Background post from Facebook and Instagram
"This week, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to let go of all of our staff. In the end, it wasn’t even a decision, rather an inevitability based on the circumstances we have been experiencing. Things could not go on as they were for us. We reached our breaking point.
This does not mean we are closing down. We absolutely love what we do, and we still believe in what we are creating with Spa House. We ultimately intend to push forwards with our overall dreams for the business and our developments at the clinic, but we can’t pour from an empty cup. We need to simplify for a while, while we regain our health and wellbeing. In coming weeks, we will begin rolling out our new structure.
In brief, our initial plan is that Andrew will continue keeping the remedial massage clinic ticking over, with Caroline hopefully re-joining the team when her health is improved. There will be no changes for Andrew’s clients in the new structure. Della will also be working from the clinic offering spa and beauty services.
We will contact all of you with existing appointments with therapists who are no longer working with us in coming days.
We will be advertising our 3 spa rooms, and one of our clinic rooms for rent in coming weeks and we plan to still have on offer similar services in the Spa House, as we rebuild.
To rent these spaces, we will be seeking spa therapists, beauty therapists, nail techs, massage therapists, or any other types of therapists that closely align with the Spa House purpose- to offer health and wellbeing services for the community. Expressions of interest are now open and will be considered on a first in, best dressed basis. Please contact us asap if you would be interested in more information about room rental.
If you would like to read more about where we are at, and how we reached this point, Caroline has written a blog which can be viewed here.
We apologise to everybody for the upheaval and inconvenience this big change will cause. We understand that there will be may disappointments, not the least of which being for our beautiful staff. If we could have seen any way at all where we could have moved forward sustainably and been able to thrive in both work and life, we absolutely would have.
We thank the community for all of their support over the past 8 months of Spa House. We now humbly ask for your understanding and empathy at this very difficult time. There is a definite grief as we let go of what was, and what we had created, especially the people, our employees who we had grown to love so much. As we process these big changes, and reset our future plans, we will start to announce them on our page.
This is not the end. It is a pause, before a new beginning."
It has been a timely week to throw the towel in, so to speak. With the Olympics on, and the recent headlines about Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles pulling out of competition because of mental health, there has been a huge spotlight on what it means to “give up”. There have been those who have applauded the decisions and bravery of their decisions to put their mental health and wellbeing first. But there has also been brutal criticism- weak, selfish, snowflakes… you get the idea. Wherever you stand on that spectrum of views, ultimately it doesn’t matter. It is up to individuals to make choices for their own lives, based on their own values and with their own wellbeing in mind.
For us, this decision wasn’t about whether to “give up”, or not. It was a decision to go back to and reclaim things that we have already given up. We miss our children- while we have tried to balance everything, there have been many sacrifices along the way too. Our baby is 4 and out little boy is suddenly nearly a man- only 6 years away from his 18th birthday! We don't want to miss all those important and cherished moments with them.
We miss each other- yes we work together in the business, but mostly we have been like ships passing in the night. Once the kids are in bed of an evening, and we have cuppas in hand, we are often on the couch together- one with a lap top, one with a smart phone- doing admin we don’t get to do during the day. Together, but not.
We miss our friends. Before we launched our business, we built an outdoor area with a fire pit, full of the promise of many weekend evenings enjoying home made pizzas and laughs with friends. This area is full of potential that is yet to be realised. We miss having energy and time on weekends. Often we crash into weekends, catching up on the chores that have gone by the wayside during the week and preparing for the week to come- in between taking our son to all his sport.
Running a small business is not for the feint hearted. Many people made comments about our bravery for entering the world of being employers. I can see why now. The fact that Andrew is normally processing the pays between 11pm and midnight is telling. We had always planned to scale up quickly after our launch, to make the business sustainable, but it wasn’t to be. Luck simply wasn’t on our side.
The first in a long list of unexpected business interruptions occurred only a week after we opened when Caroline needed to have surgery. This was in the busiest time of year leading up to Christmas and was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come. Our team generally has had a tough run with health with many weeks of cancelled appointments.
Then there's been that little thing called COVID. While we have been relatively fortunate in Tasmania so far, we have experienced increased appointment cancellations due to illnesses as a result of increased public health awareness. Of course this is not a bad thing that people are more aware about infection control, but it has still an impact on our earnings, nonetheless. We've also had cancellations due to people returning home from interstate and being required to self-isolate. A single cancellation could cost between $200-400 in lost earnings, not to mention the wages we paid staff to be at work but not earning the money. Then there is that thought in the back of your mind that COVID could return to Tassie at any time and close us down again in a heartbeat. The sum of all those parts causes a backdrop of worry, at the best of times.
More significantly, there have also been two major life challenges that have struck us as a family, and these have been the biggest catalysts for our decisions this week. The first is our daughter, who has a rare chromosome disorder. She is now 4, and over the past year, the extent of her disability has been becoming more apparent. The reality of parenting a child with a disability is one of those things you can’t prepare for or relate to until you are in it and doing it on a daily basis. Things can be different from day to day, week to week and month to month. Sometimes we feel like we are nailing it and there is a sense of harmony with us all. Other times we feel overwhelmed, snowed under and are counting down the minutes until our little fire cracker goes to bed.
Maya has weekly appointments with several therapists, and in between, we have lists of therapy activities to work on with her at home. We have a team of about 10 different types of therapists and medical supports for her, and this list is growing. While she’s a delightful little ball of love, she is also a non-stop hurricane who leaves us and our house looking like we have weathered a wild storm on a daily basis. She is noisy, needs constant attention and can have melt downs when things aren’t going quite right for her. It is tiring- for her and for us. We are devoted to her and to her development and being present. Being able to focus on her therapy and her wellbeing is a priority for us. We also like to spend time just being her parents and enjoying her and we need to be able to do this more.
The second major life challenge for us has been Caroline’s health. Caroline is normally the driver of strategic development, the marketing manager, and the innovator for the business. She is also one of the biggest earners in the business. Over the past 5 months, she has been unable to be any of these things. Her absence has been catastrophic for the business. Andrew has had to step in to carry the load of two full time contributors to the business, instead of just his own share. We’d hoped that it might be a short-lived thing, but we have now learned that this is not the case. The more we’ve pushed to stay on track with the business, the less time we have to invest in health and wellbeing on the home front. It’s a vicious cycle that could not continue.
Caroline’s illness- in her own words
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a very traumatic event in March of this year. While I am very open and aware of mental illnesses and how many people are impacted, when it comes to personal experience, I noticed a hesitancy within myself to share my experience widely. I realise that there is unfortunately still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness, and while I do not personally see mental health issues as anything to be ashamed of, I did fear the judgement of others.
If I had broken my arm, I would have no doubt posted a picture of myself laid up with my plaster and had a good laugh about it. There would have been no second thoughts about it. No one would have thought any differently of me, and it would not create awkwardness upon my return. It is a simple story that is easy to understand. A broken arm would be so much easier to deal with in so many ways. So much less complex.
When it comes to mental illness, you are far rawer and more vulnerable. Sharing seems counterintuitive. For me, I felt like a turtle, just wanting to retreat into its shell, away from the world. What I was experiencing in myself with my trauma and all the horrific symptoms that go along with PTSD were just so overwhelming that I felt that isolating myself was necessary. I needed the space and time to figure out what on earth was happening to me, seek help and to do all those things I needed to do to help myself get better.
The last 5 months have been the hardest 5 months of my life, without a doubt. I would prefer to have experienced labour pain every day for the past 5 months, than the pain of PTSD. It is that bad. While I have made huge improvements since the start of my PTSD, I am still very vulnerable to setbacks, and I still have many of the symptoms moving in and out of my life all the time. It is a juggling act and an ongoing experiment to work out how to get better- which therapies are going to work best, how much sleep or activity I need on a daily basis and how much is too much. What things will trigger me to have a flare up….and sometimes there is seemingly no rhyme or reason for a symptom flare up and you just have to let go and ride the waves. Again, if only it were as simple and easy to fix as a broken arm!
I still feel a level of apprehension about sharing. Will people look at me differently? Will they think I am bonkers? Will they call me a snowflake, and weak, like they did with Osaka and Biles? In my head I know that opinions like these should not matter. But it is a lesson that is hard to learn- to live your life without the opinions of others causing you to second guess yourself or be ashamed of who you are.
This apprehension about sharing is what ultimately made me feel that I actually do need to share. We are becoming much better at talking about these things as a society, but there is still a long way to go. I truly believe that getting things out from under the rock we have hidden them under, that shedding light on issues that have once been taboos, is a powerful way to make change.
I suffer from a mental illness. My mental health is far from A1. This will also be true for many of you, if not most of you reading this, albeit to varying degrees. I am still me. I have changed a bit, yes, but for the better. I am getting stronger. The saying that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger is truer than true when you go through the darkest hours of PTSD. I am not my mental illness. I am not defined by it. I am not ashamed of it. My hope is that no one should feel ashamed of their mental health struggles. Mental illness is an inevitable part of life for all of us- whether we experience them personally or they impact somebody we know and love.
People who have shared their experiences with me over the past 5 months have helped me to get better. They have helped me to realise I am not alone. That my experiences are not unique. I am not going crazy. My mental health may be suffering, but it can get and is getting better, just like that broken arm would be. How lucky am I that I have had these brave people, willing to share their vulnerability and their own abuse stories with me, to help me know that there can be light at the end of this long and scary tunnel?
Strong people like Biles and Osaka who have been on top of their game and the best in the world at what they do, they too have their struggles. When they draw a line to protect their health and allow the world to see their vulnerability, they are showing millions of people that it is OK to struggle. You can be a world-beater and still have struggles with mental health. The Olympics is symbolic in so many more ways than the stories of triumph where gold medals hang around necks. The struggles and life stories of the athletes, the grace in defeat, the strength shown despite huge adversity- these are the stories that give the Olympics the richness and realness that makes it so relatable. Many of us can’t relate to ever wanting to run a marathon, but when we hear how that athlete fled a war torn country as a refugee, or suffered abuse as a child, we see that these athletes are real people, and that real people struggle too.
I hope that sharing my story can add to the voices of those who are saying that health matters. It is as valid to pull out of activities for a while whether it is a broken arm, a ruptured achilles, a battle with cancer or a mental illness. Strength is found not only in what we do, but also in saying no when we know that we can’t. Prioritizing our health and wellness and allowing ourselves to thrive rather that just survive. Choosing to not be so busy and stopping the glorification of driving ourselves to despair in order not to appear “weak”. We are at our strongest when we care for ourselves, the way we do others and when we meet our own needs as well as those of others.
Now is a time for me to focus on my health and to start to rebuild. I will be back, stronger than ever. I am really starting to believe that now. I have the best husband, kids and most supportive friends and I am extremely privileged for that. If you see me around, don’t feel awkward! If you want to ask me about my PTSD, I am happy share about it.
Hopefully I'll see you all soon xx
So, what now?
It has been an epic journey over the past 8 months since we opened our doors as Spa House Tasmania. In fact, it is a year since we purchased the property and jumped on the hamster wheel of this business. It started with working long days painting and renovating, sanding floors, digging trenches for plumbing and electrics, designing concepts and layout. Oh, and trying to parent too!
While we are jumping off the hamster wheel for now, we hope that the hiatus will give us the renewed energy and strength to move forward in time- with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and ultimately a far healthier balance in our lives.
Caroline will be aiming to prioritise health and recovery- something that has been forced onto the backburner as she scrambles to use what limited energy she has to keep the business ticking over- those Facebook posts to fill appointments, HR things like getting contracts drawn up for staff, and all the 100’s of little things, often invisible, that are part of running a small business.
Andrew will be getting back to doing what he loves. He will be massaging his clients. And then when he finishes massaging clients, he will come home to his family, spend time with them, maybe have some time to himself occasionally and even get to bed before midnight on a regular basis!
We are still committed to our dream of making Spa House the success we believe it can be. We just need to make sure we do it in a way that doesn’t require us to abandon our other values- family, friends, health, wellbeing and life balance.
As we rebuild, we’ll announce each step on our social media. We always aim to be open and authentic in our communication and our clients are much more than a source of income for us. You have brought us so much joy, as you share your days and parts of your life journeys and allow us to massage and pamper you. We love hearing about the grandchild you just had, or the pregnancy you will soon be announcing. We love seeing the engagement ring that has just been placed upon your finger and hearing your plans for your 40th wedding anniversary. We love preparing your legs for that mountain you are hoping to conquer and massaging them after you win your sports championship. We love to nurture you with our treatments after you suffer the inevitable loss, disappointment, and hardship that life can bring. We love being able to give you something to look forward to in an otherwise mundane week of work, winter grey skies or arguing with teenagers and toddlers.
We still have the fire of passion in our bellies, and we hope to be back to our best….no, better than our best, once we have taken this small and necessary rest.
We hope to see you all soon!!
* Please note- gift vouchers are still redeemable in the business for massage and shortly, for other services on our spa menu.