. And if you feel like you're not getting that or that you're not giving that. Then actually, that's probably gonna falter. It's going to fall down somewhere. So I think I've I've learned so many lessons. And I'm happy more than happy to share some of those lessons that I've learned.
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Hannah: And yeah, I was going to say, if you talk to us through the process of your divorce, a bit like, how long did it take?
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Leeanne: Yeah, so it was relatively quick because I think, you know. Well, I mean, it was a bit sticky. We went to mediation to try and talk about things. And, you know, we both were running businesses.
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Hannah: The financial side is really tricky with that.
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Leeanne: Financial side, really tricky. But I think I was quite infuriated by the process because I really had to reiterate to the mediator many times over that I run a social enterprise and for all it's a social enterprise. I can't sell that business, I can gift it, I can't take money out of it and give it to anybody else. It doesn't work like that. I can only take a salary from it. So it was challenging and. We had to sell our home. A home that very similarly to you I'd spent an awful lot of time investing my energy on making a home and making beautiful and making it functional for our family. And then I had to turn that over somebody else. And that in itself is a challenge.
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Leeanne: And, you know, I don't know about you, but my ex was the breadwinner. I hate that. But, you know, earn a lot more than me. And I was running a social enterprise, and I was in very, very little. And then to think, wow, I really want to provide for my child. But there's a big disconnect, a big disparity between what we can now provide. And we agreed early on that we didn't want that for her. We wanted to give her the same both houses. And I believe that to be true at the beginning. And it's only as time has rolled on, you realise that, well, that's never going to last.
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Leeanne: But that did give me the kick up the ass I needed in order to think. How am I going to provide for my daughter? What do I need to do? Yeah. So it set me off on a path of well, stupidly. I had the mistake of whilst getting divorced, I decided to open another business because someone approached me and I thought, Do you know I need more money? That might be a good idea. So I was running two businesses, going through divorce. And also amongst all of that thought, you know, I love what I do, but actually I think I want to retrain. So decided to go to college to do a higher education course as well.
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Hannah: Oh, my God. Leanne.
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Leeanne: Utter Madness. Utter madness.
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Hannah: I can totally relate to this though. It's. Isn't it fight or flight type response stuff?
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Leeanne: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's fight or flight. And I think you are looking for any opportunity to either. Grow as a person or, you know, prove prove that I've got this, I've got this, I've got I can do this. It's going to be fine. You know, I don't need you. And and actually, I didn't need my ex, but probably what I did need was. Somebody saying. Do you think you've taken too much on? And still I probably would have said no. Course, not.
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Hannah: I've got this, I'm fine. So when did you have a breakdown?
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Leeanne: Well, you know, it's funny. It's funny. I wouldn't say I've ever had I've had many, many, many moments where I've gone, Oh, God, what am I doing? This is ridiculous.
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Leeanne: Sorry. If you can hear a pitter patter. It's my. It's my dog. Oh, please. He's wanting to be part of this. Oh, hello. This is Doug.
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Hannah: Hi Doug. Okay. Oh, I like to know what the pitter patter is.
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Leeanne: Yes, that's Doug
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Hannah: He's just joining in.
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Leeanne: Yeah, He's got to be a part of everything. And so. So amongst getting the divorce. Running in the businesses, studying. We did agree everything. Because my parents had a really, really difficult divorce and I was very aware of how that impacted on me. And I didn't want that to be the same thing for Georgie. Yeah. And I think because I'd had those experiences, I was also very aware of my mum's mental health during that time.
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Hannah: How old were you when they got divorced?
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Leeanne: Well. Their divorce started when I was age nine and didn't really wrap up until probably I was 14.
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Hannah: Oh, my God.
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Leeanne: It was a very, very messy divorce. There was two properties involved, a business involved. And, you know, so it wasn't that my life was mimicking that, but I was aware that I didn't want it to go anywhere. I didn't want it to be tied up like that. Yeah. So. On reflection, I probably could have fought for some more things. But I was also very aware of. Both of our mental health.
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Leeanne: And how this would potentially impact our daughter as well, because she was. Four at the time. And then typically this happened in the summer just before her starting school in September. So a lot of changes occurred for her at once. And and she had to be the priority. So we were able to agree to sell the house. And I did get a higher proportion of the house sale in order for me to be able to afford a property in the area where my daughter's school was. Right. So, but in order to afford that, I had to get a property that was absolutely wrecked and ruined. Yeah. And I had to pay ten grand over for it as well. So. But we were able to negotiate things a lot on our terms together. I'm very aware that a lot of people's divorces end up really, Really. Icky. And I think that comes from a place of hurt, doesn't it? Place of hurt. And I think when we feel as if things are out of control. We then get very sucked into controlling things because we don't like uncertainty. As humans, we don't like it. So we try to focus in and we try and see why. What can I control? And I was aware of that and I didn't want to do that.
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Hannah: So what if you could like, round it up? What would you say the hardest bits or bit was for you?
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Leeanne: The hardest bit? I can deal with divorce, can deal with having a million things to do. I can deal with having a challenge in business. But what I couldn't deal with is feeling as if I was failing my child.
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Hannah: Oh, my God. Yeah.
00:19:48 - 00:20:03
Leeanne: Mm hmm. Yeah, I. I set out in marriage. To never allow my child to experience the pain that I had experienced during divorce.
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Hannah: I can see that.
00:20:05 - 00:20:51
Leeanne: I never wanted that, and I never wanted my child to come from a broken home. And so. Whenever there was a glimmer of her struggling or feeling uncertain about things or, you know. Her not want to leave me or, you know, but saying, you know, but you have a lovely time. You know, you love it when you go there and then you question yourself and think, oh, God, you know. Should I have been a better wife? Um. Should I not have opened the business? You know, it's this shoulda, woulda, coulda. Yeah. And the look of, you know, is my child in pain, you know? Is this.
00:20:54 - 00:20:55
Hannah: And is it my fault or.
00:20:55 - 00:21:57
Leeanne: Is it my fault? Yeah, absolutely. And what I've realised is actually. For all. It was really difficult and challenging for me when my parents went through divorce. I am incredibly resilient because of my life experiences. And we have. Me and my ex have a very good relationship in the sense that. We try and work at it in order to benefit our daughter. Yeah, we try and keep communication open. One of the things that we've just instigated before Christmas was we will touch base and have a conversation, full conversation, not a drop off conversation, a full conversation together about how our child is doing. Because that for us is is necessary because otherwise things slip, don't they. Yeah. You know, and it's it's we want to be there for our daughter.
00:21:58 - 00:22:00
Hannah: So do you try and do that? Like once a month?
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Leeanne: Once a month. Yeah, that's what we've just instigated because.
00:22:06 - 00:22:07
Hannah: I think that's a great idea.
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Leeanne: It's been really beneficial already. Beneficial already and we can really just iron things out, agree things, you know? But yeah, just going back to what the question was, the toughest thing is. Am I failing my child?
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Leeanne: Is all of this going to mess them up? I joke to her, you know. I say don't worry I'm putting money in the bank for therapy when you're older. Cause I know at some point I'm going to mess you up. It's fine. Don't worry about it.
00:22:35 - 00:22:51
Hannah: I mean, that's just the laws of being a parent. Like, whatever we do, whether you're with somebody that you shouldn't be with or you leave or whatever. That's the ultimate question is always like. Am I failing my kid?
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Leeanne: Yeah. And it's the guilt. It's the guilt of thinking what you wanted to provide for them. Like that's faded away.
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Leeanne: And it's a shame. But also, I know that she's going to be more resilient.
00:23:07 - 00:23:22
Hannah: She is. And I think some of what you're talking about there will come from because it's a huge trigger for you, because you experienced it. It's like that's the one thing I'm not going to do. And then you're like, fuck, I've done it.
00:23:22 - 00:23:40
Leeanne: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the other thing is, while it's like, how do you how do you manage to cope during these periods? And, you know, you you say to yourself, I don't want my child to see me cry. And well, actually, no, that's okay.
00:23:41 - 00:23:53
Hannah: Yeah. I was told by a child therapist at the time that it's actually kind of important for them to see because then it gives them permission to also let their emotions out.
00:23:53 - 00:24:17
Leeanne: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's modelling behaviour, isn't it? And we need to model. What is normal, what's acceptable behaviour, and just allowing somebody the freedom to go, Yeah, you know, I'm upset today. Yeah, but you know what? It's fine. That's okay. It's okay to have those days.
00:24:18 - 00:24:18
00:24:19 - 00:24:33
Leeanne: So, yeah, I think we've come a long way because it's been sort of coming up five years. Yeah, maybe five years soon. So I feel like I've been able to process a lot.
00:24:34 - 00:24:35
00:24:35 - 00:24:38
Leeanne: But I recall the early days where it was just.
00:24:40 - 00:24:52
Hannah: Crazy. Yeah, because when we first connected about this subject, we were talking about you coming on to talk about how you manage your mental health when you're going through a divorce.
00:24:52 - 00:24:53
00:24:53 - 00:24:55
Hannah: Did you have any sort of tips on that kind of thing?
00:24:56 - 00:25:05
Leeanne: Absolutely. I think one of the things to be very, very aware of is we have around about 8000 thoughts a day.
00:25:05 - 00:25:07
00:25:07 - 00:25:36
Leeanne: I know, I often think, how have I got time to think that much? But we do. And actually, we very rarely stop to challenge those thoughts. We're very rarely stopped to think if those are fact. And I remember in those early days thinking. You know, my ex is going to do this, my ex is going to do that. I need to get ahead of this. I mean, you know, and it was I felt as if I was like almost tormenting myself by over preparing.
00:25:37 - 00:25:38
00:25:38 - 00:25:59
Leeanne: And what I realised is I needed to stop myself in that moment because you can really spiral in these negative thought traps where you think, well, you know, that person's definitely going to do this and they're definitely going to do that. And I need to be prepared and, you know. We don't know what other people are thinking.
00:26:00 - 00:26:01
00:26:01 - 00:26:10
Leeanne: But as human beings, we want the problem solved continually. And get divorced does feel like one big problem we're trying to solve.
00:26:10 - 00:26:14
Hannah: Or like a million little ones all rolled up into one horrible big thing.
00:26:14 - 00:27:16
Leeanne: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that really got me through was to manage my mental health was challenging some of those thoughts that I had in actually writing them down and processing, you know. Okay. What is really supporting this thought that I have and actually what's the evidence that I've got that supports that and what's the evidence against that and from that? Actually what's a more balanced perspective? Because we instantly go into, like, negative thought traps, don't we? We get sucked into this, you know, because the way in which we approach situations tends to come from our own experiences, the way we view ourselves, the way we view others and the world around us helps us to get to those thoughts quicker. So they might be negative. So it's about challenging some of the thoughts.
00:27:17 - 00:27:18
00:27:18 - 00:27:29
Leeanne: Don't let them spiral, because otherwise we spend far too much time. Thinking about those than we do actually being.
00:27:30 - 00:27:30
00:27:31 - 00:27:37
Leeanne: And I think sometimes divorce and, you know, I think it was for you and it certainly was for me, is an opportunity to grow.
00:27:39 - 00:27:41
Hannah: Yeah. So much.
00:27:41 - 00:28:17
Leeanne: Yeah. And I think if you are stuck in that negative thought cycle. You're not freeing yourself up to grow. Mm hmm. And part of that growth comes from challenge in those thoughts that you have. And thinking hold on. Like, is this right? Do I need to be thinking this way? So that's one of the things. For me, it was exercise. I had never really, ever been anyone for exercise. And I discovered it. And I thought, like I always used to avoid exercise because I didn't like getting sweaty.
00:28:18 - 00:28:20
Hannah: Yeah, don't want to mess your hair up.
00:28:20 - 00:28:49
Leeanne: No, no. And I never wanted everyone to see me without makeup. It was that type of thing. And actually. It was the best thing for me. Ever. Ever. It helped me focus on me. Mm hmm. And I think when we're going through divorce, there are so many things that we're trying to focus on. Sometimes even that half an hour helps us to just focus on us.
00:28:50 - 00:28:57
Hannah: Yeah. And unplug a bit from... Just distract yourself from all of the other things going on.
00:28:57 - 00:28:58
Leeanne: Absolutely. Yeah.
00:28:59 - 00:29:02
Hannah: What was your exercise of choice out of interest?
00:29:02 - 00:29:06
Leeanne: Well, so I went quite heavy into like, resistance training.
00:29:06 - 00:29:08
00:29:08 - 00:29:18
Leeanne: I know. And I absolutely loved it. The muscles and you know, not to beef up or anything but it was that, it was, it was, it was almost the act of having power.
00:29:18 - 00:29:20
Hannah: Yeah. Feeling strong.
00:29:20 - 00:29:33
Leeanne: Feeling strong. And that helped me to feel strong. So I was working on my mind and getting that to feel strong. But I was working on my body and getting that to feel strong as well. And that worked in tandem, I think.
00:29:33 - 00:29:34
00:29:34 - 00:29:41
Leeanne: So, but I think it's, you know, it's got to be your exercise of choice. It's got to be what works for you.
00:29:41 - 00:29:45
Hannah: Yeah. And what you enjoy and what motivates you to leave the house.
00:29:45 - 00:30:00
Leeanne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the other thing for me is I threw myself into work and I threw myself into a new project, and I threw myself into, you know, I kept myself busy.
00:30:00 - 00:30:01
00:30:01 - 00:30:20
Leeanne: I think that was the other thing, but on reflection and doing the job that I do now. What I realised is actually I was totally in drive mode. I was totally like head down focussed and that is not always great for you personally.
00:30:20 - 00:30:24
Hannah: And for dealing with the trauma that you're literally living through.
00:30:25 - 00:30:26
Leeanne: Yeah. Yeah.
00:30:26 - 00:30:27
Hannah: And acknowledging some of that.
00:30:27 - 00:30:35
Leeanne: Yes. And often I think when we're in drive mode, when we do that because we don't want to acknowledge things.
00:30:35 - 00:30:35
00:30:37 - 00:31:02
Leeanne: So. It's a balancing act, I think. But I think the best thing you can do for yourself is bring awareness to you. And be very honest about how you're feeling. And how you're reacting and challenge yourself to say, Do I like how I'm reacting? I'm a reacting to this on the basis that I feel under threat.
00:31:02 - 00:31:03
00:31:04 - 00:31:14
Leeanne: Because I think you can leave divorce behind you. But the way in which you acted during that time stays with you.
00:31:14 - 00:31:30
Hannah: How good has this conversation been so far? Leeanne and I go on to talk for quite some more time. So we have decided to split this episode into two. And you can catch the rest of our conversation next week.