Not too long ago, I was in a committed relationship, engaged and trying to solidify wedding plans. And one day, like a branch with too much weight, I just snapped. I fell into depression and confusion and threw everything away: the wedding, the fiancée, and our relationship. I was restless and dissociated, unsure of who I was or why I was doing the things I was doing. My depression and confusion took all the air out of the room. Regret can be overwhelming, especially when you feel it precisely as the moments-to-be-regretted are defined.
One night, as I sat on my living room floor after my ex-fiancée had packed up and left, furiously running through my memories, I had a flash of clarity and realized it was time to seek professional help. I knew I needed to focus on myself and take the time to reflect. So it became that 2014 was the most challenging year of my life. I had a professional coach and a personal therapist; I was getting at it from every angle. I would sweat at each session with the stress of thinking and rethinking about the things that had derailed me and challenging my way of coping.
In therapy, I came to terms with being a workaholic. Extreme expectations were the biggest part of my undoing. My mindset was: if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all. Success had led me to isolate myself from things that needed attention, like myself and my partner. I could compartmentalize my stress, but I could never really deal with it. I’d just be disengaged, disinterested, and numb.
I have also struggled with being quiet my entire life. I was the boy who hid behind his mother’s leg. The boy so sensitive he cut his eyelashes off because a crush he had in grade school said they were too long. The student who almost always had the right answer but feared to speak up. The kid who wrote poetry at a young age, yet never felt confident to share it. The adult who would go to bars and never approach a woman.
While I was experiencing success in my career as a salesman, I’m truly a writer, an introvert, and a deep thinker. Discovering I wasn’t being true to myself was at the core of my derailment.
With the help of my therapist and coach, I did find myself again. I figured out that my success in sales was not failure for me. In my work, I was impacting others, leading and giving myself to them while understanding that this writing thing will work out on its own when the time is right. I learned how to allow my work to nurture both sides of me: charisma when I want or need it, and reprieve when I need to restore. It’s hard realizing what you are and what you’re not. But it’s courageous to push yourself beyond what your self-imposed limitations are. I am a work-in-progress.
Deep into these layers of discovery, I received the strangest call: my therapist had died. The air left the room again. The person who was connecting the wires for me, sitting me down, and bringing context to the puzzle pieces, helping me to change my life story—an editor so to speak—was gone. I went cold again, dropped the pen, and threw myself completely into my work.
The difference is now I know I’m not doing what I’m supposed to. My story is only halfway written. But that’s okay for now: that fiancée I regretfully pushed out of my life? I married her just last year, and she recently gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Maren Rose. And though my story is still unfinished and my words might not always lay written on a page where they should, this chapter is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
You can reach Michael Duffy on LinkedIn.
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