I’m going to talk to you today about the time where I almost lost everything.
My friends. My clients. My amazing team. My business. My mind.
This post is extremely personal and a hard one for me to write but I’ve finally put enough years in between me and this moment in my life to where I feel like I can talk about it. I can talk about it now without being embarrassed, without any more guilt, and with the intention of helping anyone reading this who is going through a hard time.
I lost myself in the abyss of pretending to be perfect but knowing all the while that my life was falling apart and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
In 2012 my marriage of 3 years completely crumbled all around me. It imploded, exploded, shattered into a million teeny-tiny pieces that could never be put back together again. Out of respect for my ex-husband I won’t go into specifics, except to say that I carry the blame for the relationship’s failure. I didn’t want to be married anymore, and spent an entire year before we separated struggling with those gut-wrenching emotions that anyone whose been in that situation can understand. It starts with questioning your happiness, and then manifests into pushing your spouse away, until you wake up in the morning one day, look into the mirror, and wonder who you’ve become.
I can’t describe it anymore poignantly than it sucks. It sucks the life out of you.
I wasn’t prepared for what was about to come next; I thought that once I admitted to myself, and to him, that I didn’t want this life anymore I would remove the mountain of unhappiness from off my chest and finally take a breathe. I had been unhappy for so long and with a fresh start and a sense of independence, I thought that I could rebuild a greater life on my own.
I was so very, very wrong.
I thought the hard part was admitting the failure and I didn’t realize that the hard part was truly what was to come.
I remember the day that I moved out of the home we shared and into my tiny little one bedroom apartment. The moving company I had hired to move my furniture gave me some extra help, presumably now since I was husbandless, like putting my bed together and arranging my furniture the way I wanted it. I imagined that they had done this before with a woman just like me. As the last box was brought in and I signed the paperwork, they looked at me with a little bit of sadness and said “Good luck with everything, I hope everything goes well for you” and shut the door. I smiled and thought, “I don’t need luck— I’m going to be great now!”
I sat down on the couch that night and looked around. I looked around at everything I owned, which I once shared with someone else, and then it finally hit me. I was alone. I wasn’t prepared to be alone, even though that is what I chose.
My divorce turned me into someone who I didn’t recognize. I was depressed, but not like the person in the “Are you depressed? Are you sad?” commercials. I was depressed in a different kind of way; losing control of my decisions and making very poor choices. Choosing a social life over responsibilities, flat-out ignoring my clients and evading any and all responsibility that I had both professional or personal. I never returned my mothers phone calls. I slept most of the day because I just didn’t want to deal; I didn’t want to deal with the mountain of emails, my teams questions about what they should be doing, or the demanding responsibility a business owner has.
I was crumbling under the weight of responsibility.
I didn't want to be the person in charge anymore.
My friends called me at first and asked, “Hey, are you okay?” Of course I’m okay!
Then they would call and say, “Girl, are you sure you are okay?” And I’d say of course, what would make you think otherwise?
And then they started calling and emailing saying, “Girl, you really need to get your shit together. What is going on? You are falling apart.”
The day when it really hit me was when Diana, who has worked with me now for 6 years, emailed me and asked for a meeting in the office. The office I never went to, but paid the rent on, and she still went into every day to do her work. I knew exactly what she wanted to talk to me about— but part of me still thought, maybe she doesn’t notice that I’ve fallen apart.
When I got to the office she was already sitting down on our couch waiting for me. I was nervous— really nervous. I was nervous because I didn’t know if she knew what a mess I had become; I was nervous that she was going to quit and then what would I do? I was nervous that she was going to judge me or yell at me, but worst of all, I was nervous that she was disappointed in me. That the person who she had once looked up to she now saw as a joke.
I sat down next to her and she came right out with it— and I will never forgot— she asked me if I was okay. She showed so much compassion, and until this day, it still makes me tear up. She could have yelled and screamed at me, she could have simply handed me a letter with her resignation…. but instead, she asked me what she could do to help. She told me that we couldn’t continue on this way, and that I was not doing a good job. She said she understood, but that we needed to make a change if this company was going to survive my epic failures. She said she was still in it with me, but that I had to be in it with her…. and myself.
I sat there and I cried. I promised to be better. I promised that I would get back to that strong, determined, smart, and excited person that I use to be: the one that hired her on her as an intern, mentored her, and offered her a job. The one who built a great company and was admired by others.
It was an a-ha moment for me, but it still took more time to get my proverbial shit together. I should have gone to therapy (so many friends and family urged me to), but i somehow climbed outside of the darkness and got myself (and my business) back into the light.
The hardest part about owning a business is when life happens– and you can never predict when life will throw you a rainstorm or a hurricane. Business can't wait. Clients can't wait. Employees can't wait. So, what are you suppose to do?
You bury your problems and try to push forward the best way you know how.
You keep up appearances, too terrified to let anyone know that you are failing.
You pretend everything is perfect.
You keep up that public persona of perfection.
But that doesn't work either.
Because you're not only lying to everyone around you, but most (and worst) of all, your lying to yourself.
If you're reading this– and you're having a hard time– call me. Email me. Let's talk. I don't want anyone to go through my 2012– not if i can help you.
Search the hashtag #theimperfectboss to read more stories from women who are KEEPING IT REAL. I encourage you to participate and share your story or something about yourself and your life that would give thousands of other women the comfort of knowing that someone else is in their shoes.