I’ve been staring at my computer for the last hour wondering how to even start writing this. How do you sum up 10 years of learning and growth into one blog post? Can I actually talk about this without being judged? Maybe I should ease into this topic before jumping in full bore!?
Deep breath. I’m reminding myself that talking about this is not only good for me, but I have a sincere passion for helping other people. And maybe… just maybe, I can help someone reading this to take the first steps to getting out of the suck.
About 10 years ago, I was a pretty successful 20-something working in a director position at an area agency, I loved the people I worked with and loved the work I was doing. With a desire to learn more and take on more responsibility, I moved to a director of marketing position for a single brand.
And that is when everything started to change.
Over the next 7 or so years I would go through a rather public divorce, lose my job, go through a very difficult romantic relationship, take on the care of my father diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, fight an abusive boss and forget all of the things that I thought made me… well… me.
Sitting in the Suck
Something important I’ve learned about mental health is to not avoid the “suck”. My generation and the generations before ours were taught to push negative feelings aside, to find things to focus on that were positive and essentially bury anything that didn’t help us further our own positions in the world.
In a post recently from Arianna Huffington called “Why This Is The Perfect Time To Redefine Success”, she talks about a book titled “The Tyranny of Merit” by Michael J. Sandel. In it, Sandel writes “those who prevail on the battlefield of merit emerge triumphant but wounded.” Combine this with our society’s focus on social media, mental health issues have been on a steady rise over the last 10 years.
So I did it. I sat in the suck, for about a year, honestly. Much longer than I think I realized or intended for that matter. I can now wholeheartedly say that I’m on my way out now. I’m ready to see the world in hues of pastels instead of grays and blacks.
How did I do it? When you want so badly to start feeling better again, but it seems nearly impossible. When you feel like you’re going to feel this way for the rest of your life.
Let me tell you, the very first step to any of it is… you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to want to get out (and even if you’re not, these tactics could be your first step).
How I Got Out
- Change Your Patterns
I’m not just saying have a different seasoning on your chicken at dinner. I mean really change it up. Move. Adopt a dog (#adoptdontshop). Try something you’ve never done before (cooking classes, painting, sword fighting). Even if it means changing just your routine – move your office to the basement facing the windows so the sun shines in your face in the mornings!
In times of uncertainty, we tend to find things that make us comfortable. Things we can control because we can’t seem to control the world around us. Changing the patterns you’ve created can help you find things that help move you forward instead of keep you in place.
- Get Fired (Take a leap of faith in yourself)
This one goes hand in hand with changing your patterns, and of course, I don’t suggest that everyone goes and gets fired or quits their jobs like I did, but consider taking a serious leap of faith in yourself. Start an Etsy shop, start your side hustle, or just do something you never thought you would – like reach out to someone you admire in your field and ask if they’d be willing to mentor you!
- Go on a soul journey
It can be 2 hours, 1 day, or 3 weeks (like I did). Camp in the woods or sleep on the beach, but take the time to think about you. Think about your goals, your aspirations, think about the suck, write about the suck. Take time away from your phone, away from all the noise that’s been around you for too long. Don’t try to fight anything that comes your way. Let your soul guide you.
- Start a gratitude journal
(NOTE: This one is hard if you really aren’t ready yet. If you start this and it feels forced, STOP).
On my three-week soul journey, I listened to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (see number 5 below) and she talked about her gratitude journaling and I thought, okay I’ll give it a try. I can’t tell you what a relief doing this was. I actually could remember what the good things were in life every single day, even if it was the smallest thing like kissing my dog on the nose. I highly recommend it.
- Listen to podcasts, listen to audio books, read poetry or start journaling.
I’ve done more reading, podcast listening and writing in the last year than I’ve done in the last 10 years of my career. I never felt like I had time before with full-time work, getting my MBA, taking care of my father and, oh yeah, I was kind of sad too. Making the time to do these things helped me to see so many other points of view and get out of my own damn way!
- Remember that the suck will happen again. In a different manner, about a different thing and at different levels of severity.
Don’t fight the suck. It just makes it worse and more violent when it surfaces. But also remember that you will come out of it. And you’ll come out stronger, smarter, wiser and closer to the person you’re working to become. Love yourself no matter what. And to those of you who don’t love you again yet, it’s okay. Just start. Take the smallest step forward even if it seems impossible. You are powerful. I believe in you. We all believe in you.
(Mental health and depression are real things. If you’re suffering or know someone suffering, please don’t wait, call the national mental health hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357))