As part of my series on busting the work-life balance myth, I wanted to share my own story of how I went from being that overachieving Type A girl to what I like to call Type ZZZ. It took several health crises, a chronic illness, and hitting rock bottom not once but twice to get there. This is the story of my own work-life balance buster.
My Overachieving Years as a Type A Gal
I was always that Type A overachiever at work, and at life too, for that matter. From my mid 20’s to my late 30’s, I was single and focused 100% on my career. I understood that as a young person trying to grow my career, I needed to pay my dues and work the long hours.
I remember one year when I was working for a consulting firm, I was on a high priority assignment, and was asked to help with another priority assignment. Instead of looking at it as an either-or scenario, I worked both. I logged 5-6 hours at one and then 5-6 hours at the other. I was determined to succeed and climb the ladder, no matter the cost. Because that’s what the Type A girl does, right?!?!?
All of that hard work paid off. In over 20 years, I never once had to look for my next position. I was always recruited for my talent. The pinnacle of my career was when I was sought out to be the Chief of Staff of one of our nation’s top national security offices. There were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears attached to getting there, and I earned it.
I will (embarrassingly) admit it, when I was single and working my buns off, I had massive disdain for working moms. They could drop everything and rush out to take care of their kids. They never stayed late because they had to pick up their kids from school or daycare before it closed. They missed important meetings because they were home with a sick kid. And I felt like they always got a pass.
During this time, I was also a competitive athlete. I raced Xterra off-road triathlons and was a competitive mountain bike racer. I vividly remember one day that I tried to leave early to drive to a race across town in rush hour and was told that my personal life wasn’t important that I needed to finish my deliverable that was due in the morning. As I watched all of the moms rush out the door. I was expected to stay and work the long, late hours because I was single. I was expected to NOT have a life. So I kept my head down and kept working hard. Because that is what the Type A girl does.
And Then 2010 Happened
I had been in my role as Chief of Staff for just under a year. I was living in sin with my boyfriend and we were talking about marriage. He only had his son one night a week and every other weekend, so helping with his 6-year-old wasn’t cramping my style. Life was pretty freakin perfect.
Until it wasn’t.
Out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On my birthday, no less. Happy freakin birthday to me, right!?! And then two days later, we got engaged. I went through surgery, chemo, and radiation, all while being engaged and trying to figure out where I fit in my new world.
Overnight I had breast cancer.
Overnight I was engaged and got married.
Overnight I became a Stepmother.
Little by little, the chips started falling off my shoulder.
My world got turned completely upside down trying to juggle a high-stress management position, cancer treatment, marriage, and motherhood. Oh and because that wasn’t enough, Hubby deployed right after we got married, and during his deployment, we bought our forever home and we moved as soon as he got back.
Little by little, I realized that my net worth is not defined by my career.
Little by little, I realized that I was not superwoman.
I couldn’t handle having a high power career, being a wife, Stepmom, and dealing with cancer.
I took a big leap of faith, and I took a step down into a data analyst position. I had ZERO management responsibilities and my position was relatively stress-free. I worked my 8 hours and when I went home, my life was my life.
It worked for a while. Until it didn’t.
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And Then Rock Bottom Round Two Happened
When I’m interviewed on podcasts about my story, I always joke that I hit not one but two rock bottoms, because that was what overachieving Type A girls do, right? Oy vey.
Shortly after cancer treatment ended, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an Autoimmune Disease. The subsequent years were met with frequent migraines, daily IBS, and debilitating fatigue. Oh and major cognition issues. I always forget that one.
Over the years, I cleaned up my lifestyle. I ate healthier and began living a more all-natural lifestyle by making my own cleaning and beauty products and removing as many toxins from our home as I could.
My health wasn’t great, but it was manageable, and my bosses at work were very flexible with my schedule to accommodate.
Between Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, my health started to rapidly decline worse than ever. At the same time, we had a new management team join my office.
The fatigue was so bad, I could barely get out of bed. Yet, I still went into work. Because that’s what adults do. We put on our big girl pants and we handle our responsibilities. The fatigue was so bad, I prayed that I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel on the way home. Not to mention the multiple times I fell asleep at my desk and during meetings.
My doctors wanted me to come in for hours of IV therapy. My new management team wanted nothing to do with me being sick. So despite having all of the proper FMLA paperwork filled out, they illegally rescinded it, changed my hours to the worst possible scenario, and blocked any move to transfer. They basically forced me to resign.
I could have gone down the EEOC rabbit hole, but I didn’t have an advocate at work, and I didn’t know what to do.
So I resigned.
I went from making a comfortable six-figure income to zero overnight. Our family’s income was cut in half. We were devastated.
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From Type ZZZ to Busting the Balance
I spent the next few months in and out of bed, trying to regain my strength little by little.
Pink Fortitude had always been a hobby blog. I enjoyed writing articles and working the side hustle. Hitting rock bottom the second time gave me an opportunity to seriously reflect on my life, my goals, my purpose, and my mission.
First and foremost, I was bound and determined to do whatever it takes to regain my health. Even if I never make it back to Holly circa 2010 before all of this happened, I at least want to be a functioning member of my home and be there for my family.
Next, I wanted to focus on my family. Being a blended family with a teenager has its share of challenges and being home gave me a beautiful opportunity to focus on my family.
Next up was to really dig into my mission and advocacy with Pink Fortitude. I began advocating for Autoimmune Disease in the Workplace, not just for individuals and employees, but also to work with employers, managers, and HR professionals to help change corporate culture. I never want anyone else to have to go through what I did. So I became the leading authority on Autoimmune Disease in the Workplace.
Throughout all of this, it also gave me time to deepen and strengthen my faith. I pray every day for God to open the doors and allow me to walk in His path as His good and faithful servant.
I think back to Holly circa pre-2010. The Type A girl who was the consummate overachiever.
What was important to me.
How I treated people.
And then where this journey has brought me today.
To a place where I wake up every day with a mission to help others.
To a place where I know my priorities.
To a place where I walk in gratitude.
To a place where I’ve busted the balance because I can focus 100% on being mindful of every single minute.
Every day has its own purpose.
Every day is a gift.
And I look forward to unwrapping those gifts and sharing them with you.
Are you Inspired?
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Love, hugs, and busting the balance.
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