How the Rock Bottom of My Abusive Marriage Became the Foundation of My Booming Startup
At any given moment in life, there comes a time when it feels like things won't ever get better. If at an all-time low, questions start to arise about finding a way out. Some people might accept their situation and simply hope for the best, while others realize that it's time to start over to change their path.
My low point came on April 29, 2014, my birthday, after the physical abuse I was enduring in my marriage spilled over onto my children. I had been physically traumatized by my husband for three out of the four years of our marriage, but when the violence affected my children, I knew it was time to make a change.
There's no road map for overcoming a situation like this. At first, I took comfort in knowing that I was not alone, as one in three women endure physical harm in a relationship at some point in their lifetime. While it's not something everyone experiences, no one is immune to the feeling of rock bottom, no matter how or when it happens. In my case, rock bottom was not just a wake-up call for change; slowly but surely, it also helped me find and pursue the greatest opportunity of my life. In retrospect, I have realized that going through such unfortunate circumstances not only inspired me to strive for more but also prepared me for running a company.
Knowing when to quit and facing the fear of starting fresh
Feeling like there are no options puts life into perspective. After my birthday, I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself. It was a surreal moment. Yet, after staring at my own reflection for some time, I realized something vital to my new beginning: I couldn't be afraid to reinvent myself after a failure.
Knowing when to quit or change directions is also a practice that I've applied to my business. I had to quickly recognize that some processes were not working, and I needed to step back and make an unbiased decision based on the wellness of the company -- whether it was a bad client, an employee who I was attached to or a vendor. I essentially became married to my investors, employees, clients and so on.
Once out of a difficult situation, one can't help but feel like she is constantly being judged. The key is to tune it out. Some may question a person's decision-making abilities based on their past experiences. I changed my clothes, my goals, my routine and even my vocabulary. Divorcees will tell anyone -- It takes years post-marriage to regain self confidence. As an entrepreneur, this constant learning curve can be compared to evolving based on the company's needs.
How a constructive distraction can lead to a major breakthrough
It's inevitable that while going through these particular experiences, there is a lot of excess energy from constant flight or fight. The good news is, it can be turned into productivity. While I was no longer in physical danger of my marriage, the emotional stress of going to court and filing restraining orders provided its own kind of trauma. Finding a distraction seemed important to maintain a sense of homeostasis.
In my case, I learned to build a website. It initially started as a hobby to lower my stress levels, and over time it progressed into something much more: a business idea. I was amazed at my mind's ability to absorb new skills and information. I was reading books in two days to educate myself and to learn newer and more relevant skills. Before long, I was designing a system that had the potential to save health insurers millions of dollars.
Learning to compartmentalize is essential when starting a business. I didn't bring work stress home for the kids and didn't bring home stress to work. If bad things happened at the office, I had to learn to box them up and put them away. This homeostatic state also applied to the highs and lows of my business. Regardless of the critical periods in its early stages, I couldn't lose my cool and get angry at the people I worked with. Maintaining a clear mind was vital to sustaining my leadership image.
The transience of life's dark moments and pushing through harsh financial times
Starting a business takes a ton of resources, and when going through a divorce with kids, people run into financial trouble. This was especially true for me, as I had become accustomed to my codependency on my partner. When I was struggling I learned to live with less, and I became very crafty in terms of paying bills and putting meals on the table. Optimism went a long way to realizing that every stage of life is temporary. I also had to constantly remind myself of my inspiration to restart my life, and my children.
In 2015, I quit my low-paying job to focus on the company. For a solid year, it was a financial nightmare. I felt like a disaster, but I couldn't let prospective clients or my new business partner see that. My success hinged on my ability to keep my composure. I bought heels, had my hair done and before every meeting all my emotions were left at the door. My tone of voice was calm. I kept my phone off so I wouldn't get any disturbing messages that could cause stress or anxiety. In short, I found the wherewithal to develop relationships with our first clients while my life was still an emotional tornado. It was one of the most challenging things I've ever experienced. Maintaining composure during stressful periods is a skill I practice often while running a company.
The real gut punch in these types of situations is that they feel eternal in the moment. They only seem temporary when reflecting on the past. I didn't let my failures define who I was becoming.
For me, being able to move forward eventually made all the difference. In fact, not only did it allow me to see the other side of a once insurmountable personal crisis, but it also allowed me to get my business up and running.
I once heard that giving up is easy, and that fighting on is what tests a person's character. Anyone can throw up their hands and say they've had enough, but it's the people who dig deep in their hearts and minds that find the will to succeed.