This week I share about learning the song of interpersonal effectiveness, realizing I have value without earning it, and iterating on an idea.
These weekly updates are an ongoing series in which I share what it is like to live with OCD in an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health, particularly in the workplace.
In a recent therapy session, my wife accompanied me, and we talked about how I can respond better in difficult situations. The kinds of situations we were discussing are when my OCD gets activated and my brain locks up. This can be with a plan change, an apparent discrepancy or inconsistency, basically anything unexpected, or a host of other things.
The problem is that when OCD is taking over, my typical symptoms are irritability and sarcasm. This causes painful issues, particularly in relationships, and so is important for me to address.
We talked through a recent situation and how I could handle it better. After an extensive discussion, my therapist role-played with me. I said exactly what I had said in the situation, she said what my wife had said, and then I was supposed to respond according to what we had just discussed.
And I froze.
My brain completely locked up when she said the words my wife had said, and I couldn’t respond at all. I knew the kind of response I was supposed to give, and I just couldn’t do it.
I became extremely frustrated at myself. This was so low-stakes, and immediately followed the discussion of how I want to handle it. And I couldn’t do it.
My therapist stopped me and reframed things in a way that helped tremendously.
She said that this was like piano lessons. She had just introduced a Rachmaninoff piece, and we established that I like the piece and am committed to learning it. And then we asked me to play it. Of course I’m not going to be able to do that yet.
The goal is to start trying out the first few measures of the right hand. And then when I can do that, I can add in the left hand. When I come back to my next therapy session, we will check in and see how I am doing. She will provide correction as needed, and coaching, and I will continue working on learning the piece.
I am supposed to make mistakes. That is how I am going to learn to play the song.
This clicked with my brain immediately, and the frustration dissipated. Gone was the expectation of immediate perfection. This is something that I will continue to work on for a long time. It matters to me, and I am committed to master it. And it’s ok that the process will be messy.
This was the first week I’ve really been able to work on my new job. As I mentioned recently, at the beginning of the year I left my nearly seven years of employment at O.C. Tanner to help launch an educational startup. More accurately, I started working full-time this month, as I’ve been doing it on the side for the past few months.
The first week I started we ran an event over the weekend, so the week was mostly a mad dash to get it ready. The second week, we had some sickness go through the family. It was bad enough that my wife needed to take some sick days, so I was home taking care of kids. The third week, I got the sickness and was mostly out of commission.
This was the fourth week, and the sickness had abated enough that I could really get started. I had a great conversation with my friend, our founder, and identified some areas in which I could start diving in. I had a couple individual interactions with other members of the team that were uplifting and connecting.
One evening, I told my wife that I had not even realized how much fear and anxiety I had been carrying all month until it lifted. As is common, I was feeling major imposter syndrome, and wondering if I had anything of value to add to the team.
Once I had a focus and direction, and had interacted with people a bit more, I realized that I do add value. That was exciting and empowering.
More importantly, I have value. I don’t have to achieve my way into that, or deserve it. It just is.
I am sure that I will go through periods of doubt and inadequacy again. That’s part of this journey of life. But hopefully I can remember this week. The fog lifts. My feelings will do what emotions do—pass.
I have been working on something that I am getting excited to share. It’s not quite ready yet, and I am continuing to iterate on it. But I’m confident that it will be useful because it has already helped me.
The period of having an idea that you are excited about but know is not ready yet can be challenging. It’s hard to be patient. It’s a difficult balance between perfecting forever and accepting good enough. There is a certain amount of uncertainty in the process that is healthy for me to sit with.
I look forward to sharing more soon.
This has been such a nice week for me in many ways. There have been difficult moments, many of which have created opportunity for repair and connection.
It is a good reminder for me of the natural duality of life. Our situation is not black & white. There are constantly positives and negatives co-existing.
The overall feeling we have often depends on the perspective we choose. Being mindful about our experiences helps allow us to be deliberate and make conscious choices. We can act and not just be acted upon.
I have value, and so do you. Just as we are.
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