Exiting the Intersection
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” - Lao Tzu
January, 2019, will be one year since I walked out of my office, and away from employment I had known for the last 10 years. After much support and encouragement from my employer and colleagues to take some time off due to stress and the evident deterioration of my mental well-being, I made a hard and uncomfortable decision to take a couple weeks off to restore my health.
I will never forget the flood of emotions that ensued after I decided to take time off. I was angry at myself (seriously angry), for feeling like I didn’t try hard enough to prevent this situation from happening. I was ashamed that for someone who was an advocate for mental health, and neglected my own health, I felt like I was a fraud. Although I was relieved that there would be no repercussions for taking the time I needed, I still second-guessed my decision.
Until I went home.
The next couple of weeks after leaving work, were some of the most challenging times for me. I started to feel like I was lost with a profound feeling of disorientation. I constantly questioned myself, thinking, “What am I doing with my life?” … “What do I do now?”
The depression that I had kept hidden for so long, started to rear it’s ‘ugly little head.’ I tried to manage not only the physical symptoms of my burnout state but also my emotional and mental state without much success — I laid in my bed for days, allowing myself to be buried in overwhelming emotions. Somedays it was enough to get up, shower, and then put on a new pair of pjs. Other days, I could gather enough strength to make a decent breakfast, clean up around the house or do a short exercise — but that was not easy.
I was lost.
How could I have an ugly problem at a beautiful place? I had lots of success on the outside during this period of my life, but yet I had such an ugly little problem on the inside. I knew I couldn’t stay in this state, but I felt so stuck. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office, trying to explain how I was feeling, and then all I could do was cry. I felt like I had lost all control.
The next few months were quite interesting. I was off work, and struggling with the fact that this had even happened. I started seeing a life coach who was an excellent support in helping me move through where I was and focus on the internal conflicts that were not helpful in moving me forward in the direction of a new and healthy place. Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation - keeping one foot in the door, while acknowledging it’s time to get to steppin’?
Reaching a life intersection.
Eventually, I came to an intersection where I didn’t foresee coming — a return to work. When I first left work, there was no question of me returning. However, under the direction of my physician, I did not return to my employment. It was an end to a career that I had known so well — that I had identified myself with. And now, I had nothing (so I thought). I did a lot of reading and work around shame, and vulnerability — focusing on how I would show compassion to myself. I had to accept that this was my situation and a necessary part of my journey, even though I didn’t see the purpose of this significant transition.
I needed everything that I went through — and in that period of my life, I had failed to realize that my blessing, my new path was waiting for me — but only when I was ready to receive it.
How do you handle the down-rides?
There will always be change — good change and unexpected setbacks. It is our response to these changes and detours that really determine the direction to which we will steer. I had to learn from the lows, so that I could rise on the highs. This experience has created so many other opportunities that I had NEVER imagined before. What is behind me, is less than what is before me, but until I understood that what I was trying to keep was no longer mine, it made it difficult to see my new entrance.
It’s hard sometimes when you are at an intersection of your life that knocks you to your knees — but just remember, you are not alone. These speed bumps are placed on our path to slow us down, provide us space to tune in with ourselves and recognize that better is the process which prepares us for the future.
There is no straight journey uphill to success, and perhaps just around the bend awaits a new road, a new opportunity and new entry for you as well. Don’t lose sight of what lies ahead for you by looking at what was behind, but thank your past for preparing you for your future.
To those who have been a passenger on this ride with me, I thank you for your part in my journey.