Fabric queen tells of life-changing diagnosis
BARWON Heads businesswoman Nerida Hansen has built a successful independent textiles empire and is known as the queen of fabrics within the sewing community.
It has been no small feat for the owner and creative director of Nerida Hansen Fabrics who admits the textiles company has exceeded even her own wildest dreams since its humble beginnings in 2017.
That success was accelerated in 2020 – a year that began with uncertainly but pivoted into one of huge growth for her brand.
“We had to re-employ old staff members and employ new members,” Nerida recalls.
“We went from a team of three to 13, which is extraordinary. We became a household name.”
Revenue doubled, the business moved to a warehouse space in Torquay and new projects were launched such as Future Folk Designs – an online destination selling prints, decals, stickers and labels for children.
But the entrepreneurial mum-of-two admits much of 2020 is a blur.
In fact, she has no memory of moving into the warehouse and describes life from March last year until April this year as like “being in a washing machine”.
Nerida says she suspected something was amiss.
“I said to my doctor ‘I just can’t stand living with this brain, it just won’t switch off’,” she says.
“I think particularly when you are in a growing business you don’t stop – sometimes for many years – and I got to the point where I was able to start stopping and have holidays but I found in that time, even though I had nothing I had to do, I still couldn’t stop.
“It was 48 years on the hamster wheel and in the end, I just got sick of it.”
Nerida says she even found herself drifting off to sleep during the day.
“So, I reached out to my GP and said ‘hey, I’m tired – I’m really, really tired’,” she says.
A long-awaited appointment with a psychiatrist last month confirmed her diagnosis – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It was life-changing, she says. Like “winning life’s lottery”.
“I feel being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is like someone has handed you the keys to the next 40 years of life as best as you are going to get it,” she says.
“I look back and I think ‘oh my god, imagine spending the next 40 years locked in this disorder’.
“Yes, I loved my life before but every day was difficult for one reason or another.”
The diagnosis was a revelation she felt compelled to share with her 92,000 followers on social media.
On May 22 she posted a photo alongside the words “mental health”.
The post, in part, read: “I have never been able to read a book from cover to cover. I get edgy thinking about sitting in a movie theatre … I am messy, disorganised and struggle with simple tasks like posting a letter, filling in a form or making a family meal. I also have a brain like a malfunctioning TV – 10 channels all on at once flicking from place to place … I do however, find it fun and easy to execute huge ideas, am unflappable in a crisis and can talk about what I am passionate about for hours”.
Nerida says the diagnosis made sense of struggles throughout her life.
“I really felt like if ‘I’m undiagnosed until I’m 48, how many other women are undiagnosed?’,” she says.
“I just hope that post might reach a couple of women who think ‘oh my gosh, I relate to that. Maybe that is me, maybe I’m not just a busy mum’.”
Nerida has now started a new path with a mental health plan, regular exercise and medication.
“I am so happy to feel like I might finally find some calm,” she says.
“I’m already kicking goals and I’m much better off than I was months ago.
“There are still challenges and a lot of figuring out … but I feel like on the days I’m medicated I can be so relaxed and so normal.
“I can focus and I can be at my desk for eight hours and get stuff done. It’s great.”
Nerida also has a renewed passion for her business with new projects on the horizon, including some she is unable to reveal just yet.
Shipping issues and a drop in business when lockdowns ended last year threw up challenges which she is now turning into a positive.
“We sort of had to go through that hardship first for me to say ‘okay, this isn’t working – what does my dream business look like?’,” she says.
Now she is focusing more heavily on her Nerida Hansen range of fabrics.
“I’ve got a lot of beautiful Nerida Hansen brand fabrics coming whereas in the past I’ve relied on licencing other artists,” she says.
“I’m focusing on really beautiful, talented artists so that my offering is something else.
“I think in the next few months the offering we have is levels above where we were from an artistic point-of-view.”
Visit the studio at 3/1 Haystacks Drive, Torquay, from 10am to 5pm weekdays and 10am to 3pm Saturdays. Follow on Instagram @hansonprintandtex or visit the website at neridahansen.com.au.