Lydia Kimmerling, 38, is a master life coach and motivational speaker. She lives in both London and Ibiza with her four-year-old son Archie-Rey. Here she shares her story of extreme loneliness...
Anyone who knew me a decade ago would have said I was one of the most confident, happy and successful people you could ever meet. From the age of 16, I’d enjoyed a variety of interesting jobs in television presenting, the restaurant industry and even as a dance teacher.
I shared a house with four of my best friends, I had a long-term boyfriend and was out partying nearly every weekend. On the outside, my life looked perfect.
But on the inside, it was a very different story. Consumed by fear over what other people thought of me, I worried constantly about being judged. I was always the friend who others would confide in, never the one who allowed herself to feel vulnerable.
Despite being surrounded by people and friends, I was extremely lonely.
My unhappiness led to some unhealthy behaviour. As well as drinking heavily on a weekend with friends and often suffering with lethargy and hangovers, I was addicted to sugar. I’d binge on two or three large bags of chocolates one after the other and I put on at least two stone (12.5kg).
I remember once eating two-thirds of a chocolate cake at my mum’s house, even throwing it in the bin to control the binge, then retrieving it to eat some more.
I countered this with another addiction – to exercise. I’d ban chocolate and sweets and make myself do 30 days of Bikram (hot) yoga. It was an ‘all or nothing’ type of life, but I hated myself and my body.
It was when I was 27 years old that I reached a crisis point. I’d been crying every day for about six months and not really understanding why.
Hitting rock bottom
At the time I was training to be cabin crew with an airline and one day, I almost had a panic attack and had to leave the room.
I heard voices in my head, angry voices telling me to do bad things and I thought I was having some kind of mental breakdown.
I went home and Googled what was happening to me and couldn’t find any answers. I remember kneeling on the floor in tears and begging something – anyone – for help.
But that low moment was a real turning point for me. I realised that all through my life I’d tried to change things around me to make myself happier – my job, my location, even my hair colour.
But the only way I could be truly happy was if I liked myself. I decided to start making steps – some big and some small – to improve my life.
Giving up drinking
One of the biggest steps was to stop drinking. On New Year’s Eve 2013, despite invitations from friends and my boyfriend to go out, I made the decision to stay in.
As I lay in bed alone that night, a familiar FOMO (fear of missing out) crept over me but I knew that if I was going to take any control over my life, I couldn’t be hungover at the start of a new year.
Waking up the next morning, I knew I’d made the right decision. I was living in Brighton and on that sunny New Year’s Day I went for a walk along the promenade under the blue sky and talked to myself out loud.
I knew I was lonely within my relationship so I said that I wanted to be with a man who reciprocated my love. I wanted to be in a job that I was passionate about, even though I didn’t know what at the time.
I wanted to have enough money to be comfortable and the thought struck me that I wanted to live in Ibiza, an island I’ve always loved since I was a child. It felt like the start of a new chapter.
I began to work on myself and tackled other unhealthy habits. I changed my relationship with sugar, not banning it completely but asking myself consciously if it was the right thing for me to eat each time.
I would spend half an hour every day with my hands on my body, telling myself how much I loved it – even my stomach which I’d always hated.
One of the hardest changes was saying no to friends when they invited me out. I knew I would end up drinking with them and at first they would make me feel bad for not partying with them.
One particular night, I recall sneaking away from a party in secret, making a conscious decision that I could live in the moment and have a drink or say no and leave. Every time I said no to something I felt I’d grown both mentally and spiritually.
Within months I had broken up with my boyfriend and I was starting up a coaching business with a friend in the dream island of Ibiza where I live now.
Since then, I’ve helped thousands of others to improve their lives with my programme The Happiness Reset.
I’ve identified six ‘happiness blocks’ that can secretly sabotage our success, including fear of the unknown, fear of being judged and not being good enough.
I hear of wonderful success stories all the time – from people who have been proposed to, lost weight, started up businesses, all because they have found the secret to true happiness.
Today, that crippling loneliness I felt is a thing of the past. I remember arriving at the villa in Ibiza with only one client and although I was completely alone, I felt the least lonely I’d felt in my life. Because I was finally, truly happy with myself.
For more details of Lydia Kimmerling’s happiness programme see her website.
Watch: How science says you could be happier