“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
First of all, let me begin by wishing each and every one of you a heartfelt happy and healthy New Year. I think we can all agree that 2020 was a cluster you-know-what of a year and not too many of us are sad to see it go.
For me, 2020 signified a year of change. Not minor, trivial, inconsequential adjustments. I’m talking mind-blowingly life-altering, revolutionary transformations. Like it or not, many of us were left with copious amounts of time for self-reflection over the past year, and what my personal introspection revealed was that extraordinarily little in my existing life was working.
The moment those eye-opening revelations hit me square in the face, I realized I had been living a relatively comfortable life in that everything about it was completely and utterly familiar to me. I presently live in the small town in which I grew up, so I literally know almost everyone. One of my oldest and dearest friends – who coincidently, is also the individual who inspired me to become a physiotherapist and was my first-ever mentor in the profession – offered me a place in her already well-established and highly-regarded clinical practice and welcomed me with open arms when I accepted. I live 5 minutes from my entire family and drive the same distinctive model – though a different colour and (thankfully) year – of car I had the last time I lived here. I even – very briefly – dated a guy I liked when I lived here over 20 years ago. My life here is uncomplicated.
It has also been making me utterly and completely miserable.
Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic for me to come to that realization. Oh, don’t get me wrong: there were unquestionable signs of trouble in paradise prior to the 2020 Apocalypse.
I have talked in other articles about the fact that I have known for years that I no longer enjoy clinical physiotherapy. I knew it long before I moved back to my hometown. But when the offer to work for myself alongside a good friend and mentor fell in my lap, how could I say no? I could make my own hours while pretty much having access to an already established clientele, which meant guaranteed income. I was so incredibly grateful for the offer, and I genuinely believed I could do that and still have time for my personal projects, building the career I desperately wanted.
But that didn’t happen. And the fault is entirely my own. If I had taken the time to really consider my own personality and all its inherent eccentricities as I prefer to call them, I would have known at the outset this situation would be detrimental to me.
Almost immediately, my anxiety blossomed out of control. I was completely consumed by the paralyzing – albeit mostly irrational – fear that I would be more of a liability than an asset to everything my friend and colleague had spent decades building. I worried constantly that I wasn’t a good enough therapist, that I might accidently damage or break something, that I wasn’t bringing in enough money or working enough hours, that I was a disappointment to both my patients and my colleague-friend in general. And as the months went by, that trepidation grew to an unmanageable intensity.
I stopped sleeping. No, wait. That is a lie. I have always battled insomnia. It just got exponentially worse. I lost my appetite and the weight to go with it. I reduced my hours, but that increased my financial concerns both personally and with regards to my professional contributions to the clinic, which created the self-fulfilling cycle apparently everyone except me could see coming. For the first time in years, I had to go back on medication to manage my OCD, and my anxiety swelled into full-blown Panic Disorder, all of which I tried to hide, especially at work.
I quit doing the things I love most, like going away on weekends to see friends (back when that type of things was allowed), practicing yoga for any reason other than to create my next class, as well as both writing and drawing. I was so consumed with dread about the next upcoming workweek that I preferred to just sit on the couch and numb myself with TV.
Awesome choices for a healthcare practitioner and wellness coach.
Oh, and the best part? I allowed this to go on for 2 solid years, despite my family, my doctor, and my psychologist all telling me to Wake. The F. Up.
But that has always been me: great at helping others make good decisions; not so much myself.
It wasn’t all about work though. Well actually, ironically, it kinda was.
It turns out that my little hometown is a tough nut to crack when you leave it and try to return ten years later. I am incredibly lucky in that, despite crippling social anxiety, I have never had a tough time making new friends, no matter where I go. I never notice the process taking place. I just wake up one day and have a circle. That was definitely not the case here. I tried to reconnect with local friends from the past, and even met up with a few of them once or twice. But their lives are dramatically different from mine. They are all married with children – as are most people who opt to settle down in a small town – and we just don’t have much in common anymore; certainly not enough to foster true friendships. After a few months of that, my anxiety emerged victorious and I stopped trying.
So here I sat, with almost nothing going on in my life aside from a job that was literally making me sick.
I started talking about making some changes about 6 months before the pandemic hit. At first, it was only with my mom and my therapist – the latter was all for it; the former, not so much.
It doesn’t matter how old I get my mom will forever worry about me. She was concerned that I would be alone if I moved away. She fretted that I wouldn’t find a job I liked as much as the one I currently have. She came up with a veritable plethora of reasons why I needed to keep my head down and forge on. Granted, at the time, she knew nothing of how bad things really were for me already.
My therapist, on the other hand, constantly pointed out the inconsistencies in my stories about why major changes weren’t the right thing to undertake. Not the right time. When IS the right time? I don’t have the skill set I need to do exactly what I want. What skill are you missing? I have a colleague who has less training and education than you, and she’s doing it. What if I go broke? What if you don’t?
Then COVID-19 happened, and everything changed. Like many businesses, our clinic closed for 10 weeks. I haven’t had 2 and a half months to myself in almost 30 years. I read non-clinical material – like actual books! – for the first time in years. I started journaling as a way to manage all of the intense feelings I was experiencing, and the journaling turned into blogging. At first, it was just a source of catharsis during tumultuous times, but much to my surprise, people other than my mom and best friend actually started reading it – and liking it.
Like many others, I started reaching out to people who seemed to be struggling during the pandemic and tried to provide them with some sort of solace. Then, by word of mouth, others actually initiated contact with me, also looking for support. I knew I had a lot to offer people on the physical side of health, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am actually pretty adept at helping with some of the mental aspects as well, despite having extensive credentials on both platforms.
For the first time in almost 2 years, in the middle of a raging global pandemic complete with mandatory isolation, I felt at peace. My anxiety evaporated and I was able to get rid of the OCD meds once again. I fell in love with life again, but there was a nagging voice in the background warning me this was a false sense of security. Sure enough, when the government and our professional Order got things in line, our clinic reopened its doors – and the panic reared its ugly head in full force once again.
Don’t get me wrong: I am eternally grateful that I was one of the lucky ones able to return to a job still there waiting for me when the dust settled. I am painfully aware of the toll this pandemic has taken on everyone. But for the last 7 months I have once again been losing myself one little piece at a time.
So, I quit.
OK – I didn’t exactly quit, but only because you can’t just quit a private practice in healthcare. There are laws governing that kind of thing to ensure continuation of care. Plus, I would never do that to my friend and colleague. But I did give my notice. It was a little more open-ended than I would have liked, but I figured I owed her that much.
I also gave up my apartment – a home I adore and that costs peanuts compared to anywhere else I have ever lived.
And I’m selling my beloved denim-blue VW Beetle named Levi.
I am changing just about everything I could possibly change about my life – except my relationship status (I’m not ready to be anything but single at this time) – all in one shot. And I’m doing it while observing Dry January, so I can’t even soften the shell-shock with a glass of my favourite wine.
I am bound for Montréal. But more importantly, I am bound for happiness. I have moved 9 times in the last 12 years, and it has always been for either school or a job. Montréal has always been my favourite city on the planet, and I have forever talked myself out of moving there. For the first time ever, I am going somewhere solely for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do there yet, which should scare the hell out of a control freak with clinical OCD, but for once, I’m not the slightest bit afraid. I’m still not sleeping, but now it’s due to excitement and new ideas, not panic attacks and dread.
In a few months I’ll be living among the bright lights in the heart of the city I love, and I cannot recall a time when I was more excited for anything. Hopefully, my wellness coaching business will be thriving by then, and my book will be published shortly thereafter. But if not, as I have been reminded several times over the past year, I have a bounty of other marketable skills to fall back on until they are.
In the meantime, I will continue writing and coaching while I patiently tie up loose ends in my physiotherapy practice. My anxiety lingers in the background as I eagerly await my colleague’s decision on my final exit strategy, because as per usual, I do SO well with things not under my control, but it was my choice to relinquish control on this one out of respect for a long-time friend and mentor. No matter how long it takes, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am barreling toward it with arms wide open and zero fear.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.