Something I have never been is sickly.
Something else I have never been is patient with those who are sickly.
I don’t mean sickly in the diagnosed with a major disease kind of way. I mean the kind of person who always seems to be catching something or getting over something.
I have also never been the type of person who runs to the doctor for the most recent flu shot developed for the latest strain of influenza that promises to kill us all. Of course, it would be kind of a burn on me if I find myself in an emergency room with flu-like symptoms in the next couple of weeks. But the likelihood of me going to an emergency room for anything other than a broken bone or a brick to the head is slim to none.
A little over two years ago, I was living with so much stress that I literally thought I was dying. My heart was beating it’s way out of my chest and I felt dizzy. At my neighbor’s insistence, I drove myself to the nearest emergency room where I was practically held hostage.
Four hours later, it was determined that I was dehydrated and showed clinical signs of depression. I was given a saline drip and a prescription for antidepressants. I spent an additional ninety minutes watching a clerk made sure my insurance was attached to every form that documented my visit.
When I was finally released from their administrative clutches, I went home, threw the prescription on the coffee table and went to bed.
Two weeks later when I retrieved a thirty-eight hundred-dollar bill from my mailbox, I knew I’d been screwed. Thirty-eight hundred dollars was my portion owed after insurance!
Wow! I should have kept my stressed-out, depressed and dehydrated butt at home. All I needed was water and rest but I got debt instead.
I got something else.
I got a look at what my life could easily become if I didn’t take myself in hand. The emergency room was filled with people taking multiple medications for a laundry list of conditions. I talked to a woman who was three years younger than me but looked fifteen years older. She had two zip-loc bags. One containing the four different medications she took daily for anxiety and the other with medication to regulate her blood pressure.
That was enough for me.
Five weeks after that trip to the emergency room, I quit my job. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t have another position lined up.
I just had enough.
I walked away from a team that it was my joy to manage and a salary that provided for a comfortable life. More importantly, I walked away from a corporate structure that didn’t give a damn about me.
I walked away from a senior leadership team that was well-trained to ignore the signs of stress I exhibited and proceed to add more to my workload. Anything that would give them something negative that could be added to the needs improvement section of my next review. Anything that saved the company the pittance of additional compensation I received when I surpassed certain metrics. Clearly, they were not happy with my ability to consistently make bonus without fail. Middle management is a hellish place to be.
There were those among my colleagues who had been put through a similar grind and they all looked like hell. Some chain-smoked outside every chance they could and others hid in their offices. They only smiled when there was an executive lurking and they never, ever allowed themselves to be caught having a conversation with one another. That would look suspicious to the senior executives.
Now, it was my turn to walk the plank. It was my turn to take the punishment as it was doled out and not only learn to like it, but also say thank you.
But something came over me that day in the emergency room. I was not going to learn to like it and I was not going to say thank you. I was not going to be driven to an early grave by way of stress and prescription medication. I was not going to work anyplace where I, as a person, had no value.
I saw my future self in the gaits and gazes of my colleagues who were virtual zombies. There was no light in their eyes and they moved without purpose, unsure if their actions would draw reprimand.
So I did it.
I tendered my resignation and emailed it to human resource at the end of a very stressful week. I offered two weeks notice and a graceful exit.
When I got home that night, I took the never-filled prescription I’d been given five weeks earlier and burned it with sage.
And I said, THANK YOU.