Mental health checkup

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 10, 2020, 3:30 PM | comments: 0

I've not felt good about my overall mental health this year. There are a ton of underlying reasons for that, few of which I want to talk about online. Then there's a public health crisis that you've probably heard about, which doesn't help. That said, I've got reasons to believe it's turning around.

I finally went back to my therapist for the first time since August, which is way too long. Part of the reason I backed off is because we were sending Simon to his therapist weekly for awhile, then every other week, and in both cases that's not covered by insurance. We were about ready to suspend his because we weren't confident that it was effective, and then they stopped seeing people anyway. Mine will do it remote, which is helpful.

The upside of my visit was that my therapist feels that I've been reasonably effective at using my set of tools to handle chaos. She also said that I still have to better understand when I'm giving more than I'm getting from the world (professionally, personally, etc.), because I often don't ask for what I need, and I definitely don't initiate "taking" more for myself. For example, I have a friend in DC, and it's perfectly acceptable for me to leave my darling family at home and go visit him, but I don't. I generally don't prioritize self-care or things just for me, although we're working through why that is.

We also had a good conversation about work. She suggested that jobs, especially in technology, have a lot in common with personal relationships. As she put it, they're good for "a reason, a season or for life" (though jobs are never really "for life"). Sometimes you take a job because you need to eat. Sometimes you stay in one because there's a great opportunity to exercise or develop certain skills. But other times, the situation isn't right, and you hang out because of some sense that it builds character. It's like being in an abusive relationship and feeling like you can change the other person. Self-aware and deliberate as I try to be about career development, I don't always see it. I still struggle to find that place on the pendulum between being all-in and treating work as "just a job." There's a relationship similarity there as well, where you define some portion of your self-worth by the quality of the engagement. For the last six years or so, I've leaned on the side of all-in, and it takes a toll. Now as I start again, I have to work to right-size how much of my self-worth I associate with work.

I've been struggling with anxiety in ways that I've never experienced. Part of it is that I've generally been able to reset by getting away from the routine. For me, that's going out to lunch, going to the beach, a theme park, or maybe escaping on a weekend cruise a few times a year. Obviously I can't do any of those things right now, and biking to the edges of the neighborhood doesn't cut it. On top of that, the combination of a new job, seeing Diana take on the role of teacher, and knowing that there's this thing out there that could kill my often respiratory-compromised wife, is a bit much to roll with. None of us are sleeping well here at HQ, and it's taking a toll.

I feel particularly bad for some of my coworkers living in NYC because they just don't have room to move around. Here, at least we can get out into the neighborhood and still avoid people. Good luck doing that if you live in Manhattan, where population density can be 70k people per square mile. Seeing this all through their lens gives you a different perspective.

Overall, my mental health feels better now than it did two weeks ago. I'm finding more consistent rhythms in the day, listening more to music and finding outlets for creative energy. And while no day is perfect, we have some good parenting days and it's not all bad. As I said, we've had to roll with quite a few challenges lately, some of them external, and so some of the weight comes from the sheer volume of stuff. The volume is a little lower, and that helps.

Take care of your minds, y'all.


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