I started a data entry job a short while ago. Then we found out that my wife’s brother has terminal cancer. Then I got really sick for several days, and I’ve been in a lot of physical pain because of a nerve problem in my lower-lower back.
Isn’t it funny how fast things can change?
THIS IS NOT WHERE I THOUGHT I’D BE RIGHT NOW
Due to the regular stress and overwhelm at home, Bosco’s diagnosis, and being sick, I had to quit working after only six days. Don’t get me wrong, we could really use the money, and I do enjoy the work. But it was just too much for me to handle. It turns out the data entry project I was working on was much more difficult for me than the one I worked on last year. I came home frustrated and crying one night because I felt incompetent.
Had it been a simpler project, I may very well have stayed on. At least it wouldn’t have added to my stress level. But my wife and mother-in-law need me right now. The company I was working for does know that I’m available for the next project, which starts in May.
On the other hand, just this week, I was offered a job as a private tennis instructor for the city I live in, which also starts in May. It’s good pay, my own schedule (in conjunction with the students), and minimal travel. Just what a person wants in a job!
I love tennis more than anything in the world. In fact, the tennis court is my Happy Place. No, really. I have this memory of lying down on a court in California on a beautiful, sunny day, soaking up both the warmth of the court and the warmth of the sun. I remember thinking how peaceful I felt and how grateful I was. It was serenity.
Anyway, life can change so quickly your head spins. I mean, we all know that, but we get both pleasant and unpleasant reminders of that constantly. “The only constant is change,” right?
DEALING WITH ANY KIND OF LOSS
I think any time you have to deal with some kind of negative circumstance, you go through stages ranging from emotional upheaval to acceptance. What follows is my interpretation of The Five Stages of Grief, as defined and popularized by Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler (although I think it should be the Five Stages of Loss):
- Denial: This is when it’s all we can do to manage the day-to-day. When you experience a loss, whether it be a relationship, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or losing your life savings to some greedy Ponzi schemer, you’re probably not going to jump for joy. You start at the beginning of the process – denial. “This can’t be happening!” “I can’t (or won’t) believe this!” are things we often say to ourselves before we are able to start processing what’s happening. It’s normal.
- Anger: Yeah, I think we all know this one. Once we get through the denial and start moving through the process of understanding our new truth, we may feel angry. Maybe you’re angry with the person you think caused your loss or maybe you’re angry at the world. It’s important not to get stuck here, because anger leads to resentment, and resentment can be a killer – especially to those of us with addiction issues. Some think there is no such thing as “justifiable anger” and expect you to be able to move through this stage either quickly or skip it entirely. I disagree. Anger is a natural emotion, one that we all feel once in a while (though some more than others). The trick is to not let it get a hold of you and get stuck in its Kung-Fu grip.
- Bargaining: This is where we look for a way out, a way to make things okay again. “If only” and “What if” statements are common during this period. Unfortunately, they do not reflect reality. They are statements that we use to try to negotiate our current circumstances, only they often lead to guilt (“If only I had…”), which is never helpful and often a big lie.
- Depression: This is where we snap back to our present reality. The denial got us nowhere, anger didn’t change anything, and bargaining didn’t work. We have no choice but to look at our lives as they are and deal with it. Depression can be short-term or long-term. I know for me, I can tell a difference when my depression is caused by something concrete happening (such as death) and when it’s a more nebulous depression with no end in sight. For some people, though, the loss of a loved one can lead to a lifetime of depression. Even the loss of a job (read: loss of identity, purpose, and meaning) can lead to long-term depression. That’s what therapy and meds are for.
- Acceptance: This is where we begin to start growing again. There comes a point with every situation that you just have no choice but to accept it as truth and move on. This does not mean that you are “okay” with what has happened and will be jolly and carefree forevermore. What it does mean is that you understand that your loss has happened and that nothing is going to change that fact. It is the point where we say, “Okay, I need to move on with my life or else I’m going to be depressed/angry/in denial for the rest of my life. I don’t have to like it, but there it is.” It’s hard to argue with facts.
No one can live your life but you. We do have control over how we react to things, even if we don’t think so. The stages of loss described above notwithstanding, we will eventually move on if we take care of ourselves and let ourselves feel the emotions associated with our loss.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that there are no short-cuts. In the past when an obstacle has been presented, I’ve tried every which way to get around it. But that doesn’t work. Not for me, anyway. Maybe you’ve found a magic way to do so, but I doubt it.
I tend to picture obstacles as never-ending brick walls. In other words, there is no way around it, over it, or underneath it. The only way I can get to the other side is to go through it. I have to go through the feelings, the consequences, whatever that wall might represent, in order to see the light again. I’d rather continue to grow and learn than remain stagnant.
So, for right now, I’m doing the following things:
- I start my job as a private tennis instructor.
- I’ve let my employer know that I’m available for the data entry project.
- I’m taking care of myself physically to get over this cold or whatever it is.
- I’m staying sober.
- I’m taking care of myself emotionally by continuing my meds, going to therapy, and sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife.
- I’m trying to be supportive in any way I can for Bosco and his wife. It’s hard when you’re 1,000 miles away, but we’re all doing what we can here in Minnesota.
These are the kinds of things that will help me move through all of this. I am not stuck in the Denial, Anger, Bargaining, or Depression phases of any of this. I think I’ve accepted where my life (and that of others) is right now, which is what allows me to be helpful.
Wherever you find yourself today, know that you are not alone. And know that you are not destined to be stuck; you will find a way to move through things and continue living your life.
As always, thanks for reading. Keep it Real, folks.
This post was previously published on Depression Warrior and is republished here with permission from the author.
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