Stir Fry of Emotions – Fighting the Stigma

stigma

I was on a business trip not long ago. We had a 3.5 day annual company conference filled with key-note speakers, company information and team building.

One of the team building was quite emotional. We broke out into small groups of 8-10 people and had to discuss our highest and lowest moments of our lives.

Ouch. Not easy. It’s sometimes difficult to even come clean with friends and family. But to be vulnerable in front of co-workers is a different level all together.

Yet, I decided to go first… I told my group, with a quick apology of not-so-pleasant news I was about to disperse, of my suicidal state a few years ago.

There’s one thing I have learned, dealing with anxiety disorder and depression – it’s a battle to break through the stigma on a daily basis. And it’s so easy not to realize the person next to you is suffering mental illness. I just read 2 of the 3 main symptoms of depression can not be seen so most people are walking around with no support, no treatment and at the risk of falling deeper into the hole.

It is NOT easy to talk about myself out in the open.

So what pushed me?

Knowing if I can open up and just not care of what will be said behind my back (should that happen it would be out of my control), will help one person who is suffering alone hear what I have to say, which may lead to that person getting help, well, it’s worth it.

I not only talked about what I went through – but about how I got help. And while it did not get rid of my anxiety and depression, as there are triggers everywhere which will not cease in my lifetime, I at least know how to get help now. I was able to talk about something extremely important:

HOPE.

It’s not as easy as I’m painting it. But should my words give even a glimmer of hope to the one suffering beside me, isn’t the vulnerability worth it?

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Getting back on track…

I’ve become a person I don’t identify with anymore.

It can happen so easily. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But one night is all it takes for one to wake up the next morning and think, Who are you? Where are your boundaries? How did everything spin out of control?

For me, it has been 1.5 yrs since I’ve felt more like me.

A lot has happened in the last 1.5 years. Without going into too much finite details I will say some key points:

  • Whatever depression I had experienced two years ago, which lead me to therapy, has pretty much been kept at bay. Not to say it’s not lurking in the shadows waiting for the right opportunity to pounce out at me, but from my cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, I’m still able to exercise myself back on to a straight path anytime I feel like I’m being sucked back in to the darkness. More importantly, I no longer have suicidal thoughts!
  • Regardless of whatever shitty people or shitty things people have done to me, I’m still pretty confident in who I am, which is something I completely lost 2-3 years ago.
  • While this past year has been the most challenging, I am still feeling blessed with what I do have in life.

The issue is that I have this extreme want to excel my career.

On the one hand, it’s been quite obvious the vast number of skills and management responsibilities I have seen over just the past 6 months alone come to being. I am doing things that I know is what will launch my career further down its path.

On the other hand, I have lost that balance. I am sometimes a workaholic, working overtime and like this weekend, spending a few of my free hours each Saturday and Sunday to catch up on a workload which I will always be behind in.

I am a very accountable person. But not just because I have been given a lot to be responsible over, but it is in my nature to do what I can to not fail. I take great accountability in everything that I do. It is both a strength and a weakness.

What I want to do for myself in 2016 is to know when to stop, know when I need to just let go of work and spend some peaceful time, while at the same time, being efficient with my productivity at work.

The challenge with the former – even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work.

The challenge with the latter – my new manager (a.k.a. NM), is not one to allow me to be efficient. New manager is all over the place with projects. I am not the only one who has observed this. All my close co-workers have pointed this out upon meeting NM for the first time. NM is everywhere, is what they will say.

It’s true. How many times has NM double booked dates/months for clients where I would have to spend a considerable amount of my time trying to sort out on a calendar that is one of my key performance indicators? How many times has NM allocated time for meetings on new ideas NM wishes to push only for our VP to decline as it isn’t top of our priority for our company? Not bad ideas, mind you, but given our low resources and the long list of top priorities, said ideas are just not important enough to discuss right now. I spent half a day on my business trip discussing one of these “to-do” projects where there was so much more we needed to discuss first.

And finally, how many times has NM emailed me, stated a certain procedure which is new to me (as has been most of my job) and that we will discuss it together first, only to then get frustrated with me a week later for not working on that procedure? Yet I was instructed to wait on it until we’ve had a chance to discuss it. <- This has been the worst. Not just from NM’s poor lack of memory and proper management style, but just the demeaning approach put on me. The tone of voice can be abrasive and sometimes even shrill.

My challenge is to manage my NM and this will prove difficult.

My first task is to document all that I do for my projects, specially when there is inconsistency with NM’s work and/or communication (with documentation where possible followed by clarification. I will remain diplomatic but firm. If NM shows anger or frustration for how I decide to do my work, I will eventually need to take all my documentation and approach my VP for advice.

This tactic of mine is not to seek revenge or try to ruin NM’s career. It is simply has come to a point where if I do not do anything, the only person who will suffer is me.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with my husband about this and he continues to encourage me to remember that I deserve taking a break and to not let work own me.

Anyway – wish me luck. 2016 is not going to be easy but I am optimistic something good will come out of this.

 

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” But why?

I’m always told not to sweat the small stuff. For the most part, this statement holds true. But what if the sweating the small stuff is a way to practice handling the bigger stuff?

Lately, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson in my personal life. Through the help of therapy, I’ve been able to use ‘the small stuff’ to practice my change in attitude and behaviour within myself.

An example would be whenever my mother would come over and criticize something she sees in our house. Yes, mothers tend to do this and yes, it sounds small. To most people, it probably is small. To me (and others like me), it’s actually quite huge when it’s connected to a history of my upbringing and relationship with my mother.

The first time I realized my mother’s critique wasn’t as devastating to me as it use to be was about 2-3 weeks ago. We had this Easter lily plant in the middle of the coffee table. Completely dead. I think it was dead for at least a week before she pointed this out. And continued being dead for another week or two before my husband finally threw it out.

My mother went on about everything she could surrounding that dying plant. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was that she said – which was a good sign. A year ago,  I would have uncontrollably made a slew of mental notes about every single word she said to me. And then days later, weeks even, be tormented by it all. It was just something I became a pro at because it was the only life I knew since I started to walk and talk.

Though I do recall her saying that we used a perfectly good plate to put the plant on. I only remember this because I thought it was funny – it’s an ugly side plate which we’re going to replace soon anyway.

Anyway, point being, I realized for the first time that while her comments still frustrate and annoy me, I was suddenly able to not beat myself up over her negative reactions. It’s always something I understood in concept but never something I was fully able to believe in myself. And when that evening came and went, I explained to Doug that I finally was able to separate myself from her issues. That everything she was saying in direction of me was really issues she had all on her own.

And that I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m not the disappointment she continually tries to remind me that I am (either intentionally or not – most likely she doesn’t even realize she is doing this). Even if she truly believes I’m a disappointment, she’s wrong. I am my own person – flaws and all.

So I’m glad I did sweat the small stuff all these years. I think it was part of my road to practice on in order to face some of the bigger stuff either presently in my life or whatever might be waiting around the corner.

I don’t feel guilty about sweating the small stuff anymore. The small stuff has proven fruitful to me – rather than casually throwing them off to the side with a ‘meh’ attitude, it’s helped me distinguish what I need to do in the grander scheme of things.

Warrior Two – Much kinder but still strong

 

Warrior Two – Much kinder but still strong

I use to be an angry warrior – with little confidence.

Now? I’m the stronger, gentler type – that simply just poses like one. Read more…