There are so many definitions to “having it all.” When people ask me how I’m doing, I always answer, “Just livin’ the dream!”
Let me give you a little background.
I graduated with a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2004. My intention at the time was to create a private practice providing therapy because I wanted to…you know…help people. Since that time, I’ve worked with people suffering from substance use disorders, managed a homeless program, managed a sex offender treatment program, and eventually I switched to medical social work where I now work part time with individuals on dialysis.
After finishing school, I was ready to get started. What I really wanted to do was to join someone’s private practice and go from there. But no one in my area was hiring. So I opened the newspaper (yep, I’m that old) and looked for social work jobs. I was hired a few months later as a substance abuse counselor. I moved up in that organization until it became clear that I would never have any money if I continued to work for a non-profit. At least, not if I didn’t want to move up any further. I didn’t. I just wanted to do my job and get paid more. That was never going to happen. I finally found a second job as a therapist in a private practice.
Turns out….I don’t like private practice.
PSA: IF you go to school to be a therapist, take a business course as well. What they won’t tell you is that if you’re going to be a private practice therapist, you’re also an entrepreneur. This fact was never revealed to me and I curse myself for not realizing it sooner. I didn’t think I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I also didn’t think I was smart enough.
I moved to a different organization in the beginning of 2008 providing therapy to sex offenders. This is fascinating work. In the end, it was too much.
PSA #2: They also don’t tell you that after listening to horrible stories of human suffering it affects your brain in ways that you never thought possible. I still have nightmares occasionally and eventually began to feel apathetic towards the people I was trying to help. 35+ hours of therapy a week is TOO MUCH. They didn’t pay me enough to make a living otherwise.
Back to “livin’ the dream…”
I used to say it sarcastically, as I was walking down the long dark hallway to do at least 8 therapy sessions in a row. It was the hallway of death. I know how that I literally was dying, but I didn’t know why. My solution? To find another “less stressful” job. One that didn’t suck my soul out every time I walked through the doors.
*Disclaimer about my jobs. None of my dissatisfaction had anything to do with the job itself, It was me. It was all me.
“It’s not me; it’s you.”
At the new and less stressful job, something strange happened. I wasn’t solving everyone else’s problems all the damn time so mine came up to the surface to greet me like a pie in the face. Everything that I’d been avoiding due to being overworked and underpaid sprang up to the forefront of my awareness. I tried to deal with my issues. Isn’t that what people do? I was a fucking adult, I can handle my shit. Except that….it didn’t work.
I still couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy. I had a good paying job. I liked my coworkers ( I STILL like them!). I had great friends and family. I had a little apartment that was all mine. I was dating. Aside from having more cats, I had it all. From the outside looking in, I had almost everything that I’d been told that would make me happy.
And therein lies the problem my friends. I thought, “It’s okay to not be happy. No one is happy right? No one likes their job. Everyone has stuff they want to work on. It’s okay.”
A 9-5 job with security and insurance? CHECK. Finishing grad school? Check. Owning a home? CHECK. Great friends and family? CHECK.
But the idea that life was simply to be tolerated never sat right with me. I sure believed it though. I believed it enough to manifest a successful but unsatisfying life and then I excused it by telling myself the lies that we all tell ourselves when we’re upset.
“No one has it all.”
“No one is completely happy with their life.”
“Everyone hates their job.”
“This is what it meant to be an adult.”
I was okay with it.
Until I wasn’t. I would sit at my desk at my “less stressful” job and cry. I didn’t know why. Why was I so sad? Why was I so unhappy?
WHY? WHY? WHY? The behavioral scientist in me wanted to know so badly. Why was I so good at helping other people but I couldn’t help myself?
Then, in June of 2013, my cat died. And I LOST my shit.
Like, I couldn’t stop crying. So much crying. I’m a proponent of expressing feelings but this got a little out of hand.
It got to the point where my mother was afraid to leave me alone.
I was sad about the cat, but it allowed all the other junk to come out. And I said the thing that we’re not supposed to say when we have a good life.
“I hate my life.”
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“I don’t care if I don’t wake up in the morning.”
Now, as someone who has worked with people who are suicidal, I can say that even now I try to excuse my suicidality as nothing. I am a college educated white woman. I benefit from many privileges. My life was fine.
My heart on the other hand was broken and I didn’t know why. There was no logical reason. Some of you may know about my depression and eating disorder journey. That isn’t something that I plan to write about on this site but I do have some things written on a personal blog that you’re welcome to check out.
The point I want to make here is that I know what it’s like to want to die. And I felt like a selfish asshole for even contemplating such a thing. I was taken care of and had everything I needed. But if feelings are anything they’re irrational.
I should tell you at this point that depression runs in my family and I do believe that I have a genetic predisposition to becoming depressed. As a practicing therapist in the past, I believe strongly in therapy and people’s choice to medicate when needed. In my mind that’s no ones business. Even with these tools, my feelings weren’t having any of it.
My mom decided to ask me to move in with her. Most likely so she could watch me and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid.
I never slept in my apartment again. A few months later, I decided to start working part time. I told people that I really wanted to focus on my mental health and that was part of it, but mostly I just wanted to work part time. Living with mom made it possible. It was then that I started to think about alternatives to living the dream.
I still live with my mother which is totally sexy and cool. I love her to pieces. About a year after I moved in with her, she began having problems.
Lemme tell you a little bit about her first. She’s the bomb. She’s a cancer survivor, she’s the best mom and she’s a bomb ass grandma to my cat. Oh, and to my nieces and nephews I guess. She’s funny, smart, and I can’t imagine living one day without her. But she started getting really tired. After a couple of scary driving incidents she stopped driving permanently. She was referred to a neurologist who then referred us to a cardiologist and it was soon discussed that her heart needed a tune-up; as in two ablations and finally heart valve replacements. A shit ton of appointments and a load of heart procedures later, we finally feel like we’ve figured out what the fatigue was from. I have no idea how we would have made all these appointments if I didn’t live there or if I worked full time. My siblings and I would have worked it out. But this situation was ideal. To say that it all worked out just doesn’t do it justice. I have a great family and friends who also help out. We have a great system and she is so well taken care of. I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with her. Plus, she’s totally fun and hilarious.
Because of these experiences, I’ve been able to create a circumstance that has allowed me to explore other avenues of making a living. IN the past 4 years, I’ve been able to learn how to work the internet, write and produce content, market it, and increase my online presence. The one thing I was missing?
My message. It took about 3 1/2 years, but I finally know what my message is to you: Life isn’t supposed to suck.
I’ve spent a lot to time over the last few years trying to determine why we believe (and most people will defend this belief) that life is supposed to be something we suffer through.
This doesn’t mean we aren’t challenged. It doesn’t’ mean that people in our lives won’t try to abuse or manipulate us? It doesn’t mean that we are immune to pain.
What I mean is that we can be immune to needless self-imposed suffering that is fueled by our limiting beliefs about life.
I’ve spent countless hours studying the laws of the universe, mindfulness, meditations, and positive psychology. Remember my desire to know why I was suffering? I’ve figured it out.
And so can you….
…if you’re open….
…if you’re through with suffering for no good reason….
…if you’re ready to challenge what you think you know to be the truth….
Are you ready to get started?