Everyone I know has some activity that when everything else is lost, they can find solace within. That when the world is burning around them, they can find respite within that activity and say, “I am fine.”
That activity provides sanity, support and the freedom from all the difficulties that life likes to provide us, even in moments when things are actually fine.
Some point, at the beginning of 2018, I realized that my activities were becoming out of reach, and had been replaced with constantly burning fires that manifested in a distinct lack of motivation.
I became the embodiment of “fake it until you make it,” except “make it,” was just living.
It was weird. I had never experienced it before. I could always get myself moving in some direction. I tried everything, and everything didn’t work.
It was bad. It was dark. It was like I was a battery that just couldn’t get, or hold, a charge.
I blamed it on age. I blamed it on weight. I blamed it on being bipolar. I blamed it on everything I possibly could imagine.
My life is funny. I don’t hold many beliefs, but I do hold that the best thing one can do is trust the world. No matter how dark things got, no matter how tired I was, I continued to accept hope.
And about when I was done trying everything, a friend sent me a message. “You seem tired,” he wrote. “I was tired. Can I make a suggestion?”
He suggested I go see a doctor in LA. A doctor that a bit different from your standard MD. She was a Doctor of Osteopathy.
I decided that if I was going to spend time, energy and money on a new doctor, I would also spend time, energy and money on a new therapist, a new psychiatrist and if that seemed to work, thumb the scales in the direction of life vs career.
I also decided that if I was going to be making this last ditch effort, I would also choose to see women doctors and therapist. For years, I believed that as a man, talking to men was a better course of action since they could better relate but that wasn’t working.
Along with getting all new doctors, I also made the decision to leave Amazon. Not because Amazon was contributing to my situation, but that a new situation would allow freshness and freshness seemed to be the right decision.
As I started to work with the medical team I learned that I was most likely suffering from adrenal fatigue, among other things. While there is a lot of debate as to whether it’s a valid medical diagnosis, all I know is that it made perfect sense to me. Your adrenal glands create cortisol, which the body uses to manage stress, but when you are under constant stress, the adrenal glands “burn out” and the body doesn’t produce cortisol regularly leading to all kinds of crazy imbalances.
As a life-long entrepreneur, my standard is high stress, with minimal change. I had — literally — burned myself out.
Additionally, I learned that bipolar was not always the only mental disorder one suffers. Over the year, I learned about bipolar depression (it’s like extra credit depression!) and anxiety. I had to have my therapist describe to me how anxiety feels because it turns out that I am always anxious, and thought that was how normal people felt.
For those that are exploring things like bipolar, know it’s like an onion, often things are revealed the deeper you peel back layers. It’s all normal.
I have always found writing to be my sanctuary. I saw a blank screen and blinking cursor as a safe space where I would start typing and words would flow. I lost that. I had started to teach myself to cook at the end of 2017 and I found thinking about recipes exhausting. I had loved and lost another activity.
But as I started to work on each of these issues, and found purpose in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, my energy began to return. I am a better person today than I was at the beginning of 2018. I am less frustrated. I am less confused. The social anxiety that seemed to come out of nowhere was slowing receding. I have the energy I thought was lost.
Maybe most importantly, I have returned to reading. I have returned to writing, and I have started to cook again, albeit each is not as easy as it once was, although I expect that to change as I build better management skills.
2018, which turned out to be my most difficult year, also became my most affirming.
With my anxiety getting under control, suddenly all the things I found difficult or scary have become just unknowns, and the future is something I spend time thinking about for the first time in my life.
Makes me excited for 2019!