Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Back in my corporate days, I considered myself tough, assertive, resilient - qualities to be proud of in my industry - and thought I had a high tolerance to stress. So when everything else in my life was going well, my Corporate Mind was healthy too, even if I was under a lot of pressure at work. If I separate my life into departments (family, work, health, love, wealth, etc.), one struggling department was manageable, maybe two. But in 2015 when I was six months pregnant, the balance shifted and I started to wobble.
I was having an easy pregnancy, I was fit and the baby was healthy, but the fear of this life changing event started to creep in. Not to mention all the physical things that were happening to my body, and were yet to happen! My "condition" started to test my relationships. I lost one of my closest friends, from talking every day all contact stopped - I was devastated, a form of grief. As the year flew by, my role at work had been transitioning to someone else and I was dispensable.
One miserable November day, my new boss tore me to shreds during a video call. It came as a complete shock. That morning, I'd been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (geriatric mother, remember?) so my focus had been elsewhere. As my body started to shake and tears ran down my face, she continued. Nothing she said made any sense. (I was later informed that her behaviour had been going on for months, yet, with all the distractions it'd gone straight over my head). My old Corporate Self would've stood up to bullies, but that day, my physical body decided otherwise. A wave of panic came over me and I couldn't think straight. As she berated me, I froze to my chair, unable to speak, struggling to breathe, my heart pounding.
It took me years to understand that this was my first anxiety attack.
As the low buzz of the office continued around me, the panic wore off and I sat there staring into space for what felt like hours. My husband came to collect me, as odd as it sounds, I wasn't sure I could find my way home alone. (Unrelated to that day, I developed this irrational fear when I was pregnant that any complete stranger I'd pass in the street was going to punch me in the stomach. Weird, until some time later a friend told me she had the same fear).
I spent the next few months talking with a psychologist, and years later with my life coach, revisiting that day, figuring out what the hell went wrong. And in late 2018 during a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course, it finally clicked. In MHFA we learn about our stress container, we all have one - some big, some small - depending on various risk factors. With a happy childhood and relatively uneventful adulthood, my stress container hadn't previously been tested. Even with growing responsibilities, I'd coped well throughout my corporate life, often delivering my best work under pressure. But when life events, relationship and work issues collide, it was not surprising that my, or anyone's, stress container would overflow and my mental health would suffer.
The Corporate Mind by Ann Camargo