My story

I’m Sas Petherick. I have a Master’s degree in Coaching & Mentoring, and my dissertation was a qualitative study on the experience of self-doubt.

I became a coach after fifteen years of leading complex and risky organisational change. And facing the crucibles in my life: grief, loss and longing for a way to feel ok in myself. My own transformation has led me right to you.

So grab a cup of tea, here’s the full story…

When I was five, I was in the Red Group at my tiny village school in New Zealand, because I was best at reading. I had to sit at the front of the class because I was also best at talking. And questioning. Everything. All the time.

I’ve always had a boundless curiosity for words and people, stories and ideas.

At university I studied psychology, philosophy, poetry, feminism, theology and politics; consequently, I’m a fabulous dinner party guest. I also learnt not to let anyone cut your hair, in exchange for a Morrissey CD. Ever.

But no amount of book learning could prepare me for the sudden death of my beloved mother, one random Tuesday in 2002.

She was a vibrant and beloved 53-year-old with so many plans. I lost my anchor.

A year later came the equally unceremonious end of my marriage.

Grief-struck and sad, I raged against the universe for all the ways I had been wronged.

During the day, I was leading complex change projects; while at night, I resorted to my lifelong default of food and wine to numb out my too-hard-to-feel feelings.

I spent a lot of time in my little London flat, thinking and trying not to think.

Then I had a LOT of therapy.

I decided I did not want this to be my story.

Instead, I decided to say yes. Often.

And I found myself playing cards until 3 am with several German backpackers in an underground Estonian bar, exploring the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and running with bulls in Pamplona. I was woken by the call to prayer in a Marrakech riad, kayaked the Cares Gorge and climbed the Picos Mountains in Northern Spain. I watched the sun set in Santorini, attended the dawn service at ANZAC Cove, and survived a snowstorm in the Swiss Alps with cider, strudel and uno. I crossed the Charles Bridge in Prague and backpacked around Italy for weeks; I compared the breakfast pastries of New York, Bruges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris and had my luggage lost every single time I flew Iberia airlines.

My pendulum had swung from ‘Woman Curled Up in a Ball’, to ‘Most Likely to Skinny Dip’ for half a dozen years of exhausting, brilliant fun.

But I knew I was a disembodied head chasing the next high.

Work, pinot noir, shopping and one too many adventures with infelicitous lovers — it was all an Olympic-level exercise in staying busy, to avoid being alone and facing the truth: that I felt broken, disconnected and angry, often with a little guilt and shame sprinkled on top. Neat.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying to outrun vulnerability and uncertainty that I started to heal.

Utterly knackered, I went home to New Zealand to rest.

Staying still allowed me to breathe out. I began to feel the feelings I had been working really bloody hard to avoid.

I allowed myself to grieve Mum, my marriage and all the things I thought I would have done by the time I was 35.

It felt epically crappy. But I knew it was real. I found a therapist, wrote my uncensored tender heart into my journal, opened myself up to the whole spectrum of emotions and over time, everything transformed.

I began writing online in 2007. An unexpected alchemy of healing and learning came from this deceptively simple act, and it’s no small truth to say that blogging changed my life.

I found myself, my voice, and eventually, my way home to a life I couldn’t have dreamed up.

For years I was a ‘stealth blogger’ writing anonymously from behind my office cubicle. Before social media, sharing our lives on the internet meant letting people know our stories. The bloggers I followed were whole-hearted warriors generously sharing the mess and brilliance of their real lives.

Writing online in those days was exhilarating, it was like being part of a secret club. A family.

I think the blogosphere deeply mattered to me, because for years while I was climbing the corporate ladder constantly seeking external validation by proving myself, I felt so empty.

I was in a constant state of limbo – split between the external trappings of a ‘successful’ life and the ache for true meaning and fulfilment. I moved from England to New Zealand and back again within a few years. I couldn’t settle, I couldn’t enjoy any of it.

I was longing for something I couldn’t describe.

I was trying to make sense of control everything that felt like it was built on sand. Attempting to hold together my fractured grieving family who were 12,000 miles away, to find my place in a relationship that was terrifyingly real, to engender a sense of home in London, a city that increasingly exhausted me. To make sense of the wave of nausea I felt at the thought of reaching the giddy heights of my boss’s job.

Out of quiet desperation, I made one decision and it changed everything.

I woke up on the 3rd of January 2012 to a crippling hangover. I was in the biggest job of my life, six months into marriage and convinced I was going to do or say something to ensure I was either fired, or my new husband would leave me.

As flashbacks from the night before slowly took shape, I felt an increasing shame in the pit of my belly. I had said cutting, hurtful things to people I loved deeply, in pursuit of a cheap laugh. I couldn’t remember the last night without a drink.

I didn’t like who I was becoming and I knew that I was not ok. But I was encased in emotional armour that drinking was a huge part of. I found myself overwhelmed with the suffocating miasma of having created a life I wasn’t sure I was capable of showing up for. Suddenly I had so much more to lose.

I think I tried to run away without leaving. And drink is perfect for that.

On the bathroom floor that January morning, I quietly, desparately decided to stop drinking. But I had no idea what I was signing up for.

I quickly discovered that removing the option of wine was like lifting up a massive rug to find all the emotional detritus I’d swept out of sight. Over the following weeks and months, up came all the feelings I’d spent a lifetime avoiding.

My sadness terrified me, and I fought against it with anger. And I didn’t know how to be angry without it spilling over into a scary vortex of fury that sucked the love out of everyone in the room.

During one such moment of pure helpless rage, I found myself alone, standing outside on a frosty night. I looked up at the clear night sky. Without warning, any sense of ‘me’ suddenly disappeared. For a few seconds, I felt myself embody both the sky and the earth: I was that, and it was me, and everything was incomprehensibly immense.

It was the weirdest bloody thing.

It felt like God looked at me with my controlling, judgemental, sarcastic, rage-filled self and said to herself, ‘oh that’s adorable‘ and shook me awake. I could no longer ignore all the ways I was betraying myself.

All of it set me on the path to the second half of my life.

During the summer of 2014, I had heart surgery. Unexpectedly, a defibrillator was needed to stop and restart my heart. After this literal ‘reboot’, I felt different.

After years of being unable to quieten my mind, I had an urge to learn to meditate. That daily stillness is now both as prosaic as brushing my teeth, and the most profound relationship of my life.

Soon after I completed my Master’s degree and I found I was finally able to internalise the legitimacy I had been craving. I claimed my work in the world. I softened into the mystery of being human, had my entire shoulder tattooed. I repaired some deep old wounds with my father. Two sister-friends left my life with no explanation. Creative ideas, inspiration, connections and work opportunities came to me.

It was confusing and beautiful, sad and exhilarating. Like always.

I suspect all of this was necessary preparation for me to be here, doing this work. This business of being consciously alive the world right now is not for the faint-hearted.

Now I’m seven years sober, mega-awake and without all of my shit together, but mostly, I’m in the flow of a fulfilling life.

I live in the fabulous city of Bristol in the west of England with Ash, our pooch Bohdi and the furs: Rex and Badger.

It is a daily source of gratitudey-wonder that I have managed to wrap a business around some of my very favourite things: conversations, research, ritual and connection. My coaching practice has deep meaning for me.

I’m finally home.

My work is about helping you come home to yourself.

Self-doubt holds us back from being our fully expressed selves. It culls our spirit and wraps us in defeat. But it is a very logical and understandable response to psychological risk.

I can help you make sense of your particular flavour of self-doubt – where it came from and why – so you can minimise the ways it is holding you back. And I can show you how to cultivate other resources within you – self-trust, self-belief, self-worth and self-acceptance – the best kind of selfies.

Coaching with me is a mindful, experiential and integrated approach to exploring the narratives that shape your life.

I have deep respect for your personal identities, circumstances, needs and preferences. I’m not the kind of coach that shares inspirational quotes, and you won’t see me offering up five-step solutions to your complex and nuanced challenges. But I am fascinated by your experience of being human.

You are remarkable to me. I can’t wait to get to know you better.

Arohanui,

sas

Here’s how we can work together

Online programmes, workshops, coaching, mentoring and a lush retreat!