The Story Behind...Louise Stone Art and Minds Life Coach.
Louise and I chose to meet at a Coffee Shop equal distance from our homes. We had met a couple of times prior to this at Creative Mind Mapping Sessions run by Louise in early 2020. What struck me as I got out of the car was the enormous amount of trust Louise had placed in me. I felt a tad overwhelmed but that would soon pass.
After an initial chat in the queue for coffee, we discovered, as I suspected, that we have a lot in common. From our initial conversation I also recognised almost immediately, that despite Louise’s quiet nature she is an individual with a strong mind and a great sense of integrity. Once settled outside we pressed play on the record button and the interview began.
I started by asking Louise how she describes what she does, if she is out in company and meeting people for the first time?
As well as running her business as an Art and Minds Life Coach, Louise works full time for the NHS. Prior to Lockdown Louise was looking to reduce her days working as a Phlebotomist to free up time and focus on developing her business. As a valuable keyworker it has been impossible to do this. A combination of the pandemic, along with Louise’s considered choice not to jump online to deliver Zoom Sessions means that aspects of her business have been put on hold since March. She has recently delivered a couple of ‘face to face’ sessions and is determined to get things back on track and pursue her goal of making her business the main focus.
An inquisitive child, always wanting to know ‘Why’, Louise grew up surrounded by a close family who were very much part of her childhood. Although no longer religious, church at that time played a big part in her life and acted as a social outlet. Louise enjoyed playing clarinet, as part of an orchestra, and sang in the choir. Like many people of this generation she spent long days playing out with the freedom that came with being a child of the 60’s and 70’s.
As a teenager, Louise describes her aspirations as being fairly ‘solid’ On leaving school she completed a ‘Prepare to Nurse’ course. Following this she worked in a care home and then moved on to the RAF. Away from her family she found the RAF to be everything that she didn’t want and after a few months she left.
Louise returned back home to her then fiancée and went back to Nursing College. At 22 she got married and at 23 she had her daughter Jess.
It is at this point that Louise’s life began to change dramatically.
Following the birth of her daughter, Louise recognised that she was feeling ‘incredibly sad’. Although she did not know it at the time, she was experiencing Post Natal Depression. What then followed was a shocking catalogue of misdiagnosis and within a matter of months Louise’s life felt like it was spiralling out of control. She found herself, in her words, “on a journey of being completely let down by a system that failed to help and support me”. In the 1980’s, things were different. We now recognise that Post Natal Depression is a very common and treatable condition. However, at that time Louise’s PND was missed. The consequence of this misdiagnosis resulted in 15 years of enduring mental health difficulties alongside many periods of hospitalisation. Listening to and now writing this story, it is hard to comprehend how badly Louise was let down.
On several occasions Louise asked her psychiatrist if it would be possible to come off or reduce the cocktail of drugs she was taking, but each time the medication was either increased or changed. After leaving a particular session feeling “completely hopeless” she decided it was time once again to take back control of her life.
I return now to the strength of mind I noticed at the beginning of our meeting. Despite being told that she would not be able to function without them, Louise returned home that day and stopped taking the drugs completely. In her words ”It didn’t matter if I lived or died. I took my chances on what might happen. I didn’t care”
Louise recognises that this was a risky decision to make and would not recommend it as an option. However, she believed personally, that there was no other choice. An incredibly difficult year followed, and It took approximately 3 years before Louise began to feel like she was getting her life back on track.
Louise eventually felt able to work again and applied for a job with Network for Change, a mental health charity who at the time supported individuals experiencing severe and enduring mental health difficulties. With her own lived experience and some ‘hidden gems in her pocket,’ she was able to offer support to individuals facing similar challenges to those she had experienced herself. The Charity’s forward-thinking approach to mental health, wellbeing and recovery fitted well with Louise’s ethos and beliefs and she was very happy there.
During her time of ill health and recovery, Louise sought solace in her artwork. Painting created time away from her thoughts and the life she didn’t want to be living. She has continued to use painting as a form of mindful relaxation over the years and more recently has developed her practise as an artist in her own right. Louise talked about how she is finding release in the way she paints now. A perfectionist by nature she is finding herself ‘letting go’, which is a significant development for her. She is proud of the work she now sells on Etsy. A series of colourful affirmation cards and prints.
I asked Louise to bring some items with her that represent aspects of her life. Among the items was a beautiful stone painted by her photographer daughter Jess, who Louise describes as a ‘ray of sunshine’ She also showed me a lovely framed butterfly print that celebrates her relationship with her now wife Paula who she married in 2017.
Louise also shared an excerpt from a book that she contributed to back in 2007. In it she describes a conversation, had with her parents about what life would have been like if she had not become ill…what would she have become? Her father’s proud reply….”Who knows?... But I do know that you would not be the person that you are today”
Life has not been an easy ride for Louise, but her incredible courage, strength and determination have brought her to a place where she feels determined to make things work. Her dream is to once again buy her own home. It is what drives her forward in her desire to make her business work.
One of the reasons I wanted to start writing about the people behind businesses is because the story is also often the ‘reason’. When I attended her workshops, I naturally had no idea that Louise had overcome the challenges she has. You only get a snapshot of people’s lives when you meet them briefly.
What I recognise now is that Louise uses her own understanding of creative mindfulness to shape the work she does. However, her modesty and considered decision to keep her own experiences away from the workshops enable her to be receptive to peoples own challenges and reasons for attending her sessions. This is a quality that I particularly admire about Louise. This modesty along with her strength and artistic talents make her the perfect person to run the courses, she does. I wish her lots of success going forward with both her courses and her painting and am absolutely sure that she will move steadily towards her goal of making ‘Louise Stone Art and Minds Life Coach’ her full-time business.