I beat my midlife cri­sis ditch­ing by self-help books

Scottish Daily Mail - - Inspire - In­ter­view by Lisa Se­wards

Shirley yanez’s ap­pear­ance of­fers no clue to her ex­tra­or­di­nary life. now aged 63, she is smi­ley and im­mac­u­lately groomed.

you’d have no idea that de­spite hav­ing lived in lux­ury in hol­ly­wood, she was once home­less; that at one point, she thought noth­ing of spend­ing thou­sands on a Chanel hand­bag, yet not long after was left pen­ni­less, hav­ing lost, she claims, £6.5 mil­lion in a week.

and it got darker even than fi­nan­cial ruin, she says, cul­mi­nat­ing in a dis­as­trous mar­riage in los an­ge­les and, at age 44, an at­tempted sui­cide.

‘i hadn’t taken enough tablets to fin­ish the job,’ she says now, ‘so i dressed and went to the beach to watch the sun rise. i started to think how, if my mum had been sit­ting next to me, she would have told me i could do

any­thing — even get out of this mess. and so i made a choice to dig deep and fight for my­self.’

now she has writ­ten a book of lessons learned from this roller­coaster life of ex­cess and loss.

Called The Mind De­tec­tive, it’s an ab­sorb­ing read, part per­sonal me­moir, part ther­apy man­ual con­tain­ing dozens of tips on how to stay re­silient in the face of per­sonal cri­sis.

strength of char­ac­ter is key. even at rock bot­tom: ‘i dis­cov­ered i had my own “liftme-up” but­ton. But every­one can learn to find their own.’

shirley hopes to act as a ‘vir­tual coun­sel­lor’ through her book, which shows read­ers how to do what she calls a Mind Makeover and tackle is­sues such as anx­i­ety and re­la­tion­ship prob­lems.

she stresses that she is not a qual­i­fied ther­a­pist, but sim­ply a midlife woman who found the courage to pull her­self back from the brink.

To­day, she runs a cloth­ing busi­ness in le­ices­ter called Venus Cow, near the streets of her child­hood. hers was a tough up­bring­ing — as one of six kids in a coun­cil house. De­spite leav­ing school at 15 to work as a trainee ma­chin­ist, her am­bi­tion and hard work paid off and by the age of 30, she was run­ning a large re­cruit­ment agency.

in the mid-nineties, shirley set up a head-hunt­ing com­pany and lived the lon­don high life.

‘i wore Chanel, es­cada, Dior. i had a gold rolex watch and end­less jew­ellery from Cartier and Tif­fany. i was meet­ing all the movers and shak­ers in the City — the at­trac­tive men with money and Fer­raris.

‘i started drink­ing more cham­pagne and tak­ing co­caine, be­cause ev­ery­body was do­ing it. i’d be at Tramp night­club un­til 4am, then back to work in the morn­ing.’

Then came the big­gest gam­ble of all. shirley de­cided to in­vest in the dot.com mar­ket. spend­ing £90,000 on shares, she saw their value grow to £2.5 mil­lion in eight months.

These were the days of boom­ing tech stock, and it made shirley ex­tremely wealthy.

When in 1999 her best friend asked her to be her maid of hon­our at her wed­ding in la, shirley said ‘yes’ and promptly took three months off work.

yet the game of snakes and ladders was about to take an alarm­ing turn.

Days after the wed­ding, she mar­ried the groom’s brother Marty on a whim in las Ve­gas. he looked like an­to­nio Ban­deras, she says, al­though he was an im­pov­er­ished door fit­ter.

Within weeks, shirley had sold her house and busi­ness and ploughed ev­ery penny into the dot.com stock mar­ket. she rented an eight-bed­room house for her and Marty.

Just three months later, shirley’s hol­ly­wood dream came to an abrupt end. With the burst­ing of the dot.com bub­ble, she found her shares were worth­less and ac­cord­ing to her es­ti­mates, lost £6.5 mil­lion, al­beit in vir­tual money.

her mar­riage com­busted, too, and she be­gan sell­ing pos­ses­sions to pay the rent.

‘One af­ter­noon, ev­ery­thing hit me in one go, like a tsunami. it was hor­rific. The re­al­i­sa­tion that i was on my own, in midlife, hav­ing got to the top and lost ev­ery­thing was enough to make me want to end it all.’

The failed sui­cide at­tempt fol­lowed. For a while she lived in a home­less shel­ter, un­til a for­mer busi­ness part­ner sent her a ticket to fly back to the UK, where she moved into her sis­ter’s house in le­ices­ter. she then found the in­ner strength to take con­trol of her life.

‘i made an ac­tion plan. i learnt to lower my ex­pec­ta­tions, how to shop on a bud­get or at char­ity shops and to live a sim­pler, but more ful­fill­ing life. i started to go for long walks. i gave up drink­ing and be­came ve­gan.’ With no money for coun­selling, she read self-help books at her lo­cal li­brary.

‘i tried hard but couldn’t live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of what the books were promis­ing me and this made me feel like a fail­ure. i knew then i had to get off rock bot­tom by my­self.’ To learn how, shirley stud­ied the books of swiss psy­chi­a­trist Carl Jung.

Four­teen years on, shirley has fought her way back to hap­pi­ness — thanks in no small part to a £300 Job­Cen­tre busi­ness loan. The first £5 went on a pair of char­ity shop leg­gings, to make her­self pre­sentable. a busi­ness idea was born, and Venus Cow fol­lowed — plus, now, a lovely home and de­signer clothes.

But what’s more im­por­tant, she says, is ‘i’m now healthy on the in­side. hap­pi­ness is the sim­plest thing in the world to find, once you trust your­self.’

The Mind De­tec­tive by Shirley yanez (£11.99, austin Macauley) is out now. venus­cow.com

Find­ing in­ner strength: Shirley Yanez

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