09/28/2012 02:13 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2012

The Summer of My Discontent

The days were hazy, hot and humid, but it was my mind that experienced the storms that cruel summer. Sadness filled me each morning as I wondered how I would get through my days. My nights were comprised of back-to-back dreams: me hyperventilating only to wake up hyperventilating, antlers and cows chasing me in a field, but before they reached me -- I always woke from that one in a sweaty panic.

The sunshine provided a brief reprieve during the daylight hours, in "aha, I can do this, just bask, forget my troubles" moments. The fact was, I was depressed as all hell and it seemed there was no way to shake it, despite the season. It was the summer of my discontent and I didn't blame anyone else for it but myself.

I couldn't figure out why some people could manage stress or even function optimally in its midst, while I was sinking... perpetually afraid of drowning in its narrow well.

Oh look, there's the mailman, there's the clothing catalogue, oh... red pants, orange jackets, pretty... I guess... pretty? I couldn't really conceptualize any of it. The fascination with fashion and the enjoyment that perusing a magazine usually brought -- it all eluded me that summer. My work never suffered but my enjoyment of the work was missing. Creative ideas cascaded like a waterfall but I never seemed to process the praise, and perfectionism reared its ugly head. Still, the work was stellar, better than ever. But my mind... What was I missing out on? Something, I knew.

I saw therapists and rabbis, and even spoke to life coaches. I once went with a friend to see a psychic.

Nothing could really pull me out of the big black vortex until I received the pithiest piece of advice from the most unlikely of sources -- an average Joe with no degree or training.

"Focus on others. Forget about you."

Since nothing else had worked, I decided to try it on for size, but so mired in my misery was I that I initially wondered how I would be able to accomplish this seemingly arduous task.

However, as I began to talk to people, I also began to really listen. I counseled a friend over a difficult family situation, supported another who had come out of the closet to his family, and despite being bored out of my mind at first, I helped a relative organize a party in minute-by-minute detail. In the end, her appreciation of my assistance and painstaking attention to detail won out.

Those lazy, hazy days had finally stopped dragging their feet and were sprinting to the delight of rushing endorphins. While the fall temperatures set in, my summer finally began.

For more by Shira Hirschman Weiss, click here.

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