I started out writing a very different blog. Then, life happened. After 26 years of working at the same organization, this week I was terminated as part of a reorganization process.
I have certainly had better days in my life, but I’ve also had worse. And while I didn’t have a choice about taking this road, I am in control of where it takes me. Victor Frankl said, “between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” And so, I will choose to see not an end but frame it in terms of beginnings – a new adventure, a left turn in life, an opportunity to find my passion and do my best work every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very, very sad– I will mourn the loss of an important part of my life. After working in the same place for more than a quarter of a century (yikes!), it wasn’t just a job, it was the community I grew up in from the age of 22. My younger son took his first steps in my office. It is where I laughed and sometimes cried with colleagues through the good and not so good times – mine and theirs. I will miss that enormously and I have and will shed my fair share of tears. I might even have a few days that I struggle with being positive, engage in my own little pity party. But that is normal sadness and upset, not the debilitating depression I have known.
Here’s where having learned to live well with mental illness and addiction actually gives me the advantage. Through my mental health challenges, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that I can’t spend my energy on things I can’t control without paying the price with my health and well-being. It has made me learn to look ahead rather than dwell on the past. It has also given me the gift of resilience. I can be knocked down 7 times, but I will get back up 8. And each time I start a new phase of my life by arising like the phoenix from the ashes, it reaffirms that I have the strength to do it. There is a song I love by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones called “Knock on Wood.” Some of the lyrics ask “have you ever had a pain so powerful, so heavy you collapse?” and then in the chorus the singer worries: “I never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has, which makes me wonder if I could.” In the last few years, I have dealt with the loss of a parent, the sudden death of a very dear friend, marital separation, my own and my older son’s serious mental illness, and now the loss of my job. I am definitely scared, and so I should be as the only source of our household income. But, unlike the song, I don’t have to ‘wonder if I could’ because I know that I have and I will.
In order to live well with a mental illness I have spent time gathering many tools for my tool box of strategies and kept them sharp and ready for when life happens. And so, I will reach out to my friends and family for support. I will engage in my daily meditation, write in my gratitude journal about all the many blessings I have in my life, eat properly, go for long walks, cuddle my dogs, and get enough (but not too much) sleep. I have a deck of animal spirit guide cards that I draw randomly from each day to give me something to think about – the Emu tells me to go on a walking meditation; the snow leopard to remember to spend time in solitude; the spider prompts me to trust my creative spark and express it through writing stories that inspire and enlighten. After more than a year of picking from these 44 cards, today for the first time ever I chose the camel. The message was “Trust that you have the resources to get through the challenges before you.” While not even 24 hours have elapsed since I received the news, I have had so many gifts of love, support and kindness, my trust is strong. I know I have the resources and the resilience not just to survive, but to thrive. Stay tuned for the next chapter.
About Susan Mifsud
Susan Mifsud is a 49 year old mother of two adult sons who has worked in university administration for the last 25 years. She is an active volunteer and advocate in support of the elimination of stigma and shame related to mental illness and addiction. Follow Susan’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds blog or additionally follow Susan on Twitter.