In 2015, I went back to school and graduated with my MBA in International Marketing. Part of the curriculum was an online marketing class (go figure). The main impression I got from that class was that people today are looking to relate with the brands they love. Consumers want to know that a company has the same values they have. Even more so, consumers tend to purchase based on a feeling or emotion of connection to the brand or product.
Here is where I will tell you about myself. Now, I do not love to talk or even let people get to know me, but to test the validity of my textbook, I will try.
So how did I get here? I think a lot of it has to do with my undying hope that everything will work itself out for the better. When I say “hope,” I mean it in the biblical sense of being certain or trusting that something will happen. For example, “I hope everything will be alright” in this sense really means, “Everything will be alright.” My hope is not wishful thinking, it becomes a fact (even when I feel like I am lying to myself).
The most recent experience I've had with my hope was actually a result of graduate school. Well, I'd like to attribute it all to grad school, but it was most likely a combination of school & work & the toll it was taking on my husband.
Anyhow, it turns out that working full-time & going to school full-time in an accelerated graduate program is really stressful! So stressful that it caused moderate depression and anxiety. This manifested itself in a few ways, like constant physical pain and tension, short temper, always being tired and lacking motivation, decreased labido, restless sleeping, and crying...lots of crying. Crying at my desk, crying in the bathroom at work, crying in the car, crying in the driveway, crying in the parking lot, crying in the living room, crying in my bedroom...you get the idea. It sucked!
At the time, the Executive Vice President of the division decided to embark on a Lean journey - finding waste in our process and eradicating it. To do this, he needed resources. So, wanting to advance in the company, I volunteered to be part of a core group to tackle this huge undertaking. Little did I know I would be required to travel to Toronto once a month, sometimes for a whole week at a time - basically the schedule of a Director.
Other stressors that resulted from the Lean project(s) took a toll on me. In fact, it is very difficult for me to talk about anything “Lean-related” without getting tense, pain setting in (almost immediately), and finally just getting upset. Know that as I am writing this, I feel my neck and shoulders starting to tense and the literal pain in my upper ass start to ping.
Meanwhile, I was a full-time student in an accelerated Master’s of Business Administration program. That translates to 1 year of classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays - like ripping off a Band-Aid with super glue as adhesive. My cohort started with 8 gung-ho students ready to tackle this rigorous program! At the end, there were 5 of us that successfully completed the accelerated MBA program!
I cannot begin to explain the amount of reading and writing we had to do - volumes! I think at one point we tried to count the number of papers we wrote - 1 paper per week for 12 weeks for one class, but we were also taking 2 other just as demanding classes - for the first 12-week session. Trying to figure out schedules to work on group projects was a lot like my professional life as a project manager and near impossible to coordinate.
All the sleepless nights and hard work is a blur. What I know for sure is 2015 went by in the blink of an eye, I have all my notes, & a degree.
Going home at the end of the (endless) work day was met with frustration and desire to be alone to recharge for the next shitty day. As I alluded to earlier, I am married. This is also really hard for me to talk about - my tear ducts are brimming.
The 5 minute drive home with my husband (we work at the same place) was just long enough to feel bombarded by all the facts of his day - people/work overload.
I love my husband, and one thing I learned from all this stress is that we communicate very differently than each other and we both have different needs. I never was cognizant of that until my continual breakdowns.
So, after work my husband would want to tell me about his day, but I could not dissociate his day from the same place that was causing me physical pain - something I still struggle with. Then once we got home, I would either (a) sit mindlessly in the driveway and break into tears for no apparent reason; (b) change into comfortable clothes and break into tears in our bedroom for no apparent reason; or (c) turn on the TV and binge watch a show on Neflix. Probably half the days I didn’t eat dinner - when under serious stress your body does not digest food properly (or at all) and I didn’t get hungry. Meanwhile, as I’m crying or watching TV, my husband is doing what he knows will take care of his stress - tinkering in the garage & keeping up with all the housework.
What it really came down to was that my stress, anxiety, and depression were affecting my relationship with my husband. I didn’t know what to do to help. He didn’t know what to do to help. So we continued in this spiral path of no dinners & crying for the better part of a year. Oh, and don’t forget the occasional Lorraine flip-out that ended in yelling and screaming and crying.
When I stopped, everything crashed! My body had been so accustomed to running full-speed ahead all the time, that when everything stopped, I just kept going. I explained it like a car crash without airbags - as horrible as that is. Imagine you are cruising along the highway (speeding or not) and suddenly the car comes to a stop. Well, that’s great for the car, but you (all hopped up on adrenaline and stress) keep moving forward - through the windshield into the air like a pop fly to center field. That’s what I felt like. There was no crash into Earth, just soaring and trying to figure out, “What do I do now?”
The physical pain continued, the crying continued, and so did my other symptoms. Despite all that, I still had hope even as I laid curled up in a ball, hyperventilating, I told myself, “Everything will be okay...soon.” Yes, it felt like a lie. Yes, I felt alone. Yes, I felt like everything was falling apart...and maybe it was supposed to.
That’s about when I decided to go see a counselor who told me, “This might get worse before it gets better.” It didn’t matter because I was at my wit’s end trying to handle my emotions - that (still) do not make sense to me and I cannot comprehend. My personality type is completely opposite of anything emotional, but part of being human is these “feelings.” She would tell me that I had a choice: a) to continue on the same path “hoping” for improvement, or b) change something about my condition. I never saw a choice.
I also started writing again, like a kid keeping a diary. I was able to start baking again - a great stress reliever for me. I also dedicated time to practicing yoga at the end of my workday in a small conference room and sometimes again before bed. I also made time for massage therapy every couple weeks - this proved to be one of the best ways to spend an hour.
It wasn’t long until I started really believing that everything would be okay, and that “soon” is now! Yes, I still cry and have some sporadic pain, but overall I am getting better! My friends and husband can tell there’s a difference which keeps me pressing ahead.
If you hope for things to get better, you can find a little strength everyday to make it happen! You can hope things will change, and have the confidence to decide to make it so. Even though my brain was chemically imbalanced (temporarily, and may still be), I have control over my thoughts and emotions. It is not an easy path, but it is a possible path with great rewards and freedom!