I had grown tired of the corporate grind. I believed I was destined for something bigger, something more altruistic. The problem was money. Working for a nonprofit doesn’t pay much. I have no relatives to leave me a little nest egg one day. I’d watched my mom live on social security and a tiny pension and no savings. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend my retirement. So I got to work saving money like crazy but found myself depressed instead.
I stuck with the corporate world and focused on building up my 401K, buying real estate investments, and getting ready for retirement. All my energy was directed at two things: 1) save lots of money, 2) go on nice vacations at least once a year. (Because I had to have something to look forward to in the near term.)
I saw my job as a means to an end. Get enough money saved up to retire early so Troy and I could buy that camper and travel the US. Work work work, save save save, and work some more. Sure, I did well at my job and got promotions, but I still regarded it as a means to retirement. I couldn’t possibly stay there one day longer than it would take to retire.
What I didn’t count on is the emptiness this created. I didn’t even recognize it at the time. I thought if I could only retire even sooner this emptiness would magically disappear. So I drove us to save even more and started buying a single Lotto ticket every month, see if we could strike it rich. Month after month, that losing Lotto ticket would make me more and more depressed. Retirement seemed so far away.
Then I got so depressed I couldn’t function. I’m not saying this attitude about my job was the cause. I believe my depression was brought on by a whole host of factors (my mom dying, my body going peri-menopausal, my terrible decision to reduce the dosage of the antidepressant I’d taken for over a decade because I didn’t want to be a “guinea pig” for the pharmaceutical industry). But I also believe my attitude about my job had taken over my life with a self-imposed scarcity as if everything good is not available right now — that you have to wait for it, and that attitude was not helpful given all the other depression-inducing factors happening to me.
When I say I couldn’t function, I mean it. I had to take short-term disability because I couldn’t leave the house without anxiety and crippling fear. Troy had to do pretty much everything around the house. Driving became a nightmare, so I stopped driving. Kinda hard to go to work if you can’t drive!
I was hospitalized, and then went to outpatient therapy all day, five days a week for 2 months. During that time I wasn’t sure I’d ever be well enough to work and travel. Another wrinkle emerged in that time. Doctors found that I have a pre-cancerous condition called MGUS that could one day turn into Multiple Myeloma. If I managed to overcome this depression I could wind up with cancer! I feared my useful days were over.
Fortunately I was able to return to work after 3 months. My attitude about work is completely different now. To be able to work is a gift. It’s a place where I get to use my brain, stay busy, and stay ahead of my depression. I have coworkers who truly care about me. My boss and the company allowed me to slowly take on work again, and supported me the whole way. And guess what! I got promoted on May 7th!
Life can change on a dime. I may get cancer one day. My depression may cripple me. I see now that retirement could be forced upon me sooner than I’d planned. I now try to live life in the moment. I’m no longer biding my time until I retire.
Now if only I could find this peace and acceptance about the weight I’ve gained! That’s another story….
Coming Soon! I am publishing my journal of mindfulness exercises to practice living in the present. You’ll be able to follow along and journal about your experiences. Stay tuned, I’ll announce its availability soon!