Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is admit your limitations and seek help….. and today that’s where I’m at.
I stepped out of 2019 into 2020 with nothing more than child-like optimism. Little did I know what I, and the world that we live in, was in for.
To make a long story short, In 2020 I embarked on a season of loss. What I experienced was a loss of normality, a loss of many freedoms, a loss of community, a loss of connection, and a loss of more lives than I expected. And although we seem to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the sting of grief has been more venomous than that of an angry scorpion.
Despite the present grief, I was pretty much determined to keep trudging through. I was balancing a full-time job in higher education, a thriving coaching practice, and grad school.
For the most part, I seemed to be doing a good job at balancing everything. That is; until my mom tested positive for COVID earlier this year. The day my mom called me to tell me that she was sick, I knew deep inside that it wouldn’t end ell. Nevertheless, she reassured me that she was going to get better. She told me to trust God, and when I asked if I could pray for her, she prayed for me instead.
Miraculously, her lungs recovered well. However, her mind did not. For the next few months, we saw my mother collapse into a mental state that left all that knew her completely baffled. I wish that her story had a happy ending. Instead, it ends with my brother and I at her bedside watching her take her last breath.
I was fortunate that my employer gave me five days of bereavement leave to attend the funeral, spend time with family and work through my grief. In my mind, I was determined to return to work and obtain a sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to show up as my best self when I returned. The phone systems at work are set up in a way that we receive calls with no warning. The phone rings and the person on the other line are immediately speaking with us. The expectation is that we are to show up and give our very best with every call. From a business perspective, I understand this expectation. Nevertheless, as a grieving human, I found myself unable to meet this expectation. I also found myself suppressing feelings of grief for eight hours a day.
This came to head two weeks later when I received work that my eldest brother had passed away. Although he had been sick for a while, I hadn’t anticipated him passing away so quickly. In hindsight, I wish that I had taken bereavement leave again to grieve… but I didn’t. I told myself that I needed to get my act together and improve my work performance. I found myself working half a day and immediately driving six hours to attend my brother’s memorial service. The following day I attended his funeral and immediately drove back so I could be at work the following day.
The following day I found myself on edge every time I heard my work phone ring. I felt anxious and unable to focus. I also lost interest in doing the things that I usually enjoyed doing. Crowds made me more nervous than they usually do. I felt like joy had become a foreign concept. And a week, later I emotionally collapsed. I returned home after a long day of work, sat down on my couch, and began to cry like a baby.
I realized that I had been walking around feeling like I needed to cry, but I had no space to mourn. I was walking around from work to my internship, to social events, and suppressing every tear that was in me. I realized that I had been showing up at work, and in life, trying to give others everything that I wasn’t giving myself; room for hope and healing. I then realized that I need to do something about it.
A friend of mine, knowing that the one-year anniversary of my cousin’s passing was approaching, called me and recommended that I request an FMLA leave to focus on my healing. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. But an additional chain of events that included a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and another unexpected death in the family (the loss of my niece to lupus), affirmed that a leave of absence was imperative to my healing.
As of today, I am taking a yet-to-be-determined amount of time away from work to focus on my healing.
I don’t yet know what this healing journey will look like. What I have is the help of a psychologist, a loving wife, a loving family, friends, my faith, and a desire to get better.
…. and I’m choosing to keep moving forward.