When Breaking Down Builds You Back Up

Last week was a tough week.

I was on the tail end of a massive deadline for my book proposal and the process took a lot out of me. After writing and writing for too many days straight, my body, mind and soul started to pay for it.

I learned the hard way that writing for hours on end at a desk that isn’t a proper desk (mine is a kitchen table from IKEA) wreaks havoc on your back, neck and wrists.

14563558_10155553815379848_5420416538189639978_nWriting with that level of intensity also wreaked havoc on my mind.

Truth be told, I’m not used to being so dedicated to a task for such a long period of time. My normal routine at work is to pop in and out of projects with a musical rhythm that helps me stay informed while also staying out of people’s hair.

By the end of Monday, I was so exhausted that I got in my bed at 8:15pm with pajamas on, lights out and curtains closed. I even bypassed opening a bottle of wine. Now, that’s when I know something’s wrong.

When my husband called at 8:45pm to say he was on his way home from work, I was already dead asleep. He didn’t seem surprised. However, he did want to know what our children were doing while their mother was in a coma. I proudly reported that they’d been watching their iPads for hours in their bedrooms and then I hung up.

Tuesday started out the same way.

I woke up at 5am and tiptoed downstairs in the dark and forced what felt like broken wrists to type the final edits to my book proposal…for seven hours straight.

After I hit send on the proposal and it was in my literary agent’s hands, I thought I’d feel a sense of relief, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride.

I felt none of those things. I felt exhausted. I felt depleted.

In my previous mask-wearing days, I would have kept those feelings to myself. I never would have asked for help. Despite experiencing bone-deep fatigue, I would have moved on with my day with a fake smile on my face and lies behind my eyes.

Thankfully, I no longer do stupid things like that. I know better. And when you know better, you do better.

I decided to ask for help. And I did so in five different ways in one day.

1. I asked my parents to take my kids for the night. It was only Tuesday, I was already exhausted, so I knew that by the end of the week I’d be a wreck. I called my parents and asked if they could take my kids Friday night for a sleepover. They enthusiastically agreed and I enthusiastically said I might live to see another day.

2. I decided to take a day off. I sent an email to my team and confessed that the writing of the book proposal had taken a toll on my neck, wrists and energy level and I needed to hibernate on Friday to recover. I couldn’t remember a time that my energy level had been so low. As I hit send on the email, I was proud of myself for not pushing through the pain and even prouder that I was brave enough to admit defeat.

3. I took myself out to lunch. I poured myself into my car and drove to a restaurant in town in hopes of seeing some sunlight and getting some of my energy back. As the universe would have it, just when I was closing my journal and paying the check at my table for one, a guy at the bar turned around and struck up a conversation with me.

Guy: What are you writing?
Me: I’m writing a book. It’s a memoir.
Guy: Neat. What’s it about?
Me: A journey from broken to whole.
Guy: Sounds very interesting. Have you felt more whole lately?
Me: Um…no, actually. The past few days have been really exhausting and overwhelming for me.
Guy: Of course they have. It’s because you’ve had to relive the broken parts of your life in order to write about them.
Me: Holy shit.
Guy: The first time you experienced those things, you were probably asleep at the wheel. Now you’re alive, aware and awake and you’ve had to experience the tough times all over again. It’s a hell of a roller coaster ride.
Me: Well, that sure explains a lot. 

The universe is such a remarkable thing. I had been feeling so tired, so depleted and so overwhelmed. And just when I needed it the most, a stranger at a bar sized my situation up and told me precisely why I had been feeling that way.

4. I cried. When I got home, I took a shower and I got down on my hands and knees and I cried. As the warm water washed over my body and Pandora blasted country music in the background, I let it all out. I cried like I hadn’t cried in a very, very long time. I cried because I was pissed at myself for keeping all my doubts and insecurities to myself for twenty years. I cried because I was proud of myself for overcoming that destructive behavior. I cried because the words I had submitted to my agent earlier that day would help other women overcome those same hurdles.

14711579_1335911569754371_7305845834728154328_o5. I said it all out loud. That evening I had a big speaking engagement where I was asked to inspire a room of 200 female entrepreneurs. After I dried my tears and dried my hair, I set out to do just that. I did not inspire them with stories of what it’s like to be on The Today Show or named Working Mother of the Year. Those stories are boring. I inspired them with the truth, my truth. I shared with them my broken and busted journey from wearing a mask to finally feeling free.

I was no longer weighed down by my exhaustion. My exhaustion made sense to me now. So, I channeled that exhaustion into sharing all my failures with those beautiful women so they could avoid my mistakes and mask-wearing ways.11221565_1335911046421090_3476105933387317437_oLast Tuesday I woke up exhausted but went to bed exhilarated. And the only reason that dramatic transformation occurred was because I was brave enough to admit that I needed help.

Immediately after telling a stranger at a bar that I was writing a book about my personal journey from brokenness to wholeness, he asked me if I felt whole lately and I said no.

I said no.

Who says no to that question when the entire premise of the book they’re writing is the fact that they transitioned from broken to whole?

Someone who’s not wearing a mask, that’s who.

I admitted I wasn’t perfect. I admitted I was struggling. I admitted that life isn’t always easy—to a complete stranger. And because I was honest, I got the answer, the help and the explanation I was so desperately seeking.

People say the truth hurts. I don’t believe that. When it’s your truth, it feels awesome.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Paige Ereply

I cannot WAIT to read this book! We all have such similar struggles. And so many of us keep it all to ourselves. Or we share in some insincere, self deprecating way that’s not at all healing. This blog has become some of my healing. A validation that the struggle is real and not just in my head. Or, actually most of it is in my head, but that doesn’t make it less real. Thank you for sharing your broken.

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Paige E

Thank you for reading, Paige. I really appreciate it. Sharing our struggles out loud lets other women know they are not alone.


Thank you – really needed this today. It’s so easy to sleepwalk through life for years in this predicament of holding ourselves to standards we don’t really care about, deep inside. It is spiritually draining. I am tired of walking in shoes that do not fit me. Thank you for helping me know I’m not alone in this struggle, especially in our industry.

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Nadia

You’re braver than you realize, Nadia. Thank you for reading!

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