#66: Ebb and flow

#66: Ebb and flow

This week’s update includes my thoughts on caring for sick family while trying to figure out my new job, a validating reminder that I have made a good choice, and balancing needing and giving help.

These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.

Something hard

This week, my family (along with the rest of the world it seems) was pretty sick. When my wife is sick, that is definitely the hardest. I need to adjust my schedule, and fill a totally different role during the day for our seven kids. That can be hard for me at the best of times, but when people are sick and circumstances are less than ideal, it is extremely challenging.

And at the same time, it’s easier for me to rise up to the challenge of a clear crisis. Parenting alone when my wife is gone or busy or needs a break is one thing. Taking over everything is something else altogether.

It’s clear that the biggest struggle for me is uncertainty. When there is a crisis, the uncertainty is removed. The needed course of action is clear, and all that remains is execution. And that is something I can do.

One of the hardest parts of dealing with the sick family this week, even with the certainty of knowing what I need to do, is that I just started my new job last week. Instead of having a clear role at O.C. Tanner, I am trying to figure out what work life will be with Factor. How do I best contribute? What will be offering? As of now, all we really know with our six-person startup is that we want to help high schoolers figure out what to be and do next. So really, the struggle here again is uncertainty.

There is also the difficulty of the sense of responsibility I feel to contribute meaningfully. It’s hard for me to start full-time on this, and then almost immediately not be able to give my full time and attention. There is a part of me that knows my team is understanding and compassionate. And there is a part of me that doesn’t care about that. Clearly, I am a failure because I am not pulling my weight.

Acknowledging those difficult emotions is key to being able to sit with them and process them in a healthy way. Life will not always be this way. Change will come.

Something good

I had a meeting with a friend from O.C. Tanner this week to discuss a point of transition. As we started, she asked how the new job was going. I told her that I was completely exhausted, and as a result, my OCD symptoms were flaring up. She commented that I seemed much happier than even just a few weeks ago. Hopefully as things settle in, and I’m not so overwhelmed, I can enjoy the positives more fully and not be so exhausted.

Her comment was a refreshing reminder to me. I do enjoy what I am doing. Even if it is difficult right now, and even if I am overwhelmed and afraid and anxious and exhausted, this is the right move for me. I didn’t feel unhappy before I made this change. But the uptick in my mood and demeanor that my friend noticed is a great validation for me.

Something else

Caring for sick family members this week was a great reminder to me of how our needs and capacity ebb and flow. There are times when we are the ones that need comfort and care. And there are times when we are able to provide that to others.

It is important to not get stuck in either mindset. Nothing is going to last forever. When we are needing more help, it is easy to feel like we are not enough, and never will be. But this is simply not true.

Another aspect of this for me was that I have not been doing well myself. Physically I’ve been fine, but mentally and emotionally, not so much. I have been symptomatic. I have been struggling. I wrote recently about just how hard things have been over the past little while. My situation has improved, but I don’t feel completely like myself yet.

And yet, even though I am having a hard time, I can provide help and service to others. I can reach out and improve someone else’s life. And when I do that, it is easier to forget about my own problems.

Sometimes, my own situation prevents me from offering the care that I want to. But often, I have hidden reserves that I can tap into and find ways to lift others.

Wrap up

Most likely, you are struggling with something right now. And you also probably have people in your life that clearly need help and assistance. May we find the capacity to reach out to those around us. May we also acknowledge the help and support that we need and have the courage to seek and accept it. We’re all in this together.

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