18 May 2016

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Plowing Through

It’s not unusual for someone to come into my office who, for a few or a great many years, was able to, as they say, keep their head down when it came to prevailing through hard times only to find themselves experiencing anxiety and/or depression later in life. Another phrase that is often used synonymously is plowing through: not letting the volume or difficulty of work — personal, professional, or both — deter someone from getting through to the next clearing in the proverbial jungle of ones life. What we don’t realize is that some of us aren’t prepared for that clearing.

What do I do with this extra free time? What do I do with all this space to be by myself? Why am I feeling so emotional even though I’ve accomplished all this stuff to get here?

We are remarkably resilient. We are capable of withstanding sustained mental and emotional hardship for long periods of time, and the more of that we’re able to see in our rear-view mirror the more we might be led to believe that we are machine-like: just feed us and give us space to move and we’ll get it done. All of it. Eventually.

And yet, when we reach a plateau where our efforts have rewarded us with a certain amount of comfort (physical, financial, or emotional freedom) we can begin to finally react to the things we had to go through to get this far. We find ourselves on the verge of tears for seemingly no reason. Somebody closes a door too loudly and we react to it as if a gun has gone off. Our patience with co-workers, friends, or loved ones isn’t as thick as it used to be.

Do this sound familiar to you? If so, you may want to sit down with someone so that you can unravel what’s going on. It’s possible you’ve compartmentalized your past into “stuff I needed to get through,” without acknowledging that there might be some things to explore about the hardships you might have experienced. It’s great to be accomplished, but sometimes it comes at a cost — other times, being accomplished means leaving people behind us (family included) who didn’t have a healthy influence.

Putting things into perspective can not only help to contextualize why you might be feeling the way you feel, but also to learn to accept yourself — the new and old you — before you continue on your journey.