Ending the Silence of Quiet Suffering
Even at an early age, I can recall feeling depressed. As a child, I didn’t have the vocabulary to express my feelings, and if I did, you just didn’t talk about such things. As I grew into an adult, the chest-crushing feelings of anxiety and the dark cloud of depression followed me through life.I have a full and blessed life. I have a loving, supportive husband, a talented and beautiful son, friends that care for me, and all the material “stuff” that comes with financial security from a successful career. I have all the “stuff” that many people hope for and work to achieve. I made my career as a consultant. I was working long hours and consistently under the stress and pressure of climbing the corporate ladder. My anxiety levels were high, as I constantly worried about performing at work and meeting family obligations. I was depressed. I wasn’t sleeping, I was exhausted, irritable, and joyless. I began questioning my purpose in life. I knew that if something didn’t change, I’d soon reach my breaking point. Last year, I began working on myself. I started doing a lot of self-reflection and inner work. As a natural progression of my quest for balance and self-healing, I began a mindfulness meditation practice. Often, I retreated to my sanctuary, my bathtub, bringing my newfound meditation practice. What came from this practice was my career exit strategy. It came in the form of a new venture; build a brand and a business focused combining bathing and meditation as a form of self-healing. Subsequently, I left my corporate job and embarked on my new role as an entrepreneur. I launched my business and announced it to my family, friends, and former colleagues. I told everyone the story of how I escaped corporate America and overcame my lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety through the newfound bathing ritual on which I built my business, Bathtisma. I was now happy and fulfilled; I was cured.
***What my family, friends, and former colleagues didn’t see, was this; six months after launching my new business, I fell into one of the most debilitating depressive episodes I have ever had. When running a startup, investment is high, and return is low. My anxiety was at an all-time high again. I was consumed with worries about money, fear of looking like a failure, and being seen as an “imposter” in the self-help industry who couldn’t even help herself. At the time, my husband was traveling for work, and I was on my own, caring for my nine-year-old son. I felt entirely alone and was barely managing “life.” I would drop off my son at school and crawl back into bed. I would spend my days in bed, barely able to shower or dress, and crying frequently. Every afternoon, I would drag myself back out of bed, pick my son up from school, and try to keep it together for the evening- I certainly didn’t want to burden a child with adult issues or explain why I was constantly on the verge of tears. At first, I told no one except my husband. For six weeks, I quietly suffered. I just couldn’t let anyone know what I was going through. I had learned from an early age that “I was just too emotional” and “had nothing to be sad about.” As an adult professional in the workplace, I learned that showing you "can handle" high-stakes projects and "keep it all together" paves the way to more money and professional clout. I am fortunate to have close friends with whom I feel safe to be vulnerable, so when they reached out to check in on “how things were going,” I was honest. They weren’t going well. I was in a dark place and needed help. Just being able to talk about what I was going through made me feel supported and not so alone. I made my way to the online resources at ADAA and eventually began to feel better. I had previously been on doctor-prescribed medication to treat anxiety and depression but was trying to replace the medication with meditation. However, I realize there is value in both and will be reaching back out to my doctor. Unfortunately, many people struggling with anxiety or depression are never really “cured.” They manage their disorder. Some learn to ask for help when needed. But although talking about mental health disorders is becoming more normalized, many people are still compelled to silence, fearing the consequences of revealing their suffering and asking for help. That’s why I’m joining as an ADAA Ally; to help #breakthestigma and end the silence of quiet suffering.
Gina Payne is the Founder of Bathtisma, a lifestyle brand, and online retailer that advocates ritual bathing for the mind, body, and spiritual wellness. Gina founded Bathtisma with a dream: To wash away the world’s negative energies. To let go of depression and anxiety, exhaustion and weariness, fatigue, and stress. To heal the world of the human condition, one person at a time.
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