The past month or so has been a bit surreal for me and, quite honestly, I’m still trying to figure out if parts of it have been a dream.
Every year, the company I work for has what they call a Road Show where the CEO recaps the past year and gives the projection for years to come. This is also where they announce who they have chosen, out of the different ‘Putting People First’ award winners throughout the past year, to go to Presidents Club…an all expense paid trip with the other winners. As the winners began to be called, I had a genuine hope that I would hear one of my team members names who were also in the running. “Is Jennifer White in the room?” I looked around, like I was seeing if Jennifer had actually come. Teammates on either side of me grabbed my arms, patting me on the back and the air left my lungs. ‘Wait, I’m Jennifer White!’ In a dreamlike state, through a sea of tears, I made my way to the front. How I didn’t fall down those stairs, I’ll never know. I could hear people yelling congratulatory cheers as I shakily took the box handed to me and hugged our boss. He asked if I would be able to make the trip and I said yes. What I actually wanted to explain to him, and everyone, was how incredible this moment truly was. I wanted to tell everyone that at this event one year ago, I was so incredibly hungover that I spent the entire Road Show trying to force down a granola bar so I wouldn’t barf right there in the theater. I wanted to tell everyone that last year, the thought of sitting so close to people I worked with gave me a massive anxiety attack because I was sure they were going to be able smell the leftover booze oozing out of every pore. I wanted to tell everyone that when I returned to our office after the last Road Show, I spent a good 20 minutes in the bathroom walking myself down off that anxiety cliff. I wanted to tell everyone that not a day was going by without a solid chunk of time being spent plotting a way to leave this world. I wanted to tell everyone that at this event last year, seeing myself where I was at this current moment, seemed utterly impossible. I wanted to tell everyone there that it is possible to survive. That it is possible to wake up every morning, fight your way through the dense, clinging forrest of anxiety, despair, depression and fear, and make it. Some days, your feet will get tangled in the vines and it will be harder to claw your way to the edge of that forrest. Some days, you may just have to lay in it for a while, and that’s ok. I wanted to say at that moment, to anyone out there struggling with addiction, depression and anxiety, that it is possible to live with those demons and still be successful. It is possible to find the balance of acknowledging those demons enough to deal with them while not allowing them to bury you. I wanted to tell everyone there that, without them, and without my team, there is no doubt in my mind, I would not be on this planet right now. The love, support, encouragement and hope I get from the people I work with truly have become some of the most powerful weapons I need to help fight my demons, every day. I wanted to say how much I love each and every one of them and that I am here for each and every one of them, for whatever they need, whenever they need. I do hope this message reaches at least some of the angels that surround me at work every day, and perhaps they can pass that message of gratitude and love on. I am still pinching myself when I think about it all, the trip, the difference a year can make, and the magical place I get to call home 40 hours a week.
I’ve had a hard time deciding whether or not to share my struggles over the last month because of the event I just talked about. For anyone who has never had the opportunity to navigate life with a mental illness, at this point in my story there should be no reason to be sad or anxious. At this point, talking about it may even sound as though I am ungrateful, which is why I have hesitated sharing everything. I, in no way, want to sound ungrateful. It’s near impossible to put into words how truly grateful I am. It’s incredibly frustrating and confusing to be enjoying the perfect weather life is affording you on the outside and still having to quiet the storms on the inside. Why, after being given amazing compliments on my performance do I still have to muzzle my inner jerk of a critic that tells me, ‘Don’t get too comfortable. Remember that stupid thing you said earlier today? We are gonna go ahead and replay it a billion times so you never forget what an idiot you are.” Throwing me into an anxiety attack fueled by ‘what if’s’ that takes some serious focus and hard work to talk myself out of. Why, after an incredibly positive, successful day, does my mind still run to such dark places at the drop of a hat or in a moment of solitude? So many times, it comes without warning. I get t-boned with the intense urge to get off this ride. It’s taking every bit of strength, physically and emotionally, to hold onto the safety bar and it is incredibly maddening that these feelings just won’t let me simply live. I am doing everything in my power not to get sucked into the pit these frustrations can trap me in. If I focus too much on them, the confusion of it all spins me in circles and I lose all hope of keeping my footing.
I thought I had come to a point where I truly accepted my demons, but the frustrations that take over when they show their power tells me otherwise. My hope is, that with more practice, patience and a little bit of surrender, true acceptance will come and I can walk hand in hand with these little monsters. After all, they are just doing their job of trying to destroy me. Who can blame them for that? (Winky face emoji…you know, to end this on a lighter note.)
I leave this post with the hope that all this hard work continues to pay off and that the positives that come with it, continue to help subdue the beasts. I am so genuinely grateful for each and every one of you and truly hope that no matter what you are dealing with in your lives, you know you are not alone. You know you are loved, and you feel there is hope for making it through to the other side, with strength and awareness that can only come from weathering your own storm. I am sending out love, hope and peaceful energy to you all! Pass it on!