This blog post is part of the 3rd Annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
Last week, Jaime shared how she felt during the toughest part of our mini-retirement - my mental breakdown. This week, I’d like to give you my story, what I learned, and a peek into where our life is at now.
By mid-Spring of this year, I had developed a routine for my day. Not a healthy one, mind you, but a routine nonetheless.
I woke every morning at 5:30 am with my mind racing with worry.
Where will we live?
Where will I work?
What if I can’t get a job somewhere meaningful?
What if I can’t get a job at all?
How am I going to provide for my family?
As the questions repeated in my head, the tension built until it boiled over as a full-on panic attack. I hadn’t ever experienced one before this spring, but now they were a fixture of my day. My leg would shake like Thumper, but it wasn’t out of excitement - it was the only outlet for boundless anxiety built up in my body.
Jaime would hear, see, or sense my panic and would jump into action. She’d calmly ask what I was thinking about - what was worrying me - and then take me through the steps to get myself calm enough to stay still.
The first few weeks, I spent these days in bed, but as time went on, I began to learn that I needed to get up and do something or I would spiral all day. Despite having been awake for hours, I’d only finally get out of bed around noon. As I got moving and interacted with Jaime and the girls, things would slowly improve. By dinnertime, I was back to my normal self, but I knew every night that I had but a few hours of rest before the whole process started over.
A year before, I had been a well-regarded engineering manager at a medical device company. I loved the people I worked with and the products I worked on. I was paid a very healthy salary - more than enough to provide for our family of five and allow my wife to be home with the girls. By every outside measure, I was a huge success.
But it wasn’t enough for me. I had always craved a chance to run my own business. Thus, the mini-retirement was born. I parted ways with my employer and struck out on my own.
After a year of strategizing, testing, executing, and pivoting, I came to a realization. It wasn’t going to work.
The things I needed to do in order to successfully create a full-time income on my own came into conflict with my priorities, my values, or my talents. Every day, I learned more about how hard entrepreneurship is and how, at least for now, it’s not a great fit for me.
Where a year ago, I had been a success in the eyes of my family and friends, I now felt like a complete and utter failure.
As we tried to figure out the next steps in our life, things only got worse. I started my job search and met resistance at every turn. Doors were closing left and right and I saw my ability to provide for my family slipping out of reach. We had enough money to buy us time, but I became convinced that the problem was me.
And so, I slipped deeper into anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
At my worst points, I saw my wife and children as being held back by me. The lies in my head told me that Jaime and the girls would be happier without me - that I was dragging them down and would be better off if I weren’t alive.
I never had plans for suicide, but the thought that they’d be better off if I were killed in a freak accident crossed my mind more than once.
I had lost all logical thinking. I had lost all hope. I had lost myself.
I cannot thank God enough for my wife. Jaime has had her own struggles with depression. Those experiences have equipped her with the tools and knowledge to support me in ways I’ve never been able to do for her.
She tapped on every shoulder in my support system to give me the reassurance, faith, and validation I needed to get through.
She helped me call friends to have lunch with me and give me support and encouragement about my job search.
She helped me meet with my doctor to get on anti-anxiety medication and start talking with a therapist.
She reached out to one of our Pastors to remind me that my value doesn’t lie in the paycheck I bring home - it lies in the love God has for me. God has measured my worth and nothing can redefine what God has determined.
Through prayer, friendship, medication, therapy, and most of all, my wife, I was slowly able to pick up the broken pieces of my confidence and rebuild my psyche.
God’s Hand Working
As I continued in the job search, there was one job opportunity that kept progressing. One opening that kept putting me to the next interview round and getting closer to an offer.
There was just one problem. The job was going to require relocation to Florida (or one of a dozen other states not named Wisconsin).
That requirement was a blessing and a curse. Jaime’s been struggling with winter here in the Midwest and moving to Florida was an opportunity that could help with her mental state.
But on the flip side, I was so reliant on the support structure here that the thought of moving spiked my anxiety any time it came up. And I love our town. I love our friends, our church, and even our favorite pizza place. I love our schools and the bike trail and the fact that we can be close to family.
The details of the job sounded incredible - a chance to get back to my technical roots and code in the language I used to make Thrifty. The team members I met during the interview process were both kind and technically savvy. I knew I’d enjoy working with them and would learn a ton. And the job was for a Christian non-profit company - a great way for me to achieve my personal goal of focusing on Jesus more in all parts of my day.
So, I kept interviewing and praying. I prayed for faith and trust in God’s plan for our family. I prayed for the ability to give up my thirst for control of the situation. I even prayed for the best of all worlds - to have a great job but maintain the lifestyle here that we have come to love.
It took time. Lots of time. When you’re searching for a job, it seems like time moves so slowly.
But at the right time, God revealed His plan and answered our prayers.
The company in Florida gave me an offer, and they decided to add Wisconsin as a state in their system so I could join the company while staying here.
The Present, The Future
So, our story of mini-retirement had a happy ending after all. I’m now four weeks into my new job and am loving it. I’m learning a ton, laughing a ton (seriously, my co-workers are hilarious), and I get up every weekday excited for work.
The job is remote, giving us the flexibility we’ve enjoyed over the last year and have dreamt of keeping for the future. I can bike with our oldest daughter to and from school every day (in true Mustachian style). I can sit at the kitchen table and drink coffee with my wife while reviewing some code. And this November, I can work remotely from Costa Rica so we can visit (all five of us this time) without using any vacation days.
But beyond the details of my exciting new job, my mental breakdown helped me learn more about myself, life, and faith.
I learned that I have more people that care about me than I had imagined.
I’ve gained perspective on where my value lies and what is valuable to me.
I’m better about giving up my need for control and leaning into God’s plans. Letting go and trusting in Him has only ever brought me great things. It’s hard to do in the moment, but awesome to see in action.
The mental breakdown was a brutal experience, but I’m coming out the other side much stronger. I have more clarity on what’s important to me and what I want out of life than I’ve ever had before. I’m finding more joy in the day-to-day things. I know our future won’t be without bumps, but I’ve got a strong sense that God has us covered; we’re going to be ok - great even.
As winter approaches, Jaime and I are talking about our travel plans and layouts for our little white shack. We can see a beautiful life ahead of us and have found our faith strengthened so much after one of the hardest times in our lives. We don’t know what God has in store for us, but we’re ready to lean into His plans and see where He takes our family.
We’ll continue to share our story here, and are so thankful for all of you for joining us in this crazy adventure!
If You’re Struggling
Some of my words here may have struck a chord with you because you are struggling with your own situation. It may be debt, relationships, job loss, family struggles, or something completely different.
If that’s you, I encourage you: Please reach out for help.
- If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
- Talk with a friend or loved one and share what you’re feeling.
- Tell your doctor and discuss options for medication and/or therapy.
- If you attend church, talk with your pastor. If you don’t, give one nearby a call and ask if you can talk with someone about struggles you’re having. You might be surprised.
You are loved. God loves you and there are people in your life that love you - even if you can’t see it right now.
I love you. I want healing for you and I want to pray for you. Even though we may never have met, you are God’s child the same as me. Reach out - I’m here for you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)