Hi, I'm Sas Petherick
This is my story.
My own transformation has led me right to you.
I became a coach after fifteen years of leading complex and risky organisational change. As well as facing the crucibles in my life: grief, loss and longing for a way to feel ok in myself.
After a wibbly wobbly path, I completed a Master’s degree in Coaching & Mentoring. My dissertation was a qualitative study of the experience of self-doubt (it was way more fun than it probably sounds).
So grab a cuppa, here’s the full story…
It's about being brave
I’ve always had a boundless curiosity for people,
stories and ideas.
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.
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 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, over-thinking and trying not to think.
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 raid, kayaked the Cares Gorge and climbed the Picos Mountains in Northern Spain.
I watched the sunset 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
I think the blogosphere deeply mattered to me, because the years I spent climbing the corporate ladder constantly proving myself and seeking validation, 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.
My life felt tremulous, as though it might collapse at any moment. I was desperately trying to
make sense of it control it. Attempting to hold together my fractured and grieving family from 12,000 miles away, trying to find a sense of belonging, engendering a sense of belonging in a city that increasingly exhausted me. Trying to understand the wave of nausea I felt at the thought of reaching the giddy heights of my boss’ 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, desperately decided to stop drinking. But I had no idea what I was signing up for.
I quickly discovered that removing the option of wine meant pulling back the massive rug to find all the emotional detritus I’d swept out of sight. Over the following 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 furious vortex that sucked the love out of 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.
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.
I retrained as a coach, eventually completing a Master’s degree and turning my fascination with helping people into an actual business. Working for myself, I found I was finally able to internalise the legitimacy I had been craving. I claimed my work in the world.
I 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.
All of it allowed me to soften into the mystery of being human. I suspect it was necessary preparation for me to be here, doing this work. Being consciously alive the world right now is not for the faint-hearted.
In December 2018 my heart stopped. I collapsed on the kitchen floor, rousing myself long enough to call a friend while Bohdi sat very close and licked my hands.
I drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point in the darkness, I realised how easy it would be to let go. I felt myself dissolving into nothing, into everything as all the machines monitoring my heart sounded the alarm. But underneath the chaos was very very peaceful. I was not even a little bit afraid.
But a part of me came roaring up to the surface, filled with rage at God and the Universe. To die now when I am just getting started, when we have this beautiful house we've spent ten years waiting for and I have a book to write and adventures to have and don't you fucking dare let me die now. So it went.
I survived the night and was moved to the Bristol Heart Institute where a very kind heart doctor called Ed read my fat folder of notes and told me that he could fix my heart and I wasn't going to die like my Mum. I was going to have a very different story. On the Winter Solstice, I was conscious as Ed made a small incision in my chest and affixed a tiny robot to my heart. And yep. So far, so good.
Now, I've been sober for over a decade.
I'm awake and conscious all the time. And even though I don't have all of my shit together, I'm mostly 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 Badger the cat.
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 an 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.