Have you ever met a person who just always seems happy and content? They jump out of bed in the morning, excited to start their day. When something bad happens, they say, "eh, that's not so bad - I've seen worse and I survived, I'll survive this too!". They just seem to be naturally optimistic and positive, just about all of the time. They face challenges, but always seem to find the best in every person and every situation. You may question how they do it - or think they're heavily medicated.
Well, that used to be me. I had this naturally positive demeanor that just made living life, well...easier I guess. I saw the glass half full, or always looked on the bright side. However you want to say it - that was me.
The older I get, the more difficult it is to maintain that positive, happy nature. Life beat me down. I made a wrong career decision or two and though I previously would always believe that my wrong turn was leading me to a better place, I haven't reached that better place yet. And it's taking a lot longer than usual to get there. So I'm beginning to lose hope.
And just when I'm starting to question my last two career moves and some close personal relationships, a global pandemic shuts everything down. I was ripped away from my office, a source of excitement, social connection and a place where I could leave my home self and become my work self. Yes, I was questioning my role - but I still enjoyed going to work each day, I just wanted to do something else while I was there. My team was great, and the company I was working for did so many great things to engage the staff. Plus I had fairly regular expense paid trips to visit clients in great locations. And, seeing as how the company I worked for was in the fashion industry, I got a lot of free stuff too. The job wasn't meaningful, but at least the people and the perks were great. The pandemic came along and cancelled the things I loved most about my job. Leaving only the non-passion-inspiring busy tasks. And there were many. Nearly half of our staff was either laid-off or furloughed. So I had to do more. The pandemic sent shock waves through our industry, and those of us who were left had to pick up the pieces for those no longer or not currently with us. If that wasn't tough enough, I had two small children at home. A kindergartener and a 2nd grader. I was now also responsible for being a teacher, in addition to being a mom, a partner, having my usual job, and the equivalent of another person's job at work.
The school didn't make it easy on us. They stressed the importance of completing work and how behind the kids would be if we didn't take this time to help them - during my work week, where my boss was demanding that things needed to be done to help the company make enough money to bring back our furloughed staff. School had regular online classes and lots of new systems to learn and manage. Though most systems were the same for both kids, there were some nuances to each that made it difficult to manage two. They also had classes scheduled at different times. And if you think either a kindergartener or a 2nd grader can independently attend online classes, you're dead wrong. Or your kids are way more obedient and focused than mine.
Simply put, I was overwhelmed. I could not do all that was requested of me. There just wasn't enough me to get it all accomplished. I felt like a failure at every job I held during that time. I was failing as a mom - yelling at my kids way more than I ever had. I was failing as a teacher - not getting all of the work done and allowing them to skip class at times because I just needed to get some of my own work done. I was failing as a partner, because I was stirring up more trouble there because I felt like I wasn't getting the support I needed to do all of the things. I was failing as an employee, because I was constantly forced to reply, "no, I haven't had a chance to get to that yet". The glass was now half empty, I barely see any water at all. And bright side? What bright side? The world was a dark, scary, overwhelming, joy sucking place. There's no brightness left. And that was the second time in my life that I entered the downward spiral, heading way too quickly for my liking, into the black hole.
The first time I felt that overwhelming pull to the dark side, I was a few days postpartum with my oldest son. So many things were so much more difficult than anyone told me. Or maybe they told me, and I just didn't listen - I was glass half-full! I was bright side! Those first 4-6 weeks were like torture. I had this new job that came with very little training, and my new charge seemed to be malfunctioning. There was no manual for becoming a mom. Once I left the hospital, and my mom left to go back home, there were no coworkers who had been there for years and could show me the ropes, no manager to tell me I was on the right track and doing a good job. Just my partner and I, with very little idea what we were doing, making it all up as we went. There was very. little. sleep. It felt like my son was, quite literally, sucking the life out of me. And I wanted to protect him with every ounce of my being. I couldn't bear to be separated from him for more than an hour or two. So though I needed and wanted help, I had become a micro-manager in this new job. It was all too much, and I understood for the first time in my life, what people with depression battle on a daily basis.
The covid-19 pandemic brought this feeling back with a vengeance. Everything was awful, and I couldn't do anything about it. All I could do was sit in the awfulness; which lasted weeks longer than it had postpartum. Finally, about 12 weeks into the pandemic, school was out. I was able to go into my office a couple days a week. There were glimmers of hope.