For this blog, I have divided my story into 3 parts. My IBS story, my shyness/introversion story, and this part about searching for positivity. These stories are part of my life, but they aren’t necessary equally related to all the problems I’ve faced, the solutions I’ve found and the tips I can share. In this part I want to share a rough patch I’ve gone through within the past three years. It was partly related to my IBS, but is mostly just a story of what happens when you lose track of who you really are.
Everything I’m going to tell you is very personal, and happened mostly on a psychological level. Please remember that we are all different and we all want and need different things in life. Situations that have made me very unhappy are not necessarily wrong for you. I’m going to explain everything as well as I can and hope that my story will resonate in some of you.
I was a happy person all throughout school and university. Though not a popular girl, I was never bullied and had a couple of friends. And that is all I really needed. I have always been a good student. While my parents and teachers expressed a lot of concern regarding my shy and introverted personality, no one, myself included, doubted that I had the intellectual skills to succeed in life. Learning came easy to me, especially since I have always been a very organised and efficient worker. I loved looking forward and wondering what the future would bring.
I’m not going to lie, I had trouble choosing my university studies. I even changed my major –from literature to economics – after completing my Bachelor’s degree. I was good at writing and I loved science, which made choosing one subject a little difficult. And I didn’t dare to major in psychology (something that is still a passion of mine) because I knew that every third girl in my class was planning on doing exactly that. The world couldn’t possible need that many psychologists, right?
A positive outlook
So while I didn’t always make the right decisions, I always assumed that I would be able to turn them around. And since I didn’t doubt that, I was actually able to do it. I completed my Master’s degree in economics without having any prior knowledge of the subject, and I succeeded with a lot of hard work and dedication. At that time, I thought that I could do anything if I set my mind on it. The future seemed full of open doors, and I was really excited for it.
With this in mind, I started looking for a job after graduation. I had a long-distance relationship at the time, and was planning on moving to France to live with my boyfriend. And so, after two weeks filled with job applications and with a lot of impatience on my mind, I accepted the first job offer I got. It was an assistant job, very poorly paid, but I thought that it would give me the opportunity to move to France and get a little bit of experience before finding a “real” job.
The turning point
Technically, it wasn’t a bad first job. It was very easy, my manager quickly recognised my skills and supported me, and my co-workers were really nice. They were mostly people like me who had just moved to France and were planning on finding a more qualified job very soon.
I wasn’t technically unhappy working there. But the low salary, the assistant position and the boredom at my job quickly started to weigh me down. Since I had to be at work from 9 am to 6 pm, even if I had nothing to do, I soon started to use my spare time to search for a new job. You’re not supposed to do this at work, I know…
A negative outlook
I must have sent out over 70 applications in 6 months, leading me to understand one thing. The seemingly interesting jobs were out of reach for me due to my lack of experience, and the only companies who wanted to hire me offered jobs that I didn’t really want. And they were all very worried that I wanted to leave my first job after just a couple of months! I know that you can’t expect to get your dream job right away. But at least you could expect something remotely exciting, right?
I did find another job in the end. It wasn’t something I was too excited about, but I couldn’t wait to get out of my rut and be given responsibilities. So I took it, despite the (again) ridiculous salary, thinking that I was finally on the road to success.
It didn’t work out for me. The new environment was very stressful. Not because there was so much to do, but because the management was often hostile and put a lot of pressure on people. A few weeks in, I started to get my first severe IBS flare ups that made my first months at the new company a mere blur of anxiety, embarrassment and pain. I didn’t get along with anybody – not because they weren’t nice, but because we didn’t have much in common. Becoming friends with them would have required energy that I didn’t have due to my IBS situation.
I was doing my job fine. But the constant pressure that was put on me, the yelling and hostility that characterised our days paired together with my IBS and lack of people to talk to were very hard on me. Don’t get me wrong, working at that company was hard for everyone. But I had developed so much anxiety due to my constant IBS attacks that I was barely able to function.
Living in Paris didn’t help either. Masses of people, constant delays of public transportation and the fast pace of life were poison for my anxiety. In fact, they made it so much worse that I would refuse to go out during the weekends because every activity required an hour-long journey from where I lived.
It was the worst time in my life. My job (paired with IBS) was ruining my mental health, which was ruining my relationship and I didn’t know how to get out of it.
My boyfriend tried to convince me to find another job. But in every interview, I stumbled upon the same problems. No one wanted me for the jobs I wanted to do, and the only options I had were so similar to what I was already doing.
I knew I could do so much more than what I was offered. And despite everything that was going on, I had mastered my job and got bored of it – again. Companies in France hate when you change jobs too often. It gives them the impression that you get bored too quickly. And honestly, that is exactly what was happening to me. I started feeling like I wasn’t made for the traditional job market at all. And to be completely honest, I also had no idea how I was going to survive starting a new job, especially while living in Paris, with the amount of anxiety that I had.
Not knowing what to do
For months on end, my boyfriend refused the idea of moving and starting over. While I was contemplating quitting my job and moving back in with my parents, I was too scared of losing my relationship. I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew that if my life would go on like this for the next 40 years, it would not be worth living. I needed to change everything, but I didn’t know how.
Turning things around
As I finally got my IBS more or less under control, things got a little better. We started making real plans. I knew that I wanted to work from home, and the idea of becoming an entrepreneur slowly started to take form in my mind.
I bought a bunch of books, started doing my research and working on all the ideas that I had. But I soon realised that my long work hours, combined with the additional project and the lack of rest, triggered my anxiety which in turn triggered my IBS. So I was forced to put my project on hold to make it through my work days.
By the end of 2016, my boyfriend was finally ready to leave Paris. We decided that he would find a job elsewhere and I would quit mine and follow him. After months of hope and disappointment, our (now common) dream finally came true. We moved away from Paris into a very small town.
For a couple of months now, I have been working on figuring out my life. I have completed courses on various subjects to help me create my business, have worked on different ideas, and learnt so much about life, my illness, my goals and positivity.
Searching for positivity
Positivity is the one thing I have been really focusing on: not being my own worst enemy, practicing self-compassion and believing in myself. It has been the most rewarding journey and I can honestly say that despite not having everything figured out just yet, I have had my first successes and have shown myself that the world is full off opportunities.
And most importantly: I haven’t been so happy in years! My health has improved drastically, my relationship is going great, and I can finally concentrate on building the life I’ve always wanted.