I’ve lost my job a few times. I’ve also had to rebuild my personal life from scratch twice. It’s never easy when it happens to you.
The last time was particularly brutal.
I had a job I loved and in which I was comfortable, but my home life had suddenly turned upside down when my significant other came home from work one day, ended our relationship, accused me of doing something I did not do and told me to move out of our home. He then started dating one of our mutual friends – someone with whom I had suspected something was going on. I couldn’t eat, sleep, let alone concentrate at work.
The rug was pulled from under me, and I had to find a new home, my beloved dog wasn’t doing great and deal with the loss and betrayal of certain friends and my of course my partner, who became my worst nightmare overnight.
One day soon after my personal life exploded, my male boss came to my office, knowing I was struggling and told me to “compartmentalize” what had happened to me — if only it were that easy!
I tried so hard to throw myself into work, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t on my A-game, I cried at work every day no matter how hard I tried not to. My work suffered because I was suffering. This wasn’t indicative of the person I was – the person who always received stellar performance reviews and was a Type-A personality. I had trouble concentrating. Everything was bleak. I couldn’t stop thinking about what my ex had done to me. I was scared.
The only other time I felt this way was when my mom passed away from cancer a few years ago. I didn’t know I was depressed at first, until I eventually went to my doctor and was diagnosed. But it was too late. I wound up losing my job a couple months later. I was told it wasn’t due to my breakup but of course it was related. HR departments have to say certain things.
Losing my job was due in large part because my personal life fell apart. I am not ashamed to say that I needed help, I was shocked that a company to which I was committed turned its back on me at such a terrible time in my life. But at the end of the day we are at-will employees who can be replaced at any time for pretty much any reason and business is business. In my opinion, the legal industry has a long way to go in supporting its employees when going through a crisis or dealing with a mental health issue.
When I couldn’t stop crying for three months straight, I realized this wasn’t an ordinary breakup. I went to my doctor who diagnosed me with situational depression, which is a short-term, stress-related type of depression. It can develop after you experience a traumatic event or series of events, making it hard for you to adjust to your everyday life following a traumatic event.
Symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person. Situational depression can magnify the intensity of stressful life events. This stress can cause severe disruption to your daily life.
Common symptoms of situational depression include:
- lack of enjoyment in normal activities
- regular crying
- constant worrying or feeling anxious or stressed out
- sleeping difficulties
- disinterest in food
- trouble focusing
- trouble carrying out daily activities
- feeling overwhelmed
- avoiding social situations and interaction
- not taking care of important matters like paying your bills or going to work
- thoughts or attempts at suicide
I used to write about the fact that it’s okay to not be okay, but I learned the hard way that it’s actually still not okay to have a personal crisis or a mental health issue in many workplaces. Unfortunately, some companies aren’t that understanding when their employees go through a hard time. This needs to change. Many people struggle with mental health issues and giving employees tools and support to cope and thrive is essential.
Some law firms and professional service firms are doing great things for their people but small- and mid-size firms in my opinion need better programs in place to help their people who are going through a rough patch.
Here’s the thing — I’m incredibly resilient. My late mother was the strongest person I’ve ever met. She taught me that I am stronger than I think and that I can dust myself off again and rebuild.
So I did.
People had been telling me for years to start my own consulting business, but I had been too scared and too comfortable to do it.
I don’t leave situations that aren’t right for me until backed into a corner or forced to make a decision – in large part because I hate change and risk taking. I get in my own way when I fight listening to my intuition and my gut. I’ll look for a 100 reasons why I shouldn’t do something instead of taking a leap of faith. This time, I had no choice. I had to make a living and support myself. I had to pull myself together.
My mom always wanted to go to Italy and we had talked about plans to go on a girls’ trip but then her cancer came back. I keep thinking about that — how she longed to see her homeland and never had the opportunity. I compared it to how I stayed in a relationship that didn’t make me happy because I was afraid of starting over again, and how I stayed in a job that was comfortable because of the same reasons.
Once I was out of both situations, I quickly saw how that job was no longer right for me and neither was that relationship. One of my flaws is that I get very focused on a goal and put on blinders to red flags, or I brush them under the rug.
My ex moved on with lightening speed — it was painful, but it confirmed to me several things — 1) if he was able to move on that quickly or at all, he was not right for me and 2) based on who he chose after me, the complete opposite and someone in our social circle (!) coupled with my feelings of not being able to be myself with him, feeling misunderstood and his controlling tendencies, that he was not right for me. Knowing that made it easier to recover. He also showed who he truly was at the end of our relationship.
The ending of that relationship led me on a path to find a more fulfilling and honest life on my own terms.
It enabled me to take stock of everything in my life, including every single person who was in it and decide if they had my best intentions at heart. It showed me that I could not ever again be in a relationship with a man who tried to control and change me, and that I deserved someone who appreciated my outgoing personality and chose me every single day no matter what. It showed me that I was ready to be my own boss where I never had to worry about getting that dreaded phone call telling me I was being let go.
Fast forward to the present day, I moved into my dream apartment and my new business is doing well in spite of the pandemic. It’s not luck — it was a lot of hard work to rebuild my life. I do believe that what is meant for you will find you but you have to listen to your intuition and what is not meant for you will blow up to steer you on the right path.
No matter how bleak things seem, believe in yourself. Adopt a positive mindset. Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Never let someone reject you twice. It’s okay to burn some bridges when you need to. Hold your head high after being let go. Stay the course. You will recover. You are not defined by your mistakes or your failures. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to lose everything — because every wrong path eventually leads you down the right one – remember that closed doors just mean that they’re not YOUR doors.
Take time to process what happened to you, but make a plan to get back on your feet soon. I found that taking positive actions each day was very helpful in keeping me from falling into a downward spiral. Writing on this blog was also incredibly helpful, and if writing is an outlet for you, there are many places you can publish articles.
Here are some things that helped me through this time:
- Leaning on my family and friends
- Find a creative outlet – for me it’s writing
- Don’t be afraid to tell others that you are going through a tough time
- Don’t ruminate on what happened -people do terrible things and change their minds quickly every day
- Appreciate all that you have in your life – all the good people and things that make you happy
- Find joy in the little things
- Be kinder to everyone – being knocked down can really show you the importance of being kind and giving back to others
- Read motivational books and podcasts
- Get as far away from someone who exhibits red flags. My mom used to say to me that how it starts is how it will wind up. This is also true for jobs – pay attention to red flags during the interview process and don’t assume things will be better once you start working there – they won’t.
- See a situation or person for what it really is and stop making excuses for it.
- Develop stronger boundaries of what you will allow in your life.
- Take the power back – don’t let things happen to you – take control.
It is okay to not be okay – and if you’re not okay, please know that you’re not alone. Plenty of successful people do not have it together and have been through tough times like this, which is why I am sharing this story. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it. Every experience – even the painful ones – makes us stronger and wiser.
Stay safe and well.