A Story

sunshineHere is my story.

I can’t post until I explain what’s happened with me, and that’s been difficult.   So, I’ll just spit it out: my depression finally forced me to retire last Tuesday, ignominiously ending an almost 25 year career in government.  A few colleagues acknowledged my departure by treating me to lunch.  Dejected and conflicted, I left carrying a box and bag of all my things.  This occurred at least nine years too early. It was definitely not what I had ever envisioned, so somehow, I had failed.

That is what a younger remnant of myself wailed -the 30-something lawyer focused on attaining the badges of my profession: law firm partnership, high salary, husband, McMansion, two kids, and a dog.  As time passed and old classmates burned out in their jobs, divorced, and seem to go batshit crazy, I learned to redefine success for myself.  But my younger self wailed, and I let her – overnight.  After thrashing it out with Dr. G., I realized what really happened.

Let me start again. Here is my story.

Shortly after Christmas, Mother Nature (read: menopause) kicked in.  If you’ve been following my depression saga for past two years, things didn’t just worsen, they went straight to hell.  Friends reported I sounded like a 45 rpm record played at 33 1/3.   I couldn’t work.  I called Mayo Clinic which took me almost immediately in February.  Armed with more hormone patches and pills, my condition improved, but functioning did not.  I wasn’t sad but supremely apathetic and detached from the world.  I had shut down, withdrawn, and built walls around myself, as if I were in survivor mode under siege.  Dr. G. was baffled.  I was baffled – in a uninterested way.  Even my dwindling bank balance didn’t faze me.  Dimly, I knew the point of hospitalization loomed close.  Then, a series of events happened.

I published a post -the usual pot stirrer variety – hoping to stimulate my mind.  Long story short, a reaction provoked a fit of rage in me so OTP and uncharacteristic that I realized that counseling and medication would not fix the problem.  The rage created a two day window of clarity.   I felt glad for the clarity but disturbed why only rage could pierce the fog.   Clearly, the bizarre apathy signaled something different.  My family intervened, spoke of moving me and getting nursing care.  Oh shit.

Many readers don’t know that at work, while management paid lip service to being hospitable towards my illness, their actions declared the opposite.  Even with union intervention, they created a miserable, soul-sucking environment. Meanwhile headquarters “encouraged” old (read: 50+) and sick (read: me) out the door.  In recent years, management mentality has morphed to the soulless corporate variety.  The old guard, like me, do not enjoy the buffer or support from the caprices of bureaucratic decision-making.  So it was a race between recovering from an indefinite illness and being either fired or forced onto disability (a financially poor option).

During the window of clarity, I returned to the office for a day.  Just as my mind flatly refused to work, a colleague (and surprising champion) dropped information on my desk.  The gist was that I could feasibly retire early.  I checked with Human Resources.  It was true.  But I needed money before interim payments began; I was flat broke.  While dumping months of mail out of my box, I discovered income sources I’d either forgotten or didn’t realize.  A few calls and the checks were in the mail.  (No, really. I got one already).

So, six weeks after the fit of rage, I retired. A few friends I liked treated me to a farewell luncheon.  One later came to my office and thanked me for 25 years of public service on behalf of the agency and the public, which management didn’t do.  He told me my work had been appreciated.  He thought this was the best thing for me, now I could get well.   He understood I was sad but reassured me I’d feel better the next day.  Then he carried my stuff to the taxi and waved.

So that’s what really happened.  He and Dr. G. were right.  The next morning, I awoke and felt – fine.  A dear buddy drove over to get me on a proper eating and sleep regimen.  I talked, ate, laughed and went to the movies (twice).  I’m preparing to sell the condo for something less expensive.  The loss of toxic stress has increased the groggy side effect of my med, so Dr. G. REDUCED the dosage.  How about that?  I looked at the blue sky and budding greenery and sensed – joy?  The last time I felt this good was June 2011 during the London trip.

I spent 28 years in a profession I didn’t particularly like, and 25 years in a job which grew increasing toxic.  Yes, I still have a depressive disorder, but the endless drip of professional poison was psychologically killing me.  I lasted long enough in a high paying job to retire early on a nice pension.  While I can’t live in the style to which I was accustomed, it’s a damn sight better than other situations.  I served the public for almost 25 years and am proud of my work.  I’m young enough to start a part-time second career in a more nurturing field.  I’ve gone from no options seven weeks ago to having too many.  As Dr. G. said, it’s like the universe conspired to move me out of the old bad and into the new.

That’s my story.

Who woulda thunk it?


26 thoughts on “A Story

  1. Bless you for being able to write about this with such clarity. I’m glad to hear that pieces are fitting together better now, but I’m sorry to hear about the private hell you went through in the meantime. Why is it that, in this day and age, some employers, coworkers, friends and family members still don’t get the “illness” part of mental illness. I bow to your bravery!

    • Thanks Elaine. The nature of my agency makes the whole thing doubly ironic.
      Yes, people still don’t get it. It’s a chronic illness like anything else. I’ve found that many people don’t understand depression unless they’ve been seriously depressed themselves.

  2. Months of a complete nightmare; just so happy that you are emerging from it. And to the extent of having the clarity and resources to write about it. Your posts have been so much missed. Come back, Judiang! and be happy in your skin.

  3. I am so glad for you and was worried, when I did not hear from you after the last mail exchange.
    I am so relieved now and wish you all the best !!!
    Enjoy your new perspectives and chose what you like best and what you can enjoy and is good for you.

    • Thanks CD. It feels so weird, to go from feeling like a trapped rat to well, The World Beyond. For the next 5-6 months, I’m concentrating on getting mentally and physically fit.

  4. Joy! It’s a miracle drug!!!

    I’m so (so so so so so) happy to read that you’re finding the loss of toxic stress is helping. I found that after the first week of retirement I was feeling better. While I was working, I just thought I was tired. Now I can see I was majorly stressed. And three months in, hubby is still telling people he hasn’t seen me smile this much in years.

    After working for as long as we have, one would think that taking the big step into retirement, whether planned or, as in our cases, pushed, would be an easy thing to do. Even in the most perfect of circumstances, it’s still scary and hard. But, as you’re discovering, it’s the first step that’s the most difficult. Each day after that is amazing and wonderful and a true gift. I call it #mydaymyway. 🙂

    Welcome back, Judi! *big huge hugs* Hey, us ‘retirees’ will have to do lunch sometime. Virtually, of course, but … 😉

    • It’s like a boulder rolling off me except that’s not big enough. It’s like the difference between night and day. Just can’t describe it.

      No it’s not easy. In the past whenever somebody ambivalently mentioned they were retiring, I’d feel a little envious and wonder why the conflicted feelings. Now I understand. A large chunk of our lives were dedicated to work, and now *POOF.*

      Yes it is amazing. Just this morning, I lie in bed smiling. Didn’t we work all our lives so we could have the opportunity to stop, and enjoy life? Even when I’m doing nothing, I’m still enjoying it. 😀

  5. So interesting to have the whole story! I knew you retired, but didn’t know. I’m happy you’re happier. I know about depression. It sucks up months and years of your life. Glad your story has reached a happy part. Lots of adventures still to come! 😀 I am so jealous. Wish I could retire, but have a ways to go. Don’t know your whole story, but I am in government too and supervise a bunch of lawyers (not a lawyer myself). Wish I had been your boss – I would have been very supportive! 😀 Wish you all the best and see you on twitter! 😉

    • Welcome Marieastra! Yes, mental illness is such a life sapper. Doctors know how to treat the body, but they know so little about the mind. So many people have it, but there’s still a stigma. Thanks for your support. 🙂

      Ah, I’m sure you would have been a great boss. Your agency wouldn’t happen to have a “D” and a “R” in its acronym would it? 😀

  6. Dear Judiang,
    I am so glad that you are finding a place of peace and contentment. I think about you often–your struggle, your courage, your persistence, and your willingness to share it all with us.

    That fact that your former employer was ungracious at the end of your tenure reflects poorly on them, not on you. But it is nice that at least a few of your colleagues took the time to acknowledge you.

    Your success is how you you choose to define it now, not some vision of what your young self had. And you have every right to be proud of helping people for over 25 years during your law career. I am certain that you have touched many more lives than you could know.

    And the next chapter in your life is open for you to write as you wish. I hope that you will share your new journey with us.

    Yours faithfully, with much love and hugs! Grati ;->

    P.S. I’m always up for a train trip to the city to see you again should you wish to do lunch, gab, complain, rejoice, squeee, etc.

    • Thanks Grati, you’ve always been so supportive. Yes, now I have time to WRITE, like …maybe a blog… or a NOVEL. Oooer. 😉

      I’d love to get together again. Let’s plan something for June …

  7. It’s been great reading your tweets that have been so positive compared to where you’d been of late. I hope that this is all the start of something even more wonderful than just simply retirement and/or (not so simply) handling of depression. 🙂

  8. Congratulations! You got out alive. That is no small accomplishment. And now free of the toxic work environment, you have your life back. You can work on getting better and rediscovering joy. You know you are not alone, even when the depression tries to tell you that you are. Others have emerged from the Valley of the Shadow, and found that their creativity is unleashed at last. You can do it, too. The disease is still there, but like many chronic conditions, it can be managed. Wishing you all the best —

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  10. I didn’t know of your struggle but reading it, I have some understanding. I was once a lawyer (it seems a lifetime ago) but left the profession when my child was born. It was that reason, and also realizing it was not a profession for me.
    I’m glad you’ve found your peace at last. I’m hoping for a great new beginning for you.

  11. Hi Judi – I had no idea what you were going through. A big hug from me. As one of the few RA fans from the twitterverse whom I’ve actually met IRL, I feel terrible for not having known…. but I am really glad you’ve come through to the other side. 🙂

  12. Hi Judiang,
    I had no idea that you were going through such challenging times. I have never suffered from depression but I used to have panic attacks during stressful times.

    Now you have time to blog and write a book if you want to. As time goes by you will probably begin to relax even more. Enjoy your retirement and remember to say YES to Life every day.

    Love and hugs!

  13. What a courageous and beautiful post. It’s so inspirational… We often forget that we have the power to reinvent ourselves at any moment in our lives – I know I do. Thank you for sharing. *hug*

  14. Hi Judi – I feel a bit weird commenting – cos I haven’t been in this fandom long enough to do so, but I just wanted to let you know that I am glad you shared your story. It reinforces my belief in many things: In the power that we all have to help ourselves, in our RL friends to support us, in our virtual friends to care for us, and in the universe to open a door as another one closes. All the best for your new endeavours. It’s going to be DIFFERENT but not WORSE.

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