By Kent Mulkey

I have a two-year gap in my resume. And I think I am finally ready to talk about it.

A few years ago, I resigned from a job because of depression and severe panic attacks. I just couldn’t manage the pressure of being the executive director of a 500-resident senior community.

It was one of the lowest points in my life. The other was the six months I did not work, mainly because I was afraid to leave the house. There were days when I struggled to get out of bed and eat something. I was ashamed, felt like a failure, and wondered if I would ever feel normal again.

I Was Not Alone

For months I tried to show the world that I was just fine. I continued to apply and interview for jobs. But when it came down to the point of an offer, I backed off and told the potential employer that I wasn’t interested any longer. The unfortunate truth was that I wasn’t ready.

Finally, I told my friends and family what was really going on. I began to get professional help from a medical doctor and a counselor. I even started to take walks … outside!

I joined a support group where I found out I was not alone. Not by a long shot. Slowly I was able to begin the long, slow climb out of the darkness. I got a job in the garden department at Lowe’s and began to feel comfortable again being around people — people I didn’t have to take care of except to point them to the right flowers and shrubs. What a relief to not have to listen to complaints, deal with plans of correction, or try to find enough staff to fill a shift.

I was finally, after 20 years of the grind, taking care of myself and my career.

Sign of Courage

Eventually, I went back to work doing what I love in caring for older adults. But I changed some things. I told potential employers that I would not agree to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I insisted on at least four weeks of vacation. I would no longer work 12 hours a day or most weekends.

People deal with tough stuff all the time. Depression, anxiety, huge losses, post-traumatic stress, and physical health conditions. Others in my life paved the way to get the help they needed but were initially, like me, too afraid to ask.

Perhaps my story can encourage you. Taking the time to look at and deal with the painful stuff in your life is a sign of courage. Help is on the way. Contact me if you would like at [email protected].

Now when I interview candidates with a large gap in their resume, I don’t make it my business to know why. I ask for no explanation. Life does not always go smoothly and evenly.

You will make it.