This week I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and it’s a truly powerful book.
Over the last 18 months my friends have been so amazingly supportive and my life has been a constant challenge.
Something none of you know is last November/December I hit a low unlike anything I have ever experienced. Just getting out of bed some days was a struggle and my therapist and I discussed all my possibilities and I did actually consider committing myself for constant help. I made the decision that day that something drastic had to change. I knew this all was stemming from the losses I suffered last year.
Losing my grandmother was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken and tossing losing my oldest brother on top of that and then hearing that someone I knew in HS and was a few years younger then me had suddenly and unexpectedly passed and my father’s battle with cancer and knowing there is nothing that is going to help him at this point was just was the last straw on that famous camels back. I just shut down.
On a general daily basis I struggle with serious hormone imbalances from my PCOS and that is something that is generally manageable but when tossed in with all the rest it just became debilitating.
For a few months over the summer I just pushed through life and thoroughly fulfilled the denial phase of grief. I went on my merry way like nothing had happened. Come September and the light starts to fade from the sky and I am so busy in my denial state that I don’t remember to start supplementing light and Vitamin D and suddenly my whole mental and emotional system just slowed almost to a stop. As life throws you things and sometimes you don’t even see them go by I spent September in a constant state of “I’m just tired” or “maybe it’s the weather change”. Until I spent a week where I didn’t leave the house and didn’t want to and didn’t want to see anyone and didn’t want to talk to anyone. This is when Bill finally after asking for a few weeks “Honey are you okay? Are you REALLY okay?” That I realized something was very much not okay.
I went to my doctor and made appointments to see my therapist and started a very long journey to figure out what I could do to work with this. I started taking St Johns Wort and working towards something that was better then where I was. When the holiday season came around I was just shut down. The holidays for more the 25 years of my life were spent in St Pete, FL at my grandmother’s house. It was all I knew for most of my life and even though I hadn’t spent the holidays there in years that time of year is all about my grandmother even now. So I had constant reminders that she was gone and I would never again have the option to go home for the holidays. This broke me deeply and I didn’t know how to handle it so I didn’t.
I believe not working out of the house was detrimental to my process although I do wonder if I did have a job out of the house at the time if I just would have ended up taking leave or something so I’m not convinced working outside the house would have been much different. But I do think it slowed my progress. There were entire days I didn’t get out of bed until it was time for Bill to come home. I didn’t want him to know how bad I was because he already worries too much about me and I knew my depression was hurting him. He was so supportive of me and even offered to cancel Christmas and spend the day with me so I could just grieve but that didn’t happen.
By January things got better because the holidays were gone and I tried to put my best foot forward and force myself back into life. I gained a lot of weight when I wasn’t eating which sounds totally counter intuitive but that is what my body does. Any food I put in was immediately reserved as fat because I would go all day not eating and then have dinner with Bill and my body assumed I was starving so it packed on the reserves. This didn’t help with my PCOS issues and as I gained weight my hormones continued to spiral out of control even as my emotions and grief started to subside.
Also in January I had a number of people I thought were friends decide I didn’t care about them and decided to block me from their lives, which tossed me into another bout of inner turmoil. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was that I couldn’t. I couldn’t even care about myself at that point how could I care for anyone else? My therapist and I went over this and she said it is a very common occurrence when someone that is generally a Joy becomes a Sadness many people that receive their joy by being around me couldn’t support me in my sadness. This ripped my heart in two because I truly loved and cared about these people and suddenly they were just gone from my life which was like suffering a death again.
I spent January through May doing everything I could to maintain regular activity and act like life was normal even though inside I still felt like I was rotting. I went through the motions and tried to act normal but anyone that really knows me could easily see through the BS. I started reading books and I started picking up books on happiness and other self-help books. I came across Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and the book was thought provoking. It made me mad, it made me sad, it made me happy, it made me mad again. It took me months to finish but I did finish it. The book is about shame resilience. Well I felt so much shame about losing my friends I blamed myself. I felt shame about wallowing in my depression, I felt shame about not getting up and doing more, I felt shame about not fixing myself better, I felt shame about everything. So when it made me mad I wouldn’t listen to more but I kept thinking.
Once I was about half done with the book I realized that as I had been traveling and working from home I had lost some of my natural ability to communicate with people. One of my life goals has always been to join a Toastmasters group and to really face and conquer my fear of public speaking. So I decided to dare greatly and I put myself out there. If you know me very well or even a little you will know I don’t do things half way. If I am going to pay someone to help me I’m going to squeeze every penny of worth out of it. So I dove head first into Toastmasters and I started forcing myself to visit different networking groups to help grow my business. My therapist was very happy to see me getting out of the house so this was completely supported.
When I joined Toastmasters(TM) I went headlong into it. I signed up for every role available to me. The first 3 months culminating with me being the Toastmaster for the first time this week. I’ve already done two speeches and plan to do one a month to finish my Competent Communicator book in a year. I am also going full force on my Competent Leadership book as well to help me learn to be a good leader. This has helped me open the door to my communication skills that had truly started slacking.
My TM group is wonderful. They are so welcoming and many of them have been through so much together through facing their fears together that they are an amazing group that all of them are there for the same reason.
About 3 weeks after I joined TM a friend invited me to go to a BNI (Business Network International) group for a visitors day. Bill had been considering joining a group and I was HIGHLY skeptical about it being something I wanted to do. I am shy. I know yuck it up. If you know me one on one you would laugh at me being shy but put me in a room full of strangers and I want to crawl under the table and stand up and talk in front of them and I guess that is my perfect nightmare but I know why I want to build my business and I know in order to do that I have to put myself out there so off I went. The visitors day had over 60 people and I had to stand up and give my 30 second commercial for my business which I had never done before but I had practiced Bill’s with him and so I had an idea of what I wanted to say. I was unlucky enough to be the 3rd guest to stand and I can honestly say I did a good job but what I said, I have no idea. It’s a blank. I had bright spots in front of my eyes and I thought for sure I was going to pass clean out. Adrenaline pumped in my ears and I shook for 20 minutes after. Thank God for TM or I wouldn’t have even done that well. Ha!
But during that meeting the regulars in the group made me laugh. They all knew each other’s tag lines and said them together. They laughed with each other and at each other and then there was Art. The Art of eBay does a special kind of commercial and while I cannot tell you which one of them he did that day it made me laugh and it lifted my spirits because I knew immediately he was a kindred spirit.
After the meeting I learned that part of what I said in my 30 seconds was “bear with me I’m terrified” or something to that effect. So once the meeting was over a dozen or more people walked up to me to tell me they also have/had a fear of speaking and that I did a great job. It was so heart warming and they were so sweet to me. Then one of the members, Krista, set up a one on one with me immediately to learn more about my business. I left thinking there was no way in hell I was joining because I could never stand up In front of all those people every week and talk. Well yeah we know how that turned out.
A couple weeks later I did my first speech at Toastmasters and I totally rocked it. I was terrified and my hands gripped the podium like it was the lifeline and I was sinking but I got through the speech without passing out or throwing up. Bill and I discussed the BNI and I realized that it was an amazing group and the comradeship of the group really was something special. I had been to a few other groups that didn’t have that feeling and then there was Art and he really made me want to see what funny thing he might do next time. So I decided to go back for my second visit.
I got there too early and was the second person in the room and so I found a seat and stood there like a rabbit waiting for the foxes to come eat me. I was terrified. I was going to have to talk to people and I was going to have to stand up and talk in front of people again! I cannot tell you what I do in 30 seconds. Well people started arriving and several people introduced themselves to me so I didn’t crawl under any tables but I was still anxious about talking in front of the group. Everyone went around to do their commercial and the same things happened. People laughed and people were smiling and so I started to relax. It really helped that visitors go last. My turn came and I fumbled something out and they applaud like we do for everyone and the meeting went on and I didn’t die and no one threw tomatoes. I really fell in love with the atmosphere. They truly are like a big family. They tease each other and they laugh and when Art stands up some of them actually groan. It’s amazing so I joined.
Yes this is all going somewhere so I guess I should get to the point. The phoenix.
Through the process of Toastmasters and through my BNI I have begun to realize life does go on. My company is growing and my life is still there and while I still have some days I wake up sad and missing my grandmother and my dad is still fighting his losing battle with cancer the sun is out and for the first time in a long time Joy has returned. For those of you that have seen Inside Out (the movie) I feel like Joy got lost in my long term memory for the last 18 months but she has finally made it back to the switchboard. Sadness is necessary for us to feel joy but I am happy to report that Sadness and Anger and Fear are no longer the only ones at the switchboard. Joy has returned and I can’t tell you just how happy that makes me.