I left a 6 figure salary job that had great benefits.
I didn’t have another lined up either. It was the most scary thing I think I have ever done when it comes to my financial security and family’s livelihood. Yet here I was doing exactly that after having a series of panic attacks and months of stress, long hours and burnout from my current job. I felt like a loser and my current manager all but said that in one of his scream calls to me recently. The stress of it all cumulated to this very moment where I couldn’t even emotionally detach anymore just for the sake of the paycheck.
I was done.
I never wanted to go back and don’t think I have an ounce of strength to take another day of it. I have tried, really tried to make it all work. The hours were long, the demands relentless and along the way I stopped all the things I needed for my own well-being and that of my family’s to do my job. Work became number one and in response I was being screamed at by an abusive manager who didn’t have my back where it mattered. I couldn’t give anymore because the tank was empty. It was over.
Even when you have a little savings setup for emergencies it is scary as hell to quit your job. My husband having watched me sink farther and farther into the pit of burnout and depression drove me to the doctor’s office on a rainy Wednesday in May. We would figure this out he told me. He has my back on this he said. Was it better to quit or be dead my doctor said? While they were of course right, my health was a mess, my mental state in anguish it didn’t make it easier to quit. For one, I wasn’t a quitter. I was someone who always made it work, figured it out, survived. I had survived so much in my life that I couldn’t fathom not being able to overcome this situation at work. I swung at it harder and harder until I was a pile of stress, depression and panic attacks that felt like my heart was clutching and I couldn’t breathe. While I was going down swinging in true warrior fighting mode I was losing myself in the process this time and those that loved me said it was time to walk.
While I did start applying for other jobs, I quickly realized my spirit wasn’t into it. I spent a large amount of time sending my resume to recruiters, filling out hundreds of application systems with required fields to complete. The common thread was verifying on these forms if I had a mental illness, what gender I was and what my salary requirements were. I understand there are required pieces of information a company needs to collect but asking me my gender, race, mental state at the point you submit a resume has always struck me strangely. Do you think I want to disclose my all my details on some computer form just based on some vague job description? As far as my mental state, I was burned out and tired of working for companies who just cared about required fields on their application forms than of finding the right person for the job that aligned with the values.
Talking to recruiters, Human Resources people, hiring managers and more it was exhausting. I think I sent out over 300 resumes in a matter of a couple weeks and had a series of interviews filling my days almost every day. There were certainly jobs that were more interesting than others but none of them really sparked that fire for me. It all just felt like a continuation of what I had been experiencing to this point where it was just another job. Maybe this one would last more than a couple years, maybe not. Maybe I would have to walk out of it too. What would it take from me in the process though?
Throughout this time I also spent time working on my business, Dragonspit Apothecary. After months of being bogged down with demands from my job it felt refreshing to nurture my customers and write blogs. I found myself writing blogs like this one where what was on my mind centered on working and how it tore me away from living naturally well. I cried as I wrote these words of just how far this job had taken me into the pits of what I was feeling in my body and mind. I let a job rob me of the very essence of what I enjoy doing to the point nothing felt good anymore. I was always tired, irritated and frustrated so that even working on Dragonspit, something I was passionate about felt like a burden. My quilting that was always soothing to me left untouched for months! I felt like I was wandering lost without a plan or path.
Maybe it was me that was the problem. Other people worked where I did and though they didn’t like it any better than me, they stuck it out. They figured out how to keep it all going and not let it seem like it was ripping their soul out every day. Why couldn’t I? What made me so special to not be able to put up with my manager screaming at me over phone calls and feeling like I couldn’t do anything right or good enough?
I believe at times we truly let our jobs become our identity much more than we ever imagine possible. It becomes how we introduce ourselves by stating what we do for a living. We even unintentionally let it sneak into our lives on evenings, weekends and vacations. Our jobs consume us at times so that we can’t tell where they end and we begin. Then when things start to sour or are blowing up, we find ourselves on this broken ground where things are crumbling around us. Our entire existence feels like it is being crushed under the weight of a job that is no longer taking care of us or is even reliable much less something we even ever cared about doing.
I was there standing at this cliff of what happens next. Do I just replace the job with another just like it until I’m broken into nothing or do I find a new path forward? What I had been doing, like most people with switching jobs every couple years was not fun anymore, if it ever could be considered fun. I felt like a broken down old racehorse that had terrible odds of winning just one more race. Burnout is like that. You feel a deep exhaustion that makes your body hurt and your mind is a constant fog you’re scratching at to escape. Yet when you sleep you find you lay there awake worried and starting into the abyss of the ceiling fan above you.
Financially I would have to find another job as our savings would not last forever. I would have to find another job at least for a while until I could figure something else out. I would figure it out though because living like this wasn’t working anymore for my health. This next job needed to do more than just provide a paycheck and vacation time I never got to use due to work demands. I didn’t want my husband and son to find me dead at my keyboard, connected to Zoom enduring another scream fest from my manager. The path forward had to be different than where I was now so I never came back to this spot again because next time I could very well be dead at my keyboard.
This is where I started to deeply assess what I wanted from work. I made the list of what was important to me including being able to lead with my heart of service, knowing I was helping others in a meaningful way and feeling the passion for the work I was doing to make that possible. This list of course also included the pay, benefits, vacation and more that made my own life better. I still applied for a lot of jobs but I started evaluating them as much as they were evaluating me in the interviews. I dug deep into questions about culture, work-life balance, management and leadership dynamics and more.
I was looking for a job that would fund my own business and it needed to provide that room for me to focus on it. My job objective became a means to building up my own business so I could leave jobs for good and instead meet the list of things that mattered to me in working. I knew it would take some time and money but it changed my focus on what I was looking for in a job. It was time I started fighting for myself instead of some company. Though it still felt scary I at the same time started to feel the sensation start to pump blood back into my heart for caring deeply about the work I did for a living.
This time though it would be different. No more screamers for bosses, no more at the brink of chaos in fear of how I would pay my mortgage and care for my family. I was going to take a step off that cliff and fly this time. It was no longer complex to leave my job. It was still scary but I also started to feel the abundance of possibility replace that fear. My husband was right we would be alright and that job wasn’t worth my health. No job was worth my happiness either.
If you are at the cliff too in your job, jump with me. Let’s build this together, helping each other out of the jobs and into what fits our souls. Chat with me at dragonspitapothecary.com to find out how to get started.