Exactly three and a half years ago, while trying to sing in a band, recover from a back and neck injury by swimming at a competitive Masters level, climb someone else’s corporate ladder, and be both wonder-wife and super-Auntie, I was unceremoniously flung off life’s treadmill. If I said I couldn’t see it coming, I would only be fooling myself, but it still felt like it came out of nowhere.
The “everyone has a story” story.
I was transitioning into a new job, one I had aspired to for years. My boss was retiring, and asked me to stay on the old job until her position was filled and a decision was made. I didn’t want to hang onto the old job, but felt I somehow owed it to them. My once ultra-competent, self-starting underling became ultra-needy. I was caught in the trap that bigger is better, that a step up was what I must want, and that to step back would be, well, a step back. So forces greater than me stepped in and called it all to a halt.
How it was in the beginning.
It started with confusion; not being able to read what was on a page, and my job was all about reading. I would forget what I had read. I was exhausted, physically and mentally drained and unable to change that through determination or will. I pushed against exhaustion, and my body and mind shut down.
How it ended up.
I got worse. Then I started to get better. I changed how I do things. I worked at it. Still do.
Why I need to talk about it today
I’m still not one hundred per cent. I mean, is anyone? I still have moments that feel like I’m at the bottom again.
Working at it takes time and energy. It’s a sort of investment that I can’t seem to scrimp on. When I do, I get worse.
I still have to manage comments like, “how nice it must have been to have two summers off” or “I guess you’ll have to just decide that you’re working part time now.” It’s hard not to be frustrated, because I didn’t “just decide” to be working part time. It didn’t ever feel like a decision at all, but I now see how it happened over time, over a series of small decisions that I thought were the right ones at the time. I thought I could do more, that it would be okay. It was all of those little decisions that led me to a major depressive episode, lasting the better part of three years.
What did I learn from all this?
1. Too much is too much, and if you don’t stop, your body will find a way to make you.
2. Find your own ladder and climb that. It’s okay that it might be leaning a bit more horizontally right now.
3. You have to manage your own health and well-being.
4. Others will likely not understand, nor do they need to.
5. That the learning will go on.