Last July, I was in my doctor’s office and she said “it’s your work or your life. You decide.” I had just come home from a European birthday celebration trip with Vince and our daughter Olivia. It was the summer of 2018 and I was just about to turn fifty. Somewhere between Santorini and Crete my breathing had become more and more labored and I just didn’t feel good. I brushed it off as I had been sick on and off since fall of 2017 when my stress level was the highest it had ever been in my twenty five years at work.
I went in to see my doctor the very first Monday we were back from vacation. As I sat in her office, I listened to her go over the list of things wrong with me including congenital heart failure. I panicked and begin to triage in my mind to define my course of action. My doctor had her own plan for me. She asked me to pull out my phone and directed me to the Microsoft leave of absence website. She knew very well the process to initiate a medical leave and directed me through the steps accordingly. I wondered how many people before me sat in this office chair registering their life was in danger and the stress had taken over.
A place where priorities collide amongst career, family and staying grounded in values. A place where passion and a drive to succeed get confused at the cost of health.
As I completed the online leave of absence forms and pressed, submit, I knew something had to change. My life had become unmanageable. I was terrified. In that moment, I would have never imagined my initial 12-week medical leave would turn into over eight months. But it has.
The process to detox from the incredible stress in my mind, body and quite literally my heart is taking a long time. And after over eight months on leave, I am still not finished. When my health crisis hit and the gravity set in. I prayed and committed to yield to help that came in front of me. I surrendered to feeling vulnerable as my need was further exposed.
I stopped writing emails in my mind somewhere after four months on leave. It was Fall and as I was walking around a small lake a few minutes north of downtown Seattle called Greenlake. I rounded the boat house and looked out across the lake and realized I wasn’t thinking about work every moment. However, my need to be up and drive hard every day was still ever present. I struggled to rest and just ‘be’. My stress only yielded to my team of doctors, close friends and the daily influence of being embraced by a group of women I met at the gym during my first month of leave.