Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

I’ve been away for some time, but lately, I’ve been thinking about how to make my re-entrance to Curls and All. It would be odd to start talking about bomb.com recipes again without telling you where I’ve been.

On July 29, 2016, I broke. I had a meltdown at work. Let me explain by first giving you some back story.

I had a job that I loved; I had job security (as much as any person can have at an agency) and I was lucky enough to be working with dear friends. My six-year stint was full of ups and very few downs. I had it good, y’all. I built a team that could kick any team’s ass every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I had clients who trusted and loved me. I was elevated to Vice-President within two and a half years of starting which was probably a little too fast, but I worked hard every day to prove that I earned it.

Around the same time, I began a relationship with a man I’d known and had a crush on since I was 19 years old.
I loved this man. He got me. It didn’t end badly, but it did end. My solution for heartbreak was to work more. It was the place I was getting the most gratification, and I thought it was enough, so I buried myself in it. Work became my relationship. I distanced myself from dear friends who loved me. My attitude towards anything related to my personal life shifted to a negative place. The more I succeeded, the more I wanted. I got so caught up in it that I forgot to let myself heal. Not just from a broken relationship, but from the loss of my mother who had passed away about six months before said relationship began.

My relationship with my mom was not great. Something happened to her at some point in her life that turned her into an unkind, hurtful person. To this day, I don’t know what that thing was. I wish I could say she never physically abused us, but she did to some degree. A few slaps here and there but the most egregious thing was the time she tried to set the house on fire with my sister, brother, and nephew locked in on the second floor of our farmhouse. She did not succeed. That is horrifying, yes, but the worst part was the mental abuse. One minute she was fantastic and everything you wanted in a mother and the next minute she was yelling at you; telling you how stupid you were and the like. When I turned 18, I left home, got a full-time job and went to college full-time for six years. My sister stayed behind and continued to bear the brunt of our mom’s abuse until the day she died. I never forgave her while she was alive and I certainly didn’t process the tortured relationship. I buried my head even more.

The agency lost a huge client on which my team spent 50% of our time. It was one of those asshole clients we’d worked so hard to turn around and to lose it after all that work was crushing. I’d also been in another huge pitch that would have generated millions for the agency. Sadly, we did not win that pitch, and the client called the boss and said it was because of me. They didn’t like my personality and didn’t think we could cut it. I will never forget leaving the building that day and making it all the way to the door of the parking garage before I started sobbing. How could they not like me? But, I prevailed and eventually ended up being on every single pitch that happened during the last two years of my time at the agency. I started a successful demand generation practice; I sat on the advisory board for Adobe; I taught classes at NYU. I kept busy and let work fulfill me. I didn’t have time to focus on my personal life or lack thereof.

Fast-forward to December 2016 when the agency moved into a beautiful new office space. It remains one of the most stunning offices I’ve seen. But, it’s an open office. Do you have any idea what an open office does to introverts and people with slight ADD? It was debilitating. I sat on the end of a cafeteria style table on the most trafficked area in the entire agency. I couldn’t hear myself think. I couldn’t concentrate, but I quickly learned to identify who was walking up behind me based on the sound of their heels. I worked on nine clients which meant I was in meeting after meeting. When 5:00 rolled around, my team often joked that we could finally get some actual work done. I was so overstimulated that I’d come home and sit in the dark with no noise. I stopped going to the gym and kept eating my feelings away. I got mean; lost my perspective and pushed many friends away. I isolated myself. Around the same time, the opportunity I had been waiting for came along – a client needed a new media director. I’d been working to prove I was ready for this type of challenge for two years. I inserted myself and did everything I could to prove I could run it. By this point, I was working 80+ hours a week, never taking a break, never disconnecting, but still, I wanted that client.

I was fully capable, and the clients liked me. But the agency hired someone from outside whose resume looked better on paper (they had more category experience though not a strong digital background). It hurt. A lot. I withdrew even more but continued working on the account because this person wasn’t a full-time employee (which presented a huge challenge for those left to work with said person). A year ago on July 29, this person stood over me, screaming at me in front of 10+ people (you know, that new office space). This person wouldn’t stop, even when I asked. I begged for space and got none. I’d never felt so humiliated, hurt and confused. I lost it. There was sobbing, foot stomps and I remember screaming. I did it behind closed doors. But hey, remember that beautiful open office space? Everyone saw and/or heard it.

It was one event, one drop in a cup of water that was already nearing the overflowing mark. That event changed everything for me, and I am so glad it happened.

I found a therapist, and while suicide has never crossed my mind, I credit my therapist with saving my life. I understand the “why” about some of my feelings and self-doubt now, and I have to tools to make different choices.  You should never suffer alone.  There are amazing therapists out there who want to help you.  I was lucky enough to find the right one on my first visit but even if you’re not that lucky, keep trying.   We need to talk about mental health and well-being way more than we do.  A therapist not only helps you figure things out, but they can also give you to the right tools to talk to others about it and even understand what others are going through.  It’s not a stigma.

In the end, I am glad I didn’t get the client. I probably was ready, but I wouldn’t have been happy. I’m am glad the person they hired stood over me. Without that event, I may never have had a meltdown or sought therapy. I send positive vibes to the person who did this in the hopes that they also have a breakthrough.

If none of this happened, I might not have realized that I was turning into the person I never wanted to be (my mother). I have forgiven my mother, but I’m glad she no longer has control over me.  I’ve even forgiven myself for not missing her.

I am a better sister.

And a better friend.  Some of the friends I’d pushed away have allowed me to prove that I am a better Micheal than yesterday. These are the people you know are your family and will always be there.  Other friends have not given me that opportunity. I continue to wish those friends the same kind of happiness, joy, and peace I’ve found for myself. One of those friends is a person who opened up to me about her own depression and anxiety, and even though she falls into this category of friends now, I will forever be grateful that she listened and encouraged me along the way. I know that she is happy for me. I hope anyone feeling lost has a person like this in their life.

It has been a year with way more ups than downs. I left my job and hopped into another job at a start-up (hello, dream job!). Fast forward eight months and $80,000 of unpaid salary later, I left that position. I take with me many lessons from that experience, and amazing friendships that I expect will last a lifetime. When I left that job, I decided it was time for Micheal to find out who Micheal is without a job. I don’t want my gravestone to read “tenacious badass and master of digital marketing.” I want my mark on the world to be more.

I’ve refocused on my physical health along with a continued emphasis on mental health. My pals and I joke that I’ve gone full-on hippie. We’re talking chakra cleansing and healing stones, y’all. The physical part will take time, but I know it will be forever because I’ve been able to address my toxic relationship with food.

I start every day with a dance party of one. It brings a smile to my face and is my way of saying thanks to the universe.

Turns out that all the King’s Men could put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Thanks, Universe.