On June 1 I launched a new keynote, What’s Your Joe Joe®? I’m a professional speaker whose topics are on productivity and health with titles of Email Extinguisher, Conquer the Calendar, Task Mastery, and Energy Escalators. Easy-peasy for me, but not this one. This new keynote was personal and about triggering three autoimmune diseases in my thirties living a high-stress, high-intensity lifestyle. And did I mention I put myself in menopause at 36?
Yep, sure did. And most people would have thought I was the healthiest person in the room. I was competing in long-distance triathlon, ultra-running, ultra-mountain biking and adventure racing. I traveled up to 45 weeks a year. I was climbing that corporate ladder like a boss.
I was Superwoman.
Until I wasn’t.
I spent 3-4 years trying to get diagnosed appropriately. I didn’t look like a sick person, so I wasn’t really looked at seriously. I also had a facade to manage. That facade was so strong, not even my closest friends knew I was suffering. I didn’t even tell my husband everything because deep down, I knew my lifestyle wasn’t healthy, but I was getting satisfaction from it in other ways.
I was burned out and bored at work and those long hours of training made tasks doable. Traveling so much gave me a lot of private time to sit with mild bouts of depression.
When I get a promotion, then I’ll slow down.
When I get a raise, I’ll hire someone to help me with personal tasks.
When I do an Ironman, I’ll feel like it’s enough.
When I do an off-road Ironman, I’ll feel like it’s enough.
When I move to a smaller house, I’ll spend more time with my husband because I’ll have less to manage.
I lived by someday, but it never came. I hit the goal and immediately made another one that was harder to reach.
Writing this 7-minute keynote took four months and I’m still tweaking and refining. I felt scared for people to see the real me. To know that I had felt like a fraud and wasn’t who they thought I was (or who I thought they thought I was). I believed I was emotionally over all these diagnoses and was living my new routine. Instead, I was just playing a role of a different type of Superwoman and realized that I was still grieving the old me.
I had to give up a lot to get better. I had to completely change my diet, which made me feel high-maintenance and a pain-in-the-ass to my friends and family. I retired from racing and lost an entire group of friends. These things felt impossible at the time, but I found support in unexpected places, made new friends, found new activities, and created firm boundaries for myself.
Have you ever given up alcohol and stopped getting invitations?
Have you turned down a promotion or job because of family obligations and felt resentful or like you missed your one chance?
Have you missed out on parties or social events because you have anxiety?
We all have something that we’ve been told to give up to get better, but it’s seemed so challenging or alienating, we don’t do it, or we only do it halfway. We’re afraid we’ll lose our facade, our friends, or jobs once we make the change.
Superman and Superwoman are fictional characters. You can climb the ladder or build a business without sacrificing your health. You can be a woman or man who’s super, without being a superhero.
What do you need to give up to get better?
What’s Your Joe Joe®?