By Rachel Thompson, TIR Guest Blogger
For a good nine years, I worked a sales job I hated. Every day, I’d wake up and spend hours getting ready, applying meticulous makeup, choosing just the right outfit, making sure my notes and records and routes were in order.
And then I’d go back to bed.
I’d lay there, fighting with myself. ‘Get up, you lazy bitch! What’s wrong with you?’ berating myself for every slight imaginable. It was a well-paying job, one people yearn for, build up to after years of crap sales jobs, one that required not only a college degree but also a minimum of five to seven years successful sales experience.
And here I not only had the supposed golden job, I excelled at it, won awards for ‘The Best’ this and ‘The Top’ that, where the European and New York heads chose me to work with when they visited my state. And of course, I charmed them. My bosses were thrilled. I’d even managed a few sweet Ritz-Carlton dinners out of those visits.
Eventually, I roused myself out of my safe, cozy nest of blankets and sheets, wiped away the tears and black streaks down my face (pro tip: use waterproof mascara), fixed my bedhead hair and walked out the door.
Depression Sneaks Up On You
I called on physicians and one bright, sunny day I dragged my dark gloomy shell in to see one of them, a compassionate family practioner who told me I didn’t seem myself. Most of these doctors enjoy seeing sales reps as much as they enjoy dealing with insurance companies, but once in a while, you meet a jewel.
She took me inside a patient room and asked me what was up. I don’t know if the fact that she treated me like a human and not ‘another rep,’ did me in, or that I was simply just tired of the effort, but I became a sobbing mess (typical of many untreated depressives, by the way).
“Girl, you are depressed. I treat working moms every day. I’m not going to treat you because I’m not your doc and it wouldn’t be ethical, but you need to get your ass into your own primary care for meds if needed (it’s needed) and start therapy ASAP.”
The realization hit me. I’m depressed. DUH. Though my college degree was a BA in Communication Studies and my minor in Journalism Studies, I somehow ended up in Big Pharma (sales fit in there, I guess). There was a lot of biology, pharmacology, and the like to learn, and though my company sold SSRIs, I personally did not sell them (though all reps did learn about them in case a physician asked).
How could I not have seen it? The symptoms I experienced were classic:
- Not wanting to be around other people
- Neglecting everyday tasks or struggling to do them
- Loss of interest in activites I once enjoyed or struggling to do them
- Intense sadness/crying that just won’t fade
- Unresolved anger
Still, I Kept Going As If Nothing Were Wrong…Until It Was SO Wrong
I spoke with my husband at the time who owned his own business, discussing different job options for me – I wanted to do something different where I could spend more time with our small daughter, utilize my writing and marketing skills (which I loved), and still bring in money.
His response: well, you’ll have to just suck it up. You’re the one with the time in and regular benefits. You have the security. You may hate it but, but you know, too bad.
After a time, where I spent more days in bed than working, even he couldn’t deny I needed help and despite his reservations (he believed SSRIs would make me a zombie), encouraged me to go to a shrink. Thankfully, I ended up with a good one, who immediately started me on a regimen of therapy and meds.
The gray lifted within a week, and continued to lift as the weeks went on. Therapy helped immensely as well (more on that below).
I still hated my job – I clearly was a creative square in a round corporate hole – but I could at least get out of bed, go to work, and joke around with my doctors. Maybe it wasn’t so important to be the best all the time. I didn’t cry at the thought of being away from my daughter, though I still didn’t enjoy it (who does?).
I began to make an exit strategy.
When You’re Depressed, You Feel Stuck. It’s An Illusion
Dr. G asked me some basic questions and I answered honestly. This wasn’t the time to cover anything up. One of the most glaring examples for me: when we took my daughter to Disneyland (we lived twenty minutes away and had season passes), I would shrink from the noise and end up crying on a bench while she and my husband laughed and enjoyed themselves.
Why was I crying at the Happiest Place on Earth? Who does that?
Eventually, I spilled my entire story: that the next-door neighbor dad had sexually abused me at age eleven; that I’d testified in two trials (civil and military) against him; that while he’d spent two years in jail (yea, only two years), I’d had to grow up still living next door to his family and him when he returned for another eight years.
To him, the diagnosis was obvious: I lived with anxiety, depression and PTSD until my mid-thirties with all of these mental disorders until it came crashing down. I didn’t know. I had no idea. Nobody around me knew, either.
It’s kind of astounding that I worked in the healthcare industry and had no knowledge of how what I experienced as a child could affect me. As a society, our focus is so much on the physical ailments people live with daily that even when someone is diagnosed with a mental disorder, we look for physical manifestations.
That was even true in my case: it wasn’t until I couldn’t physically get out of bed that I noticed something was wrong. Also, why did I hate this job so much? It was a good job, with great benefits. Why was I so angry about it?
Misplaced anger. There were problems in the marriage – I felt stuck, and my partner was clearly unsupportive to my needs. To be fair, he hadn’t disclosed to me that his business was failing and would eventually crumble completely, leaving us in financial ruin.
Eventually, I quit that job and never looked back. I had another child, moved away, started my writing career (five books out now -- three award-winning!), founded BadRedhead Media, my social media/marketing business, and divorced the husband.
I also learned that large crowds and unsupportive partners are not good for my mental health, so I avoid both.
The combination of the right medicine and talk therapy helped me immensely, and it’s still something I actively utilize today. Journaling has also been incredibly helpful for me, both personally and therapeutically. (You know, writers write.) My daughter will be eighteen in July.
There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help, realizing you need it, and most importantly, if the people around you don’t support your mental health, make those hard decisions whether to keep them in your life.
Only you can decide what’s best for your mental health, but that’s the key right there: pay attention and decide because you are worth it.
About the Author
Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Broken Places and the bestselling, multi award-winning Broken Pieces (as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed).
Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live weekly Twitter chats, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish (Tuesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST), and #BookMarketingChat, co-hosted with author assistant Melissa Flickinger (Wednesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST).
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family. Follow her on Twitter at >> @RachelintheOC