Caitlin Taylor, 30, only went into the field of finance after she Googled ‘how to make the most money’.
But within months of moving to London for a job as an investment banker, the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle took a huge toll on her health.
Essentially, she developed an allergy to her high-stress job, breaking out in hives all over body and her face becoming so swollen she could barely see.
Doctors carried out a load of tests – at one point even suspecting Caitlin might have cancer – but couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
She said: ‘It was really frightening.
‘I woke up absolutely covered in these hives, and I couldn’t breathe, or see properly.
‘I looked like I had been burned all over my body, or attacked by an alien. It hurt so much.
‘I kept going into work because it was so busy.
‘I was working from 7am to 10 or 10.30pm, and commuting an hour and a half each way from Surrey to Canary Wharf.
‘In the whole year I was badly ill I only took two-and-a-half weeks sick leave.’
Along with hives, the investment banker experienced brain fog and a major dip in confidence.
‘First I could really feel stress and anxiety creeping in,’ she remembers. ‘Then I started to get very ill.
‘The rash on my head was really bad. My skin was really swollen and bobbly.
‘If I ran my fingers through my hair I could feel big welts like bee stings. They itched a bit, and if I touched them they hurt. They were hives.
‘One day I was sitting at my desk and my lips started to feel really hot.
“I went to look in the mirror and I could see my whole face was swollen.
‘The pharmacy said it was an allergic reaction and gave me antihistamine, but it got worse and spread all down my neck arms and chest.
‘I started to have panic attacks.
‘I went to St Thomas Hospital and my blood tests came back fine and I appeared to be healthy, but I was clearly quite unwell. They said I was having an allergic reaction.
‘They gave me steroids and stronger antihistamine but it kept coming back.
‘Then the brain fog started, which was really affecting my work.
‘This made me really stressed, and I realised the more stressed I got the worse the hives got.
‘The hives came and went but were getting progressively worse every time it came back.
‘It was terribly embarrassing as well.
‘I spent a lot of time with my head down, and the steroids made me put on a lot of weight.
‘I lost a lot of confidence.’
It wasn’t until Caitlin was hospitalised three weeks in a row after struggling to breathe that she consulted private alternative health experts and found an answer.
These experts diagnosed Caitlin with an extreme allergic reaction to stress, and warned her that she either needed to radically slow down or take strong medication for the rest of her life.
Rather than taking pills, Caitlin decided to give her life an overhaul.
She quit the job that paid her £55,000 a year and spent her entire savings on a two-and-a-half-year adventure around the world.
After six months of travelling and an anti-inflammatory diet, Caitlin’s illness had disappeared.
She went from a holiday romance in Spain, to a party bus in New Zealand, to a yoga retreat in Bali, then bought a caravan and hit the road in Sweden.
She returned to the UK with just £50 in her bank account and £10,000 of debt, but happier than ever – with a long-term partner and a new job as a life coach.
Caitlin, from Worcester Park, London, believes that ditching her high-pace lifestyle saved her life.
‘I went to university because I thought I should, and got a job I thought I needed, but by the end I was working like a dog and didn’t even have my health,’ she said.
‘I packed in my job, packed my bags, and went travelling with the money I had saved to buy a house.
‘I left everything, and I didn’t have a plan. I was scared, and I was crying when I flew out, but I had the best time ever when I was travelling.
‘I discovered a new way to live and now, ironically, I help stressed and burned out Londoners to do the same.’
Caitlin now works as a consultant project manager for a consultancy firm during the day, while building up her own life and health coaching business in the evenings.
She’s keen to help wake other hard-workers up to the impact of extreme stress on the health, and help them to escape the damaging daily grind.
‘I was at my wits end,’ she said.
‘I would have dismissed it as a load of hippy woohoo before, but I was ready to try anything.
‘When I looked back I realised I hadn’t had any fun – I had just worried about money and mortgages.
‘Everyone thinks they have to make drastic changes – I thought that and I did – but you don’t have to do it that way.
‘Now I am making small changes every evening building up my own coaching business while I work to earn enough to go back to Bali.
‘You can do these things bit by bit.’
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