Today is the day. The day, where it all officially starts. I kept avoiding to name an actual starting date for my 40 day challenge. I thought “hey, I did a mini-challenge today already, that’s not worth posting about it, let’s do that another day!”. Or “was that really a challenge already? Better wait, till I do something really worth of being proud!”. I was afraid of what that day 1 meant: 40 days, if possible in a row, in which I am going to face fears, inhibitions, challenges and to do very new things for me. It also took me some time to really believe, that everything I do in these days, is meant to help me grow, enrich my life, and help me to get better. I don’t do this to impress someone, I don’t do it, because my therapist told me to, I do this for myself. What I do, what I think and know for me to be challenging, is definitely worth being posted. Even if it only is, that I managed to sit in my chair for 1 hour, enjoying the peace, quiet and silence, without my mind carousel starting to spin or phones, books, tv or cleaning having to protect me from my thoughts, fears, or inability to sit still without furiously cleaning the flat, cooking till exhaustion gets me, only to feel worthy. Now then, enough explaining, let the challenges begin!
I recently lost a job, I’ve been working in for over 8 years. A job, that filled up my life, my soul, my whole being. I loved the job, the company, the colleagues, the ability to travel, work hard, get creative do projects for good reasons. I filled the gaps and blanks in my life with the people I learned to know there, made the companies missions my missions and didn’t think it was weird, that my life consisted of just that one thing. In therapy, I later learned, why I did what I did. Why I worked countless hours, neglected friends outside the business and felt whole, fulfilled and sort of important and happy, even by doing so. I loved the challenges (ironic, isn’t it) that the job brought, the travelling, the people and most of all, I loved betraying myself with thinking, that this was it, what a full, rich and important life meant. I had no time for my friends, trying out new things, doing sports or even holidays – work is much more important, you guys! I didn’t see how I slowly lost myself. Food didn’t taste as good anymore, watching tv was the only way to switch my mind off, I had no more interest in reading, creating, cooking, meeting anyone, being. Sleep stopped to offer relaxation and rest, my relationship suffered greatly and I turned to a ghost more and more. The only thing, that kept me going, was my costume, my mask, the machinery I created for myself to handle it all, to still be able to work and seem “normal”. Concerned friends were shut out or if they kept persisting, I presented them with my perfect mask impression of someone, who can do everything, handle everything. My job, the company or colleagues weren’t responsible for my breakdown or the burnout. In this environment I was able to feed into my drive to be perfect, to work harder than everyone else, to feel a sense of achievement, that, in my eyes, was the only thing, that justified my existence. That made people like me. This performance urge, as my therapist and me call it these days, has driven me since I was a young child. Perform, achieve, do before it even is demanded of you was the only way I thought love, happiness and acceptance would come to me. That all sounds way gloomier than intended. This is the start of something new, something good, something exciting. Onto challenge number 1!
When my mask and life collapsed, I got signed off work, first for a few weeks. I told my boss and colleagues I’d be back in 2 months tops. That was 11 months ago. I am still not able to return to a working schedule or a job, let alone define what that could be. 6 weeks ago, I got a letter from accounting, letting me know that my services aren’t required anymore. No personal word, no explanation, no phone call, no warning. I was thunderstruck. 8 years of hard work, friendships and challenges (again, ironic) and that’s how the company chose to let me go? I cried, retreated, blamed myself, grieved and raged. The first really great thing about that experience was, that it didn’t hit me as hard as it could have. The months of rest, relaxation, work in therapy and steady way towards recovery paid off. After two weeks I decided, with the help of my therapist, that I needed closure, an explanation and a talk, with my former boss, to get rid of all uncertainty, fears and self-blame. So I started calling. First, with hesitation, happy, that he didn’t pick up immediately, then, more certain. I rang constantly for about 6 weeks (I spared him for 2 weeks, as he just welcomed his third child, a precious baby girl into this world – congratulations, you guys!) and tried it again today, convinced, he wouldn’t pick up again. And he didn’t. (If you think all that building up to a certain point and this is it, I encourage you, to read further.) So I decided, that this was going to be my challenge today. I was determined, to talk to him today, no matter if in person, via email or a phone call. I called the office, and hey, someone picked up! Someone I knew! I told her, that I needed to talk with our boss and she did exactly that. Not surprising, since she is someone, that gets things done. I waited for a few seconds and there …deep breath….he was, talking through the phone to me, joking that this was his first work day back, and what a coincidence it was, that I caught him just then. Long story short, we talked, for about 40 mins. I remained calm, friendly but adamant, which means, I expected of him to explain how he made the decision, why it wasn’t possible for him to call me and talk to me and why on earth he thought it was ok to end 8 years with an impersonal letter from accounting. It was a good talk and he did, what I expected of him in a respectful, kind and caring manner. I told him a few things about my sickness and my last few months, that further helped him to understand. We hung up on very amicable terms, talking about having coffee with the whole team as a sort of goodbye. And now, deep breath! It took a while, I went through a hard time, there was frustration on both ends but I managed to lead the conversation as I planned to. I was able to issue my frustration, sadness and anger, without losing it (tears, you guys, they are very hard to hold back for me), shouting, yelling, blaming or erratic behaviour. And he thanked me with caring and kindness and a better ending to that mess, than I had hoped for. I will still need to look for a new job, of course, and that is scary and will be the topic for a lot of therapy sessions, but I can brave that path knowing it wasn’t me, my work or my lack of skills or abilities, that lead to the dismissal. I can look back at those 8 years without fear or uncertainty about myself. I can look forward now.