ASK MERLY: “I want my life back”

Welcome to ASK MERLY: The Countertalk Problem Page, where our resident mental health expert Merly Kammerling answers YOUR questions.


“I have realised that I am a workaholic and now pretty angry and resentful about the choices I have made, and I guess my denial. I am a head chef, I’m doing well but I have sacrificed so much of my health, time and energy, and I’ve missed out on important life events. It really saddens me to realise how much of my life I have missed to this day. At times I wonder… what has it all been for? Any suggestions on how I start to claim some of my life back?”


It’s a harsh reality to become fully aware of the fact that we are addicted to work, and can no longer be protected by the veneer of denial or busyness. I can totally appreciate why you would feel anger and resentment about previous choices and sacrifices and these particular emotions are rather uncomfortable and are intense. However, I think that these feelings are normal and relevant to the process of reflection and change things going forward. Anger is a basic emotion which is needed sometimes in life and it doesn’t necessarily mean being outwardly aggressive or wanting to physically fight someone. It could be that anger is trying to communicate to you that now’s the time to fight for how you want your life to be going forward, and consider where do you draw the line?

Resentment, on the other hand, can be another form of anger or frustration around something seeming unfair. Problems can arise when a person is unable to forgive others or themselves for choices and actions that have been made. In order to start processing your resentment, I would suggest giving yourself some time to reflect on why you have historically devoted yourself to work, how it has served you well / protected you / helped you and what you have enjoyed about it.

Only you know the answers to the ‘why’. Regardless, there is always a reason behind our actions and choices. Having a deeper understanding of this could help you to gain acceptance of the past and other people that may have been part of this journey.

Here are some things to ponder:

This could be also called a priorities exercise. What is important to you today? Maybe you have forgotten or have really never thought about it seriously and constructively. I invite you to write your top 5. Note them down and ask yourself how could they be integrated into your life at some level. To get the juices flowing here are some examples that may be on that list (feel free to add your own):

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Health and fitness
  • Income
  • Independence
  • Influence and power
  • Making use of talents
  • Personal growth
  • Positive impact on society
  • Professional growth
  • Security
  • Spirituality/faith
  • Spouse/partner
  • Stimulating/rewarding work
  • Time for leisure and relaxation
  • Wealth/savings
  • Where you live
  • Status

What makes you happy? 


When you ask someone what they find most important in life, chances are that happiness is a part of the answer. We all want to be happy because happiness is a part of everyone’s actions. Whether it’s the people you interact with or what you enjoy doing alone or the goals you want to work towards, what gives you an honest moment of happiness pleasure/ fun/ contentment?

Saying ‘no’


No’ can be the hardest word for a workaholic. Doing things, we don’t want to do has a detrimental impact on our well-being and saying no has so many complexities attached to it, to name a couple: how we value ourselves and setting boundaries. ‘Saying no in our head is much easier than saying it out loud and it is something that needs practice. So just become aware of each decision and before you say ‘yes’, think about the cost of the yes, will you be sacrificing yourself in some way?  Is it possible to say no? Would you like to say no?

What does your mind and body need? 

I’m guessing that you haven’t had much head space over the years or the opportunity to really put yourself first. So, having time to have a mental breather and gather your thoughts could be rather important to you now. What or who could help you gain a little headspace so you can process where you’re at right now? Exercise is of course good for us but I’m talking about something deeper than that.

Usually, when we dedicate ourselves to work, on some level we become totally detached from our physical selves. Reconnecting to our body is integral to staying in tune with ourselves. So, what could help you to connect to your body? This could be many things such as any form of movement, exercise, sport, human touch, getting in touch with nature, massage, etc…

Hi Counteralk community,


You know that we’ve got you right? When you’re dealing with those big issues, you want someone who really gets it. Merly is an ex-chef, therapist, stress reduction coach and founder of @me_myself_inmind, which provides workshops, one-to-one therapy and group therapy for you incredible, hard-working, hard-caring people in the hospitality industry. Their mission is built around educating others on stress reduction techniques, mental health awareness and the importance of learning coping skills, emotional resilience and self awareness.


Merly is on hand to answer some of our community’s problems. If you would like to submit a problem, please email askmerly@countertalk.co.uk. All questions are completely confidential and kept 100% anonymous, now and always.

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