New opportunity for a guy who’s struggled
I'm writing this post because, in no particular order a) I wanna get some shit off my chest b) I wanna know if someone out there has experienced anything similar and c) to help somebody.
I'm a consultant by background. Grew up in a midwestern upper-class family. Graduated from a strong university on the east coast. Immediately began working at a hugely well-respected firm. All my life, I've struggled with my mental health. I picked up a debilitating cocaine addiction in college from which I'm currently in recovery. Looking back, I've only ever felt fairly unstable at best and completely out of control at worst.
I've been diagnosed with a whole bunch of shit in my lifetime. ADHD, bipolar, borderline, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, major depressive. Various DSM-V substance use disorders, of course. I've been to three psych wards and seven rehabs. And I've attempted suicide once.
In a nutshell, I can't remember a time where I've felt wanted, capable, or good enough. I've never had true confidence - only scattered periods of inflated ego where I felt like I could bullshit everyone enough to win over cool friends and pretty girls. My biggest fear has always been being found out for who I really believed I was - a loser, with nothing to offer anyone.
I've always been smart, and I've always had an impeccable work ethic. I chased achievement for a long time because I saw it as a path to acceptance from others. Whatever I had done became my identity, because I didn't know any other way to build self-esteem. Even in my career, though, there were certain things I didn't pursue because I didn't feel capable. I went to a target and made good grades, and you'd think a guy obsessed with approval would go for MBB or I-Banking - but I didn't because I didn't think I could handle it. It isn't significant where I worked - it's the fact that I opted not to do something based on fear. And in any event, I couldn't shake the empty feeling, and once I got deep into the drugs it got worse. My emotions caught up with me. I left college with a single close friend. I spent the latter half of college snorting coke alone, avoiding social situations because I was afraid of being found out and rejected. I've spent a lot of time on short-term disability from work.
Most of the stories I tell myself aren't true. I'm actually very good at connecting with people and have a handful of very close relationships. I've been told I'm funny, charismatic, and easy to get along with. The goal is to believe this on my own without needing constant reassurance. It's been a long journey. I'm clean and sober today, which is foundational to everything else. Achieving good sobriety requires letting go of all illusions I've created to protect myself. Right now, I have no ego. I'm confronting the fear. It's excruciatingly painful. I haven't doubted myself this much since before I found the drugs - of course, that very same self-doubt is why I exactly turned to drugs to begin with.
In a couple weeks I start a new job, It's an in-house corporate strategy role at a Fortune 100. Great company. Very small team. Lots of places I could take this one. Up the ladder, MBA, back to the consulting world in a more senior role. And I'm afraid. I'm shitting my pants. I can't exactly articulate what it is I'm afraid of. But it's tough to shake. I've been having hard time getting out of bed in the morning lately. But to my credit, I still wake up on time, make my bed, hop in the shower, and go on with my day.
Sometimes I feel distinctly disadvantaged. The experience of being sick is traumatic in itself, irrespective of its root causes. Extended success and stability is foreign to me, and the path there can feel overwhelming sometimes after going through what I've been through.
So, here's the solution. I'll start with the two most vital actions I need to take, underlying everything else.
I'm gonna maintain good habits. Fuck motivation. Discipline is what matters. Sticking to a schedule makes me feel accomplished and responsible.
I'm gonna stay grateful. I tried to kill myself once, but I'm still here. My life is a gift. I've squandered some great opportunities, and God still blesses me with more. I'm in a good position to lead a great life.
Onto some of the specifics:
I'm gonna take care of myself. I stay in the gym and I eat healthy. Healthy body, healthy mine. Keep taking my meds as prescribed. Stay on top of refills. Make therapy every week.
I'm gonna stick to sobriety. I used to be a chronic relapser. Now I'm not. My twelve-step program does more for me than remove a drug problem. I'm learning how to be hopeful there. And drugs can't be part of my life if I want anything positive out of it.
I'm gonna be nice to myself on the job. I will make mistakes at work. I don't need to beat myself up. Just ask for feedback, apply it, and move on.
I'm gonna be accepting of who I am. The bad feelings won't ever fully disappear. I don't need to be so despairing when I feel sad, anxious, or afraid. It's okay to feel bad.
I'm gonna work very hard. Give my best effort at work. Listen carefully, ask lots of questions, assume nothing, be diligent, buckle down, and ask for help. Grateful to have kept my ability to grind hard. And thank god I haven't lost my ambition. I'm just learning to source it from something besides wanting approval and acceptance.
I'm gonna help others. One great thing about twelve-step recovery is you get to see others do well. I have a story, and my story is taking a positive direction. I want that for other people, and if I can help them do that then I will. My new company also has an employee resource group for mental health. In that setting, of course, I'll apply appropriate discretion in what I share and with whom.
I'm gonna stay single. Codependency is a big problem area for me. I need to learn to take care of me and love me.
I'm gonna be appropriately vulnerable. Build relationships at a comfortable pace, and tell people about me as is comfortable and appropriate. Build a network.
I can do this. That's not a positive affirmation. That's a fact. I'm perfectly capable of achieving a great career and great relationships. I don't need to be my own worst enemy anymore.
And so can you. Again, I wrote this in part because I wanna put it out there for me. But I really do hope this means something to somebody. You're not alone - you have individual struggles, yes, but you're not unique in how you feel. You're not your emotions.
I've been through a lot of what you've been through. I had a suicide attempt at 19 (almost died) and I've been in probably more than 5 psych inpatient 'journeys'. What a trip it is to lose your mind and then come back to reality and then have to accept reality.
Therapy every week is impressive. I am in maintenance mode so only go for 1hr, twice per year. I tried to go without drugs, but then relapsed and decided that getting on drugs and staying on them was a priority to avoid a manic relapse. I've been on medicine and relapse free since 2013. Ten years. I still get anxiety from time to time, but can tell you that it does get easier. Feel free to PM me with any questions.
Also, I started seeing my current psychiatrist in 2011 and can't stress enough how important it is to find someone that gets you. I was largely against psychiatry until I met my current doctor. Then I saw the light.
"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee
Love you bro
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