🧠 #109: Dropping rubber balls

Ironically, just on the day I was marveling at how well I’ve been handling everything, I was shown where I was falling apart.

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

As I’ve shared in my past few updates, my life is in some turmoil right now with many big changes. I’ve been back at O.C. Tanner for a month now, which is just long enough to understand what a massive responsibility is on my shoulders.

Last week, my therapist challenged me to do some narrative therapy—to write a letter to someone who hurt me deeply. The purpose was to say everything I would want that person to know about what they did to me. The letter was not intended for the recipient. It was just for me.

I completed my assignment Saturday evening, and was surprised at the lack of emotion I felt. I am typically pretty emotional, and anticipated that I would be sobbing as I wrote, but I ended with a grim sense of satisfaction and not distraught in any way.

Then I forgot about the exercise.

On Tuesday, I went in to the office and called my brother on the way and told him I was a little surprised at my level of functioning. There is so much stress that it didn’t seem reasonable to not have any breakdowns.

That afternoon, my boss asked if I had a minute to chat. We stepped into a room, and he told me that from a couple messages I had sent that day, he thought I might be stressed and wanted to give me some space to talk.

As I started to vent, I found that I had pent up frustration. Much more than I had thought.

My situation became clear to me. I wasn’t actually handling everything perfectly—I was just disallowing painful emotions and experiences. Once I had permission from my manager to not be doing well, I realized just how much I was struggling and how much the letter exercise had affected me.

The nice thing is that in addition to struggling, I am also doing really well. I am balancing many competing responsibilities and staying focused on the highest priorities.

My wife shared a helpful analogy with me. We are all juggling more balls than we can handle. The key is to identify which balls are rubber and which ones are glass. When things need to fall, consciously let the rubber balls drop to focus on the glass.

An underdeveloped skill of mine is recognizing and allowing my emotions. I have a long way to go. But I am blessed to have people in my life who help point the way and create space for me to explore. Let’s all try to do that for those around us.

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