Managing Career Transitions Part 2: Taking A Break

Talking about Self-Awareness and Anxiety (with Hello Monday’s Jessi Hempel)


MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m Morra Aarons-Mele, and this is The Anxious Achiever. Each episode, we look at stories from business leaders who have dealt with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, how they fell down, how they picked themselves up, and how they hope workplaces can change in the future.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: We were all, just again, very high functioning, so while he was talking to me, I was typing. I was looking at him, but I was typing, which is something I did all the time. He looked at me and he’s like, “What’s wrong with you?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “Well, you’re typing things that aren’t words.” I was like, “What do you mean?” I looked at the screen, and I had typed two paragraphs of gibberish.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Last week, we spoke with Jerry Colonna, an executive coach, who talked about radical self-inquiry and how facing the demons of your past help you become the best leader you can and tackle any big career transitions that come your way. Today, we’ll hear from Alyssa Mastromonaco, who faced one of those big career transitions.

Alyssa grew up in politics, the White House really. I met her back in 2003 when we were both working on John Kerry’s presidential campaign out of a strange row house in Washington, D.C. But since then, she went on to become the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the administration of President Obama, the youngest person to hold that position ever. You might also know her from her bestselling books or her Crooked Media podcast, Hysteria. Post Obama-land, Alyssa became Chief Operating Officer of Vice Media and then President of Global Communication Strategy and Talent at A&E Networks.

Now, anyone who’s a fan of politics or has watched The West Wing knows the power of working in the White House, but you could also imagine how profoundly it means giving up sleep, time, and even possibly your mental stability. For Alyssa, it became her identity, and she channeled her anxiety into a work ethic that literally helped the most powerful man in the world get his job done. But then it was over, and she had to deal with that loss and decide what her next challenge would be.

I mean, you had during the Obama administration, let’s face it, just an objectively, extremely stressful job that would make probably 99% of people a walking ball of anxiety. You grew up in politics. I’m wondering if the fact that you didn’t seemingly feel intense anxiety in those intense political jobs was because you did sort of grow up in that world?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I think that could be part of it. I think the interesting thing is that during all those years I was better at my job because of my anxiety so I guess I didn’t think of it as anxiety. For me, part of my anxiety makes me fastidious. Right? Because the more that you have under control, the more you know what’s coming, the less stress you have. Right? I mean, it’s intuitive. It makes total sense. So, as I sort of progressed from there to the Kerry campaign, to the Obama campaign, which was arguably for me, the fastest pace of anything I had done, I hired people who were all like me. It was like, okay, we always see what’s coming around corners. It is our job to just be so focused. So, by the time we got to the White House and I became White House Deputy Chief of Staff … for those listening who are old enough, I was Josh Lyman in The West Wing. That was my job.

When Barack Obama offered me the job of deputy chief … I am also just a very logical, very methodical person, and I said, “Are you sure I’m the right person?” He’s like, “Oh yeah, you’re the right person.” I really hemmed and hawed about it because I knew that there was so much about the job that I didn’t know. It turns out that my hyper … at the time, I didn’t think of it as anxiety, I thought that I was just hyper-alert. I think it was the first week I was deputy chief, and David Axelrod was leaving the White House. He’d been senior advisor to the president, and everyone’s like, “Come on, Alyssa, are you coming? Are you coming?” I’m sitting in my apartment, I’m like, “I just got an email that Mubarak’s been deposed in Cairo, and I need to evacuate Amcits out of Cairo.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What are Amcits?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: They’re like, “What’s an Amcit?” It’s the national security shorthand for “American citizen.” I didn’t know how to do it, so I just made a really quick list. I was like, “Okay, what do I need to know? Okay, I need to know where I get the plane. I need to know who these people are, where they’re from, and where they need to go. Okay.” So, I made my list and one by one. I just used my Spidey senses and called the people who I thought would have the answer, and within 24 hours, those people were on their way back to … randomly, they were from Illinois. They’re on their way back to Illinois. But I did not rest. I did not … while I was waiting for answers, I was always searching for more information so that when someone finally did call me back, I wouldn’t just have the questions I had, but I would have 10 more, just for good measure.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What you’re talking about, because I think a lot of people would listen and say, “Yeah, I get it. She’s methodical, she’s organized.” But I also hear intense strategic and leadership qualities. You are thinking conceptually. You are thinking six steps ahead. You are doing everything that we always say a visionary CEO needs to do. Right? Like, “Where will the market be for cellular technology in five years?” That’s what you were doing when you realized Mubarak getting deposed meant X, Y, and Z.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Correct. True.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: For you, is that related to the anxiety? Talk about that.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I think so. I think that an interesting thing about me, people always ask me, “You were a woman, and there must have been sexism.” I have to say, truthfully, in Obama-land, I never ever felt sexism, but from the people who I had come up with, from the people we met along the way, the foreign policy folks that weren’t on the campaign, the White House military office folks, I always, whether it was perceived or real, felt ageism.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Hmm.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I think I was 34 when I became White House Deputy Chief of Staff. What I never wanted to do is I never wanted to be the person who let down Barack Obama. People underestimate-

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Oh my god, I can’t imagine that.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: No, but when you think about it … rewind, it’s such a different world now, but when the press was really hard on us…

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yes.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: So, what I never wanted to be was an end. I will say that we felt a heavy weight of being the people who worked for the first African American president, and you didn’t want to be the person that ever took the gleam off the halo or anything like that. For me, I was like, I just always felt that I had to be the best. What I now understand is that it was almost like my anxiety back then was a utility.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: It was.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I think that because I was so present, that I kept it totally under control and used it to my advantage.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Do you think though that you are good then at compartmentalizing? Because clearly-

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Very much.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I mean, you have anxiety. You were consumed 24/7. Part of you may have been able to sort of channel all these feelings into real productiveness, right?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I did.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: That is exactly … The fact that I never thought, never identified, never thought in that entire time that I had anxiety, was just really interesting to me. It didn’t start becoming even remotely clear to me until after I had nowhere to focus all that energy. I was a very happy, high functioning individual.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s funny, because I just heard the CEO of … the founder of JetBlue. He actually got fired as CEO. His story sounds so much like your story. He has ADHD.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Really?

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah. He has ADHD, but you can tell that this is a guy who, he’s got his stuff. What he does is he builds airlines but also makes sure that every person on the JetBlue fleet, no matter how big and highfalutin their job is, or small it is, is 100% on task. I think that these leadership qualities, we don’t talk about them a lot. It’s like when … I know exactly when … I’d meet the policy people on campaigns, and they’d be like, “I want to work on Middle East policy,” and I’d be like, “Well, I’ve got to code a fundraising email right now. Sorry.”

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: That’s exactly … it’s like, we’re going to the hog lots in Iowa, so why don’t you research that policy?

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Exactly. But we don’t prize this kind of highly-driven, highly-focused leadership that I think we’re talking about but that a lot of CEOs and visionaries have.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: It’s an interesting thing because if you look at the founder culture that we find ourselves in, right? I worked at Vice Media. I was the COO. I certainly understand founder culture. In most of those, there is not a high priority on … everybody is a visionary, everyone is a creative, even in a media or in a tech company, it’s like the person’s like … but what about like actually running the company and knowing what’s going to happen and how to take care of them and to understand, to feel when you’re talking to the employees, like, “Are they going to unionize? I think they’re going to unionize. If they do unionize, what are we going to do,” and, “Okay, and we don’t want a contagion across the company, or we do, whatever.” Like, how can we take what we think that they should be getting and spread it across the company over a three-year period. Right? That is a very specific skill set that isn’t always valued.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You went through one of the most intense, difficult, and probably singular experiences that anyone can have. You functioned so highly. I want to talk a little bit about your IBS, your irritable bowel syndrome, because that is a feature throughout your books, which I love you for, God bless you.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Oh, thank you. Some people love it, some people really don’t.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I mean, I love it because let’s face it. A lot of people have it. We all put … is there any sense in your body that like, that was where you were putting feelings or lack of control, that you were so controlled everywhere else and balancing so much, and your body was giving you feedback? How do you see your IBS in the context of all of this?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: So, there were a couple things. One, my IBS was like a low-grade problem most of my life. But in the White House, it would really, there’d be real peaks, and I could associate the peaks with being out of control. Not necessarily professionally out of control, but like there was a trip that we were taking to Goree Island in Senegal, which is the island from which the slaves were all shipped off. It was 95 degrees, we were on a boat, and I was with Dan Pfeiffer. It’s an amazing story because Valerie Jarrett was sitting across from us on the boat, and she didn’t realize what was going on because she wasn’t part of our conversation, but she thought that we looked so cute. She took a picture. She sent the picture to me that night, and I was like, “Do you know what was happening in that photo?” She’s like, “No, you guys looked so cute though.” I was like, I was telling Dan, I was definitely going to have an accidental spout.”

Unfortunately … God bless Dan Pfeiffer, my platonic life partner, because he saw me through more of these things. It was almost always on a foreign trip, and the funny thing is so many people became aware of my stomach issues that … I was so hungry once, and we were in a hold room, I think we’re in Vietnam or Cambodia. I went to go reach for something, and Secretary Clinton pulls a granola bar out of her bag, and she’s like, “Alyssa, just eat this. You know.” I was like, “Oh, you know too about my stomach? Okay.”

So, what would happen is that I like … so when we were in Senegal, that was the beginning of a trip. We had a bunch more countries to hit on that swing. I was thinking, “Okay, well I’m on this boat, and I get to the boat, and we’re going to be on the island, and we’re going to be on the island for like an hour and a half, and then I have to get back to the hotel because I need to approve this, this, and this and this, this, and this are still outstanding.” It’s like, when I would let my guard down a little bit and let myself be overwhelmed by what I thought I had to be doing, I would be like … I would literally let my brain go for two minutes, and my stomach would be like, “Woah.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Of course.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: It’s when I was feeling even remotely out of control or that things were happening faster than I was going to be able to deal with them, that would be a real trigger for my stomach. Luckily, I knew that, I would try to … and Pfeiffer knew it so he would … sometimes it’s, get in your brain and that’s when you know, right? That’s how I understood how much my brain was connected to my stomach because the minute I would start to feel anxious, my stomach would just start to churn.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So fast forward, you say that there was a point, I think it was around 2012, that you were sitting in your office and …

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Oh, yeah.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: David Pluff, right?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: David Pluff came in and … I’ll say, I still choke up a little bit thinking about it because I remember how scared I was at the time. We were all just, again, very high functioning, so while he was talking to me, I was typing. I was looking at him, but I was typing, which is something I did all the time. He looked at me and he’s like, “What’s wrong with you?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “Well, you’re typing things that aren’t words.” I was like, “What do you mean?” And I looked at the screen, and I had typed like two paragraphs of gibberish. I was like, “Oh, that’s crazy.” Plus, like, “All right, well, I’m going to do this, this, and this, and I’ll come back, and we’ll check in.” I was like, “Cool.”

My assistant … basically there was a wall that went two-thirds of the way to the ceiling, and your assistant was on the other side. So there was essentially nothing I was ever doing that either Dan or Clay didn’t hear. So Dan comes in, God bless him, he comes in, and he’s like, “Ah, Lyss, I just want you to know, I called down to the White House medical unit, and Dr. Jackson’s expecting you.” I was like, “What?” He knew. He knew that I needed to go see someone, that I was not okay. And he knew me well enough to know that when I paused, when he heard me talking to Pluff, that I was not okay.

So, I went down to the office, and at this point, I am crying. I’ve made it through the West Wing. I’ve walked past the Rose Garden, and I’m now in a place where most people can’t see me, and I have just started crying. I walk into the medical unit, and the nurses are there, and Doc Jackson’s there, and he’s like, “It’s okay.” I went in, and he gave me a gross neurological exam, and he did a couple other tests, and he’s like, “Here is what I think. I think that you are functioning on a percentage of your brain capacity, because I think that you are exhausted.” Like truly, clinically exhausted.

I was like, “Well, what do I do?” I had taken Ambien before for sure, on foreign trips and stuff, but he’s like, “Here’s the thing.” This is a very interesting thing because it both worked and didn’t work. He’s like, “Here’s the Ambien.” He gave me controlled-release Ambien, which keeps you asleep. It doesn’t just knock you out, but it helps keep you asleep. He’s like, “I don’t want you going to bed at midnight. You’ve got to go to bed at like 10:00, and you’ve got to try to wake up at 5:00.” I was waking up at 4:30. I was going to bed at midnight.

What I learned much later is that the reason I was so tired was because I was literally just in bed. I wasn’t sleeping, that my mind was never slowing down. Therefore, I was not having restful sleep. But after about eight to ten weeks of really trying, literally of having warm milk before bed and taking my Ambien, I was feeling so much better. I went in, and I did the test again, and I was like 70% improved.

But that was a moment when I was like, “I think that it’s maybe time for me to start thinking about leaving.” You know, because it takes … when you work in the White House, it takes you a long time to really come to the conclusion that you have to leave the most special place on Earth, I guess next to Disneyland. But that was when I really started thinking to myself … I’m someone who’s always been able to function at 120%, and now, it was probably like I was functioning at 95% or 100%, but I could feel the difference.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You said that you got that feedback, you would come up with ideas in meetings, and people would sort of look at you, like “We’ve already talked about that. That’s not a great idea,” right?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Oh no, it was actually worse than that. It was that I was losing … so the more tired I get, my ability to be positive diminishes, as I’m sure is true with most people. So, what was actually happening is that we … you know, I’d worked for the man for almost 10 years at this point. What would happen is people who were new, who had fresh legs and fresh eyes who were joining the team, they’d be like, “Hey, what about doing this idea?” and I was like, “Ugh, did it in 2009, wasn’t great.” I don’t mean to make myself sound like I was … that everybody around me would have been like, “What’s wrong with Alyssa?” but I felt it.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: How did your anxiety manifest, or did it, when you actually finally left when you handed in that badge, and you said, “I’m just a human now.”

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: It’s very funny because I was in denial until the day I left. So, when I was leaving, Pfeiffer was taking over my office, and he went into a meeting. When he came back from his meeting, I had not only packed up my entire office, but I had moved him in because I needed to be that busy. He was like, “Buddy, you don’t have to do this.” I was like, “Honestly, it’s not for you. I really just need to keep moving forward.” He’s like, “Okay.”

The guy who takes your badge, they come, and they do what’s called reading you out, which means they come, and they tell you, “You no longer have clearance. Anything you learned while you had clearance is not yours to share, that it’s illegal to share,” blah, blah, blah. So, as this poor man from the security office is in my office, I start bawling. I was like, “Oh no, this is it. This is the flood of emotion,” I said to him, and I was like, “I am sure this happens to you all the time.” He was like, “No.” I was like, “Cool.”

I packed everything up, and of course, there is the loveliest party on the back patio of the Oval Office. The president, as my going away gift, got me a beautiful, beautiful, original painting of an Iowa landscape because that’s where it all happened for us, was Iowa. I started to really get emotional, and I said, “I’m worried for my husband because he’s never known me without you.” Oh my God, I get emotional just thinking about it because I felt it so profoundly that like, what would happen when I wasn’t with them anymore? Who was I?

That night, we had a wild … because Kathy Ruemmler, who was White House counsel, was leaving a few days after I was, and so we took the opportunity to throw the rager of all ragers. You weren’t allowed to bring your phones in, Susan Rice dropped it like it’s hot, Mindy Kaling was like-

MORRA AARONS-MELE: It was like a skiff.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: It was a skiff. You know what, it was exactly a skiff at that dance party in Georgetown. As I was packing up and I kept thinking to myself, I’m like, “I don’t even want to go to my party. I’m so sad I don’t even want to go to my party.” Pfeiffer walked me out, and my Ford Escape was packed up as if I were leaving college. We cried and hugged like Brenda and Brandon were saying goodbye on 90210 when she went to school in Minnesota. Then the next day was the White House correspondents’ dinner, and of course I went. Then Monday, I went to the Met Gala as a guest of Anna Wintour.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Wow.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Okay. So Friday, Saturday, Monday, I am killing it. Tuesday comes, and I’m like … I set my alarm because I was convinced that people were going to need to be in touch with me. Now, a really interesting and important thing is that I totally believe, and Barack Obama always agreed, that the most important thing to do as a manager is like, “If I get hit by a bus, it shouldn’t matter.” The world should be able to go on without me. They should know where every important document is, every skeleton is buried. It should not be … hoarding that kind of information is actually like a complete miscarriage of leadership.

So I had, I mean … for months, I had been writing memos, doing briefings, debriefing, you name it. But I still thought that morning, everyone was going to need me. The truth is, no one needs you. So, I was watching a lot of HGTV, and the problem is the fascination with cable news didn’t make me feel separated. It wasn’t like an easy … and I was still in Washington, D.C. So, I became severely depressed. My anxiety, there was no funnel, there was no channel for it. It just consumed me.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So, you had to feel your feelings after so many years of literally not having a minute in the day to feel them.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Right.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What happened?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I cried a lot. I mean I just, I cried a lot. I felt like, “Am I ever going to do anything again?” I felt an extreme anxiety to get a new job. Some people say to you … like Melody, Melody Barnes, who was the head of the Domestic Policy Council who left a couple years before I did, when the announcement went out that I was leaving, she emailed me, and she said, “Here’s the deal. The first two weeks are going to be terrible. Then after that, you’re going to find yourself falling asleep in the middle of the day. Let it happen.”

I kept thinking, I was like, “Okay, well, this is what Melody said was going to happen. This is what Melody said was going to happen.” But the feeling wasn’t going away, and so I became very fixated on finding a job because I thought that the feelings would go away if I found a job and worked someplace. Instead of actually doing the decompression I needed to do and really just … I literally should have gone to an ashram or some sort of kibbutz or something to totally-

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Were you in therapy at the time?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: No. No, no, no, because I didn’t think I needed it. I thought it was normal. Or so abnormal, I didn’t want to tell anybody about it. I was also, I was just really lonely because all of my friends were still in this place where they worked 20 hours a day. Then the bigger problem is that I went into … I had been a certain person to a group of people for so long that then when I did take the job and was that chief operating officer at Vice media, starting in the … January of ’15 …

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So you took how many months off? Like six months off or …

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Yeah, about six months.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: About six months. But even still, I officially started in January, but I went to the board meeting … I started doing stuff in December. Then I started at Vice, and I realized that it wasn’t going to go away. The feeling I had wasn’t going to go away by itself.

So of course, I just … and it’s such a funny thing because you think to yourself, “I’ve pivoted, I’ve done so many different things. How can this be hard? How can people …” I was pretty well liked most of my career. You always have people who don’t like you for one reason or another, but for the most part, I love being part of a team. What I kind of realized when I got there is maybe not everyone wanted me to be part of the team. I tried so hard to make everyone like me and to work with me … not even like me, I tried so hard to get everyone to work with me in the way that we worked at the White House, which is a fundamentally different environment.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yes.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I just kept feeling like, “I can’t crack the code. I can’t crack the code.” The moment that I think I really sort of splintered on the editorial team was unionizing. They had voted to unionize. We recognized them, and we were going through collective bargaining. For the first time, here I have been the champion of the people for the greater part of my life, and now I’m representing management at a collective bargaining table? I’m like, how have I come so far? How has this happened? I’m the person who in another world would have been advising them on how to unionize.

We did a couple rounds of collective bargaining, and the last one, the approach, was not one that I had wanted to take, I’ll say that. The reaction was even worse than I had imagined, from the editorial team, and I had the most unbearable stomach pains. I mean, unbearable. The next day, I ended up going to the emergency room, which I had only done one other time in my life. I said, “I’m so sick. I’m so sick. I think it’s like the bird flu.” I didn’t know what it was. They kept being like, “You’re fine.” I’m like, “I’m not fine.”

I went to the emergency room two other times after that within about a week. I was telling my girls, my White House ladies that were always part of my team, we have an ongoing text chain to this day. I told them what was happening, and Jessica said, “You know what? My mom has lupus, and she goes to this gastroenterologist. You should go see him.” For the grace of God, he took me, I went in to see him I think the next day, and he did 90 panels of blood and asked me like 300 questions. He got to the last question, and he said, “When your stomach is upset …” and they were all about things that affect my stomach. He said, “Is there anything that makes your stomach feel better?” I said wine, and he was like, “Sit up.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “There’s almost no scenario in which a real stomach issue would be made, feel better with wine.”

I just started bawling, because his next question was, “Tell me about your job.” That man ended up dealing with the therapy that I had probably needed for two or three years. He said, “Here’s the thing. You’ve got anxiety. You have IBS, but you have severe anxiety, and you have made it so much worse.” Because by never being like, “I just have anxiety. It’s totally fine to have anxiety. Things can help you with anxiety.” But I had just kept stuffing it down and stuffing it down till my body was like, “Stop it. We’re not okay.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What would be your advice to someone who’s listening to this who wants to make a big pivot in their career and has felt like they’re super needed, their career fills their need to achieve, to feel wanted, to do all the stuff, but who knows they need to leave and is scared?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Oh my goodness. My advice is you can do it. You can do it. You have to reset what you expect to get out of it every day until you really … because how long does it actually take you to settle into a new job? Right?

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Right.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: Part of the problem is that you go from having been someplace for a long time where you had proved yourself, where people trusted you, to a place where even when you were deputy White House chief of staff, you go into a new place, and people are like, “Well, does she think she’s all that? Do we even want to deal with her?” And the truth is, you’ve just got to do “you.” You just have to be yourself, and either it’s going to work and it’s going to be awesome or you’re going to be like, “You know what? I gave it two years, and I’m still not feeling like I’m getting everything out of it that I want to be getting out of things,” and that’s fine.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You didn’t stay at Vice, right? I mean, you …

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I was there for two years.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah.

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I was there for two years, which was great, and I learned so much. If I could go back in time, I would still take the job. I wouldn’t have changed anything because it did teach me so much about myself. But the truth is that the most important thing I think anyone can do, and I’m really looking at you, ladies, is be so just hardcore about saving money. Have a fund that’s, in case something goes wrong. It’s a couple of months of rent, a couple of months of living expenses so that you don’t have to suffer.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Right. You have told your bosses since then … How would you treat your anxiety going into a big, stressful, new job next time? Would you have a plan? Would you tell everyone on the team? What would you do?

ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I am very … I refuse to be in the closet or in the shadows about anything anymore. So when I left Vice, I went to work at A&E Networks, which was a major Vice investor because I wanted to learn about linear television. To both the people who worked with me and my boss, who was Nancy Dubuc, I was like, “Oh, by the way, I’m going off of Zoloft, and I just want to tell you because I don’t know if I’m going to act different, but just know that I’m in the process of going off Zoloft.”

Sometimes, people are very taken aback, and they’re like, “Oh, okay, thanks for sharing.” But I’m not going to not tell them because if I am sad or I am not acting myself, I want someone to say to me like, “Alyssa, you’re not acting yourself. I know you told me you were going off your Zoloft. Why don’t you go check with your doctor?” Right? That’s what I want, and so I tell people. I can’t tell you how many notes I have gotten, how much feedback I’ve gotten from women who are like, “Thank you for telling me that. I told my boss I have IBS.” Because of the IBS, they understand now that when I’m sitting at a table and my stomach starts to hurt, I’m not being petulant when I get up and walk out. I’m potentially having IBS.

That’s why when people yell at me, and they say like, “Alyssa, you overshare.” You know what, for the four people I’ve offended by oversharing, I’m happy because there are probably a couple hundred who I have helped.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s it for this week’s show. If you like what you’ve heard, be sure to subscribe and submit a review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your shows. If you have an idea for the show or you want to tell us your story, drop me a note at anxiousachiever@gmail.com, or you can tweet me, @morraam, that’s M-O-R-R-A-A-M.

Special thanks to the team at Harvard Business Review, my producer Mary Dooe, the team at Podcast Garage, and all of our guests who are telling us their stories from the heart. From the HBR Presents Network, I’m Morra Aarons-Mele, and this is The Anxious Achiever.



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