What the hell happened? She could get through anything – many, many anything’s. She had had her share of ups and downs and tried to view them as a nice roller-coaster ride. Surfing waves, ups and downs. Not recently. It had been a not fun kind of roller coaster. She was no longer surfing those waves, she felt like she was drowning. The worst part is, it got to her. Mentally.
She felt broken down, overwhelmed and weak. Nothing she did was enough. She felt as though she was barely scraping by. Getting the minimum done. She had always worked hard. Worked towards her goals. Achieved them as validation she was good enough. Worked in a Big Four firm – for validation she was good enough. Got promoted throughout the years, performed to an above average level for 80% of her time at that firm. Achieve, perform, achieve, and perform – all the while being told how she was not good enough at this or that. Never a kind compliment without a BUT after it. For years she tried her best not to take this personally. This year, it all got to her. Adapt, adjust, deliver, and keep on going like the energizer bunny. Deliver, adapt, no big deal. She was waving a flag, she was drowning, she felt really, really sad. Odd for her as the positive little optimist. Things always work out. Things always work out repeat, rinse, repeat. All the while seeking validation from the outside.
Her faith was next to shake. Her family was blowing to bits, going to hell. No worries, circle of life. Worry solves nothing. Control what you can. She was going out of control. She felt like she was losing her mind. Random reflection is right. This blog would not be organized, no sub titles – just a release of what had been in her head for months. Months of not even doing one of the things she loved – writing, going to the gym. Oh the critics at work about her writing. Her thoughts are not structured, her lack of attention to detail. She guessed it depended on the reviewer. No mistakes were allowed there. Not even small ones. To err is human, that is how you learn – nope not at work.
There were two people who had a different approach. She started to love working with them and took their comments with joy. She felt like she was contributing and doing well. What a change. But even that was not good enough. She was criticized for working on one client too much and had to expand. So throw more work her way on top of the global client – so just do more, adjust, adapt and let them validate her entire existence with their lack of compliments. Their constant criticism and micro management was par for the course. Adjust, adapt. Oh and don’t take things personally. She had allowed this, chosen this. She was baffled. It was all coming to the surface.
People died? OK take some days, but remember you pay for your vacations before and after. The unwritten rule of corporation. Who died? Your mom? Let us remind you of that on Mother’s Day in the mass email sent out to the team not even 2 months afterwards. Classy. The father of her child died suddenly and unexpectedly? Too bad so sad. Not a relative. Does not count. Fuck her grief, fuck her daughter – she is an adult. Why did she have to help her? She is an adult. She has a partner. She had to help with the kids? Why – she had no time for that! She had a career to think about. She could not have no life other than work? She was concerned about her daughter spiraling out of control? She was too emotional, too worried, too weak, and too personal. Something was wrong with her. That was the message.
She found herself waking up in the morning crying. Repeating over and over «I got this, I got this, I can do this» just to be able to leave the house and go to work. Deadlines looming with resources taken away – «I got this, I can do this, I can deliver. I must deliver». She really care about her clients. Breaking down crying at the office in private because nobody could see this weakness. No way. NO WAY.
Crying and unable to breathe. Rocking back and forth begging for her power back. Where did she go? Where was she and who was this person who was so weak?
A colleague walked in and closed the door. He helped her back to a sense of calm – no crying. They talked. He helped her. She can keep doing this. She had the support of a colleague. She was not burning out. She was just stressed. She called the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and asked for an appointment – no time? No problem, phone call therapy. She accepted the December 21st phone appointment – two weeks away. No call on that day. No call. No help from the EAP. No problem. She was on winter vacation now. She had this. One week in Cuba alone would set her straight. She would find herself, realign herself and be strong, solid. A bomb could go off and she could deal with it, manage it and get through it. ZEN……….
Back to work after 4 hours of sleep. Had to negotiate that week in Cuba. The date changed 3 times. Adapt, adjust, and negotiate vacation time that she actually had banked. She was zen enough and that lasted 5 days. Gone. 5 days. She was not right. The Cuba solution that had worked so well in the past was no longer working.
Untold story about her daughter. Cannot talk about that. She is alive and making insane choices. Not her problem though. She is an adult. People keep telling her that like it helps.
The colleague helped her get her grandson into pre-K mid-year. She was so grateful. He gave her a recommendation to a therapist. She made the appointment and went to see her. The therapist was a good fit for her. One week later, the therapist told her to go see her doctor. What a joke. She did not have a doctor. She had not been to a doctor in 21 years. Walk-in clinic – there was an alternative. So she went back to work. «I got this, I got this, I got this»………she could not stop crying. She just hid in her office wanting to crawl under the desk and hide there. She could not breathe. Her colleague knocked. She let him in. He told her to go home and say she had gastro. Nobody argues with gastro. They want you far away. OK she thought. OK. So she left.
The next day she stayed home and called that walk-in community clinic. They told her to come in and see a nurse. When she arrived, they asked if she also needed to see a therapist. She could not stop crying. She said no that her therapist had told her to come in this clinic.
She waited. Two women came to get her. They talked to her. They had her complete a questionnaire. They took her vitals. Then they said she could not leave until she saw a doctor. She said she had to get her grandson from school. It was just one street over from the clinic. They allowed her to leave and get her little one. The doctor then saw her. She was not going back to work. She was burned out and placed on medical leave for 30 days. He offered to be her family doctor. She was stunned. There was a shortage of family doctors. He was offering. She accepted. He gave her a battery of blood tests to take and urine. She went to the lady to make the appointment. The lady told her she was happy she had come in today. She then said «Open your heart to receive». She left and marveled at how kind every single person had been to her. She was amazed and grateful.
She then took her second little one into her temporary care. The people from Youth Protection came and visited her house. The plan would work. Not so fast. Two weeks later, she got a call saying that this was going to family court and the care of the children was going to be entrusted to her. Out of the blue. No notice. In the next 4 days a meeting was held and the court date took place. She was baffled. She was getting accustomed to feeling stunned/baffled. She was starting to wonder if this was really her life. She could not recognize her daughter or anyone anymore really. Everything had changed so much. This was insane. People were hurt, angry, felt betrayed. All she wanted to do was help. Powerlessness was the ever-present theme. It is overkill really, she thought to herself. Why must it be so over the top this powerlessness? Must everything be out of her control? Yes, even her own state of mind seemed to have escaped her. She was now responsible for two boys, while trying to figure out how to get mentally healthy again to go back to work.
Fuck work. 30 days was not enough to get over this. The medical leave was extended. She now had 30 more days to figure it out. Get better, get stronger. Stop feeling overwhelmed. Get her Zen back, herself back. It all just seemed impossible. But she remembered nothing is impossible. Must everything be so hard? She did not have Syria problems, she had first world problems. She made gratitude lists:
- I am grateful I live in a peaceful country.
- I am grateful these are the problems I have instead of bombs
- I am grateful that nobody else has died
- I am grateful for the clinic and the kindness received from them
- I am grateful for my colleague
- I am grateful that I can help with the boys
- I am grateful to be alive
- and so on for pages…….
She was grateful for many things. It helped for a little while.
Then back to reality. Drugs, drugs everywhere – people she loved taking the most horrid substances she could think of. She hated drugs. She remembered a time when they would all go to 12 step groups. Everyone was «clean». She hated that word. Like no one was dirty before. She had a nice family. All was well. This too shall pass though. Boy did it ever pass. What happened? Never mind what happened. No sense wondering about the past. It is done.
Drugs – the doctor asked if she wanted pills to help with sleep – she refused. No way was she going to take drugs to feel better. Not this time. That was done. No sense in adding to the insanity. He prescribed them nonetheless. The bottle remains, untouched.
She followed her treatment plan to the best of her ability. She even looked into photography classes. Her dad had told her this burn out was probably the best thing that could happen to her. She was trying to see the positive or the opportunity in everything. She really was trying. She made photography collages with her photos. She decorated her apartment with pictures of the ocean. She made an aqua garden, bought a little beta fish and named him Alpha. She went to therapy weekly.
One Saturday while the boys were with their dad, she even got to spend the day with her daughter. She was so happy. They came home and talked a bit. Her daughter helped pick out the last photos for the frames she had painted. It was great. She caught a glimpse of her daughter, the one she used to know.
They discussed birthday plans. She would have them over for dinner and make her daughter’s favorites, including a lemon meringue pie. Her mom had always made the best lemon pies. This was good. She felt her mom’s spirit with her. Her plant Tessie was thriving. The boys were now in school and daycare. The weekdays she would try to relax, meditate and hopefully feel a sense of peace. One day at a time. She dreaded the day she would have to go back to work. She was not ready, not yet anyways. But this too would pass. Doesn’t everything?
Today, she would take care of the boys and hopefully herself. For today, that would have to be good enough. And pray her daughter would be okay and find the help she needs. One day, this chaos would pass, or she would become an expert at accepting it for what it is instead of resenting it so fucking much. She dreamed of the day when she could again surf those waves instead of being drowned in them. She had always loved waves.