In my regular weekly update, I discuss feeling like myself again, renting a private office, and supporting my wife in taking a sick day.
These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.
This is a lovely time of the year in many ways. Most of us are inclined to think more of others and find ways to see and serve them. One of the best things we can do is to check in on the mental health of those we love, because in other ways, this can be a difficult time of the year. I hope we can find an extra measure of compassion, both for others and for ourselves.
The last few weeks have been difficult for me, as I have written about in my previous updates. This week marked a turning point. On Monday, my wife told me, “You sound like yourself again.”
This is a common refrain when dealing with a difficult mental health situation. Part of the issue is that when I am struggling, I usually lose insight as well, so it is hard to recognize that the challenge is occurring. It is best recognized either in hindsight, or by someone trusted who knows me well enough to be able to tell when I am out of character. This is one reason why seeing a therapist can be so helpful.
One of my favorite activities at work has been to present on mental health with our wellness leader. Different teams and departments have heard about our presentation, and we have made our way around the company. An important point that we discuss is how to know when your struggle is serious enough to seek professional help. The rule of thumb that we give is that when you are no longer feeling or acting like yourself, it would be wise to get help.
As I come out of this episode, it is nice to look back and feel good about how I handled it. I am never going to act exactly as I want when in a crisis, but I was able to meet with my psychiatrist and therapist more often than usual. This went a long way in helping me survive and make it out of the slump.
When these periods confront you, I hope that you are able to be kind and compassionate with yourself. Seek help and be willing to accept it when it comes. Remember that it is ok to not be ok.
In therapy a few weeks ago, I discussed working from home. I have long been a staunch proponent of remote work, and felt like I had figured out how to effectively work from home, even with my large family. My therapist challenged me to be honest with myself about how working from home affected my stress levels.
As we talked more, she suggested that I consider renting an office space and getting some additional separation from the family as I work. The thought had never occurred to me before, but the more that I considered it, the more excited I got. My wife and I looked at a number of places and found an office that seemed perfect. The owner of an accounting firm had recently bought an old tattoo parlor and was renovating it and renting out the back rooms as offices, and I was able to snatch one up.
After waiting what felt to me like forever (it was about two and a half weeks), the office was ready this past week, and I was able to move in. There are still some adjustments that I want to make, such as getting a whiteboard, but overall I feel pretty well settled.
It has made such a difference to have the space and quiet to be able to focus and be truly productive. I am excited to have a small haven of peace and calm where I can work without interruption or stress.
My wife had food poisoning this week, and took a sick day. She had been up most of the night, and even though she was starting to feel better by the morning, she took the day to rest and try to recover completely. With seven children, that decision had profound implications for me.
Because of the struggles I have had over the past few weeks, I have not spent as much time with the children as I usually do. As a result, a full day alone with them came as something of a shock to my system. I was completely exhausted by the end of the day. It was a great reminder of what a difficult job my wife has staying home with the children so that I am able to work and have a career.
With my mental health condition, I often experience increased amounts of shame and self-inflicted pressure when interacting with family. Work is often easier for me to navigate and to handle emotionally. As I discuss different struggles with my therapist, a common question is how I would handle the situation at work. It is nice to remember that work can also serve as a practice ground for the most important relationships in my life.
Mental health is such an important part of all of our lives, and affects both personal and professional relationships. My hope is that as we become more comfortable acknowledging the impact that mental health challenges have on us, we can discuss them more openly and handle them together more successfully.