Advice + #RealWorkTalk

State of the Blog: A Personal Update

A few months ago, I posted that I was moving back to D.C..  I did not expect to reach Tax Day and still be in Spokane.  And I know some of you are curious as to what happened and what my plans are, so it’s time for an update.

The last job I had in D.C. destroyed my self-worth and bruised my spirit.  Maybe some day I’ll be able to talk about that experience in depth, but not yet.  What I will say is that I was so decimated that it seemed like the only solution was to radically change my life.

But looking back, I didn’t do the thing I should have done, which was to take a break.   I couldn’t stand the idea that I would be without purpose.  So I just found a new goal, a new journey.

It never dawned on me that taking time to heal myself could be my purpose.

When I graduated from law school and passed the bar, I knew I wasn’t ready to be a lawyer.  I still wasn’t healed.  I couldn’t commit myself to a career path that requires so much both intellectually and emotionally. You can’t pour yourself into something when your bucket is empty.

The only stable, positive thing in my life (besides this blog) was my relationship with Kyle.  It seemed like a good idea to see where that was going and stay here for a bit.  So I found a campaign job out West, kept blogging, and tried to go back to my roots in politics in a different way.

The campaign trail is a grind.  Always has been, always will be.  After a few months, my health deteriorated.  I could get well, but I couldn’t stay well.  My doctor was brutally honest: You’re depressed, and you’re body physically cannot handle this much travel.  You keep this up, “it’ll be a race to see who throws in the towel first, your body or your mind.”

I walked home from the doctor’s office that day in ballet flats, during a snowstorm, powered by one crystal clear thought: I am not being true to myself.  I am settling for what seems logical, instead of doing what feels right.  I need to go back to D.C..  That is what my soul needs.

I was exhausted and sick and cold by the time I got home.  But I hadn’t felt so alive or hopeful in years.

For a while, moving back looked like it would be easy.  I lined up job interviews.  Talked to a realtor about selling my home.  Started purging any belongings that didn’t need to make the move.  Things were falling into place.

Then, the Republican congressional retirement exodus hit full tilt.  Two job offers were rescinded; one due to a retirement, the other to concerns about how a previous job would reflect on the new employer.  Now, the number of available jobs is shrinking.  I’m in a strange spot where I need to move in order to find a job, but it would be unwise to move without a job.

It’s not easy being in this limbo.  There are days when I just want to roll the U-Haul into the driveway and say to hell with the rest of it.  To hell with worrying about money, waiting on a job, figuring out what comes next in my personal life, how I will raise two rambunctious dogs in the big city, to hell with all the thoughts that keep me up at night.  But that feels more like impatience induced recklessness than a solution.

I’m still committed to moving to D.C..  I have a plan to get there, and I’m lucky to have the resources to keep looking for a while longer.  Being back in the city and back on the Hill is the brass ring that I’m chasing, but I’m cognizant that I can only chase it for so long before financial and professional necessity may demand a pivot.

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    76 comments

  1. TheLOOP says:

    I have been awed by your ability to juggle multiple things and to pursue your dreams, even as they keep evolving. I am now touched by your ability to be vulnerable and so true to how you are feeling. But at the risk of prying, may I ask why you are so focused on getting back to DC, especially if your job there decimated you? I am in the Midwest right now in a job that pays handsomely but I am not passionate about, in a city that I am at best lukewarm about and with two young ones to raise. I think back fondly to when I was in NYC with a job I loved with passion, in a city I adored and no adulting responsibilities. But in your case if your job in DC drained you so much, why do you want to move back? Asking out of genuine curiosity.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Pretty Law Belle says:

      I would love to know the answer to this, also. Kudos to you for following your dreams. Consider that sometimes, we have to let go of what we think we want.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I made the mistake of believing that I could be a lobbyist. Some people are very good at it, I was not one of those people. I am not trying to return to that life.

      I adored working on the Hill, and I miss it deeply. I watch what’s happening in Congress, and I want to be in the fight not watching from the sidelines. I know things have changed, that they’re harder now, more taxing. When I’m committed to a task fully, the challenges are easier to bear. I never bore the mantle of lobbying or campaigning well because I never felt fulfilled or dedicated to either task.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
      • TheLOOP says:

        That makes total sense. Thanks for replying and sharing.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
  2. Jess says:

    Not in politics, but one question I have is how much of a grind is the campaign trail vs. DC? Because people talk about the crap in DC and I would never, ever under any circumstances move there based on what I hear about it. What would be the benefits?

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Sof says:

      DC is a fun place to live! I’ve been here for about a decade and have genuinely enjoyed it. I’m on the non-profit side rather than the political side, which may make a difference, but in my case – even though I’m grossly underpaid, I love what I do, I’ve met such accomplished and smart people, I live in a fascinating neighborhood, and hundreds of truly unique bars and restaurants compete for my attention outside of work hours. It’s a great place to live.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
      • Alison says:

        So I’ll first say that it is always easy to Monday morning quarterback someone else’s job situation, so please know I’m not being glib and throwing out “just try this!” ideas. My ideas may be irrelevant or inappropriate, and feel free to dismiss as such.

        That said, as I was reading I kept thinking that there might be a left turn (or
        right one, this isn’t about party lines) from traditional politics into something like a great nonprofit organization. I think some of the most interesting work in politics is being done outside of the three branches of government. There are so many wonderful organizations that deal with humanitarian issues, immigration, education, healthcare, and more that need smart passionate people in their ranks — the fact that you’ve been inside and really know how government works would be hugely beneficial, and a lawyer to boot…you’d be a rock star to some lucky organization.

        April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      DC gets a bad wrap. It can be a tough place, and it can be a wonderful place. It’s definitely not the nasty cesspool people make it out to be anymore than Los Angeles is a polluted hellhole or Kansas is mindless flyover country. There’s truth in the stereotype, but it’s mostly stereotype.

      I’ve found DC to be filled with interesting, impressive people. I love the museums, the restaurants, the community. I like that it’s a big city, but to me it still feels accessible. And I made some of the best friendships of my life there, with people I miss terribly.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Also, what made the trail hard for me was mostly the travel. I have some serious digestive issues that have defied treatment, and being on the road makes them nearly unbearable. If they get particularly bad, they can effect my mental health as well as my physical health because I don’t sleep and generally feel awful.

        April 16, 2018/Reply
        • HH says:

          Hi Abra – have you been tested for Crohn’s Disease? Your comment here reminded me of how a close friend battled digestive issues until she was correctly diagnosed. Just a thought. (No reply needed.)

          April 17, 2018/Reply
          • PJ says:

            Alternatively, depending on your symptoms, also look at the FODMAP diet and eliminating grains. Worked very well for me.

            GL

            April 17, 2018/Reply
        • CM says:

          Abra, It took me from my first internship in college to the middle of my 3rd professional job (all of which involved travel) to figure out what was going on with my digestive issues. I was diagnosed with IBS (which is maybe your frustrating and not helpful diagnosis too?) and some other symptoms, and never progressed to anything worse (like Crohn’s). After doing a lot of research and doing some allergy and vitamin deficiency testing with my doctor, I solved about 95% of my problems with diet, sleep, trying to conquer stress, and basic vitamin (B and D) supplementation. I know you’ve said you’ve made some progress in acknowledging your food choices need to be better, and I would be happy to talk to you over email about what worked for me. It doesn’t involve major restrictions, special foods, a fad diet, or cleanses…promise! Just some mindful decision-making and a little planning. It does help to spend a little money on some blood tests at the Dr. to see if you have any specific deficiencies though, Best of luck with your job hunt! I’d love to see you and your content DC-centric again, selfishly.

          April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Amanda says:

        Kansas girl here. After spending some time abroad and in DC, thank goodness I figured out I had to get home (When you know where you’re meant to be, you know). Good luck – I’m rooting for you.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
      • E says:

        This +100!

        April 17, 2018/Reply
    • DC Braud says:

      Seriously, lady? Who are these “people” talking all of the crap about DC such that you would “never ever” move here? Please – do you know even the first thing about this city? To think that the stress of being on the campaign trail is comparable to simply living in DC (as if a city could somehow be that inherently stressful) makes zero sense.

      I was born and raised in DC (yes – IN DC), spent years in a few different cities and moved back, and the Washingtonians in my life are kind, extremely smart, socially-minded people that are a lot more open-minded than you’re currently being. People are thoughtful and ambitious and interesting and they give a shit about things, and I haven’t even gotten into the fact that DC is a gorgeous city with breathtaking architecture, amazing food and culture around every corner.

      I don’t personally work in politics (although I’m a lawyer) and I have friends that do tons of different things – most are not in politics at all, actually, but those that are are extremely passionate and hardworking and I admire them a lot. It’s completely unsurprising to me that Belle is so drawn to DC because her passion and her conviction is so obviously what this city is made out of.

      Maybe is a harsh response, but I’m just really over people (one very orange person in particular, but political affiliations are neither here nor there) even casually taking shots at DC and generalizing based on absolutely nothing. It’s tired.

      Welcome back, Abra! Good luck with everything, and I hope you find what you’re looking for.

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • E says:

        Bravo, DC Braud! Couldn’t agree more.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Charlotte says:

        Thank you DC Braud!

        I think whether you thrive in DC is a bit like that explanation of introverts vs. extroverts: extroverts draw energy from people and introverts are drained by them. If you like being surrounded by driven people who always have something interesting to say, this town just operates on the right frequency for you. If not, you probably burn out and assume people are being mean-competitive rather than just really enthusiastic.

        -Signed someone who moved back to DC from HAWAII, because the people there bored her to tears (and I missed bookstores and public transportation)

        April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Jamie says:

        This is perhaps one of the most DC things I’ve ever read.

        April 18, 2018/Reply
    • Anna says:

      Jess, do any of those people actually live in DC? Do they actually work in politics? The vast majority of people I know who work in politics do it because they want to make their country and their communities better. There isn’t a whole lot of glory in being a congressional staffer. You work long hours and are underpaid, but you do get those moments where you feel like you’re doing your bit to improve the world around you, and you get to do it in the place where decisions that have shaped the world are made. I worked for ten years on the Hill and it completely emotionally drained me, and I lost my passion for the work. I don’t want to work in politics for at least a very long time, and frankly I’m ready to leave DC. But it isn’t because it isn’t a great city. I just need to take a step back and be in a different environment. In fact, I think right now is one of the best times to be in DC the food and arts scene has never been this dynamic and diverse. The change in the ten years I’ve lived here has been incredible.

      As for campaigns, they are completely exhausting. There’s a reason most people take a month-plus long break once they’re over. You’re literally working 24/7. As tiring as DC-life is, being out on the trail is an extreme.

      April 17, 2018/Reply
  3. Annie says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that you will land where you need to be. Good luck – we are all rooting for you.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  4. MOnica T says:

    Sometimes finding our way is so much harder than we think it should be. There are so many choices to make, so many voices telling us what we should do and who we should be, and sometimes those voices are our own! It sounds like you have been very brave to go back to a place that was not a happy one, to not let that time define a place you otherwise loved. There is a wonderful line in North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell that I try to remember when I’m being nostalgic: “Try as we might, happy as we were, we can’t go back.” I hope you find your way forward, whichever way it may turn out to be.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Sarah says:

      Really well said. Hoping you find your way forward, Abra.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Thank you to both of you.

        April 16, 2018/Reply
  5. Jill says:

    I wish you the very best. I hope everything comes together for you. I’m jobless for the first time in my life, trying to see it as an opportunity rather than a negative situation. Many people want to help and are rooting for me, as your readers are for you.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  6. Elle says:

    No advice to offer just lots of admiration for all that you have accomplished & your ability to be vulnerable with us. Wishing you all the best in the next part of your journey.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  7. SM says:

    My two cents: don’t do anything out of desperation but also don’t let inertia overtake progress. Sometimes you have to make the best of the situation you’ve been dealt and have faith that things will improve/work out in the end. So even if an opportunity isn’t perfect or what you pictured for yourself, I say explore it. At least it breaks the inertia.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  8. heather says:

    I’ve been a reader since 2009 and am rooting for you! My last job in DC decimated me, and I was so desperate to get a new job in my home state that I went on so many interviews for jobs I knew I’d hate and companies I had no interest in (hello 1-800-Dentures!). I had so many potential employers tell me I was super qualified, but I never got any of the jobs (probably bc I reeked of fake enthusiasm and despearion- “marketing your super-affordable dentures has ALWAYS been my DREAM!!”). Once I was finally offered a job I’m the city I wanted I took it, hated it, and left 3 months later. All this to say, don’t sell yourself short just to get the first job that’s offered to you. Wait for the right one and it will
    Come!

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  9. Ann says:

    I like your blog a lot and feel for you because I know how demoralizing a job search can be. However, I do think decisions have consequences, and perhaps this will be a cautionary tale for others considering working for an organization as odious at the NRA. If you feel differently now, have you disavowed your work for or affiliation with the NRA? Perhaps it would make a difference in your search.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Strangely, NRA was not the job the employer was concerned about. I was as surprised as anyone.

      To your other point, please remember that while there are people who find the NRA “odious” there are Americans who find NRDC and Planned Parenthood just as objectionable. If you work for an issue-based organization, you accept that you will have as many friends as opponents. The media may love you, they may hate you. But in member-driven organizations, only the members’ opinions really matter.

      I didn’t take the job at NRA for the money, or else I would have been sorely disappointed. I took the job because I am a gun owner who believes that the 2nd Amendment is a critical civil right that provides me with the right of self-defense and serves as a check on tyranny. I also believe in stringent background checks, banning bump stocks (which the ATF should never have approved for sale), and a whole host of other sensible gun reforms. I also understand how crazy complicated the issues are, even though a lot of people on both sides want to make them seem deceptively simple.

      What I didn’t realize at the time is that some people within the NRA are more interested in the commodification and commercialization of the 2nd Amendment for profit than being a member-driven policy organization. Even if the members wanted to change direction or take a more nuanced position, I’m not sure how much could be altered as long as some people’s fortunes are tied to incendiary rhetoric and pushing the organization further to the right.

      No, I haven’t “disavowed” the NRA. I’m still a member so I can vote for the board members and policies that I want to see implemented, even though it can be maddening sometimes. And I’m deeply skeptical that even if I did something drastic anyone would care, especially since I still get death threats from people who somehow think killing me in ever more creative ways will keep American school kids safe.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
      • Shea says:

        Well said. I enjoy your blog for your style and good taste. But I read your blog because your posts are consistently articulate, respectful, intelligent, and reasonable. Thank you for that.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
        • Anna says:

          Ditto what Shea says. I come here for the fashion content and female camaraderie, but I also completely respect your views and experiences. Signed, Unapologetic Gun Hater.

          April 17, 2018/Reply
          • sbe says:

            Same. 100% agree with Shea and Anna. Well said, Belle-thank you, as always, for your honesty willingness to be vulnerable.

            April 17, 2018/Reply
          • Belle says:

            And I respect yours. My goal is not to change anyone’s mind, but to express that not everyone who owns a gun or who is an NRA member are the kind of people I’ve been seeing on TV. These people who believe that the Parkland kids are crisis actors or that arming teachers is a solution are just not on my team even though it may appear they are.

            April 17, 2018/Reply
          • Jess says:

            Anna, I love that you could respond like this as someone who takes the opposite view. This is what we need more of in this country.

            April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Mary says:

        As others have already said, I come here both for the fashion content and your thoughtful and honest responses about real life stuff.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Ann says:

        I appreciate your reply. I do see a major distinction between merely being a member of an organization and being a paid, full time lobbyist on its behalf, but I also see that your views are not necessarily in sync with many of what I consider as the NRA’s most destructive positions. In terms of disavowing your association, perhaps I chose my words poorly. I don’t think a statement would matter to public opinion, but had that role been a roadblock to other employment, disassociating yourself if you no longer agreed with the NRA’s policy positions might have helped your job search.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
        • Belle says:

          The trouble with being a moderate anything these days (conservative, NRA Member, etc) is that even when you disagree with what’s happening, you still agree with the overarching philosophy. And even when the rhetoric or the tactics make you consider leaving, you look at the other side and don’t find much comfort.

          One of my goals since the Parkland tragedy is to speak to my Democrat or gun-loathing friends about actual policy. I think Everytown does it’s cause a supreme disservice by not educating people on the policy behind the rhetoric. The head of the Brady campaign once said that people incorrectly believing AR-15s were machine guns was a confusion he relished because it helped them win. It’s one of the reasons why even five years after I quit the NRA, I still take calls from Democrat Hill staffers who just want to ask me questions. How do background checks work, why do you buy an AR-15, who does the mental health list apply to, etc. I took the job at NRA because I cared about good, sound gun policy. It saddens me that since Newtown the organization has become even more polarizing and the knowledge gun owners possess on how actual reforms might work has been devalued as useless or cripplingly biased as a result.

          April 17, 2018/Reply
  10. irmck says:

    That’s exactly the decision I had to make before I made to the Hill the first time. If you love it enough to move there without a job and figure it out, you’ll be fine. We need more people who love the Hill for what it actually is, not just what we all want it to be. Best of luck!

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      True statement. You have to know that reality is not idealistic television shows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do meaningful work.

      April 16, 2018/Reply
  11. AA says:

    Rooting for you. I’m in a similar situation, except I haven’t left the job that is emotionally bruising yet (looking for a new job but trying to make a career change all in one, and my current job is so demanding I barely have time to job hunt anyway). It is difficult and incredibly taxing. I have nothing helpful I can say except that you are not alone and that I am hopeful for us both that we can find greener pastures (or at least, restful pastures!) sooner rather than later. Hang in there.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
    • Anna says:

      Hey, stranger, sending you my support! I was in your shoes – knew I needed a change, but my job made it incredibly challenging to search. Eventually, I was let go from the job I hated, and as demoralizing as it was, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that for you, but even if it does, just trust that things have a way of eventually falling into place. If you can, I definitely advocate telling your employer you’d like to look for new opportunities but won’t be neglecting your duties, so maybe they’ll be supportive and give you a little leeway with interviews and such. I kind of wish I had done that, but then again, I probably would have ended up in a job that “made sense” but would be just as unfulfilling. Whatever you decide to do or wherever the career world takes you, best of luck! And know that even when things look really crappy, they may actually have a silver lining.

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • K says:

        That’s pretty much what happened to me. Realized I needed a change, started looking, and got let go before I could make a move. I have a city and a direction picked out, I just have to get there. Meanwhile I’m trying to not panic and trust the people who have been telling me it’ll all work out. I’ve been pretty good at the not panicking part, but less good with the thought that I should be “doing more” with the sudden expanse of free time I have.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
        • AA says:

          K –

          Not in your shoes but can understand how the free time can be infuriating when you’re hoping other things will hurry the eff up! I’ve never been good with the whole waiting thing either which is partly why this job search has been so aggravating. Not that this is ground breaking advice but I have been getting into new hobbies recently as an outlet for my anxiety/frustration over work/job search and it has really helped – I started working out consistently for the first time and have been trying to make more of an effort to reconnect with old friends or just see current ones more. If I had more time I would also catch up on some reading, etc. Maybe worth figuring out what things in your life you had put on hold while going through the whole process and trying to let yourself enjoy the free time a little?

          Easier said than done, I know. Wishing you great luck!

          April 18, 2018/Reply
      • AA says:

        Thanks so much for your response! Unfortunately, my employer (well, specifically my direct boss) is the person that is making this job so incredibly unbearable and he has a lot of support from upper management so I feel like I can’t really say anything to anyone without making the situation worse. Nothing as serious as harassment, etc. but just generally extremely moody, petty behavior that’s been escalating as of late. There’s just so many moving pieces here that have really limited my opportunities – I’m in NYC and don’t want to move, yet most of the jobs I want are on the west coast, and I also am here on a work visa that limits flexibility.. it often feels like a futile fight. I assume that eventually I’ll have to make some larger sacrifices than I feel comfortable with but have been resisting doing so, in the hopes that it’ll eventually fall into place with enough work and networking. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case yet so I know that eventually something’s gotta give but it’s just been a very uncomfortable situation overall.

        Thanks so much for your kind response. I’ve run into so many hurdles lately that sometimes it feels like the universe is just conspiring against me haha

        April 18, 2018/Reply
        • anna says:

          K, you know the direction you want to go in. That’s huge! I welcomed the free time, since I had worked full time since before I graduated college without even a week or two of “funemployment” between jobs. I did have a side job though (which I had taken on during the weekends to distract myself from my M-F job), so I did a little more of that, and I relished being able to go to the gym during the day. I would just look at anything you’re doing to better yourself, whether professionally or emotionally, as progress, even if it’s just taking a mental break.

          AA, sorry you’re in that position. I’ve definitely been there, and it sucks. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Eventually things will work themselves out. It’s just the getting there, in the weeds part that is really, really hard.

          April 18, 2018/Reply
          • K says:

            Thanks to you both for the encouragement and ideas. Reading everyone’s comments on this thread, I’m a lot more comfortable being kinda/sorta unproductive. It is great to have the mental break, and I’ve had the chance to do some really cool things in the last couple months. Like lobby a state senator about pending legislation, start HIIT workouts, and read even more than I usually do.

            April 18, 2018/Reply
  12. Rachel says:

    I feel for you and want to reiterate other comments on how wonderful it has been to read about your journey. I have been reading your blog since I was a young Hill staffer myself. I have no doub you will find your way back to DC, and politics will be better for it.

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  13. Rachel says:

    Good luck, Abra! We are rooting for you. ❤️

    April 16, 2018/Reply
  14. Chelsea says:

    Have you thought about coming into the executive branch as a Schedule C? There is extremely interesting, meaningful work, and we desperately need good people in those positions. I have heard that even if you have some comments that are not fully supportive of the Administration online (ahem), it is not a dealbreaker. I’m not on the political appointee side—just a fed hoping for competent coworkers….

    April 17, 2018/Reply
    • JBINDC says:

      Hear, hear. I work at an ~18k person agency in DC, and we have a grand total of 5 political appointees (out of 60 positions), none of which are an Administrator, and 3 are junior roles. It’d be great to get some qualified coworkers in here!

      April 17, 2018/Reply
    • Alice says:

      I know this is not a political blog and I don’t want to get too personal but I think that would be an extremely polarizing decision. There is a big difference between working on the Hill or a right-leaning think tank and working for the Trump administration. It would certainly make a difference for me.

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Being in the Administration would be difficult for me as I am not a supporter of the President’s tactics and most of his agenda. However, I know several people who continued working in the Admin post-Obama or who are new appointees. They are still doing important work for the country in the areas of public lands conservation, veterans’ advocacy, tribal education, etc. If I could find an office whose mission I really believed in, I do think there are offices in the Admin I would consider. It would not be easy sometimes, but if I was doing valuable work, then it would be a necessary evil in my view.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
  15. SG says:

    I’m so glad you shared this – hugs for you, lady! I live with depression and anxiety, and know full well how a soul-sucking job can affect your entire life, including your physical health! Sending you allllll the positive energy, for healing and job hunting and everything in between!

    Thank you so much for talking about this – I wish more people would share their struggles with mental health. You’ll get through this, and you’ll be better for it!

    April 17, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Thank you. I don’t talk often about my mental health struggles, but there are certainly times when it’s hard to explain to people that I won’t be into work because I can’t lift my head off of the pillow. The real difficulty has been that it’s untreatable. I have suicidal ideations on every prescription I have ever tried. A local doctor suggested a Ketamine clinic, but I’m not sure I’m ready to take that step. I’ve been managing it for years by being kinder to myself (saying no to things, not taking on too much) but as I age it’s not getting worse but it does change. Good luck to you!

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Megan says:

        I so feel for you after this comment. I’ve dealt with depression as well, but I reacted well to the first drug I tried and have had it under control since then. My mother, however, hasn’t had the same luck. About five years ago, she was diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. She eventually asked us to bring her to the psych ward of the hospital because she couldn’t bear it. She started ECT (a less barbaric version of electroshock therapy) while there, and it completely turned around her life. There are some serious drawbacks, namely short-term memory loss, but it may be worth looking into while you’re not working full-time. My boyfriend also thought he’d never find a drug that worked for his severe depression, but after a car accident several years ago, his doctor realized that one of the painkillers he was on was actually treating his depression. I have no idea if you’ve looked into these types of options, but wanted to share in case you haven’t. I know how hard it can be to feel like there’s nothing left that can help.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
        • Lauren says:

          Hi Abra,

          Wishing you the best. I also deal with depression, and my doctor has encouraged me to look into TMS, which is not as intense as ECT treatment (it may also depend on if insurance covers it or not). I hope this isn’t too personal, but I was wondering if Kyle will be moving with you? You seem like a lovely couple. Wishing you the very best!

          April 17, 2018/Reply
          • Belle says:

            We don’t really know. His job opportunities haven’t materialized on the East Coast. So we’ll see.

            April 17, 2018/Reply
  16. Mel says:

    A few other people touched on this, but have you looked into non-profits or trade associations? I know a bunch of people at each and love it. Trade associations have decent pay and great hours. There are ones that tend to be right-leaning that may be up your alley (NAM comes to mind).

    Also, Bloomberg has non-legal analyst and writer jobs that they only hire lawyers for.

    In terms of lawyer jobs, there are a ton of small firms that advise campaigns. It would keep you in the campaign world, but allow you to avoid travel.

    April 17, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I know some of the leadership at NAM and at other trade groups. I keep an eye out for groups whose mission interests me, and have applied for a couple of jobs to no avail. I will look into that Bloomberg position though, that looks interesting. Thanks!

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Mel says:

        If you want, I can connect you to my law school friend who works at Bloomberg. She isn’t in hiring, but she can at least talk more about the job.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
        • Belle says:

          That would be amazing. I’d love it if you could put us on an email to the capitolhillstyle at gmail address.

          April 17, 2018/Reply
  17. Wendy says:

    Have you looked at federal lawyer jobs? I know my agency is hiring lawyers. If you need more info shoot me an email.

    April 17, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I have not. I may start to look at agencies whose mission I care about.

      April 17, 2018/Reply
      • Jess says:

        I’d recommend it. Different agencies have different types of lawyers, too. Mine does, and it makes a huge difference whether you’re in the general counsel’s office versus a lawyer in a subject matter office.

        April 17, 2018/Reply
  18. SC says:

    Nothing new to add, but another voice to chime in with, Go Abra! Wishing you lots of luck and good fortune as you move forward (at your own pace).

    April 17, 2018/Reply
  19. Anne says:

    I’ve read your blog for years, and I will continue to keep up with it as long as your are writing, where ever or whatever you are up to. Don’t feel alone in this journey – we’re all working to find our place.

    April 17, 2018/Reply
  20. Erika says:

    First of all, I’m so sorry for the complexities of your journey. You certainly hold yourself and those around you to a high standard. I cannot begin to comment about life in the beltway given I have spent my career in finance in NYC/London and am almost 50. That said, I am deeply impressed by your
    focus, commitment to excellence and your passion. I love to see you embracing that and cannot wait to see where the journey goes. You bridge a beautiful gap of working women in various conservative fields who are striving forwards. I feel your physical sense of commitment myself on how difficult it is to balance sleep, exercising, downtime and more. Listen to your heart. Passion holds it all together and drives us to achieve more. It given us a sense of optimism that achieves goals that makes everything worthwhile. In the meantime, take good care of you. Sending you wonderful healing hugs. Thank you for your blog. It is a wonderful lifeline.

    April 17, 2018/Reply
  21. v says:

    Thinking about you. Best is yet to come. Without a doubt. xo

    April 17, 2018/Reply
  22. Jess says:

    Wow, this hit home. I was in a very similar position about 5 years ago. I was in a job that “destroyed my self-worth and bruised my spirit,” where I lost a ton of weight, went on antidepressants, and cried constantly. I left that job, took two weeks off (in retrospect, not nearly enough), and jumped into what was by all accounts my dream job and everything I’d been working toward. That job “destroyed my self-worth and bruised my spirit”in a completely different way. I stayed in both of these jobs for 2 years, thinking that I was the problem, and that I couldn’t hack it, and not that the various things I dealt with (which I, too, am still really wont to discuss with people).

    I started a new job 2 years ago, and while it’s not what I thought I wanted to be doing, and while it’s not always peaches and cream, I’ve gotten back to myself. A large part of this is therapy, and having a boss that allows the time to do that, as well as respects personal and professional boundaries. And a lot of it was just the time. I needed time away from terrible job #1 to get my self worth back, and I didn’t take it. Then I jumped into something else that wrecked what was left of me. And when you’re a type-A overachiever, it feels like all of this is harder, and you can’t tell anyone what you’re going through, because that’s “not who you are.”

    I feel like I’m rambling, but this is all to say that there are so many more of us who have been through what you’ve been through. And reading your story today hurt my heart, because I’ve been where you are, but also gave me comfort, because it made me feel less alone. So, thank you. And thank you for all you do with your blog.

    DC is waiting for you, and there’s a whole group of us who can’t wait to have you back in our fair city.

    April 17, 2018/Reply
  23. N says:

    Long time reader, infrequent commenter here, but I just wanted to chime in and say how much I admire and respect your decision to take a mental health break and to spend some time really figuring out where to go next. I am just coming out of my own self-imposed mental health break after leaving a very toxic job in December (the third in a series of toxic-for-different reasons jobs I’ve had over the previous 7ish years and after being bribed to stay 8 weeks longer than I wanted to or should have). Its a big move that I’ve learned can be incredibly confusing to other people, especially when you do a good job of appearing to have it all together in public.

    The most frustrating part of this for me has been other people’s desire to help without really understanding what I want or need. I appreciate that people want to be helpful, but I have had a really hard time responding to all of the various suggestions from EVERYONE about where I should look (including my OB at my annual appointment?!?!). I know they mean well, but literally nobody had any ideas I hadn’t already thought of, considered, pursued, and often had already been repeatedly rejected from.

    After about 3 months of doing nothing but sleeping, going on walks, yoga, and honestly, generally doing nothing, I recently started a part time job with a nonprofit that makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for the world but isn’t necessarily my life’s passion. Its great though – I have purpose and structure in my days, but also have time to walk the dog during daylight hours. People are surprised that I took a job that’s “below me” in their view, but its exactly what I need right now, and its not forever.

    This is all to say that I wish you well in your journey and that you should listen to your gut about how long you need to take a break for, where you really want to be, and what you want your actual life to look like. It might not be what you expect or what your younger self would have wanted, but if it works for you right now, then its the right choice.

    April 18, 2018/Reply
    • K says:

      I was really close to taking my own mental health break, turns out surprise unemployment is pretty functionally similar. Everyone (in person and online) has been so kind; I’m really hoping to pay that all forward someday. And when I get the time/brain space, I plan to contact my elected officials because the unemployment insurance system is…not great.

      April 18, 2018/Reply
  24. Kate says:

    Good luck, Belle! I know you will get there with your commitment. Make sure to keep the stable, positive thing in your life close though (Kyle and the two dogs).

    April 18, 2018/Reply
  25. Amy says:

    Congratulations on figuring out something that takes some of us (me) decades more to work out. Based upon your experience, someone will be very lucky to hire you. I’m sure that having the support of Kyle is also a tremendous boost. Cheers to you and your new adventure!

    April 18, 2018/Reply
  26. Pam says:

    You go girl!
    D.C. Is indeed a great place and I hope you find your way back.
    So many places to raise your dogs within the district.
    Career wise, the Hill is a hard place. Not that I worked there but have worked in journalism and other highly demand not well paid jobs. Traveling sucks. Try to find a good in between that is interesting, fun environments but not carry the weight of the world. It is a compromise but I bet it will be worth it.

    April 19, 2018/Reply
  27. Anonymous says:

    Abra,

    Thank you for opening up about the challenges you are facing and decisions that lay ahead. After nine years working in DC, I am drained, burnt out, and at what feels like a six-way crossroad in my career. Not knowing what’s next has me dealing with depression and anxiety, and the lows are not easy to say the least. Being in “limbo” as you describe totally sucks, but it is so encouraging hearing this part of your story and knowing I’m not the only one sorting through something like this. Pivot or not, hope you are keeping your head up. You are brilliant and the universe needs you in the mix, inside or outside the Beltway.

    Sincerely,
    A reader since 2011 (LOVE your insights and what you continue to do with the blog!!!)

    April 22, 2018/Reply
  28. AStar says:

    I know that I am late to this party, but for the first time in a long time, reading the comments on a story have made me feel better about life and humanity. I have been recently pushed into unemployment and have been welcoming the mental break, although a huge financial blow. I started to feel bad that I could be relieved in a time of major crisis, but you all have made me feel so much better about my own situation. I am hopeful that I will also land back on my feet very soon, and show my boss where to shove it. 🙂

    Abra, thank you for this post. You have a lot of fans and supporters! I still believe wholeheartedly in the ever-cliche “everything happens for a reason” but I have no reason yet to deny it! Good luck to every woman who has posted here or is reading along like I was. We can do this and we can get through it!

    April 24, 2018/Reply