Finding My New Identity (post 3/9)

Finding My New Identity (post 3/9)

depression | anxiety | sadness | bipolar | therapy | mental health | therapist | OCD | suicidal | recovery | overcoming | struggles | battling | treatment | medication | severe | support | coping | alone | feelings | demons | inspiration

So, there I was with Maria, trying to figure out what to do next. How do I take this business owner passion and either parlay it into a different business, or somehow set it aside for the life of an employee? Leaving behind my entrepreneurial spirit was almost unthinkable to me at that point, if it wasn’t for my family’s need for an income – any income – something to hold us over in helping my wife pay the bills. This was not going to be an easy road. There would be four failed jobs before landing where I am today. Four stressful periods of being new, learning new systems, working for pennies, and struggling with my identity.

First, I called an acquaintance I knew at the local Subaru dealership. He brought me right in for an interview and I flew through it. Looked like I would be selling cars. After a few weeks of training on poverty pay, I’d be sent to the wolves. I don’t even like cars. I mean, give me a Vette or a Ferrari and I’m going to be thrilled, but to sell them? I don’t know the first thing about them and certainly don’t get excited about them. This job ended with a mental breakdown of significant proportion. I was driving into work one day, I couldn’t bring myself to turn into the dealership, so instead I drove myself to the hospital, crying hysterically. I wasn’t suicidal, but I didn’t know where else to turn. My life seemed to literally be crashing in around me.


A Little Bit of Luck

Life is filled with luck. And I like to think when you’re a good person, luck comes your way when you need it most. Almost immediately, I got a message from an associate in the interior decorating business and she knew of a job opening at a lumber yard for a kitchen designer. After a long, heavy sigh, I picked up the phone to set up that interview. You see, the kitchen cabinet and countertop business had been the business I was in, and failed. Home Depot and Lowe’s were both in-town competitors and as I foolishly grew too fast, there simply wasn’t enough business to go around. So, did I want to go back into this business in the next town over? Certainly not. It was a painful subject for me. Most of me wanted a clean break from it and to move on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury. I was very good at the actual design and sales of kitchens, I couldn’t deny that, and here was a job that just landed in my lap. I had to take it – my family needed the income – and if I had sat home one more day thinking about all my failures, well, that wasn’t going to be doing any good for anyone. But I hated this job too.

It was right at this point when Elliott was born. I took a few days off from the lumber yard to be in the hospital with my wife and son. All the while, I was having another severe nervous breakdown. The same, frustrating parts of the kitchen business had been rearing their heads again at work. Trying to fulfill my promises to customers while my sub-contractors weren’t returning phone calls, showing up late…just not being professional. And I took the disappointment extremely personally. My customers were counting on me to execute their projects and when product constantly came in damaged or late and I couldn’t control the subs, it was on me. And that was too much for me. I always put myself in my customers’ shoes, always strove to do the right thing every time, but I was getting no satisfaction from my efforts. After a few days at home with our new baby, I tried going back to work, but only lasted a few days…I couldn’t go on like that.

Calling In Favors

Next, it was on to another phone call to a trusted, dear friend, who had decades of success in the furniture and mattress business. Again, not the identity I necessarily saw for myself, but my family was desperate and though I knew the hours were going to be horrible, Sybil and I talked about it and were willing to give it a try. The income potential was literally six figures. Peggy got me an instant interview at Raymour & Flanigan and it was on to a six week (again, poverty-level training pay) orientation into their sales team. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time very much at this large company. It was well run –  something that was refreshing to me – and I finally got to work with a large handful of people whose company I genuinely enjoyed. Most of my working life had been rather solitary, so it was a nice change to have co-worker camaraderie. I had mentors who cared about me and took me under their wings. It started to grow on me. Until the hours started to wear on me.

I could be “Up” – the term we used to indicate that the next customer in the door was yours – and literally sit in a chair or stand on the tile floor for sixty to ninety minutes just waiting. This was not good for my head. I’m a doer. I’m a thinker. When I think too much, I get frustrated that I’m not doing enough. But that was the job. We had a very small handful of chores, but for the most part, your job was to wait for your next customer, especially if you were ‘up.’ You weren’t expected to do anything but wait. And waiting was not my style. Couple this with the stress of getting home at 7:00 or even 9:30 some nights and working most every Saturday and Sunday…this was not good for my young family. So again, I needed to move on.


My great friend, DJ Murphy, with his sister Lesley

Friends are everything. And I had a great one in a guy named DJ Murphy. After I had quit Raymour & Flanigan, I had put out a text message to a few of my closest friends. “Hey, I need a job, any ideas?” Now, I don’t blame anyone for their responses. It was nobody’s job but my own to find myself a job. Everyone’s got their own bigger fish to fry than to worry about me. But DJ, I will always be grateful for, in that he was the only one who sent back a thoughtful, useful response. He literally sent me three very solid leads on folks he knew of looking for help right then. That meant the world to me, and I called them all right away.

I landed with ServiceMaster disaster cleanup and restoration services as their new Marketing Director. This seemed like a great fit for me. The owner’s job description for me said that he was looking for someone to attend 2-3 networking events per week to really get the word out on his growing business. Well, I could literally attend almost 2-3 networking events per DAY, based on all my experiences and connections within the business community. To me, this was the perfect position. I’d get to network – which I loved – and talk up our company to warm contacts. I wasn’t even really selling – how do you sell a disaster? – so it was really more of a PR position than anything else. Yes, I would be paid a base plus commission, but I didn’t feel like I had to go out every day and get somebody to sign on the dotted line for something I sold them…it just wasn’t going to work that way.

So, I designed an entire Marketing Plan for the company, found the best organizations to join, researched a huge list of the biggest potential clients and lead sources, and was off to the races. Then, another big blow to my enthusiasm. Once the plan was outlined, the lists were in place, and the networking events only turned out to take up a small fraction of the week, the only thing left for me to do – in my boss’s eyes – was to cold call insurance offices. And I mean all of them – across the entire western side of the state. This was to be my daily routine going forward. “Hi, I’m Tyson, with ServiceMaster, just want to make sure you know who we are and I’ll pop in every now and then and say hello. We’d love for you to think of us when one of your clients has an insurance loss.” That type of spiel, every single day, all day long to 15 – 20 stops per day! Now, I would be back to begging for my living. These were not warm contacts, these were completely cold calls, people who had absolutely no interest in me interrupting their day. But I was going to have to annoy people for the foreseeable future. It’s just not me, not my style.

Stay tuned for where I landed next…it gets better! On to post 4 in the series of 9.

Finding HOPE (post 1/9)

Finding Maria, my Therapist (post 2/9)

Finding Maria, my Therapist (post 2/9)

Finding Maria, my Therapist (post 2/9)

depression | anxiety | sadness | bipolar | therapy | mental health | therapist | OCD | suicidal | recovery | overcoming | struggles | battling | treatment | medication | severe | support | coping | alone | feelings | demons | inspiration

I’ve spoken briefly about Hope. It’s certainly not a one-word cure, and while I pray that you find something to focus your Hope on, there are many things that can work in conjunction with Hope to help you on your path to healing. I took this notion to great lengths in order to find my peace. I knew I needed help.

Dr. Maria Cresham of “Therapy on the Run” in Torrington, CT

First of all, there’s my therapist, Maria. Maria is wonderful and it took me a long time to find her. I had been through many therapists. First of all, they’re not always easy to find, when you’re working with insurance. There’s that whole thing to contend with. Then, trying a new therapist is often more traumatic that the reason you’re there in the first place. The important part is finding someone you can personally relate to, I think. I had seen a 70 year old man with one foot in retirement, a frail grandmother, and a ‘child’ counselor because that’s all I could find…all manner of people I had nothing in common with and a hard time opening up to. And when I did, I could feel my pain flying right over the top of their heads, quite literally, like they were barely listening to a word I said. And I wasn’t even a particularly tough case. Not suicidal, a lot of things still going well in my life, namely a supportive family and a rather intelligent mind, if I do say so myself.

Relating to Your Therapist

Finally, then, I found Maria. She is just a few years older than me and a fireball to say the least. She gets me. She got me right from the start. I challenge her, but she understands me, can predict my reactions and knows how to steer me in the right direction. She does it with finesse. I use the word finesse, but probably shouldn’t. I don’t mean finesse in the sense of gentleness or grace, I use it because she’s relatable. She swears – like a sailor – but it makes me laugh. I tell her my problems and she tells me hers; it’s a give and take and sometimes I feel so fulfilled when I leave her not because of what she’s done for me sometimes, but because of what I feel I’ve done for her. We’re buddies, and we get each other. We can finish each others’ sentences and it works. And on top of it all, she’s technical…she knows her shit, pardon me. She is a Ph.D. and brilliant at her craft. Knows enough about the medicines out there, that she can help steer my subscriber to the right formulas for me. I appreciate Maria each and every day and am so proud to call her my friend before my therapist.


Getting to The Source

I started seeing Maria very shortly after the closing of my business. This was, of course, the instigator for my pain at the time. I had a huge battle brewing in my head. At the age of about seven, my mother and Aunt Jean had helped me run a carnival in the backyard of our house after a neighborhood 4th of July parade. This was my very first entrepreneurial adventure. Aunt Jean had brought over a bunch of her old stuffed animals to use as prizes, and I charged all the neighborhood kids a nickel to play different games for tickets toward those used stuffed animals. I was hooked. I counted up all those nickels at the end of the event and must have had two dollars! That morphed into selling candy to the neighborhood kids out my bedroom window, a neighborhood handyman service, babysitting, and even an Amway business when I turned eighteen. I was destined to be an eternal entrepreneur. I never imagined I would be anything else. I wanted to be rich.

My Uncle John – when I was maybe twelve – had a small cabin cruiser on the Long Island Sound for a couple years. I used to go fishing with him and even slept out on that boat once or twice. I loved it. I can remember shortly thereafter, picking up a magazine called “Boating” from the local grocery store, and I was hooked. I thought for sure my life’s work would culminate in the purchase of a million dollar motoryacht and I would sail the seas in the lap of luxury. Then life throws you a curve ball. Fast forward twenty-five years or so and my business is gone, I’d scraped by for nine years, barely making a living, and now I was left with a two-year business degree from a community college and a resume that could boast only of a failed business. I spinned it…I did what I could: Great at sales, wore every hat as business owner, well-connected in the community, tons of volunteer time. But it boiled down to somebody having to take a chance on someone who had already had his chance.

Losing My Company

Needless to say, I was not handling the last years of my company well. I felt like I was losing control. With five showrooms and six employees to pay, I never had anything left for my family, neither money nor energy. Every day I was putting out fires. When you depend on so many other people; contractors, suppliers, manufacturers; shippers and designers, it’s very easy to lose control. Nothing seemed to ever be done the way I would do it personally and thus, the quality never met my standards, let alone my customers’. Products that I was counting on that would come in defective and now the project was put on hold. People I was counting on to be honest, responsive, on time and independent were always letting me down.

I take responsibility, however, because in the end, it was up to me to make sure the systems were in place to counter these hurdles. I just never had time to implement any good systems. When I wasn’t running around trying to keep customers happy when I couldn’t blame them for being upset, I was at the office paying bills…for hours! At times, I thought my entire job was to get up, go to the office and just pay bills all day long. I was drowning in unproductive activities with no time to really improve our company’s initiatives, morale, training and execution. I gave it my all, but it wasn’t good enough in the end. We simply grew way too big way too fast and I held immense amounts of guilt for allowing that to happen.

I let people down and it made it very hard to express love at home and even harder to sleep. Maria would be a ray of sunshine for me during the ensuing couple of years. We’ll continue this discussion about where I went from there in post 3/9 of this series.

And if you missed the first in this series, please check out: Finding HOPE (post 1/9)

Finding HOPE (post 1/9)

Finding HOPE (post 1/9)

depression | anxiety | sadness | bipolar | therapy | mental health | therapist | OCD | suicidal | recovery | overcoming | struggles | battling | treatment | medication | severe | support | coping | alone | feelings | demons | inspiration

This next progression of 9 regular posts – not including the Weekly Inspiration posts on Saturdays – document some of my struggles with depression. It is an immensely personal story, but I’ve decided to share it with the hope of reaching just one person out there who can relate to it, and perhaps see through to the other side of it. Mine was not a severe case; I was never suicidal or hospitalized. However, I’m sure there are millions more people who suffer from minor cases of depression and anxiety, than those that have severe cases. So, I would think that some of my experiences – while not as serious as others’ – would be relatable. Please respect the personal nature of my battle and those of others who may comment. And while Facebook is a great outlet, and I welcome comments in both spots, I highly encourage you to link into the blog post itself and leave your comments on the blog’s website, so that as my following grows, more and more people with similar struggles can read your encouraging words. Thank you so much in advance!

There was a time in the not-to-distant past that I was crying multiple times a day, each and every day. If I skipped a day, it was literally because I didn’t have the energy to shed one more tear. I had a hard time recognizing and certainly defining the Hope in my life. 2016 was an extremely tough year for me. I had just lost the business I had run for 9 years, and poured my heart and soul and life savings into. I was so passionate about being a business owner and an entrepreneur…a community man involved with so many different organizations because of my business affiliations. I was Past President of the Rotary Club, active in the Chamber of Commerce, especially with the Young Professionals Organization. I was a Corporator for a couple of local non profits and my wife called me “The Mayor,” because everywhere we went, I knew someone. It was a life I enjoyed and I took a huge amount of pride in playing the role of successful local businessman.

Losing My Company

Unfortunately, it was a losing battle. Though we had double-digit growth for the first 3 or 4 years in business, that, of course, was starting from zero, so you’d better hope there was some early growth! It clouded my judgement however, and I got greedy. Soon, I was opening offices quicker than I could pay for the existing ones. Expanding product lines like it was going out of style, all the while thinking that more was better, bigger was better, and that the short term investment would pay off in big dividends quicker than you could say, “check your financial statements.” Well, it didn’t. And the next big job we kept thinking would put us over the edge to easy money never came quick enough and the thing imploded. Way too much debt and not enough customers. So, there was this loss to contend with…personal bankruptcy…the whole nine yards. Not a fun year.

The Blessing that is Elliott Francis


Fortunately, for my family, Elliott was born on December 28, 2015, so although 2016 was a year wrought with stress, Sybil and I had something to be very thankful for, waiting for us at home every day. He was a Godsend. Not to mention, of course, that Noah was 3 and already keeping us plenty busy. My relationship with my wife has always been rock-solid and because of this – though as I said, I had a hard time acknowledging it consciously – I always had Hope in my life…Hope in the form of my family’s undying love and support. Now, I’m going to contend that if you are struggling with depression, you have Hope too. You just have to find it, and grab a hold of it with everything you have. It WILL get you to the other side. And it doesn’t have to be a big thing. The love of family was huge for me, but I know that not everyone has that. In fact, it’s probably one of the main reasons people fall into despair…feeling like they don’t have anyone.

Hope Around Every Corner…if You’re Looking

Consider this, though. Perhaps there’s a girl at the coffee shop, who you just can’t wait to lay eyes on every single day. Perhaps even that you’re homeless, but that the Tuesday night meal at the shelter is your favorite part of the week and you can latch onto that. Consider that maybe your little apartment, even though you’re out looking for a job everyday and there might be nobody waiting for you when you get home – that when you do get home to your space, your oasis…you feel good, you feel at home, you feel safe. These are all things that can bring a glimmer of Hope into your life. Hold onto the good things for dear life and let them be stepping stones to bigger and brighter things. And if all else fails, or really – long before all else fails – remember that there is an unending supply of Hope in Jesus. The Bible can bring you the comfort you seek and will carry you to the other side of darkness, no matter what that darkness feels like to you.

Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me from every side.       Psalm 3: 2-6


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.                    1 Peter 1: 3-6

My prayer for you is that you find HOPE. It can be in the smallest corner of your life, but if you find it and hold onto it, you can reach peace and comfort again, especially in the Lord. This, of course, is not my whole story of depression. There were to be many more struggles and very difficult times. But I talk about Hope early and the fact that it’s had a huge impact on my healing, so that you’re not reading eight more posts of doom and gloom before you get to some brightness. Stick with me…there’s more pain…but there’s a boat load of happiness on the other side too.


In my next post, I will continue this discussion about finding Hope and how I used the gracious help of my therapist and my church and a few other resources to bring me to the happiness I experience today. Please stay tuned for post 2 in this series of 9.

Finding Maria, my Therapist (post 2/9)