Last updated on November 23rd, 2019 at 09:14 pm
It’s been a couple of ugly years of unease and upset. It’s been ongoing questions, debilitating unknowns and quiet frustrations.
Regardless of how hard I have tried to persevere and somehow maintain what used to work for me, especially employment-wise, this has continued to backfire. I am constantly in a state of being left behind to pick up scattered, ripped-up pieces of myself.
This exhausting process has worn me down and has left me questioning everything in my life: my choices, my skills, my intelligence. It seems that every aspect of what makes me ‘me’ has been broken down and just feels wrong.
I am lost.
A decade ago, I started a new career. I have been working as an entrepreneur, in sales, even though I am an empath at heart and am just not built for thick-skinned, dirty wheeling and dealing. Still, somehow, I felt this was the best fit for my quirky, authority-despising personality.
At that time, I also had just added a surprise-yet-welcomed third child to the mix, resulting in the happiest of times in the midst of combating the most stressful of jobs. It was beyond blurring, and lines that were crossed soon became invisible.
My world was tested, but I pushed on and managed. Not with any huge success—income-wise, anyhow—but success at something that was my own, something difficult I conquered. And I was balancing all of this while raising a newly-expanded family. It felt good. For awhile.
Fast-forward a decade, and I began to be unable to bounce back from small losses, especially at work. I didn’t rebound when things went south. Rather, I felt envy for others who had greater success. I felt anger, resentment and self-loathing more often than contentment. Any joy I had once experienced was lost over time.
I began to lose interest in things more easily. I would make excuses for failures or my lack of self-motivation. I compared myself constantly to others in my field of business. It became such a negative experience that I had to step back.
I also was coping with midlife issues, such as my aging parents and their new and often frightening health problems, as well as my oldest child’s illness diagnosis. I think, by this point, I had hit the autopilot button.
I was lost
I felt like I was shutting down or going crazy, something we women hesitate to say out loud. And then the midlife stuff started to shift hormonally, as it does for women my age, and my once-severe anxiety disorder raised its ugliness again to mountainous heights.
I was, for lack of a better way to state it, done. I withdrew from work plans and social events. I pulled away from the friends closest to me and became rage-filled internally. I reacted to every little thing that occurred in my bubble-world. I stepped back, telling myself it was scaling back, when in fact, I was just stopping what I’d been working at for years.
It was like nothing that had previously mattered did anymore. It wasn’t depression in the greater sense of what true brain-altering depression is, but it was indeed a form of it. An ugly side-effect of my anxiety disorder, and it began to eat away at who I was. I began to watch myself give up. Tears became the way to fall asleep. They also became a part of my daily coping mechanisms.
It’s absolutely unnerving to face this when this is precisely the time in life when women are expected to thrive. I had assumed I’d be set by this age. Financially. Family-wise. Work-wise. I assumed I would have grace in all things and be as strong and capable as I remembered my own mother to be at this age.
Nothing was further from the truth. I wasn’t her. And believe me, I quietly compared myself in everything I did, and joked about how I wasn’t like her, when deep down, it broke me. And worse, I felt paralyzed in the fear of taking on her heart and stroke health issues, which created a form of PTSD in me. This was new.
I was shattered in so many ways that my previous coping mechanisms for anxiety and panic attacks did not work. I questioned if I even had a future.
I started to slow my life’s pace. I knew I had it in me to claw my way back to myself, but I also had a very deep awareness that things had to be different now, and I had better take the time to figure out how. So I turned to prayer.
My faith has always been what keeps me able to carry on, and I began researching what I could do to combat this problem. I joined online forums for women at my age and stage of life, and was stunned to learn that I am not special; most women endure this, and far worse.
Many doctor’s appointments, medical tests, supplements and therapy sessions later, I am still in learning to manage, but I feel I am changing for the better.
I am realizing that we simply must change when we hit the middle stage of our lives. We have to, in order to move forward in our life’s roles. It’s like we are making a soul-filled ‘check-in,’ and are being assured that time is indeed running out, and we now have to grow in a different way.
Work does take a backseat, or in my case, it bubbles to the surface to show you that it isn’t what you’re meant to continue pursuing. And that is actually OK. I have had to shift gears and scale my business back to much less, which isn’t good for the income that once was, but it is so necessary for my sanity and self.
This has forced me to regroup and find who I once was—who I had aspired to be—and foray deeply into that again, this time for real. Take the chances and do the things I had wanted to before life and family showed up. It’s time.
I am slowly realizing that I have had to lose myself in order to truly find myself.
And it is so intense. I can almost taste the newness in the air that surrounds me. It is still scary; most days, it is still frustrating, still very confusing. It often produces tears on a daily basis, and I still feel lost and sometimes use the word ‘failure’ when I think of myself.
I am learning to focus on what is ahead, just not too far ahead, and not in my usual anxiety-producing, forecasted way.
It’s a huge learning curve I am driving on. There cannot be an autopilot any longer. I am learning to focus on what is ahead, just not too far ahead, and not in my usual anxiety-producing, forecasted way. I am taking time to do things I love that bring me joy. I am feeling things. I am quietly enjoying simple things.
A huge factor for me has been my creative side, as I now understand that it makes up most of who I am. A creative soul. I live and breathe music and art, and most importantly, written words. I crave these things in my everyday life, in a fierce and visceral way.
I am reshaping things I had stopped doing as a kid. It’s been so amazing and gratifying, and truly brings me comfort. It feels right.
I haven’t felt this way in so many decades, but it is growing.
So I suppose the lesson is that losing yourself will lead you back to your true self, the self that is limitless and free to explore and dream and be free. What God intended for us. What the universe wants for us. Our truest selves joyfully soaring through life. I am a work in progress. And that is OK!
I don’t intend to be fully ‘found,’ ever. This is too beautiful an experience to ever stop again.