Hello! For the 5 – maybe 10 of you now – who may click and read these, you may remember a few weeks ago I said my next post was going to be a small dive into the origins of my upcoming title, Afflicted Part One. However, I’ve had a whirlwind few weeks, topped off by being pretty violently ill the past 4 days (not Covid – stomach flu – would not recommend), but in the middle of it has been me selling my business.
For the past 6 years I’ve been an Insurance Broker. Not an Agent – a Broker. An Agent only deals with 1 company, I dealt with many. It is a ‘family business’ in that my Dad did it, and he got me into it. In fact, the whole reason I’m in America is because of this, and his sales pitch 7 years ago about coming to work for him and inheriting his business when he retired. My Dad was unique in that he owned his accounts 100%, something that isn’t a thing anymore in today’s insurance world. I would inherit this, and would be on the road to a high 6-figure salary.
Well, almost 5 years ago, Dad died. It was cancer. It was aggressive. He had no chance. It happened so fast and he was ‘out of his right mind’ so quickly he never altered his will or made arrangements. This meant two things:
1. I was thrown into the deep end at work, essentially doing his job, well before I was ready.
2. The Agency knew he didn’t make arrangements, and essentially made it their mission to make my life hell, and after he died, they made their play for his business.
When my father was sick, the amount of pressure on me was enormous. At the time, I tied my performance in business to his health, believing that if I succeeded and took that pressure off him, it would be enough. Working long hours, in a hostile environment, in an already contentious business, quickly took its toll, and combine that with trying to help care for him outside of work, and do what I could…well, weekends were spent breaking down in tears in front of my wife, and generally being a useless puddle to prepare for another week of hell.
In the years since, I moved to another agency, and continued in the business, because it was what I knew. I knew that there were some serious, building mental health consequences to this decision, but “I’m a man, Goddammit, who cares.” “Men keep going, regardless of what happens.” “You gotta put food on the table for your family.” “You owe it to him and his legacy.” “Your fiancee’s parents won’t want her to marry a man who doesn’t earn a lot of money.” These are all legitimate things said to me over the years, I shit you not.
I felt the weight of general familial expectation. I felt the societal pressure. I was made to feel personally indebted. Roll that up with constantly being told I ‘wasn’t as good’ as my father, or that ‘your dad would have done better’, and more often than not, I felt less than human, like I was just a piece of shit afterthought, and you know what, this isn’t even the point.
The point is that it has taken me almost 5 years to admit that I have a mental health issue that I’ve ignored and put up with for all the reasons above. I was ashamed, I was broken, I was weak.
Well…everyone has their breaking points. Mine was just an accumulation of years, and the realization that the mental strain began to affect my physical state, and my relationships. It was doing some research, finding groups, talking to people who were experiencing similar things. I’ve realized that I have something like Post Traumatic Stress symptoms that are triggered by a variety of instances across my work in insurance, all stemming from that three/four-month period when my Dad was sick, then died, and the aftermath, except now it is all tied into one horrible feeling that hits like a truck at any given trigger.
I’ve dealt with bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my life – who hasn’t. This is that, but amplified. I denied it for a long time because of the idea that “you only get post traumatic stress from war’, which is something I’ve heard among other people experiencing this as well. I thought it was just anxiety for so long but the nightmares, the not sleeping, the vivid flashbacks, the shame and guilt, the detachment, the negativity…to name some of it. To realize exactly what I’d been doing to myself…living with this for years…punishing myself…I shudder at the thought.
Since these are blog posts, I try to keep them on the shorter side. I know there are a lot of different ideologies on mental health nowadays. It gets much more attention than it used to, thank goodness, but I firmly believe that the stigma is still there. It still takes a great deal of bravery to be able to speak even semi-openly about mental health, and even more courage to want to accept it and try and come to terms with it, and to try and change aspects of your life to help yourself not be in pain as much.
Coming back to what I said in the beginning…and obviously, this is very simplified and I’m leaving a lot out, but I am not just aiming to sell what remains of my fathers – MY – business. I’ve sold it, and not to the agency I went to after my Dad died. Those people have revealed their true colors lately, and I will unequivocally state that they are a bunch of two-faced assholes – the owner especially – and I’m glad to see the back of them. Is my 3rd Agency in 6 years any better? I don’t know. All I know is they seem more knowledgeable and professional, and that it is the end of the road for me in the insurance business anyway, so in a month or two, I’ll be handing the reigns entirely to my new Agency and heading into the next chapter.
I already feel some of the weight receding from me, and something happened today – a trigger condition – that normally would have set me off, but the reaction my mind and body gave me was suddenly less severe. I think they know that an end to the torment is coming, that even though whatever comes next won’t be perfect, it won’t damage me in the same unique way insurance has for the past years. I’ve made peace with the consequences of what I’m doing – giving up an established career, potentially facing unemployment, leaving money on the table, letting bad people get away with being assholes – but also, I’ve realized that doing this feels like burying a part of my father all over again, and putting a part of myself there too. It’s been emotional, but everyone has a limit. I’m finally placing a real importance on my mental health, and I think I finally recognize that an impact it has on me in even the most subtle of ways. It is a work in progress, but so am I.
That’s all for today. For anyone reading this at the time of posting, or in the future, who identifies with this, or takes some solace from reading this, know that you are worthy of helping yourself, even if you don’t think you are. Instead of posting my usual desperate pleas for social media following, I’m going to link a few basic internet articles for you on things pertaining not just to me, but thousands, if not millions, of people around the globe. To quote a track from NF’s new album, there’s millions of us just like you.
I don’t know when my next post will be. Hopefully in 2-3 weeks. I don’t know what it will be on either, if I will finish the piece concerning the origins of Afflicted, or do a piece concerning my experience with the Covid Pandemic. Thank you for reading. Be kind to yourselves. DG signing off.