The Causey Consulting Podcast

The Dark Night of the Soul

June 08, 2020 Sara Causey Episode 4
The Causey Consulting Podcast
The Dark Night of the Soul
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode, I talk about my experience with the Dark Night of the Soul after I closed my first business. *Trigger Warning: I speak candidly in this episode about my own difficult times with depression and suicidal thoughts.* 

Key topics:

✔️ Why it's so devastating when your business fails.
✔️ What is the Dark Night of the Soul? What are the signs you're experiencing it?
✔️ In order to get through it, what would you need to survive? 
✔️ There is hope on the other side. 

Need more? PM me on LinkedIn:

Unknown Speaker :

Hello, hello and welcome to today's episode of the Causey Consulting Podcast. I'm your host Sara Causey and I also own Causey Consulting, which you can find online anytime at I will also be your guide as we take a descent today into the dark night of the soul. Some people have also called it an identity, spiritual or existential crisis. Others call it an existential depression. But I really prefer the more poetic term, dark night of the soul. In my opinion, this is a topic that's not talked about often enough. There have been great strides towards discussing mental health issues, mental health, wellness. But I think sometimes this particular issue, this particular struggle that people go through is not written about enough. And when you're in the thick of it, searching for any kind of help, any kind of hope, any sign or signal that someone else out there has been through this, that they can guide you through it, they know what it feels like. And they also can reassure you that there's light and life on the other side of it. You desperately want to find that information when you're going through this experience. So if this episode finds you at a period of time when you believe you're in the dark night of the soul, I really want to be able to reassure you and give you that sense of comfort that yes, there is life after you have this heart-wrenching experience. Some of the signs and symptoms are: feeling hollow and bereft, feeling confused or unsure about who you are, what you value, what you want out of life. It could be that the definitions or titles that you used to define yourself before just don't fit. It could be that you had goals, you had a very particular idea of where you wanted to be at this point in your life or something that you were just thirsty to achieve. And then you did and you found that it didn't bring you any satisfaction. You might feel powerless, hopeless. You might have this just general sense of unease. You know that something is wrong, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is. You might find that you had a sense of spirituality or religion that you found comfort in in the past, but now it's not giving you that sense of comfort anymore. And you feel like you're in a pit. You just desperately want to get out on level ground again and see the sun shine. Some of you may already know my backstory. But for those of you who are new to my work, new to this podcast, I want to loop you in on what brought me to the dark night of the soul. For several years, I was a technical writer, CAD drafter, and project coordinator in the oil and gas industry. I sat in a cubicle, typically with the overhead lights off, it served a couple of different functions for me. For one thing, I could see the CAD console a lot better without the glare of the overhead lights, but it also repelled stop-and-chats from other people. As an introvert I was in some respects really in hog heaven. It was a dark space, it was quiet and I was dealing with facts and figures and text and math and numbers instead of people-- the great unwieldy thing known as people. But some things happened and I burned out on that job. I knew that I needed to make some changes. And I as people who get into staffing and recruiting so often do, I just ended up there. It was never part of my plan. It was never something that I could say I had a strong interest in, or that I knew much about. But it was a night and day change from sitting in a quiet cubicle with the lights off to being cast into a noisy bullpen inhabited by extroverts. I really was Stranger in a Strange Land. The funny thing is, I was good at the job. I really had a strong ability to listen and to intuit, I could read between the lines on what was being said or not said and matchmake between the candidate and the client, and I always loved getting a phone call or an email from a candidate saying I love the job that I'm in. I'm so happy this is more than I could have ever expected. That sense of gratification never got old. But I will tell you as an introvert, an INFJ, someone who does not do well in loud, noisy, chaotic bullpens, someone who does not want to go hang out with you at happy hour, I never, ever fit with the company culture that you find in staffing agencies. And it's across the board. I cannot point fingers at any one particular place because it didn't matter. To me there are certain cultural elements that are just endemic to the industry, period. Now that may change to some degree. As we get into the post COVID world, there might be more willingness to allow people to work from home, to not do as many of the forced social engagements as you typically find, but in my experience, it did not matter if you're talking about a small, locally owned mom and pop shop or a huge national firm. The same issues seem to follow the industry no matter where you go. Well, Sara, you don't have to go to Billy Bob's barbecue and pool party on Saturday afternoon. But it would be really nice if you wanted to. Well, you know, Sara, you don't have to go get plastered drunk with your coworkers at 5:30 when you would really rather be going home. But you know, you'd really look like more of a team player. We could really sort of see a management track for you if you did. Some of you know I'm also a full time Farmer and Rancher. I take environmental and agricultural stewardship very seriously. And my animals are like my fur children. I would not have taken on this kind of lifestyle if I didn't really want it and I didn't really enjoy it. So after I had been cooped up in a bullpen all day, and I say that with contempt because, God, I just hated it. After I had been, you know, cooped up in this bullpen with a bunch of loud people under fluorescent lighting and canned air, I could not wait to get home. You know, George Washington once said that he would rather be on his farm than be emperor of the whole world. And I concur. So the last thing I wanted to do was go to a bar somewhere and get intoxicated with coworkers I'd already seen all day, and then be compromised in my ability to get on the tractor, do farm chores, move hay bales around, just no, hard pass, full stop. No. And I resented the idea that, well, if you don't do these things, then we're not going to consider you a team player. Like there's a instead of the scarlet A of Hester Prynne. Now it's like the Scarlet TP. Oh boy, there's a lot of puns that we could use on on that. But it's like team player is the scarlet letter. Now, if you get branded as not a team player, you may as well just pack it up and leave because that's the end of you, which I think is just really awful. So you have to be a team player. Yeah, in order to move up the food chain, we're gonna dangle that management carrot in front of you. You have to be willing to jump through these hoops and prove that you're super sociable. And you can put the bit in your mouth and let us ride you like a good little horsey. I hated it. Well, there's several different possibilities that staffing can lead to as far as your exit out of it. Some people start their own firm. Some people go out on their own and run a solo desk from home and others go into corporate HR. I sort of intuitively knew that corporate HR was not going to be a good fit for me, especially because I'm not the person that's going to roll out the Welcome Wagon. Just no, also a hard pass on that... I'm not going to be the one that hands you the basket of wine and cheese when you first come on board. So I started my own solo desk from home in 2016. And I never really considered whether I wanted to do that, like I knew I wanted to be self employed, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and be able to call my own shots, set my own schedule, and be the final decision maker in anything that I did. I wanted to be sure that the work that I did was beneficial to me and to my clients, to my candidates and so on. But I never stopped to consider whether I was burned out on all of it. I knew that I was burned out on staffing agencies and bosses and company cultures and forced social activity, photo ops for social media and so on. But I never stopped to consider that I might be burned out on the whole ball of wax. So one cautionary thing I can tell you: if you're listening to this episode, and you're thinking about going into business for yourself, really take the time to evaluate exactly what kind of business you want to do, what kind of products do you want to sell? Or what kind of service do you want to provide? So often people make the mistake of thinking, Well, whatever I did in Corporate America that I was good at, I can just turn around and set out a shingle and do that business for myself. It doesn't always work that way. And in hindsight, I wish that I had taken the time to really ask myself, do you want to be a recruiter? Do you still want to be in staffing? If you could work from home, be your own boss and do anything that you wanted to do, is this what you would want to do? Or are you doing it because it feels safe and you feel like Well, I've made money for other people doing this before. In fact, I made a lot of money for other people. So I thought, Well hell, I guess I'll just set out a shingle and make a lot of money for myself. And that definitely did not happen. I worked harder than I ever had. I worked more hours than I ever had. And I made less money doing it. I had severe feast/famine cycles, there would be times when I had 40 grand that was mine free and clear. And then times when I had 40 bucks, there were times when I played what I call credit card roulette: I'd get to the grocery store or the utility office to keep the lights on and it would be like pick a card, any card. Maybe today, it'll be Discover, maybe next week, it'll be Citi, maybe the week after that it'll be Chase that goes through. I know what it's like to experience that kind of struggle. And I felt betrayed. I felt like my business was this like person or this separate entity from me. Like a baby that I had nurtured, I had given it all kinds of time and energy and effort and money. And it did nothing. It's It was like it stole a part of my soul. It really truly felt like a deep, personal betrayal. At different times, I would get LinkedIn messages or phone calls from people. "Hey, if you ever think about coming back to agency work, if you get tired of being out on your own, call us we we'd love to talk to you. We would be interested in hiring you." And I always said no. But I reached a point in 2018 when I knew mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially it could not continue. I was tapped out money wise and I was tapped out on every other level to I was sick of working these 12, 14, 16 hour days. There were times when I would fall asleep at night with my laptop in my lap. I would wake up at two or three in the morning having panic attacks and sweats, wondering where my next check was coming from, how I was going to pay this bill or that bill. Where was I going to find another client? And it was a feeling that I really, truly loathed. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. And I say that sincerely. It was horrible. So I went back to Corporate America with my tail between my legs, and I shut my staffing business down with extreme prejudice. I mean, it was like the day that I slammed the door shut, I was doing it with a sense of real bitterness. Like I was slamming the door on some terrible boyfriend who had cheated on me and mistreated me and made me feel like dirt. The 2am night sweats and panic attacks went away, but I slid into a deep depression. I felt like a failure. I took everything about the business that went wrong, and made it very personal and very intimate. The self talk that was going on inside my own head at that point in time was really disgusting and terrible-- things I would never ever say, to another human being on this earth. I was saying to myself, and I was digging a hole that just got deeper and deeper and uglier and uglier. And it morphed into a dark night of the soul. I remember reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus. And just thinking like, Okay, I'm, I'm trying to imagine Sisyphus happy, as he knows that he has this utter futility of rolling the boulder up the hill again and again, but dammit, I really don't feel very happy and I'm not sure I will ever feel happy again, ever ever in my life. I had barely been back into Corporate America for any significant length of time and I wanted out again, so bad it made my teeth hurt. But how? Where was the money going to come from? How was I going to pay off the credit card debt I had? I mean, I had all of these negative thoughts connected to: I want out really, really bad. But how can I ever get there? And the more that I tried to nitpick, and like pull the thread of that tapestry, the worse it got. I'd love to sit here and tell you that you can rationalize your way out of a dark night of the soul, but you can't. I started asking a lot of the big picture questions. Why am I here? What's my purpose in life? Do I have a purpose? Would the world be better off without me? And it it got very bleak. I had suicidal ideations and the anchors that I typically had that would sort of pull me back from the edge just weren't working anymore. I mean, I really even started to feel like just the whole world, my animals, my farm, everything, everything, and everyone would be better if I just simply evaporated into thin air and didn't exist anymore. And I saw an episode of Super Soul Sunday where Oprah interviews Dr. Michael Beckwith, and he mentions the dark night of the soul. And he talks about when you're in this experience, one of the things that you can do is decide what do I want to get out of it? What would I need to do? Who would I need to become in order to survive this experience? And I immediately took a notepad and a pen and started writing things down. And I wrote down words like strength, resilience, knowing that if I can survive this, I can survive anything. I want to feel joy again. I want to feel happy. I want to make some kind of determination of who I am, what I want, what do I have to contribute to myself to others to the world. I want to be able to get some kind of grasp on these big picture questions, and just feel some peace and ease in my life again, for me, setting those intentions and getting at least enough clarity to say I want to be strong. I want to know that I'm resilient. I want to know that the light will shine again, just being able to get enough of that grasp, helped me to slowly start climbing out of the pit. I started thinking about a lyric from the Steve Winwood song, "The Finer Things" that really resonated with me, where he says, "I've been sad, and I've walked bitter streets alone. But come morning, there's a good wind to blow me home. So time be river rolling into nowhere, I will live while I can. And I will have my ever after." In 2019 I started to do the work that I wish that I had done in 2016. And I asked myself, if I can screw up the courage to try it again, to be my own boss, to do the self-employment thing. What do I actually want to do? How would I want to spend my time? What would I want to contribute to myself and to the world? What would I just naturally wake up and feel energized to be doing? And I certainly mean no disrespect to anybody that's still in the industry. But for me personally, I knew that staffing and recruiting was not that thing for me. I also thought about Wayne Dyer's teaching about let life unfold. Let life reveal itself to you. Not everything has to be planned out, weighed and measured, and carefully decided upon in advance. So I let things flow much more organically. And this pathway that I'm on now of coaching and consulting, honestly did reveal itself and develop very naturally. And I got into the process of developing what I wanted to do, doing some preliminary beta tests, getting feedback, determining what really worked well and what didn't. And when something didn't work well, I didn't take it personally. And I didn't freak out about it and decide that must mean that I'm a failure. I'm bad, I'm horrible. I don't know what I'm doing. That's another tidbit of advice that I want to make sure I impart: in the same way that I want to encourage you to decide what you want to do before you take take that plunge, when you try something, and it doesn't work out, view it as a learning experience or an experiment. But for the love of God, don't make it personal. Don't feel that it means that YOU as a human being on planet earth are a failure, or that the whole business is a failure. And like Kevin O'Leary is apt to say: just take it behind the barn and shoot it. It may just be that you need to tweak a few things and make some minor changes to get the ball rolling again. I can't say that there was one particular moment where the Red Sea parted and everything changed. But I do remember a time where I had been talking to a very close friend of mine who's in his 90s, just getting some sort of words of wisdom and life advice from him. He was telling me about certain shifts that happen in your life and after you've had one of those shifts, whether it's in middle age, old age, or the twilight of your life, you don't ever go back to the way that you thought before. So things that you might believe now about the world could look really, really different from how you thought when you were 18 or 20 or 25. And I just remember meditating on that conversation that he and I had and crying, just weeping, getting it all out. I mean, it was like a good old fashioned biblical travail, being down on the floor, prostrate, crying my eyes out and having a lot of catharsis. It was not a bad cry. It was a healing, therapeutic cry. And after I got up and I dried my tears, I had enough peace, that I knew things are going to be okay. I can make it. This is not in fact going to last forever. I can start to see the clouds parting now and some sunshine peeking through. I'm going to be okay. And that, above all other things in this episode, is what I want to communicate to you: you will survive it, you will get through it. And you have to remember during those times when it feels very bleak, and you're just not sure if you will ever see the sunshine again, I promise you, the sun is still there. I would use the metaphor of being on an airplane. If you've ever taken a flight when it's been cloudy and overcast and it's just super dreary, once you get up above the clouds, you see that the sun is still shining. You don't spend the entire flight in gray, overcast, nasty conditions. You get up above all of that, and you get to see the sun again. So you just have to remember that during those times the sun is still there, you still have access to it. And you always will. If you would like to talk more about this, please feel free to PM me on LinkedIn anytime. If you know of anyone who could benefit from this episode, please share it. If you haven't already, subscribe to the podcast and leave a review for us on iTunes. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to this and I will see you in the next episode. Bye for now. Transcribed by