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 I had shut down, withdrawn, and built walls around myself, as if I were in survivor mode under siege.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?