Self Care Sunday – Tell Me Your Story

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The Amazon Ultimate Wish List Book arrived in the mail yesterday. It reminded me of when my Mom would hand me the Sears Wish Book and ask me to circle some ideas for my list for Santa. It was always an exciting day.
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Thinking back to when I was young, I remember I wanted to be a Lawyer. Actually, I wanted to be a lawyer for a long time. I even studied Latin in high school to prepare for Law School. My dream and plan to got to Law School got overtaken by events. High school wasn’t a happy time for me. That mostly has to do with broken trust and painful experiences that left me bruised both figuratively and literally. By my Sophomore year of college, I was living in chronic depression and attempted suicide. Shortly after that I got Mono. Mono kicked my ass. I was sick for over six weeks and I missed a lot of school. I dropped out of college just before my last year because I ran out of money. I could’t afford to pay my tuition any longer. I took a full time job as an Assistant Manager for a local bank that I had been working at while in school. Fortunately, I was always a hard worker with a strong work ethic so I was always able to support myself.

It’s funny when you look back on your life. It’s so easy to see how things shaped your experience and changed your life. I can see now that dropping out of school completely changed the path for the rest of my life and lead to me being where I am today. I can also see now that something broke in me during that time. I was heart broken. My dreams were destroyed, and at the time, I thought I would never be happy. I was depressed, had low self esteem and a dysfunctional family environment. It was easy to let go and lose track of who I was. I worked full time all day and partied all night long. I careen through one reckless drunken night and casual relationship after another while I hid the depression from everyone. The truth was I wanted to die. When I was drunk enough, I would say it. The only reason I didn’t try to kill myself again was because, by the time I was in my mid 20s, my sister was terminally ill. She needed me. After she died when I was 32, my Mother needed me. Then my brother-in-law died when I was 34 and my sister and her kids needed me. Taking care of others gave me a reason to live. I made my life about working, drinking and taking care of others. I had absolutely no sense of self for many years.

It caught up to me in a very ugly psychological breakdown. I felt the swell of emotions and pressure pushing at me for a while. I kept pulling myself back from the edge. It started because I was laid off from my job a year prior and I returned to school full time to finish my BS degree. I graduated with a grade point average of 3.98 but finding a full time job took me longer than I thought it would. I lost my apartment. My mother kept my car from being repossessed and I was working in a sub shop just to have cash in my pocket. It was devastating. I had always been independent, self-sufficient. I could always take care of myself. Finding myself that destitute especially after finally graduating from college, was devastating to me. I snapped one night while I was sleeping over friends house in 2007.

As I look back on the night of my breakdown, I can see I was in the right place when it happened. My friend’s husband is an Orthopedic Surgeon. I could hear him tell her they couldn’t take me to a hospital because the ER doctors would put me in a Psych Ward for three days. He didn’t want that to be part of my “story”. So they instead agreed to stay up with me all night and took care of me. He got me an emergency appointment with a Psychiatrist the next morning. Fortunately, I was offered a great full time job two months later. The angels must have been on my side that day because the hiring manager for a contracting company found my resume on an unemployment job bank website. I didn’t even know unemployment put my resume on their site. I was offered the job during the interview and started work four days later.

This brings me to today…I am still friends with the couple who saved my life that night back in 2007 but they moved to Florida. Florida is financially more hospitable to doctors than New Jersey. I talk with them and text with her regularly. They recently sent me photos of them in costume for their Halloween party last week just to show they are still “fun”. She still calls me “Norma Rae” because she swears I am going to change the world one day. The funny thing is — now I think she just might be right. The job I’ve been in for the last three months has certainly tested me. It’s given me an opportunity to rise up and show I am a leader. Most recently, it’s given me an opportunity to remember that there is a “Norma Rae” in me. It woke something up in me that will never be suppressed again. I still think I would have been a great lawyer and I do think that I shall change the world one day.  That’s going to be my story. Ready to ride shotgun with me?

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A quick update from last week’s Self Care Sunday post, I am still dealing the fallout from taking a stand at work and ensuring we did the right thing. It certainly will lead to some uncomfortable conversations for a few people but I give zero f**ks. I’ve only been there 90 days so I have no loyalty to any of them. I have legal and my direct supervisor on my side. Most importantly, they can’t fire me or reassign me which makes me the right person to take this stand. Yep, there’s a “Norma Rae” in me. It’s funny, I was told unofficially on Thursday that I may be getting two more workforce development grant programs to “stand-up” (because I proven I know how to do it) which would make me a Portfolio Manager. I almost laughed my ass off when I heard it and made the comment “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!” We will see how things play out.

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As far as my brother being in Congestive Heart Failure goes. Well, his heart went from only functioning at 25% up to 50% so they released him from the hospital. For clarity, my brother and I are not close. Our history is complicated mostly because he was a violent mean drunk when he was younger and he hurt me. Me going up to Philly the last three weekends wasn’t because I am an enlightened human being who has forgiven him. I’ve been going to up to Philly every weekend because I have a 80 year old mother who has buried one child already. I need to be there for her but I will admit being there with him has been helping me heal some of the wounds from my teenage years at the same time. No matter what happens, I will still never be in the same room or a car with him alone. It’s great to be the bigger person but I will never let my guard down around that him… NEVER! But I am glad he is out of the hospital because I was able to stay home this weekend and my mother is less stressed. I’ve done three weeks of laundry and spent $200 food shopping this afternoon because I had absolutely nothing in the house. It’s late Saturday afternoon. I have Mac & Cheese cooking in the crockpot.  I tried to find “Norma Rae” on line to watch again but can’t find the whole film.   It’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

What’s your story today?
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