Living and Working in the “Real World” with Depression

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You may recall the previous (popular) post “Adventures in Retail” where I talked about my ups and downs throughout my 16 year career in retail management. Some days, I look back my career and sometimes say: “Why the hell did I choose this field?”. Other days I’ll say: “Man, I loved that job and loved meeting so many different people.” It really depends on what day you catch me on. I don’t regret choosing this field because I do enjoy running a business, but it does suck sometimes and I (sometimes) wished it I picked a career for suited for my introverted self.

Regardless of what career path you choose, enjoy the work you do and be proud of all your accomplishments. I started from the bottom as an associate on the selling floor and moved my way up to management for a long time. I’m happy to be in management and yes, the responsibility is overwhelming for some. I do wish that I was paid better, but it’s better to be employed than have no job at all. FYI, job searching while you’re unemployed is no fun and living on unemployment and food stamps are really depressing. But I struggled, I paid my dues and worked my butt off to get where I am now.

Every job is stressful. Emphasis on the words “every job”. Whoever said life was is easy?? No one. During my final years of high school, my counselors and my teachers were committing to every students’ journey beyond high school. Again like parents, my teachers loved and cared for their students and wanted what’s best for them. I had plans to attend my 15th high school class reunion last year (Holy Crap, I’m old!), but something came up last-minute and had to cancel my plans. I wanted to see what my old classmates were up. Some I know are very successful in their fields, some are married with kids, and a few unfortunately, passed away. Others, I have no clue, but that’s why I like social media because you can find people who you knew online now.

Before high school ended, I truly had my mindset on getting a job first then going to college. My parents and I talked about the options for my future. It was my dad that said that he admired my choice of getting a job and then saving up money for college. My dad and I went to MATC college (the college I went to and graduated from) together and walked around and talked to an advisor and pretty much window shopped. We got estimates and got a list of classes that were offered, pretty much the basic information. My eyes popped out of my head at the cost of tuition and the cost of books. It’s been 10 years since my college graduation (Holy Crap, I’m really old), and I don’t even want to know what the cost of tuition is NOW. My parents both went to the University of Madison Wisconsin (GO BADGERS!) in the 70’s and the cost was ungodly then, and is more expensive now than what they paid for a single semester back then.

So, I looked into the classified section in the newspaper like us older generations did back in the day and found a job. (Kids today can look for jobs online via Monster.com or Indeed.com) Honestly, working in retail wasn’t me. Maybe it was the fact that working in retail clothing stores are not my thing at all. I was new to whole industry and I had to learn the ropes of closing a sale, making customer connections and etc. When you decide that you want to run a business or start one, it’s best to find your niche. Lesson learned in Business 101 or On the Job Training Day 1! If you don’t do what you like than you are going to be miserable in your field.

When I made the transition to Corning (sells Corelle plates, and other household products), I felt like I was home. Weird because I’m not much of a homemaker at all. It’s not that I’m not domesticated, I am. I just don’t like being at home and doing housekeeping. It was with this company that I gained experience in sales, gained experience in working for a living, and got paid for doing something that I like. I became obsessed with that store. I loved looking at all the gadgets that we sold such as cherry pitter (Never heard of those before I started there!), peelers and any sort of tools needed in order to function in your kitchen. The employer that I had at the time was like a grandmother to me because she had that quality about her, but she also had her professional managerial quality as well. I remember the times that we bonded and she taught me a great deal about working and earning a living, but I also remember the times she yelled at me for making mistakes at work. We all make mistakes! Just own up to it and move on.

I worked my little butt off and quickly worked my way up from associate to lower management and than to upper management. While I was working here, I went back to college part-time and started a four year journey in the Small Business department. Thankfully, Mom and Dad were able to let me live at home with one exception: paying rent! You have no idea how much I appreciate the lesson that they instilled to me. It’s important to get your life together, but you can’t always live for free and with your parents. So true. So I paid their monthly rent and sometimes when I was short money, my dad would let it slide and let me pay next month. News flash, real landlords don’t let you slide. When your rent is due, it’s due. No questions or otherwise you’re out on the street. During holiday times, I would always get a second job to earn some extra money and save up for whatever expense that would occur.

Did I mention that I was 21 and I didn’t have my own car? Oh yes, I wasn’t of those lucky or spoiled kids that got a car on my 16th birthday. Nope, I didn’t get my license until I was 18. Good thing because after I got my license, I went out for a cruise and got pulled over by a cop. I was doing more than 25mph over the speed limit. Speed demon! Not only did I not get a free pass since it was my first offense, but I almost lost my license from the state of Wisconsin and got a hefty fine. At the time, it was probably close to $300. Yeah. Probably, doubled or tripled in the last seventeen years because I’m approaching age 35 soon. So imagine my horror when I had to tell my dad that his insurance premiums were going to go through the roof and that I had a nice ticket to go along with it. Of course, he was mad. What parent isn’t? Most of all, he was relieved that I was OK. Yes, I did get the typical dad lecture about defensive driving, maturity and how a car isn’t a toy. So for my punishment, I paid the fine and the cost of his insurance premiums. Again, I can’t thank my parents enough for instilling so many important lessons in me. I hope that I’m half the parent that they both are.

Meanwhile, during this journey of working and getting my license, and going to collegeĀ  all of these problems started occurring. I started becoming more and more depressed. When people are depressed, it’s so much more than sadness. Of course, I was sad. Shoot, I’ve cried more tears while suffering depression than any other time in my life. I will admit that it’s very hard for me to cry. If I were an actress and had to cry on cue, it probably would take many (many!) takes for that to happen. I handle my emotions a lot more different than others.

In the weeks, and months leading up to my breakdown, I lived in pure denial. I think a lot people around including family, friends, co-workers and professors could see a significant behavior change in me. By nature, I am a nice person. I don’t judge anyone. I pretty easy to get along with. I’m not mean like some. I’m a little introverted and soft-spoken, but at work and in public, I tend to be more extroverted. So during these dark periods, the people closest to me said that I was like Regina George from Mean Girls or The Hulk whenever a mood swing would occur. I would go from nice girl to Regina George and sometimes, I would transform into the Hulk. When I got mad, I would turn green like the Hulk. I didn’t have to buy a new shirt every time!

My behavior was spiraling out of control. I would be sad one minute and the next, I would be crying. And there was a lot of types of crying: angry crying, sad crying, crying out of frustration. I would get very snappy at people over the littlest things. People could tell something was wrong. My eating and sleeping habits were out of the ordinary. Some days, I would eat and sleep and some days, I didn’t eat or sleep at all. Again, I denied it and just said that I was having a day. My work ethic started to slip as well as college homework and there were days were I didn’t do much of anything. I would get up in the mornings and say: “What’s the point of getting up for?”

Once my breakdown occurred and sought treatment, I immediately felt the stigma that plagues our society. To tell your professors and your employer that you had to seek treatment for mental health problems is no easy task. Honestly, I dreaded that conversation as I started talking to my employer and my professors. Granted, if you’ve never experienced depression before in your life, than you won’t understand what it’s like. Personally, my employer didn’t really care. My employer said: “Your job is to show up and do your work.” OK, that’s a little hard to do when you have no energy or motivation. I was a little offended by this employer’s response to my health crisis. A lot of customers were the same way. When someone would look at me, they will say: “Are you OK?”

“Of course, I’m OK. Why wouldn’t I be?” I fake smiled and ass kissed when it came to customer service. I slapped that happy face on that we have to wear all day long on our shifts. God forbid, if you didn’t smile or show some emotion, people would assume that you’re rude. I’ve had so many people make this horrible assumption about me, that I’ve lost count. I can’t tell you how many times when district managers would look at me and assume that I’m not the manager type because of my depression. So, you’re judging me because I live depression on a daily basis and have no control over?? Isn’t that called being…RUDE. You bet it is. Again as I say, you don’t know what it’s like until it happens to you. Some days, I can wear my happy face and let it show. Other days, I can’t. I just can’t. Some days are harder than others.

I’ve experienced so much criticism from too many people in my life; that if I kept count I would be richer than Bill Gates and the entire 1% of the population. I’ve learned to not let people bring me down or to look for the best in others. Don’t ever assume. First impressions aren’t always accurate. There’s more than meets the eye.

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