Rebuilding With Andrea Clarke – Part One

September 23, 2015

Five Steps I Took To Start Rebuilding My Confidence.

Andrea runs one-day workshops around Australia that help women ‘communicate with authority,’ which is essentially helping women to understand how they can unconsciously undermine their own authority through the way they speak, interact and present to their colleagues, clients and the CEO.

Can you tell us a little about you?

My background is in commercial television news reporting. Most days of my life, I have filed news reports for the evening news.

I moved myself to Washington DC in 2004 to cover news for Reuters, Al Jazeera English and the Seven Network. I had the chance to cover major news stories across the United States including Obama’s Inauguration and Hurricane Katrina. I also worked across the humanitarian aid arena on major projects in Iraq and Afghanistan before serving as Senior Communication Director for the Save Darfur Coalition – the campaign to end genocide in Sudan.

I always had a natural curiosity growing up, and for me, being a journalist was the only option. I have made transitions in my career that have built on that incredibly diverse experience.

If you don’t mind can you share with our readers some of the challenges you have faced and how they have influenced your current choices?

I’ll share one specific incident .. Suffering chronic pain is like most experiences in life, until you go through it yourself, you cannot possibly comprehend what it does to you. For those who don’t know, it’s distressing, incredibly disruptive and leaves you often wondering if you’ll ever feel happiness again. It can strip you of any confidence you have to perform even the most basic of tasks, let-alone perform at work. This was one of my great lessons. After one cocktail at a swanky Washington D.C bar to welcome a friend to town, I proceeded to exit, and in doing so, got my high heel caught a raised door frame. I fell out the doorway, cleared the step and landed squarely on my left elbow. I smashed the joint instantly. Fortunately, shock set in making me utterly oblivious to the pain. That wore off 20 minutes later when I arrived at the emergency room at the George Washington University Hospital, where I was refused admission until I surrendered my US health insurance and my credit card. The pain had only just begun. Straightening my left arm took me two years of regular physiotherapy and cost me $50,000.

When I woke up from surgery I was overwhelmed. Until this very moment I was not aware that this level of physical agony actually existed. The nurse offered to increase my intravenous morphine level. It was so unbearable that if she had offered me death as an option, I would have considered it – which goes to show the irrational power of my mind attempting to navigate pain in a post-anaesthetic fog.

When you smash a joint, things get harder really fast. I couldn’t brush my hair, tie in back in a ponytail, workout properly, drive a car, get public transport for fear of people bumping into me, apply make up or wear heels. Forget sleeping properly, having sex or anything remotely fun! In hindsight, there was no doubt I was suffering low-level depression for probably a year because of this incident. But as a freelance reporter, I had to get back on the road seven days after surgery. Flying to the LA bureau for Channel 7, I would routinely try to get out of live crosses because I never looked so overweight and untidy in my career. My normally sharp mind was slowed by a daily dose of drugs that impacted my ability to string a sentence together. I was genuinely struggling. And I was embarrassed. I hit the wall when I did a truly awful live cross for the morning news, stuffing up a simple conversation about the Queen. On the flight back to Washington D.C., I knew I had to make a plan to find my way back to my normal self.

These are five steps I took to start rebuilding my confidence.

Push Yourself Beyond Your Limit

Whatever the suggested treatment plan is, where possible, look into doubling your efforts. In my case, I had a short window to keep scar tissue from developing and permanently damaging my joint, so I saw specialist twice as often as instructed so she could stop the bone attaching to the skin. It was agony, but it worked.

Ask for help

Don’t be a hero, ask for help if you need it. Call a family meeting, send a physiotherapy roster to friends. If you’re temporarily in a state of distress, you won’t find a way through it without simply asking for assistance.

Keep the lines of communication wide open

This sounds like a simple suggestion, but keeping work colleagues and your boss informed via weekly or monthly updates is key. They may be distracted in their own private work bubble, but being an inclusive staffer means summarising how things are going for you and managing expectations about your ability to re-enter the office. This also means there is evidence of your efforts to get back on track in case of any unexpected action against you.

Accept things will be different for a while

Whether you have smashed a joint, been involved in a car accident or developed a serious health condition, your body will need time to heal. Your mind also needs time to process the trauma. If this means connecting with a professional counsellor, then do it. Suddenly finding yourself in chronic pain can be debilitating so don’t underestimate the help you may need to re-group. Telling others that “I’ll be right” is not realistic and not fair on yourself.

Overhaul Your Diet

A Harvard study talks about the ‘triple threat’ to optimal healing – bad food, no sleep and lack of movement. These three things interfere with our body’s natural healing process, creating an environment for average healing at best. When we’re not well, we tend to neglect nutrition, when we should be fuelling our body with critical proteins, fruits, vegetables and supplements.

This incident, although a major event for me, is trivial compared to what others go through. Our sense of suffering can so easily be escalated by how much support we feel we have around us, so don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you and be honest about how difficult it is. It’s far easier to hold onto your confidence by taking more control, instead of allowing the circumstances take control of you.

Moving Forward with Andrea Clarke – Part 2 – Coming Soon


T:  /andreaclarke22

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