Back then, I was working as a Financial Planner. I often had to give technical finance presentations in front of large groups for work. I loved teaching people financial concepts that they would be able to use in the future. Even though presenting was truly one of my strengths, it was during a presentation that I experienced anxiety for the first time.
One morning, I’m at the office of a major tech company, downtown Montreal. I’m confidently giving a presentation to a group of very bright and intelligent employees when suddenly… I feel something is not going well, as if my brain is disconnecting from the rest of my body. The only thing I can remember is grabbing a bottle of water and drinking it all. And then I blacked out. Completely.
I came back to my senses twenty minutes later when my colleague gave me a slap on the shoulder: ‘’great presentation Mike’’. Looking back, it is at that specific moment that I became paranoid about presenting in public, even if I loved it. What changed? Did I do something wrong? Did I not sleep well? Did I drink the night before? Did I eat something bad? So many questions came rushing through my brain, all at once. But what did I do about it? Nothing. I just kept going like nothing happened.
Two months later, it happened to me again, in the subway this time. I suddenly felt the need to remove my winter jacket and my scarf ASAP. It felt like I was about to have a cardiac arrest and that I was about to die. I waited for my station and rushed out. Home was only 600 meters of walk but I was paralyzed and couldn’t move. To this day, I still can’t remember how I got home. I remember waking up in front of the fireplace while eating ice cream, drained.
Then the same list of questions came rushing back to my head. Was I ill? What happened? What did I do next? Google the symptoms? Ask my friends and family? No, I did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Again. Until I finally opened up to the person I was dating, a resident in medicine, who said : “You probably suffer from anxiety and you should see a doctor.”
Diagnosis : GAD – Generalized anxiety disorder
That’s when the medication journey began. Surprise! You are now ‘’labeled’’ with a mental health issue AND the lucky winner of a lifetime membership of prescriptions! It’s a difficult pill to swallow (no pun intended) for a young professional (or for anyone for that matter) to take a huge step back and realize that you are no longer a superhuman. What would I do next? Do I need a new job? How can I solve this problem! The wheel was spinning 😵💫. Spinning hard.
That’s when I started to have real conversations about it, talking to friends and family only to discover that I was not alone. Few of my friends were even taking the exact same medication. I asked my doctor to explain the root cause. She stayed vague, told me that it was a very common illness and that I could do some research on it. And I did. I did a LOT of research: library, scientific articles, Google (one of my best friends). I was on a quest!
Forward to today, anxiety and stress didn’t kill me. Matter of fact, ten years later, I no longer take medication and I’m genuinely happy. What did I do? Many changes. Life is all about a succession of choices. I chose to be happy and to live peacefully without too many stressors. That’s MY choice.
My choice was also to obtain professional help. Shrink, Psychologist, call them however you want. You need them! Trust me, you need to understand the root cause of this disconnection.
I absolutely love the corporate world but it has its challenges, we’ll talk about it more in subsequent articles. My advice: don’t limit yourself and see what works best for you. Did I miss opportunities? Maybe. Did I become less successful? I don’t think so.
I’ll leave you with some lyrics from the 90’s of one of my favorite artist: ‘’You choose, you learn’’. Thank you Alanis.