It’s difficult losing your house, but it wasn’t for me. Within the first six months, I realized I’d made a mistake. The tile floors were hard to stand or walk on because of my terrible feet. Four years later, greedy bankers rid me of my house, income, savings, and my sore feet. It was 2011 and I’m 57 years old. How do I start new?
I sold most of my furniture, paintings, and other odds and ends to have money to start again. A 10 by 10 storage space stored the rest. Before this setback, I was a traveling saleslady for nine years. Getting another job traveling and selling advertising for restaurants and hotels solved my need for a steady income, lodging, and food. My calico cat, BooBoo, was an entertaining traveler. It’s hard work soliciting one business after another. I needed her antics to relieve my stress. I wish all problems were this easy to solve.
I’ve suffered from severe clinical depression and anxiety most of my life. Mental illness is hard to understand because there’s no simple solution. You’re looking for a method, meditation, prayer, or medication that will relieve your unbearable pain and calm your mind. I wanted a conversation with someone without hiding behind a mask. Oh, how I loathed wearing that mask so others couldn’t see my pain and suffering. I had to mimic normalcy to survive.
Advertising sales are therapeutic. There’s no greater challenge than closing a sale. During presentation, you explain different products, options, and answer questions until they sign a contract. This sounds easy, but it’s not. It takes time to tweak your skills. What works for one client, may not another.
Mental illness is similar. The correct diagnosis is necessary to discuss treatment options. Something is wrong, but what? You can’t explain because you don't know what's wrong. All you know is that you're sad, confused, angry, and that’s why this disease is debilitating. How do you find the right help when you don't understand what's happening? Welcome to mental illness hell. It’s not a happy club.
My first town was quaint and on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in Texas. I’d planned a busy day and GPS was ready. Last instruction at stop sign, turn left, three blocks, destination on right. When I turned my head, I couldn’t believe that I was looking straight into the Gulf.
At my next appointment, I asked about the GPS. The last hurricane’s surge reclaimed three blocks. It was the town joke. By the time the GPS is updated, another hurricane or strong tropical storm will reclaim more land. It was a strange but friendly town.
I found a soup and salad restaurant for lunch. It was busy. Then the busboy tripped. Food and dishes went flying everywhere just missing me and another lady at the next table. We both laughed. Everyone clapped for the busboy; His face was tomato red. We both chuckled. I said, “Hi, I’m Kelleen Dawson.” She replied, “I’m Kate Jonston.” Upon discovering we were both in traveling sales, we continued our lunch together and shared road stories until Kate’s mood changed.
She asked if I ever got depressed and lonely on the road. The next hour we discussed her struggle with depression and anxiety. Most days she struggled to get out of bed. Sleep was her escape from emptiness. Each day was getting harder to cope. She needed help, but didn’t know where to start? Her eyes were watery with tears, and her words were crackling as she spoke of desperation. I told her she wasn’t alone. She wanted to know if I knew her despair.
Whoah, did I know her despair? Unfortunately, I knew too well.
I knew Kate's despair too well. I remember years ago when I was a secretary, the moment the elevator door opened, the mask of disguise came forward to hide my pain and suffering. The day began with the normal greetings until I reached my desk.
My boss, Judy Alasander, was kind and respected by her colleagues, but always wanted changes made to every report I've ever done. She never could make up her mind. She was walking toward me and then I hear, "Kelleen, I want to change the format of this report for next month's meeting. Make a note to get with me before starting on it. Thanks," and she walked away. Her request was calm, matter of fact, and non- threatening, so why is my mind racing with unnecessary thoughts causing me anguish over nothing? Then it starts, back and forth, my inner voice and my outer voice. It's like a movie you're watching that just repeats itself over and over and I can't stop it. No matter how hard I try, I can't stop my inner voice from causing me hell that can go on for hours, days, weeks, or longer over absolutely nothing.
Inner Voice racing: Oh my God, am I going to lose my job? Why didn't she like how I did the report? I did exactly what she requested. She's not happy with my work. What should I do? Why does she change all the reports? Am I not good enough? JUST STOP IT! SHE ASKED IN A CALM AND NON-THREATENING WAY! CALM DOWN NOW BEFORE SOMEONE CAN SEE THROUGH YOUR MASK! You must be careful. They'll see through right your mask at how anxious you are, so stay calm. Take a deep breath and calm down. You must stay calm.
Then my co-worker, Sally Jenkins, walked by to make sure we were still going to lunch at 11:30 a.m. She always does that, but I gave her my usual response.
Outer Voice: Yes Sally, it's still on. I'll meet you at the elevator.
Sally accepted my response and walked away. I'd become quite good at mimicing what normal responses and expressions should be for this encounter and others.. My mask worked again for those hearing and seeing me, but my inner voice was at it again.
Inner Voice racing: What am I going to do? What? I don't know what to do. I can't lose my job. CALM DOWN! STOP IT! SHUT UP! THIS IS NONSENSE. STOP IT! STOP IT! CALM DOWN! I've gotta calm down. Breathe. Breathe.
Then I see Jon Saunders walking toward me. He wants help with something. I sometimes wonder how he makes it in this world.
Outer Voice: Hi Jon. What ya need?
Inner Voice racing: I hope I don't lose my job. What should I do? STOP IT. You're making too much out of nothing. It's just a report. It's just a report. Listen to yourself. STOP IT NOW!
Jon answers, "I need help with Morrison's proposal again. This doesn't make sense."
Outer Voice: That's because you're trying to make it more than what he wants. You know his KISS phrase?
Jon replies, "Yes, I know. Keep it Simple Stupid. I get what you're saying. Thanks Kelleen. I don't know what I'd do without you. Get with you later."
Outer Voice: Later Jon.
Inner Voice: When is this day going to be over? It's only been 15 minutes. Yuck. I hope I make it til the end of the day. I'm exhausted. Help me. Somebody, help me get through this day. Breathe. Breathe. It's just another day of hell. How much longer can I hide my hell? You have to work to pay bills. You've no choice. But what will I do if I lose my job? What? STOP IT! STOP IT! Don't go there again. But, I don't know what I'll do. STOP IT!