Growing up, we are taught what success looks like. Not so long ago, I thought my life was picture perfect and that everything was going according to plan. All of the hallmarks of a happy, successful life seemed to be in place: the picket fence, the dog, a happy marriage, and a great job.
I had obtained my IT degree and completed the Microsoft certifications in record time. Working in the IT field afforded me the opportunity to work with ingenious, resourceful minds and I loved my job supporting networking systems for corporate companies.
I was a force. Meeting deadlines, working long, rolling out hardware upgrades to accommodate the latest and greatest software implementations. It was a fast-paced field full of fast-paced people and I was keeping up with the best of them.
Of course, at the time I was sure that I was perfectly happy. I may have been a little stressed and a lot underweight. I may have often felt sad and, even more often, very tired as I rode a 5:20am train to work every morning, but I was too wrapped up in my “success” to see that my picture perfect life was frayed around the edges.
My “success” somehow became a constant state of busy that left me with no time to enjoy life’s important moments. Without realizing it, I had made work my only priority and, in a sense, an escape route from reality. My life had become so unbalanced and something had to give.
What finally gave was my body. The stress of juggling family responsibilities, an unwanted divorce, and increasingly stressful job brought on fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and heavy depression. Extreme flare-ups would often stop me from even leaving the house. I was experiencing a glorious burnout. Eventually, stress and exhaustion caught up with me. One day at work I just collapsed. When I was driven home that day, I had no inkling that I would never return.
This was the beginning of what, at the time, seemed to be the end. My home, heart, and body were broken. My dreams had come crushing down. I spent countless hours retracing my steps, trying to identify what had gone wrong. Hadn’t I been happy? How could I have failed so miserably? How did I get myself here and, more importantly, how would I get myself out?
Thinking about the future would paralyze me with fear and constantly reliving the past left me deeply frustrated and sad. More often than not, I feared my life was passing me by. I was experiencing the darkest night of the soul in super action, except I was no super woman.
My entire life, I had focused on what I needed to do and got the job done. That was the only way I knew how to operate, but life as I knew it had stopped. I knew I didn’t want to continue down the road I was traveling, but I had no idea what I wanted.
Looking back, I can remember the night I finally realized just how hard I pushed myself. Now that I had pushed myself to burnout, I was stuck. My illness constantly kept me a prisoner of the pretty house. But the reality of being stuck was overshadowed by the fear of not knowing how to fix it. I was sitting on the sofa with my 11 year old daughter and everything came to a very sobering clarity. Looking at her, I realized this was not the way I wanted her to remember me, not how I wanted her to grow up, and not the life I wanted her to have. That moment became a catalyst, I’d made a choice. I told myself, “Enough is enough!” I’d finally had enough of being sick and tired. I’d had enough of being sad and broken.
I was ready for radical change. I didn’t know what shape that change would take yet, but I knew I couldn’t keep doing things in the same way that got me to where I was. I had to figure out another way of being and I made the decision to adopt a new attitude.