I spent part of this Summer caught in the mire of depression. It felt like I was drowning in concerns and worries. I can’t say that’s really like me, as sensitive as I am, but as there has been an overwhleming amount of change in my life in the past few years it is understandable. Even so, I did not expect or accept it. Amongst all the things I’ve adjusted to, I am still fighting with the bank to keep my home so it’s far from over.
Like most of us, I find it easy to suppress my fears under the mantle of busyness. When there is so much to do, there is little time to feel. When things slowed down in June, I stumbled to a crawl and stalled.
When I look back at my life, I can see that I have had four major go rounds with the monsters known as fear, anxiety and depression. They coincided with major life changes like breakups, miscarriage, divorce, and this time around the culprit was job loss and the resulting fallout. What makes this unique and dangerous is that I did not know that I was depressed. I just felt tired and after all the running around, planting, coordinating with clients and day to day tasks of running a small business that seemed normal.
My first clue came when I was driving and felt like I was falling asleep. A numbing feeling would steal over me and I would have flashes of myself in a car accident, and throwing up my hands to protect myself. I could see the mangled cars and it was scary. Each time it happened, I would open the windows and tense, grabbing the wheel harder to force myself to stay alert. Again, I chalked it up to exhaustion. I wasn’t deeply alarmed until an alien thought zoomed across my consciousness, “Maybe it would be better than this. It would be peaceful.”
I mentally shook myself not for me but for the thought of how the people I loved would feel at such an event was what gave me pause. Still, I was silent.
I got my second wake up call in the form of a good verbal thrashing from my fiance because he said I was not “acting” normal. Of course, I vehemently denied that but it did cause me to think. Reflectively, I could see that something was quite wrong but I was extremely resistant to discuss my feelings with anyone. I was afraid of all the typical things: shame, judgement, the perception of weakness, how this affects my view of self, and oddly enough, scorn and laughter. In my head, these ideas loomed so large that it quite literally glued my mouth shut. Yet, the more silent I was, the worse I felt.
In July, one of my friends said that she was coming to visit me and we could go out to lunch. I dreaded this as I had been spending all my time in doors with the blinds shut curled up with a book. When the day arrived, I tried to cancel but she knows me too well lol. The only thing I could say was, “I’m not feeling well..” Thirty years of friendship is hard to circumvent so it took only a short time for me to crack and all my anxieties tumbled out in a torrent. She came anyway, of course, and we were able to have a long and very necessary talk. Step 1.
I forced myself thereafter to get up and face things a little at a time, anything else would have been overwhelming. I talked to my friends and loved ones and surprise, surprise, there was no laughter. There was empathy and sunshine just waiting for me, literally. For me, that was all that was required to get me back on track and resume the fight.
I learned something this time, or perhaps I should say I was viciously reminded. Sometimes, you can’t go it alone.
Weeks later, I watched The Beaver, a movie about depression and the lines which struck me most were:
“No matter how bad it gets there is always one person in your life who is willing to stand up for you, fight for you, take care of you, accept you, love you, pick you up and dust you off, bandage you up and uphold you until the storm has passed…”
I have paraphrased, of course. I felt the need to write this because I have listened to the fleeting reports about just how many people are silently suffering from depression during these tough economic times. We turn inward when help is outward, you just have to find the courage to reach for it. If not for you, then for the people who love you.
I haven’t written much this week because it has been a whirlwind of activity. It’s Saturday so I can get off the ride now lol. As most of you know, I own a small landscaping company. Since it is a mere 4 weeks to the start of the garden season, we’ve been busy with website updates, promotion, Newsletter creation, equipment inventory/repairs and Marketing plans. It sounds boring but it’s not. The winter season is our downtime and even with the constant snow it was nothing compared to the garden season which encompasses fertilizer applications, aeration, planting, pruning, lawn care, designs and installations etc. etc.
As busy as we are, I relish this time of year because my brain is firing on all cylinders and the buzzing is wonderful, compared to anxiety, panic and inertia.
Now, I get to move, literally and figuratively, and oh my god it feels fine. The winter, in hindsight, seems to have been a time when the spectre of death and grief hovered over my life. Three people in six months. Grief is a two-fold process, you mourn the person but you also sift through any issues that you had with the person in an attempt to find closure. Of course, you have no choice but to find closure as the other person is gone and you will never have the chance to work it out except in your own head and heart.
To make matters worse, winter was a time filled with panic and anxiety. Ever since I lost my job in Telecom, I have been trying to find my footing. It is a terrible thing to have terra firma shifting underneath you. During this time, I have started my business and that has been a blessing because I am finally doing something that I love. Something that matters..for the earth and the people we assist in optimizing their garden environment.
It always bothered me that my former career as a technologist was so lacking in meaning. The joy of interacting with nature, continually learning new things and bringing a soulful smile to people, even if it’s only a handful, is what now gets me out of bed in the morning. That too, is something I never had. I was the exemplary employee who was sure to use every one of her sick days because I hated the pressure of my job. Even my sicknesses were mentally based. I hated the corporate ceiling. I hated the need to continually prove myself because I am black and a female. I hated the boy’s club. I hated the fact that my male counterparts on average made 30K more than I did and I hated the fact that so few people were conscious, or conscientious enough to thank you for all the hard work that went into running a turret system, a telephone system, a recording system, Video conferencing units, Softphones, Call collectors, Audio conferencing stations, Voicemail etc. etc. A very complex system is required for Corporate communications support and most people, even upper management who should know better, take that for granted. All the weekend hours that I gave away. All the nights working till 2 am and then popping up, fresh, suited and exhausted for work to be screamed at by traders and higher ups for the tiniest infraction. Boy, I don’t miss any of that lol.
Nonetheless, I would have to be a fool not to recognize that 22 years of life savings, security and knowing my life path literally vanished in the blink of an eye. It has made me feel small and very conscious of just how much of my life and self-worth revolved around my job. People will say that’s not true, who you are is not your job and my response is that it’s not supposed to be true. But when you spend so much of your waking life at work, preparing for work, or getting to work, it has to have a huge impact on who you are.
So, for the past 2 years and 5 months, I have been rebuilding. Rebuilding my idea of who I am and what matters to me and picking a path and direction. I am very conscious of the fact that the me that I display here is a combination of old and new values, merging and coalescing with my life’s knowledge and experience. This blog would’ve been very different two years ago. Forging ahead to unknown territories as a new business owner and gambling a portion of my life savings has caused a great deal of anxiety and, let’s face it, panic. I felt like I had lost complete control of my life when I thought I had it all in hand. I failed to understand how much control means to me and letting it go to some degree was one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn.
The business has been a boon but as it is still in it’s infancy and we elected to start it during the economic downturn it has been somewhat slow going. Of course, it has not caught up to my three figure salary, so I am now standing in a pile of debt that is threatening to suck me down. It has taken every internal resource I have to ask for help. Even knowing that so many people I know are in similar straits. Although I hate the idea, I have tried to find work in my previous field for the short term but the job market is still incredibly slow. Even with all the industry connections I have, I haven’t found anything in the six months. I am registered everywhere and have only had one interview in that timeframe. So much for 22 years of work experience. Sadly, my friends that are working are way more stressed than they were 2 years ago as increased demands and lower wages are ruling the day. I guess it makes it easier that I know other people in the same boat.
With the reduced money from the business during the winter season and the expiring unemployment extensions, I finally had no choice but to ask for help. Strangely enough, it is coming in trickles and from places I least expect it. We are determined not to lose our home and to maintain control of our life but weathering the storm has been very difficult.
Yet, I would change nothing. That’s right, nothing from the day they let me go. A course correction needed to be made and wherever I land I am still better off inside than I was on 10/26/08 when my world flipped upside down.
I have a greater respect for life than I ever had before. Call it fate, call it God, call it destiny, but it is sure to deliver the surprise that you least expected. In that is inherent joy, pain and the possibility for growth. I get that now in a way that I never did before.
True, I now have a disgusting familiarity with panic attacks. Panic that comes in waves which will not allow you to rest, to catch your breath or to enjoy the much taken for granted beat of a heart at rest. I have shed more tears in the last year as our financial foundation has crumbled away than I would wish on any person. The complexity of my emotions and the questions which have dogged me are without precedence. I feel duped, hoodwinked and bamboozled. I did everything I was supposed to do, educated myself, worked hard, paid my bills, got my small piece of the American dream and due to some corporate assholery my wings were clipped and not one executive has even been arrested for their part in the scandal which has affected millions of lives and homeowners. Where is the justice in that?
So, it has taken a great deal of introspection to STAND and yet, I have. I have a much greater respect for Me which is priceless. You can’t buy that and the things that I have gained in this two year period are of greater value to me than all the things I learned in the two decades prior. Who would’ve thunk it?
Now that the phone is ringing again and my clients are making me crazy again, I have a newfound determination, focus and clarity about how to bring the business up to meet our financial need. With a little help from my friends and family, I can breathe again. Most of all, I have hope and faith in God that this too shall pass and that feels so phenomenal. Only I know how hard it was to maintain the courage it took to walk this path…