In Germany today is the Sunday before Advent on wich the dead are commemorated or as we call it “Ewigkeitssonntag” (Eternity Sunday) or “Totensonntag” (Sunday of the Dead). I have briefly written about the meaning behind it when I
mourned celebrated my late grandparents and what they had taught me. Lately I have this feeling that I – at times – are mourning myself. The old version of me. The younger one. And I wanted to explore those half thoughts today. As it only seems fitting.
I was 29 when my life changed in 2011. I could have seen it coming but as you often do, you push the signs away, keep going, trying to be strong. This was not going to slow me down. It did.
Until 2011 I prided myself for being so energetic. Outgoing. Full of life. Happy. Successful. Lighthearted. Smiling.
The Back Story
In my teenage years I was class president for almost all through highschool. I have been school representative in my last year of highschool, being part of many teachers boards and voicing the students opinion. I have taken part in Model United Nations. I have played semi-professional volleyball and was a referee as well. Sometimes even helped out coaching. I was busy.
After school and starting my apprenticeship I learned I wasn’t able to do all of it with full-time work and studying. I cut back. I kept my arm down in vocational school when a new class president was looked for. I kept my volleyball and referee job as long as I could. But spending every weekend in the gym was tough. Specially when I was in event business and had a lot of functions on weekends. Or if not I really needed a break to recharge. So I did the responsible thing and quit the team as not to slow them down. I did my referee job a bit longer but not enough and so my license expired.
When my apprenticeship was done in 2005 and around that time I started dating Mr. ♡. Priorities shifted. Time was scarce.
In 2007 I started taking evening classes to get my diploma in communications and marketing. At the same time I started a new job in an event agency. Life became even more hectic. In 2009 my boss had a burn-out. And for the next two years I was more or less running the agency and trying to motivate the small team of four people. While the husbands boss (now CEO of the agency) spend money, drove his Porsche and cheated on his wife.
But why am I mourning myself you may ask. I had life figured out. I was on a high. Until I was not.
The break down
Since 2005 my migraines started to develop and became a regular thing. December was always the busiest time for our agency as we had a lot of end of year conferences for our clients. My favorite time of year and I was not able to slow down. 2010 was the worst yet. On my way to the airport to fly to Munich I had a bad feeling of nausea. So much so that we stopped at the airport pharmacy so I can get medication – that I left on the counter… The rest of the week was even worth. Every time I was able to delegate my duties to my apprentice I was in bed trying to not throw up, get rid of the pounding migraine. Or if I needed to be available I was laying on the couch in the lobby jumping up as soon as a client walked by. When the conference was finally done our plane was canceled due to severe snow storms. We were supposed to sleep on the airport. We did not. We made it home the following day with the train. The whole thing is a story of its own.
Christmas break this year was much needed. I can not remember anything about it. Besides that I was not ready to go back to work in January. Not the feeling of I am tired I want to spend more time without work. No I literally had no energy to get up and drive there. I had to though. I managed. That is the person I am. I was. We had a big roadshow coming up – 30 stops all over Germany. We needed to go location scouting. The first week back a one week road trip. After that I was sick for two weeks. End of January I was back in the office. Overwhelmed with tasks and responsibility. Often sitting in front of my computer not knowing where to start. Some days I was not able to write a single email. Knowing it’s all piling up.
The weekend of my dads birthday was the final nail in the coffin. I called my mom crying that I don’t know when to bake a cake for dad. I ended getting up night to do it. My mom said I should only show up to the party and not help anything beforehand. I did that. That party was the weirdest thing I ever did. I talked. I smiled. I was (pretending) to be happy while at the same time I was breaking inside, just wanting to be home. Of course I had a migraine.
The next day, a Sunday the migraine was the worst I have ever had it. By that time I had it for weeks – only a few days break. I was dreading going to work. I was lying upside down on the couch feet at the back, head on the bottom while poking my eye socket with a fork to get to the pain. Mr. ♡ silently watching. Asking if we should get to the hospital. I tried to breath through it. Two hours later I was ready to get help. My mom was already waiting downstairs for some time to drive us. Did I mention I have the best husband?
On Monday I went to my doctor who wrote me a sick note. Also emphasizing I need to see a neurologist. I had Mr. ♡ call my work because I knew otherwise I would agree to checking mails and doing things. I agreed to an 1 hour call for all open questions. After that the husband took my phone, put me on the couch and did not allow me to do much else but read. I was too tired to that. I was a breathing thing with no emotion.
After two weeks I dreaded going to the doctor not knowing what to say to get an extension of staying at home. There was nothing really wrong with me. I didn’t bleed, all bones intact I had no pain. The husband came along and also into the docs office. My neurologist asked me if anything was wrong. My answer: “No, all is fine.” The husband then said that nothing was fine. I started crying. After that the only thing I remember from the appointment was that she told me to find a therapist.
Eventually I did get back to work after four weeks. I switched my job a few month later. I started going to therapy.
2011 broke me. 2013 shattered me.
In 2013 I was laid off that new job I got. While it did help me get out of the event business, the long hours, the responsibility I had, it shattered me on a more emotional level. I was laid off for not being a team player. No one knew my back story but I personally defined myself as a team player. A person always helping.
2011 was a burn-out. 2013 I fell in a depression for 11 months.
No one really told me what the diagnoses was. Years later the therapist mentioned I suffer from depression that was triggered by a burn-out. It would have helped me knowing that. I need a label to understand how serious it was. Is. You never fully recover. You live a different live. You are a different person.
I have been mourning myself ever since. Hoping I will be that person again. The one that is full of energy. Can juggle all the projects, ideas and have a full social life. The person who is smiling and laughing. But it’s been ten years. It is time to accept that there is a new me.
My personality has changed. And honestly I don’t like every facet of it.
Mourning my energy levels
I feel like I am not getting much done. Of course I always compare to my former self. And apparently that was not very healthy. I also compare to a younger version of myself. But I would lie if I don’t sometimes wish I was more proactive. More productive. That I was more decisive. That I follow through on plans.
I wish I had less migraines. I wish they wouldn’t so often hinder me. I wish I could endure stress better. Like I used to. But my body seems to remember. Or I am aware of the signs.
So instead I go to bed when I feel a migraine coming. Feeling weak for doing so. Knowing I need go because otherwise I will suffer longer. Often enough I can accept. But every once in a while I get mad. At myself for not being me. That old me. To suck it up.
Mourning my self-confidence
The 2013 incident had me loose all my self confidence. My attitude, my assurance of myself I had in my teenage years, during my early twenties. All gone. Because one guy was threatened by me. Fearing his own position. Because I called him out on his bullshit, his laziness.
Now the feeling of inadequacies is dominant. The imposter syndrome crept in. I am questioning everything. Never quite feeling good enough. Threatened by people who know more. Can present themselves better. That are confident.
I am struggling. I failed to stand up for myself in 2013. And at the same time I was so confident (before) that it triggered the situation. I am struggling to find a balance.
And now I am scared of things. Scared to fulfill dreams. Scared to share my opinion. Scared that I plummet down another spiral of depression if I fail.
Mourning my lightheartedness
I miss being happy. I miss being lighthearted. I miss laughing. I miss not assuming everyone has an agenda. Maybe I miss the naivety. The carelessness.
I don’t want to be pessimistic. I don’t want to see fault everywhere. I don’t want to be sceptic. I don’t want to have mood swings. I don’t want to hide my insecurities by picking fights and arguments.
I am not sure how to wrap up this post. I am not sure if this post is helpful for everyone but me. If you are still here thank you for reading.
Maybe the most important part to learn here is that we never know what a person is going through. It is the first time I have mentioned this anywhere. It took me around seven years to admit to my family and speak openly about it. I am more than lucky that Mr. ♡ was around in my darkest hours. That he still is. He fell in love with a different person. And of that person only parts remain.
I have no solution on how to live with this new version of myself. I guess as with everything admitting is a first step.
Thank you for reading today
Oh Tobia. I wish I could sit beside you and give you a giant hug and share a cup a coffee together.
My heart both aches for you – and my heart understands.
I have struggled with low mood/depression and a number of physical challenges for a long time and it can be so hard to bottle it all up inside and keep moving. Especially when something like migraines aren’t a visible issue to those around you. You have to put on a brave face and power through in a way someone wouldn’t expect if you had, say, a broken leg.
I also relate to the “mourning” aspect too; when life, or our responses or anything doesn’t turn out the way we expect. I think it makes sense to mourn what has been “lost” and then, hopefully, in time we can also find ways to celebrate what we have become! Wherever we are in life, whatever up and downs and detours we’ve taken – we are of infinite value and we can contribute so much to the world. Even if that contribution looks different than what we might have envisioned.
Sending hugs from Canada, my friend <3
Thank you Elisabeth. And I am sorry that you can relate too. It truly is something you don’t wish on anyone. Migraines are no fun and still there are worse cases. Most days I do live a rather normal life but I also do restrict myself with a lot. Mourning myself is hopefully one step closer to accepting the new me.
I would love to have a coffee with you. Thank you for being here.
Oh, I’m so sorry you have such terrible health issues. I, too, am not like I once was, but there was a time when the pace of working three jobs and constantly being on the go was normal and productive and I enjoyed it. But that time is no longer. Your priority should be taking care of yourself and I am glad to hear that you do take time when you are sick. Hugs to you!
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I think the key is that we enjoyed it and not really realizing that we overdid it. At least that is my experience. I felt needed, seen and appreciated. Not performing on such a level is hard because I compare it. But you are right the new benchmark should be the health and taking care of oneself. Thank you for your kind words.
😥 with you. So sorry that life has been so hard for you for these many years. It’s frustrating when we feel like our body and mind let us down. I’m glad you have found some help, and you have people in your life that are there for you, which is so important.
Much appreciated Melissa. I am truly blessed that my tribe of people are here and that I can count on them. It is a privilege I am well aware of. It is frustrating when your body and mind does not go along with your plans. I am getting better in synching them though.
Oh goodness, this is heartbreaking. I know so many people who have been broken by situations like this. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Migraines, Depression, Anxiety, chronic pain. We are strong and OK one day, and then suddenly, we are not. The answers, if they are there, are varied. But you are not alone. I’m glad that your husband is there for you. It would be very difficult to be alone through this.
I have RA, though it is under control. My flair was horrific. I sometimes get migraines, though for me they are not painful, just the nausea. Which is bad enough and debilitating. I cannot imagine trying to get up and smile during that.
I urge you to keep trying to find solutions. Perhaps they are there. And to be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone. Many people do not understand what you are going through, but there are many of us who do. <3
I am so sorry to hear your suffer from RA. Every chronic pain is a restriction in life. We always take the health issues into account. Always wondering if that one thing may trigger a flair/attack. We do live with it at some point and adjust ourself but it still is a burden. We all should be more mindful of those things and that – as you said – many around us suffer. I have been working on identify triggers and symptoms and getting a better understanding. I can even fend off the low moods/depressions most days. But it is hard to see the difference in the before and after. Luckily I have very great people who help me and I can count one. I would not know how to get through it without them. And my husband is the first one to point out that I my need to take medication or just go to bed.
Wow, Tobia- I’m so sorry you’re going through this. So this all started with terrible migraines? It’s frustrating that no one can help you with that. I know there are medications that help some people, but not everyone. My son had a friend in college last year who had to leave school because of her migraines.
I will say that at some point in life, we all mourn the person we used to be. I hope you can find some peace with it. Sending you hugs <3
The migraines have been there for most the time yes. But I am wondering if they are in the end. just part of the symptoms. I am taking medication and have a very great neurologists so most times I am handling them ok now. Still annoying but I know what to do or not do. Migraines really suck and even though all this sounds tough I am probably not suffering as bad as some people who have them. Most days I am ok.
Mourning our former self is probably not a unique thing. We all have our issues. It is the acceptance to live with that new version I am truly struggling with. Thank you for reading and sending your hugs and thoughts. This community is such a treasure.
Uff, friend. That was a hard read. I mean, I knew you suffered from migraines (which I know can be debilitating, but I did not know that you had burn-out and depression after a stressful job.
You sound a lot like me when I was younger – I was also class president in high school and head of the student body the last couple of years and basically involved in EVERYTHING. I had such a busy schedule. I also realized after graduating, that the adult responsibilities took over and there wasn’t as much time for the “fun” things I enjoyed.
I can see though how you ended up being overcommitted, taking on all the duties and your body just saying “no” at some point. That often happens to overambitious people. I hope you know that stepping back a bit and taking care of yourself, is not failure – even if it feels that way sometimes – but that it’s really self-preservation.
If I learned one thing in life it is that often the people (or should I be honest and say, often men!) with big mouths get all the credit , not the people who do the actual work (see your husband’s boss).
It’s a fine line to work hard and apply your skills and not be taken advantage of.
For what it’s worth, you’re not a lesser version of yourself than you were back then. We all were a bit more carefree, naïve and ambitious when we were younger. Life does beat you down a bit… but the important thing is to learn when you can push through and to know when to step back.
Hugs my friend. I think you’re fabulous just the way your are (just look at the work and all the craft projects you get done!).
I am sorry for sliding such a heavy post in your inbox. Thank you for reading. I never did mention the burn-out and depression anywhere. I was and still am a bit hesitant on how much to share publicly. But only if we openly talk about it is becoming the awareness and the understanding it needs. That is why I did push publish. It feels scary though.
Yes it was a great time being so busy and taking care of everything and everyone but you can only do it for so long. And adulthood did slow me down. I do know that stepping back and taking care of my self is necessary and totally fine but emotionally it is not always easy. Seeing my husband work 10 hour days on a regular basis and me going. to bed at 3pm because it’s all too much is very hard and guilt is companion. But I need to. It is a learning process.
The loud mouth and taking credit thing is a whole other story and I could get mad about it. But I try not to consider it too much. It is not good to be angry.
San, I very much appreciate your kind words and the friendship we have here and the tiny community that is growing. It is a wonderful thing to share not only the fun adventures but to be allowed to share the darker experiences too.
I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. I had migraines very briefly – I don’t know why they started or why they stopped, but when I had them I couldn’t do anything until they passed.
I think we’re just starting to recognize the damage that work burnout causes. All I know if that when my job ended last year – even though I saw it coming and even though I found a new job and quit before they could lay me off – it still did a number on me.
I don’t have the solution but I just wanted to say that what you describe is very real and thank you for sharing it.
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I agree with you. We do not know what pressure and commitment of our work can do to us. And we are not very well educated to show compassion. There is no real understanding. I am sorry you had also a rough time with your job and that it did leave you with some scars. I am hoping you have been able to work through it and find your peace. And if not that you will. It did feel very scary to hit that publish button but I do believe we have to speak up and show that mental health issues are much more common.
I had to let this post sit with me for a while. I am sorry, you are going through this feels so inadequate, but I also have not come up with anything better to say. So, here is my sorry, my I wish I could do anything. I have migraines, too and every day I have them feels lost to me. I am glad there are medications that help but some days I realize to late that it’s happening and they don’t work anymore. I can’t imagine having a breakdown on top of everything.
Thank you for sharing! It must have taken a lot of courage. I hope it gets easier over time and that you can find a place where you feel comfortable with yourself again. Be kind to yourself and patient. I know this is easier said than done.
Thank you Meike, I appreciate your thoughts and wishes. I am sorry you also suffer from migraines. Yes taking the meds at the right time is a struggle. Sometimes wishful thinking that the attack will pass without needing meds is just wishful thinking. Yes it was probably one of the hardest post to write and hit publish. And I am not sure Ill leave it online to be honest. I am a rather private person so that was a huge one…
Wow, Tobia. I am really grateful to you for sharing your story. I have lived with generalized anxiety and depression my entire life, so I understand this feeling of chronic pain (whether mental or physical!) and knowing how it has changed you. I am really glad you got out of your stressful job and I hope you are on the way to healing. Dealing with migraines is TOUGH. My mom suffered (and suffers!) from them her whole life. Thankfully, they have gotten better with time and she takes medication as needed, but they were so debilitating for her for a long time.
I am proud of you for writing about this and publishing this post! Being vulnerable is so, so scary but I promise your words have touched a lot of people and made us feel less alone. <3
Thank you for the kind words, Stephany. It was not easy to publish, even harder to write. I think I have never been this vulnerable online but I know lots of people have similar stories and it is important to share and talk about them.
I am sorry you suffer from anxiety and depression. I appreciate you sharing about the anxiety flares on your blog. It makes it easier to understand each other and not judge too quickly. Be more empathetic.
Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am so sorry you have been going through so much difficulty. Thinking of you. <3
Thank you Suzanne. It’s been a couple of rough patches I won’t lie. But now there are some lighter ones. Appreciate your thoughts.
Oh, Tobia. You are clearly not alone – particularly in this little community. <3 This just reminds me that we never, ever know what others are dealing with. You can put on the best face, and fake it (to a point) and people will never see the turmoil and pain inside, both physical and psychological. I have had parallel experiences with unexpected physical injuries changing my life in ways I never anticipated. I've had to change the way I work out, the way I eat, the way I do chores and tasks… but the thing is, we adapt, we cover, and then if people aren't right there with us (like your lovely husband) they have no clue and don't know why we've changed so much.
I am glad you've shared this, even if "only" online. And I hope you feel a little less alone in your invisible struggles to get through day to day life. <3
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Such kind words, Anne. Thank you.
It is so important to not judge immediately and assume things. I know I am guilty more often than not. We all have our own burdens. I just hope that everyone has someone to share them with. If not it’s not really manageable I believe. I am sorry to hear you had your own life changing moment but it seems like you have managed to go on… even though as a slightly different person.