7 years ago, sh*t happened.
I had a career in Human Resources, married with an 18 month old. Almost overnight, the department downsized me out of a job during the thick of the recession and while I was on unemployment I got rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic and debilitating autoimmune illness). Did I mention I was shopping legal services to divorce my husband because he was having more tantrums than my toddler? Ok. Well that too. Let's be real, right?!
It all came crashing down.
Don't be fooled. This sh*t can happen at any time- your world can easily get in a devastating wreck. You can reach the breaking point. Nobody is immune.
And I had nothing to fall back on.
Nobody I knew was in a good marriage, including my parents who divorced long ago and my mom who was newly separated from her second husband. What did I know about a successful marriage?
Human Resources WAS my backup plan. The recession made it clear that HR departments were hit hard. Sorry. Not hiring.
Stress? I'd always handled it before. I survived my boyfriend and best friend dying in two separate accidents within the same year. Practically raising my own mom when I was a kid. I never shied away from challenges. I even thrived on stress at times, but this was too much for me.
Making it appear that I could handle it all, was by far the worst part. I was getting 1 1/2 hours of sleep! (I never recovered from the habit of insomnia after my daughter was born.)
I was delirious probably.
On one of my last days of work, I took a drive before I picked up my little girl at daycare. I took a drive so far that people, including my "ex" boss were calling to make sure I was ok.
A chain of calls among everyone had eventually led straight to me. I was the only one who knew where I was. It felt good, but scary because even I didn't know what I would do.
I parked my car on the edge of a cliff with a beautiful view of the river.
I didn't want to go back. I didn't answer the phone that rang multiple times. I didn't hear it, drowned out by a song I played over and over (I don't recall the song, but maybe it's best I don't).
I couldn't force myself to turn around and face my responsibilities- to finish writing my list of duties for someone in accounting to take over my position. To pick up my daughter. To attend a dinner with friends that evening. To face another sleepless night with no end in sight.
I simply couldn't.
It might as well have been the end as I knew it. And here I was. A dead end. A cliff. I have never been depressed in my life. Never ever thought of suicide. In fact everyone describes me as "level-headed". But I was out of coping mechanisms. Down to my last give-a-f*ck.
I finally answered the phone.
It was my husband. He was frantic. Who knows how long I'd been gone, but long enough to hear a panic in his voice that actually startled me. Now I was worried about myself. It was surreal as he was talking me down from the ledge. Little did he know, I was literally facing the edge.
It was an out-of-body experience.
This was all so uncharacteristic of me. And for a moment, I didn't recognize anything. Not even those two hands in front of me, gripping the steering wheel. All that I had ever been (or who I thought I was) was wiped away.
What could've been the end, became a clean slate.
My problems weren't just going to go away though, but I couldn't deal with them as the person I was. I felt human and fragile for the first time. The invincibility of youth...gone. Just a couple months after that, I got my illness. As if sh*t couldn't get worse. But here's what happened:
I couldn't walk for two months until I got the necessary medications. My husband helped me get dressed and took care of me, completely. He suddenly wasn't the person I had ever known either. Selfless. We're at a great place together now. Truly.
I stayed home with my daughter. As a career-minded woman, I never would've done this by choice. But it was the best choice I never made. So grateful that sh*t happened.
I became a freelancer, lending business writing services while staying at home (with my second child now). I never followed my heart or my passion before. I always followed the money. Now I do a little of both.
My illness is a constant reminder to take care of myself. To be human.
I am no longer that person on the edge of a cliff. Controlling my life. Those cliffs that create the Columbia Gorge are gorgeous. The winds, the weather, the water have all affected them and they are full of deep crevices and rugged ridges, but terribly beautiful and powerful.
If you stand the test of time, you too will encounter many sh*t-happens episodes.
I am proof that life can be great again after- not the same but great. I almost pity those who haven't had my struggle. Mental clarity and strength only occur through this sh*t- a blessing and a curse. You can read inspiring quotes and positive affirmations all day long, but nothing will compare.
We have to accept that life changes us. Sometimes not in the ways we contribute to intentionally or how we want it to. It's better not to fight that change because you don't know what's best for you. Yes, you read that right:
YOU don't know what's best for you.
You think you do. You can make plans. You can have dreams and goals. You can think you're in control. But when you're facing the edge, who are you? You can affect your mood and attitude (mostly just surface level). You can ignore glaring facts about your life and live in denial. Or you can face the cliff. The unknown, but it was put there for some reason.
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!