What does it feel like when you have to give up a beloved career due to health issues? How do you move forward positively? If you are thinking of changing career or have challenging health issues currently, I hope you will take inspiration from Emma’s amazing story.
Please tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years.
I was loved by my family and bullied by my peers. It made for a difficult childhood but as I grew it created a strength in my me I would have not had without such experiences.
What was your first job?
I worked a number of jobs through my college and university years, incredibly, being a police officer was my first real career. I went to university thinking that I wanted to work in the social care field. During my university course one of my fellow students was a police inspector. I was impressed that the police service were paying and giving him time to complete a degree and began to ask lots of questions about his job. He invited me to spend a few days with his shift, I took him up on his offer, went out with his team and became hooked. I knew there and then that being a police officer and serving the public was my future.
What did you learn from your time with the police force?
Being a police officer is an honour. Often through no fault of their own you enter the most personal part of people’s lives. Being a police officer taught me that life is precious, it’s a gift to be cherished. No one rings the police to tell them about the amazing things that have happened to them. Instead, you only ever hear the bad. For many police officers this taints your vision of life and has done mine on occasion but now I understand that having seen such darkness I can appreciate the light and its brighter than ever.
Please tell us about your health challenges? What was the impact on your police career?
I was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called chairi malformation. It is basically a hernia in the hind brain, it causes the bottom of the brain to extend into the spinal canal causing an obstruction of brain fluid. I collapsed at home one evening and was told that I needed to have brain decompression surgery. It took about a year before I could have the surgery because of the NHS waiting time. The added complication came from needing both a ward and an intensive care bed, if an emergency took the intensive care bed, my surgery was cancelled.
Throughout this time my symptoms progressed. I had intense headaches that are so far away from any standard headache I had experienced. It was a pulsing in my brain that extended out into my temples causing searing pain and constant fog. My hernia affected my arms and legs which would collapse without a moment’s notice, often leaving people ringing an ambulance for me. My eye sight was affected, leaving me feeling dizzy with blackouts and I could permanently see black spots, in the way you see small midges in the summer. Work put me on reduced hours and I would attend when I could and often didn’t manage to get in at all. I had had my driving licence removed by this point and was reliant on public transport and an electric bike to get to work. It was difficult but I managed the best I could.
The day of my surgery eventually arrived and I prayed as I was put to sleep, I contracted meningitis following my surgery so my recovery took much longer than expected. I walked with a stick for many months following my surgery and slowly started to regain my strength. The police sent me for medical testing and it was decided that they would release me early from my service due to my medical needs. My surgery saw them remove part of my spine and skull and clearly the risk associated with that was too great for me to return to full police duties.
How did you feel to lose your career in the police force?
I am a very optimistic person, I like to find the silver lining wherever I go. Once I had acknowledged that my career would come to an end I started to plan my exciting future. I had been through hell and back but that brought with it a spark of light. It was a light so bright that I knew I had my future in front of me. Not many people get to start again but that’s exactly what this situation had done for me.
How did you decide what to do next?
A great friend who owned a training company invited me to attend the coaching and mentoring course they were running. I was instantly hooked. Coaching felt very natural to me as many of the skills were similar to what I had developed in the police service. I was an advanced interviewer, as I worked in the child protection team and interviewed people about complex cases. Coaching and interviewing seemed to go hand in hand for me. I had also been a trainer in the police, they had allowed me to study for my post graduate certificate in education and I delivered police management and diversity training for about 9 years of my service. With that my friend offered me a job delivering their coaching and mentoring course. I loved it. Delivering and enhancing this training made me feel alive and I eventually made the decision to start my own business.
Who supported you through this challenging time?
My family and friends were hugely supportive to me, practically, physically and emotionally. But one organisation who helped me beyond belief was the Ann Conroy Trust. A charity supporting people with brain hernias.
What do you do now?
I now am the director of my own business, considered coaching and training. www.emmacoller.co.uk
I teach people how to be coaches and mentors, partnered with the CMI who approve my courses. I also deliver bespoke training programmes as well as covering diversity training and specialising in trans awareness, work which I started in the police service and vowed to continue with. I have just been to the middle east teaching negotiation skills and conflict management training. I get all over the place. I also empower people to live the life they want by coaching them to create new patterns of thinking so they can power through the blocks that hold them back.
What words of wisdom would you give to a woman who is facing a huge health issue?
Having a huge health issue is frightening, for you and those around you. However, it is often not until you have seen the darkness that you see the true light. Stay strong because when you look back you will see that the difficult time you have had will bring many new opportunities, but you need to keep looking and you can’t do so with your head down. So, keep your head up and feel the light.
What tips would you give to a woman who wants to set up a business but lacks the confidence to do so?
I always ask my coaching clients, what is the worst that could happen. The reality is never anywhere near the story we create. Situations don’t have meanings. We create meanings in our mind. You are the master of your own story, so tell yourself a new story, one in which you achieve and shine in this world. Then you will live the story you have created.
Is there anything you would recommend to a woman to inspire and motivate her?
I love TED talks. They are inspiring, educational and motivational.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” Anais Nin. Take time to step into other peoples shoes so you can see through their eyes and by doing so you will develop compassion so strong and deep people will want to connect with you. This guides my rules of life, we are all here for the same reason and if I can help people with that goal then we all feel good. Open your heart and live your life with passion.
Have you considered changing career? Are you inspired by Emma’s story?
Do you have an inspirational woman in your life?
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