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Coming back from the brink

Guest Author: Joanne

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

This is not my beautiful life.
My office door is locked, blinds closed and I’m curled up in the fetal position under my desk (a la George Costanza in Seinfeld).
I’m done. I can’t do any of it for one second more.
I’m not the capable, confident, fun, energetic and engaged mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend or colleague you think I am.
Please don’t ask anything more of me.
I can’t give you what I don’t have and I’m scared and ashamed.
I know you miss me. I miss me too.
WTF.
I can’t believe this is actually happening.
This is not my beautiful life.

Three weeks after writing this, I waved the white flag and announced to everyone, my family, friends, community and firm that I actually was crazy. I lost my job and spent the next 2 years literally and figuratively picking myself up off the floor. I know crazy can be construed as politically incorrect, conjuring up outdated images of straight jackets and padded rooms, but I am what crazy looks like. You can’t spot it. Nobody did. I look normal on the outside. I hid in plain sight for years. As a lawyer with depression, I was heavily invested in denial and false fronts. My personal relationships, professional reputation and livelihood depended on it.  

I knew coming out publically was going to be a game changer and understood some of the consequences were going to be bad. I’m not gonna lie, some fallout has been tough and unfair. But, I’m not sad, angry or lost. My story isn’t about angst; it’s about taking the next best step.

I look normal on the outside.

With some breathing space and perspective, I came to understand that in the depths of dark depression, my mind is not my friend. It lies and distorts the truth. It leaves me feeling hopeless and helpless and tells me my future is riddled with unbearable pain and despair. When depressed, I live in a cycle of negativity, ruminating about crappy things that have already happened and worrying incessantly about the shit just around the corner. When spiraling downward, my thoughts my enemy.  The irony is, they are also my Superpower.

My ace in the hole lies in understanding, managing and harvesting my own mental, emotional and physical resources. While I can’t always deflect the bad stuff that comes my way, how long and how much I suffer is up to me. I’ve learned that a change in perspective actually does change how I show up in the world. So even though I can’t change my lousy genetics or the bad stuff that’s already happened, I can and do make choices every day about what happens next. Mindset matters.

How long and how much I suffer is up to me.

Ironically, when I made partner in my law firm, I was given a gold statue of Sisyphus as a welcome gift. For those who remember high school history ad philosophy, Sisyphus was the guy from Greek mythology who was doomed for eternity to roll a boulder up a steep hill only to loose his grasp as he reached the top, requiring him to start over at the bottom again and again and again. While no doubt intended to be a motivating symbol of grit and perseverance, our mascot was a symbol of perpetual struggle. The underlying message was loud and clear: “life is tough – suck it up”.  At the time, I thought this was a realistic and sustainable approach. It is what it is. Get over it. Get on with it. But that’s not realism, it’s pessimism and, while being a pessimist and skeptic was good for my clients, it landed me under my desk.

Lots of things contributed to my coming back from the brink – meds, therapy, mindfulness exercise and sleep, but far and way the most influential has been learning to shift my mindset. Learning optimism acceptance put me back in the drivers’ seat of what is now, my truly beautiful life.

Comments

NotAGoalieMom
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I can so relate to your words in the poem – they describe my thoughts and feelings, it’s where I am at. Trying to claw my way out. Hoping against hope that I will turn the corner and somehow learn optimism and acceptance. Good luck to you and thank you for sharing, it gives me hope that I will make it through this.

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