How are you, Really?
“How are you?”
A simple question that usually is followed by a polite response expressing our contentment with our daily life situation. I’ve been answering it a little differently lately: “Not so good, really. I’m completely burnt out!”
People are taken aback by this brutal honesty and many don’t know how to respond. I don’t want to make things hard on them, but I can’t stand lying to others (and myself) anymore. Regardless of peoples responses, it’s been a relief to come out in the open.
3 weeks into my sick-leave and I was still struggling to get on terms with the matter. I couldn’t accept that this is happening to me. I couldn’t accept that I’m not well. I look fine, I’m healthy…there’s nothing physically wrong with me. But I can’t help but feel guilty for being at home. Guilty for not being at work and doing my part. Guilty for not being able to communicate properly with my wife and children. Guilty for not having the motivation to workout. Guilty for…everything really.
At this point I haven’t touched any apps on my iPhone. I haven’t touched my mac. I haven’t even been watching TV…
A week or so later and I’ve finally accepted my situation. It’s a relief. I finally see some hope. I’ve been speaking to a professional that has been through this before. He is honest, empathic and I feel an immediate connection. He speaks to me of his experiences, and I speak to him about mine. We dig at what’s been going on with me recently, and also not so recently.
We decide together with my employer that it would probably be a good move to visit the office without any work pressure. It seems terrifying… the women and men I work with every day, whom I know to be good people, my friends, scare me. Or rather I’m afraid of how that first meeting will be… the guilt starts creeping back. I decide to send a mail to everyone with a few words on the situation. This relieves a lot of tension…
Walking down the hallway, shaking a little, nervous I meet a colleague. He looks at me, smiles, embraces me with a hug and says its good to see me again. Tension & nervousness disappear. Guilt has gone and I can commence to meet the rest of the gang, and speak openly about my experiences. It’s a major relief to get passed that barrier. Now I can focus on finally getting back into the groove of things.
I have spent countless hours looking outwards to find the answers to what exactly the cause of this has been. Could it have been the project deadline before the summer? Or maybe the 2 years of trying to start a sustainable business (or two)? Or maybe the combination of young children and a wife suffering from illness? Maybe all of the above? I now see the tipping point clearly, the drop that caused the water to run over.
Pointing at events past and placing blame isn’t going to help me find my way back. It’s only upon looking inwards I have discovered the path to recovery. I must take care of myself in ways I haven’t done before. I have to be realistic with my expectations and priorities. I need to make time to reflect. I need to spend time planning and setting goals. I need to be honest with myself about my true feelings.
It’s now been 12 weeks. I’m back at work 50% of the time. I have learned things about myself I wasn’t aware of before. I am vulnerable, yet stronger than ever. I look forward to share some of my experiences and learnings in the time ahead.