The storyteller- Deborah Humphrey – Women Behind The Network

It was the 8th April 2019 and I was terrified, it was my final day in the NHS as a mental health nurse and a service leader, I was taking early retirement and intended to develop my own business. The change from working full time for 36 years, for an organisation that I was committed to and in my speciality (mental health services for older people) was extremely daunting. My inner critic, became my best friend in those first months, he (always a he) is still there but visits, slightly less often. In terms of knowledge I felt as though I had gone from full to empty in a few weeks and had many questions rolling round my head, asking ‘who was I to do this’ ‘what did I know about people’. Friends helped reassure me over coffee and cake and things began to make more sense; The Wellbeing Story was born. 


On reflection I can see how my own story that has brought me to this point. My love of stories from being a child; my father is still a raconteur always ready to tell a story about his family and some of their interesting histories. My career as a mental health nurse, needed skills of listening to, and hearingpeople’s stories, and in my Master’s degree I researched life stories…so it was no surprise that I wanted to develop this part of my life. 



I love working with people and a few years ago undertook a Diploma in coaching. In this we were encouraged to develop or own model and for me it was about creativity and stories.So here I was trying to bring all of this together, and I was completely unskilled in business, business development. Luckily for me, I met Jacqui Thorndyke  (bittenoxford.co.uk) who has helped me thinking about business, marketing, use of social media and is working with me to build a website. 


My seemingly impossible starting point of how to bring, stories, wellbeing, coaching, mental health and creativity together has started to fall in to place, albeit slowly. I am now working individually with clients, supporting WritingSpacean online community organised by Moving Maps (moving-maps.com) and I am looking to work at an organisational level using stories and poetry for wellbeing and development. I had some very good advice from my mentor for my poetry therapy training and that was to write from the heart. I now try to keep that in mind for all my work. 


The first six months have been unexpected, tiring and exciting. I learn every day and some of the things that I have learned from others and from my own experience include, don’t be afraid to experiment, if only one person turns up for a workshop that is fine, you will learn.  Advertise yourself, don’t forget all the skills you have and network. As I write this I see how many of my skills from the NHS are and how I can adapt this to my new business. 


Even though the inner critic lurks regularly, I am getting good feedback from friends and colleagues. I am learning how to work by myself and not to feel I have to spend every hour of the day looking for opportunities, they come, slowly and unexpectedly, but the power of networking is invaluable. When my confidence dips, I find myself scouring job pages, however, when I see something interesting and compare it to what I have now, there is no comparison. I am loving this experience it is freeing and creative and I have met some wonderful people (in person and virtually). A colleague told me, that I am now my human capital so I need to invest in myself and my development, I think that this is crucial. I am feeling very lucky.

Deborah Humphrey

The Well-being Story



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