The Horrible Year I found My Mentor
“Sometimes you just have to take a step back, take stock of your life, and recognize what isn’t serving you. It might be a relationship that causes you nothing but heartache, a pattern of behavior that sets you up for disappointment or failure, or even just a refusal to accept reality for what it is. Whatever it is that causes you pain, find the self-awareness to be honest with yourself and the strength to let it go. Nothing will change till you do.”
I read posts every day on social media by people saying “I feel lost”, “I don’t know what to do with my life”, “I used to be successful, but I don’t know what happened”, “I think I’m depressed but I don’t know who to talk to about it”.
Every time I read one of those posts, my heart feels a squeeze because I was once where these people are now and I wish I could give each one a hug and tell them it’s going to be alright. And it IS going to be alright.
How do I know it’s going to be alright when I don’t even know these people?
When I was a Language Teacher’s Coach, I mentored many of my trainees, people who later became very close friends of mine. What do I mean by “mentored”? Well, for some it was getting their teaching career off the ground. For others it was listening to them talk about the overwhelming challenges they were going through and giving them feedback.
And who was mentoring the mentor? Nobody because the mentor didn’t like showing weakness and I thought admitting I needed help was weak. Yes, I had to learn the hard way.
Many years ago, in typical female fashion, I decided I wanted to lose weight so I went to a doctor recommended to me by a cousin. I went on a diet he prescribed and a month later, seeing that I hadn’t lost “enough” weight, he ran tests and informed me my thyroid wasn’t working properly and proceeded to put me on thyroid medicine. I took that drug for over a year.
One fine day, I’m teaching my class and I suddenly feel a rush of adrenaline, a cold sweat, and a clear feeling that I was losing my mind and that I had to get out of that classroom as fast as possible. The feeling passed in a couple of minutes and life went on.
That night, I woke up with that feeling of anguish, fear, insanity and the impulse to run out of the house.
And it happened the next day, several times.
And every single night after that.
I went to see a cardiologist and several general practitioners who found nothing.
And little by little, I slowly started to fall into a deep depression. Lack of sleep and thinking you’re losing your mind will do that to you.
Weeks passed and one day, as I was teaching a class, my soul couldn’t take anymore fear, anxiety and stress and I stood in front of my class and said: “You guys, I’m so sorry, I’m not feeling well, I don’t know what’s happening with me but I haven’t slept in weeks because I’m afraid to close my eyes.” Words just stumbled out of my mouth and I told everyone what I had been going through.
One of my students must have seen something in my eyes because she passed me a piece of paper and said: “Here, go see this psychiatrist. He got me out of a depression a couple of years ago, when I tried to commit suicide. Tell him you’re my friend and it’s an emergency.” I don’t know what shocked me more, the matter of fact way she had just informed all of us about this very personal, painful thing that she’d been through, or that I grabbed that slip of paper like it was a lifeline or the fact that that glimmer of hope was coming from a young girl at least 20 years younger than I was.
The psychiatrist saw me that same afternoon. I sat down among oriental carpets and figures of the Buddha and told him my sad sad story of craziness. He didn’t even blink. He just said, “You’re having panic attacks, they’re very common. Especially because you’ve been taking thyroid medicine that you probably never needed. I can get rid of those panic attacks in two days. But what we have to nip in the bud is that depression you’re falling into.” At that moment I felt like a rock had been lifted from my soul.
He had me get blood tests to check glucose and thyroid levels and I was back with my test results a week later. He looked at them and said, “Stop taking the thyroid meds.” I asked when I should return for my next visit. He replied, “You don’t need therapy, but I need an English teacher. So let’s use your time slot for classes.” And that’s how my psychiatrist turned into my life coach/mentor/student.
Our sessions were a mixture of me teaching him English, him teaching me how to meditate, discussing the psychology of the latest movies, and him asking about my job, family, giving me great feedback and just being my life coach. That’s when I realized that everyone needs a life coach, a mentor, someone to bounce ideas off of and to talk you off the ledge when you’re about strangle a boyfriend. I survived and I thrived, but I had help.
If YOU feel lost, anxious, depressed, empty, confused and don’t even know where to begin to deal with your feelings, much less overcome them, find a mentor, someone who is more experienced than you, someone whose judgment you trust. It can be a friend, an acquaintance you look up to, a family member or even a former professor.
Some of us find it hard to open up to others about our innermost feelings or pain, so make an effort to get past that discomfort. You will be surprised at what you’ll learn about yourself when someone looks at your pain from a different point of view, one that is clearer.
I think back to those times when I was able to mentor and guide some of my trainees and I feel so privileged to have had that opportunity to be a teeny tiny little light in someone’s dark path.
If you think I can bring a little light to YOUR path, contact me and we’ll discuss.
I was a Teacher’s Coach for many years and then life brought me into the Olympic Movement, where I worked and traveled the world for one of the Olympic sports for 20 years. Now I have returned to my passion which was always coaching and teaching.