Jan 042015

I don’t think I ever recall seeing so many people look back on a year and say, “It sucked.” And yet, that was almost my entire twitter feed this last week. Everyone had a rough 2014, it seems. Personal loss, challenges, tragedies, illness… so many negative feelings and emotions were wrapped up in 2014. Looking back, I’m tempted to think the same way.

The year started with my an ultimatum from my sister that she wouldn’t talk to me unless I forgot about X and Y and pretended they never happened so I could only think positive thoughts about her husband and their relationship.

Unfortunately, she is the one who told me about X and Y (and the rest of the alphabet) and even requested that I help her look at all the issues. It’s really hard to forget almost two years of your sister calling you routinely to cry about her relationship and discuss all the bad crap they are both guilty of in their relationship.

I couldn’t do as she asked, so I was cut out of her life.

Depression can feel like you're sitting all alone, naked and exposed.

Depression can feel like you’re sitting all alone, naked and exposed.
Photo: Goodbye my lover. by Andi Jetaime via Flickr. CC license.

In February I realized I was as seriously depressed (like I thought knew), so for the first time ever, I went to the doctor to get depression medication. Both my doctor and her nurse were incredibly caring and non-judgemental about the entire process. After a two visits and 6 weeks we found a chemical balance that allowed me to get out of bed and actually live somewhat of a life again.

I also started seeing a counselor in February with FHF for premarital counseling. No relationship is perfect, but there were a few things I knew we needed to work on and figure out before I would ever be comfortable setting a date. I found a wonderful therapist/counselor who I can not recommend highly enough.

She’s kind, understanding, and perceptive; she didn’t even bat an eye when we brought her our near-relationship ending fight after only a few weeks. She has helped us, but if anything she’s helped me more.

Work was incredibly difficult this past year. My department of 3 lost 1 member to a promotion, so there were 2 of us to manage the work of 4. I took on a whole lot and completely kicked ass at it – another year of nearly 25% sales growth!

Under my responsibility of digital marketing, we grew all of our social following 2-3x while maintaining a very high engagement rate. I have never had such solid results.  My manager ended up being promoted over the summer. I did not. I discovered they were paying me about 25% below market rate for my title and experience… so I did my homework and presented evidence from multiple sources how I needed a raise.

After 12 weeks I was told “Yes – in January, 2015, and for 11%, not 25%. In a way its a win, but in a major way it feels like an incredible slap in the face after 9 years with this corporation. I’ve been seriously job searching since June; while I’ve had only 1 offer (which I had to turn down), I’m encouraged by the number of interviews I’ve had and am still pursuing my dream of a better job, better work-life balance, and pay more reasonable to my responsibilities and performance.

Over the course of the year, my doctor kept telling me “You’re anemic.” This isn’t news, but I had a hard time finding an iron supplement that A) I wasn’t allergic to and B) I could tolerate. Well, that problem was solved when one beautiful Fall day she told me my iron was so low, than if I were in an accident she was very worried I would be able to survive it since my hemoglobin was so low. So I needed intravenous iron the next day. Talk about a wake-up call.

My fear of needles is again at the stage where if I’m not careful I will pass out and/or puke from having one in me, so three hours being hooked up to an IV bag is pretty much torture. Fortunately all I needed was the one treatment and I’ve found a supplement that appears to be working. I’m out of the danger zone and intend to stay there permanently.

And then my relationship. We are struggling and continue to struggle. I really don’t want to write a lot about it – its a work in progress, and since it’s still alive, I really won’t write much. I wrote a taste of the turmoil a couple of weeks ago when I just needed to vent without saying too much. I really don’t know if it will last beyond this month.

Massage by zaphodsotherhead via Flickr. CC license.

Massage by zaphodsotherhead via Flickr. CC license.

So, 2014, you definitely sucked for me. So where are the positives? Where are the high points? Surely something good came out of this year. Yes:

  1.  I found out I was a workaholic. I really didn’t think I was…. until our first night of premarital counseling. Did I give up couple/date time to work? Did I work more than I relaxed? Did work constantly occupy my thoughts even when I wasn’t there? Did I feel obligated to keep working even though I had put in more hours than was reasonable?
  2. Did I ignore my partner’s requests to stop working? Did I put everything second to work, including myself? It was scary. I always pictured workaholics as people who loved to go to work and were happy about it; surely I couldn’t be one, since I felt so miserable. But no, there I was, spending my weekends and evenings working late or working from home.
  3. There was always more to do and nothing I could do would catch me up. I worked holidays, too. But admitting this was a problem was a HUGE step and I’m so glad I was forced to see it (even though it may have come a couple years too late). With my counselor and partner’s help, I was able to set up boundaries where I didn’t work on weekends and working late became an  unusual occurrence. I learned to negotiate timelines so I didn’t put unnecessary stress on myself. I also learned…
  4. … Being a perfectionist and the “top of my class” wasn’t always necessary. I’ve always been driven to be THE BEST. I have to be. I will be. At everything. But, what do you do when your absolute best is never good enough? Not recognized? When my request for a raise was put on hold for those 12 weeks, I was completely mind-fucked. This had NEVER happened to me… don’t you grow up hearing that if you do you’re best, you’ll be rewarded? That good work brings good things? Didn’t I get to where I was because of my excellent quality of work, so wouldn’t that continue to happen in promotions and pay raises? Nope. I feel like this is a lesson I should have learned long ago, but somehow I missed it. One night my counselor asked me, “What would happen if instead of doing work that is [grade] A, you did B?” I was stumped. I’ve always given A and A+, to do work at a B would be average, not excellent. Would it kill me? Maybe, but probably not. Could I do it? That was harder than I expected. However, I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t get reprimanded. I just made life easier for myself.
  5. I learned to manage my insomnia. This is probably one of the biggest successes of my year. I’ve struggled with insomnia for years; anxiety and depression have made it even worse. There have been nights where I haven’t been able to fall asleep until 6am. I’ve cut out caffeine, food, evening exercise, anything I could think of that would somehow keep me up. Nothing worked. As it turns out, both of my depression meds are stimulants, so for the first month on them, I was a complete wreck. Again with my counselor’s help, I found a routine that WORKS. Oh. My. Goodness. I’ll write my own entry about it soon… its amazing and I’ve never been better rested in my entire life (after age 2).
  6. Neck/headache pain! One great thing about seeing a counselor and being on medication is having to pay attention to all sorts of physical signals  your body is sending. Am I hungry or bored? Why are my muscles tensed? Stop grinding your teeth absentmindedly!  Am I letting X bother me so much I’m getting tense? I’ve had to learn to just let things go. FHF has been an incredibly help in reminding me that somethings (like work) aren’t as big of a deal as I make them out to be — so I can relax. I’ve distracted myself with books, computer games, TV shows, showers, and even sleep. I learned to ask for neck massages at night prior to bed when I felt tense – just 5 minutes was all I needed. I used to get pinched nerves in my neck a couple times a month which would lead to full-day headaches and occasional migraines. I’ve had 1 migraine this past year and perhaps 2 pinched nerves. I can’t believe how comfortable my neck has been – and how headache free I can be.
  7. Putting myself first is actually better for ME and those around me. And if that means not sending out Christmas cards for the 2nd year in a row, or not answering the phone cause I can’t handle a conversation right now, then yes, do it. And boy does it feel good.

It was a rough year, but I learned a lot of hard lessons. It was a year for personal growth. I fought like I’ve never had to to stay alive and functioning. I wanted to give up. I couldn’t write. There were days when all I could do was eat and sleep. But I made it, and that’s all that counts.

  One Response to “2014: Depression and Growth”

  1. I’m so happy you found all these wonderful positives, and as I’ve said elsewhere, I’ll help you through the negatives and the positives in any way I can. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for sharing this with me/us.

    Stay SINful,
    Mr. AP

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