🧠 #111: Caring for our selves

During a symptomatic week, I learned how to care for myself better—to view my past and future selves as someone else.

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

After a long weekend, I felt my anxiety levels spike. Weekends are often challenging for me. My routines are thrown off, sensory inputs skyrocket, and my most important responsibilities weigh heavily.

Wednesday night, I played Dominion with my wife. For a minute, I thought I had won, and then I noticed she hadn’t totaled the points from his discard pile, which resulted in her winning.

Our 14yo convinced us to play again with him. In that second round, I tried a new strategy, and enjoyed it more than I expected. At the end, I remarked, “That was fun! Even if I don’t win, I really enjoyed playing that round, which is not always the case.”

My wife piped in, “I know! That’s why I tried to let you win the first round by not counting my discard pile.”

I was aghast. “You were going to let me win!? You intentionally left your discard pile out?”

With no remorse, she replied, “You’re pretty symptomatic, and I thought I’d give you the win. It wasn’t going to be worth it to have you lose and be upset.”

I had known I was feeling more anxiety, but I hadn’t known that I was treating people differently and that it was so obvious.

The next day, I was talking with my mastermind group and shared the experience with them. It felt good to admit and own my struggle.

Someone else in the group shared his difficulty taking a few minutes for himself to process and wrap up his day before ending work. He knew it made a big difference, but kept skipping it to go be with the family or to help someone at work.

I had a flash of insight. I told him that I thought I knew what was happening, although I realized that I was probably just projecting. My analysis was that he felt selfish taking that time, and then had inner conflict at doing it because he doesn’t want to be selfish.

Instead of viewing it as being selfish, he needed to see it as a moment of care for the people that matter to him. He will be a better husband and father if he can wrap up work and be fully present with the family. And he will be a better leader and employee if he can start the next day prepared and clear on his priorities.

Another way to view it is to consider his future self as someone else worth caring for. It’s so much easier to be kind and compassionate to someone other than yourself. But if you can see your past or future self as someone else, it can be easier to extend that same kindness.

As soon as I shared that with him, I knew that I needed to work on that in my life. There are things I can do to show past Ben, especially little boy Ben, that I love him and am willing to take care of him. And I can take steps to improve future Ben’s life.

We all can do that. Let’s take better care of ourselves, all of our selves.

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