It’s Not Always Called Failure
By: Maxine Outerbridge
At the end of 2017, I almost had a nervous breakdown. Like a full on, lose my SHIT, kind of breakdown. To everyone else, I was the proclaimed bad-ass, uber successful, super-mom. But in my real life I was barely getting by. Barely sleeping, barely existing in my relationships, barely making ends meet. I took on way too much, way too fast when I was way too uninformed. Where there are highs, there are lows. 2016 was my high, as I was counting down the days until we had a female president and playing a crucial role as a surrogate in her campaign which allowed me to have the most amazing experiences ever, I was also gearing up to start on my new business venture and spitting girl power out every day. Bungee Girl, the travel app I founded, really was a great idea. Helping to empower women to travel more often (especially on solo trips), facilitating safer and more comfortable experiences, fostering global connections and raising awareness on critical women’s issues has been more than rewarding. But then this thing called life got in the way and then the lows came roaring in.
I am a single mother of two young kids with a semi-functional, adult-childlike aunt who is plagued by addictions, as my only real source of help. I was working a full-time job as an Audit Manager at a large financial institution with over an hour commute and yet there I was trying to take over the world on my own. Oh, and did I mention there was a great guy in my life that I totally fucked it up with? Yeah, I get extra points for that one. He was a great support system and the best role model for my kids but I had my head too high in the sky to realize it. Do you have your calculator out yet?? Because if you do, you’re getting an error message each time. For reasons I’ll never understand, we only have 24 hours in the day so it’s pretty obvious by now that eventually reality caught up with me.
My heart was in the right place and my intentions were good, REALLY good but it became impossible for me to be present in everything I was trying to do. Let me tell you something, being the…recently promoted/women’s advocate-who-attends-lots-of-political-events/CEO & Founder of new-feminist-start-up-in-a-still-very-white-male-industry/the-black-girl-that-has-to-speak-up-at-everything-and-gets-nominated-to-lead-a-diversity & inclusion-initiative-in-a-very-saturated-corporate-environment/mother-who’s-trying-not-to-beat-her-kids-and-raise-empathic-compassionate-and-productive-humans/typical-millennial-who-has-a-great-job-but-not-a-lot-of-money-because-we-care-a-lot-more-about-traveling-than-buying-a-house/girlfriend-with-a-great-guy-but-cared-way-too-much-about-how-we-presented-our-relationship-on-social-media…..is NOT a healthy title to have!!!
I felt like I could control everything and handle anything that came my way. I mean after all, I survived being a teen mom with little support and a physically abusive marriage where being raped was just apart of my daily routine. Of all the things I thought I could manage, I NEVER EVER thought my own emotions and mental state would be what was the most at risk in the end. I had always been such a professional at hiding the severity of my anxiety so I almost didn’t see it coming.
I started my days at 6am because the kids and I had to be out the house by 7am which would allow enough time for me to drop them off at their two different schools and commute to work in time for 9am. I’d work a crazy ass day and rarely ever left work in anything less than a sprint as I repeated the god-awful commute and picked up of the kids. As much as I love to cook, it’s never fun trying to whip out a meal in under 30 mins as your starving 5 year is asking you every 2 mins “what’sssss for dinnerrrr?, especially when you sometimes have a laptop in the way because you’re trying to answer more work emails at the same time and this goes well into the night. The crazy thing is I’ve barely got to my “being CEO job” yet although I was paying someone a few hours a day to do random administrative tasks. I didn’t get to develop a team yet because as you can imagine I barely got time in the day to feed myself let alone network. Bath time and kitchen clean-up were usually methodical with razor sharp precision and it was only after that time I’d get to work on stuff for my app or other initiatives I was working on. I wasn’t just burn out, I was dried up. I used all my extra money and resources and really started to feel like I was suffocating. It’s hard to be passionate about something that you’re not even allowed to have a passion for.
There were so many times I should have stopped myself and said enough is enough but as you know many of us have a beastly ego that is not one to fuck with! I always knew my youngest child was different and special. Everyone and anyone who has ever met him is just enamored by him but yet can’t stand him at the same time. When he was 3 years old, his pre-school teachers alerted me to his hyperactivity and some other unusual behavior which began a years long process (which I am still in) to understand and get him all the resources he needs. But it was the day my baby told me “mommy, no one likes me. The kids don’t want to be around me at school. I get so exhausted (he actually used that word) by my ownself. And you get so mad at me I know that means you don’t love me anymore either. I really hate myself”, that I knew I had to start making some choices. These were family choices, life or death choices and I could no longer ignore the cries out for help that my son and my own psyche were asking for. I knew that a lot of things had to give and my health and my son’s couldn’t be one of them.
Turns out, I actually have an addiction of my own, my therapist calls is “co-dependency”. It’s why I jump from one relationship to another. So while I may have ruined things with that great guy, I easily jumped into another relationship at the thick of all this plight I just described. He was the first person to help me see just how much residual damage I was suffering from. It had been over 4 years since leaving my abusive ex-husband and yet I was still having flash backs multiple times a week and being triggered all the time. When this new guy would simply try to sneak up behind me and hug me while I washed my hands at the kitchen sink, I would flinch, freak out and tell him never to do that again. Not because he scared me in the normal sense but because the most horrible things happened to me in that very position, in that very kind of spot in a kitchen. As you can imagine that relationship went to shit, but it’s okay, the narcissism on steroids really wasn’t helping my situation. But I got one great thing out of it, there was a glorious sounding of a much-needed alarm. Suddenly I was a mess, I could barely keep it together, holding back tears all the time. A simple “how are you doing” could send me off running into the nearest bathroom. More often I was making up excuses for why I needed to “work from home” when in reality, I could barely get out of bed let alone perform basic daily routines like showering, cooking or cleaning up. So enough finally became enough.
I picked the top things that mattered the most and unfortunately my job, my new hobbies/roles and my start-up didn’t make the list. Shortly after, I took a leave of absence from work and ceased all efforts with my app and any other engagements. I am currently on this self-healing journey with intensive treatment and have also dedicated so much time to getting my son the help he needs. After many appointments and opinions, he was recently diagnosed with a severe level of ADHD and dyslexia. He’s in a special education program at his school, receiving multiple therapies and will soon start counseling. I’ve opted out of drugs at this time.
This is a long and winded way of saying…it’s not always called failure. Sometimes it’s called “re-prioritization”, or “taking a break”, or “SELF PRESERVATION”. If we can change our mindset on this idea of “failure” or “things not working out” it really puts things into perspective. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I learned so much, especially about myself. But I learned most of all, we aren’t machines, we are HUMAN and without proper care or strong mental health, YOU WILL BREAK! Also shit happens, we can’t control everything, but we can control how we react to it and our thought process in that experience.
For everyone who has followed my journey with Bungee Girl and supported the app, thank you so much. I am so humbly grateful for your support. Don’t worry about me, I’m in a good place. In fact, I’ve decide to keep on trying to save the world so this isn’t the last you’ve heard of me. Hope this message has helped someone. Reach out and let me know.