Abassynia, 2022

I’m not gonna lie. 2022 has been a tough year for me. I really struggled with my Depression and Anxiety for most of it. I’m glad to put 2022 behind me. At the same time, I feel like I am more resilient at the end of the year than I was at the beginning. There were parts of 2022 that I do/did appreciate.

Note: see “M*A*S*H” Abyssinia, Henry (TV Episode 1975) – IMDb for context on the title of this post. The sentiment doesn’t fit super well, but the reference was just too much for me to pass up.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

While I think this phrase is a gross oversimplification, and is sometimes outright bullshit, I do think it holds SOME truth. We ARE undeniably shaped and impacted by our experiences. Sometimes the result is some kind of growth (I’m not referring to some random protuberance that appears on someone’s face here) and we end up better for it. But sometimes experiences just suck and that’s all there is to it.

Everything happens for a reason?

This is a phrase that I find to be a common one people of faith use when someone they know is going through some shit. The reason is usually that God has placed this challenge in their life to help them grow or to test them in some way. While their intentions may be good, I find this phrase/idea to be decidedly unhelpful drivel.

Let me explain.

I’m a recovering Catholic. I still consider myself a Christian; though I don’t use my Christianity as a weapon or a stamp to mark people as “other” or “less than” like so many Christians do nowadays. That shit infuriates me. I place more blame for this on leaders in organized religious groups than on the individuals, though. While religious faith (not just Christianity, but all of them) can help people find meaning and even some peace in their lives, I firmly believe that religious faith is also an amazingly convenient means for people with power to manipulate people without power. Way too often, faith is the hilt people offer to religious leaders to allow themselves to be turned into instruments of harm.

No. there is too much. Let me sum up.

I believe, when you boil things down to the most basic level, EVERYTHING happens for some combination of four reasons:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Human decisions

There are undeniably folks who will take issue with my excluding “the will of God or some other deity/deities” in this list. That’s fine. I’m not attacking anyone here. Just sharing what I believe. To me, the idea of a god taking discrete manual actions to affect each and every person’s life is to label that god as a moron.

Even a junior-level database administrator knows that relying on manual tasks to maintain even a hundred databases (let alone billions) is a guaranteed path to failure. So they use automation and scripts to allow their efforts to scale. Even if one’s response is that an all-knowing god IS capable of doing all this manually, why would they do their work in the least efficient way possible? Are junior-level database administrators smarter than an all-knowing god? Really?

I jumped up on my soapbox a bit here, huh? I hadn’t intended to when I started this post. But I’m keeping it in so that this post is an accurate reflection of what’s going through my head right now. Again, not meant to attack anyone.

A look back at 2022

I feel like some sort of retrospective of accomplishments from 2022 would be valuable for me, so here goes.

  • While I did not post often, I did continue to blog about my experiences with mental health challenges. Since this is a personal blog, I don’t pressure myself to post with any particular schedule. I post when I am able. I don’t post when I am not. And either is OK.
  • I had a fantastic year at work. I’m in my dream job at Microsoft where I help the folks who produce Power BI and related products and services understand the goals, priorities, and challenges of some of the world’s largest organizations. Feedback from all sides was that I went above and beyond even though I was just doing the job the way I felt it should be done. That feels great and keeps Impostor Syndrome on the sidelines way more often than not.
  • I had the courage to take a leave of absence/medical leave from work when I realized that I just COULD NOT get myself well AND do my job at the same time. I am fortunate to have this as an option, both from a benefits/financial perspective, as well as from the standpoint of a compassionate and supportive manager and team.
  • Back in July, I started sharing daily check-ins on how I am feeling/doing each day. See #MentalHealthDailyCheckin » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) for more on this effort. I started just posting on Twitter and eventually added LinkedIn and Instagram as well. I’ve only missed a couple of days, which greatly exceeds my own expectations. Since I have never had the discipline for keeping a journal, this has been a very low-effort way to reap some of the benefits that others get from journaling. Also, the feedback from this effort has been amazing. The outpouring of support and appreciation for my openness has overwhelmed me with joy and love from friends, family, coworkers, even total strangers.
  • It took a bit longer than expected, but I did finally get my youngest daughter to say, “tits.” See There are no “bad” words » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) for more on this noble pursuit.
  • I managed to make it through my first ever experience in which suicide felt like a really good option. See Cat Pee, Suicide, and Bananagrams » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) for more on this.
  • I made the incredibly difficult decision to surrender 3 of our cats in order to do what I needed for my own mental health even though it was a very unpopular choice for my family. See Surrendering Cats: Pre-game Show » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) and Surrendering Cats: Post-game Show » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) for more on this.
  • For the first time, I shared that I am the child of a sex offender, around which a lot of my childhood trauma revolved. See John Cazale and Inmate 19250 » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) and Overcoming Victimpostor Syndrome » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com) for more on this.

Wrapping up

I made some really difficult choices this year. On the whole, I feel like I made the right ones. I’m still here. That’s a big one. I’m hoping 2023 is less… interesting for me. I can’t imagine having another year so jammed up with strife, tribulations, bullshit, drama, and so forth right after this one. I made it through 2022, and I’m proud of that, but 2023, take it a little easier on me, yeah?

Throwing Impostor Syndrome a Bone

What I do

I am a member of a Customer Advisory Team (CAT) at Microsoft. CATs at Microsoft are branches of product engineering teams that focus on making sure large enterprises can achieve their goals using the product we focus on. We also help to make sure our colleagues who work directly on the product itself understand the goals and priorities of these large enterprise customers. Basically, think of some of the largest companies in the world… yeah. We help them.

How I tend to do it

The quality of my work tends to be high. Even just in the past few weeks, I have received four emails in which someone was praising the quality of my work and the leadership I show while getting that work done. People who shirk responsibilities and perform poorly don’t get to where I am. I say this not to put myself on a pedestal, but rather, so that when I tell you my brain decided on Friday that I was on the verge of being fired, you will understand my full meaning.

[Morgan Freeman narrator voiceover]: Mark was not on the verge of being fired. Not even close.

Not this time

On Friday, I received some negative feedback on my performance of one of the projects I was working on. Basically, I did not do a great job in confirming my understanding of the scope of the project. The result is that the work I have already done falls short of what was expected. And this will cause delay in my being able to deliver the output.

With my new understanding of the scope, there is no way to get it done on the original timeline my manager and I agreed upon. My manager had checked in with me several times offering clarity, etc., and each time I was so certain I knew what needed to be done I always said No Thanks. In short, I had several chances to proactively prevent this delay and didn’t take advantage of them. Instead, I let my assumptions wear the disguise of certainty instead of actually seeking that certainty.



Enter Impostor Syndrome

This is when my Depression decided to call its cousin, Impostor Syndrome, to come and kick me in the junk. The fact that my work is consistently excellent didn’t matter. All that mattered was that one negative bit of feedback and the knowledge that I had let my manager down by failing to properly communicate. I had failed. And I was going to be fired because my manager would finally see through my disguise and learn the awful truth that I didn’t belong on the team… and never did. Impostor Syndrome was right all along.

[Morgan Freeman narrator voiceover]: The Impostor Syndrome was not right. Mark just had a great learning experience.

What I really want to share with this post is how I dealt with this bout of Impostor Syndrome. And it is only because of the therapy “work” I have done in the past few years that I was able to deal with it so effectively. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was feasible. The much healthier relationship I have with emotion (more on that in a future post) was essential in my rising to the challenge.

Friday evening, I worked late trying to do at least a part of this project in the way that my manager had originally expected. But I was still feeling the panic of the Impostor Syndrome telling me I had to make sure to get it right or I was going to have to sell a kidney to pay the mortgage. What do kidneys go for nowadays? The quality of my work was still not where it needed to be. So, I stopped working on it.

A bone

I decided that I would give my Impostor Syndrome some time to do its thing. It was like it had created a surge of energy, and that energy had to go somewhere. I could work really hard to suppress it, possibly causing a nice ulcer or something, or I could let it vent. I went with option B: letting it vent. It is similar to elementary school children needing recess.

I gave Impostor Syndrome Saturday. On Saturday, I did no work on this at all. I just let my Impostor Syndrome run free for a bit. I ran some errands, watched some TV with my wife and otherwise relaxed. I had decided that I would start in on Sunday to have my plan for how I would move forward with the project with the appropriate expectations on mind. I gave it one day. Then I would take the feedback as a learning experience: Own it. Learn from it. Move on.

It worked

It is Sunday afternoon as I write this. This morning, I did just as I said I would. I put Impostor Syndrome away and got some quality work done on this project that I am happy to show my manager tomorrow. I am in a much better place with all of this and excited to keep working on this project with this fresh clarity of what is expected. And my manager’s vision for this project is so much cooler than the one I was executing on.

I want to close that I am super fortunate to have a manager that was able to clearly communicate how I had fallen short of expectations. And, in good faith, gave me time to come up with the plan for getting it right. Sure. I will need to set a new deadline, but my manager approached this situation more as a mentor. And that was huge.


Impostor Syndrome is not easy to deal with. But at least for me, particularly in this one experience, giving into it a little bit, throwing it a bone, really help me to overcome it. While this means of overcoming Impostor Syndrome when I screw up is still hard, it is not complicated: Own it. Learn from it. Move on.