Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Depression Post #2: Recently . . .

In yesterday’s post, I talked about my struggle with depression and anxiety and the ways in which I have been able to keep both conditions-- for the most part--in check.  I also alluded to the fact that I have been having a rough go of it the last few months and promised to discuss these challenges in more detail today.

Many of the challenges that I have experienced are, in large part, connected to my having a Type-A personality.  I’m a notorious workaholic who likes to take charge and organize everything; I’m conscientious, organized, and goal driven.  When you have a project that you need to see though, I’m the person to call.  While these qualities are all well and good in the workplace, they have a major downside for me personally.

First of all, I have absolutely no patience for laziness, ambivalence, or anyone who doesn’t work as hard or to the same level as me.  As a result, I take on more than my fair share of a project so it’s “done right.”  Then, because I have been doing everything, I feel taken advantage of because I have been doing everything.  When, as it inevitably happens, someone (or someones) become critical of me or the work I have done, I become deeply hurt and resentful of the critique . . . and I break down.

The past few months, I have taken on the challenge of planning two big school events.  While I have had lots of administrative support, it’s been a challenge to corral all of the kid’s ideas and plan events that are both affordable and obtainable.  Moral and financial support aside, I have been putting these events together by myself; anyone who has ever managed student groups and budgets simultaneously can speak to the difficulty of this task and the mercuriality of teenagers.  Suffice it to say, about a week ago, I was at the end of a very frayed rope when a handful of snotty remarks made me snap.  I lived a teacher’s worst nightmare: I started crying in the middle of class-- a torrent of crocodile tears that took several minutes and some pep-talking to pull me out of.  Luckily, I had a regularly scheduled therapist appointment that evening and was able to get slowly back on the right track.

The problem with being a Type-A personality, the problem with being a highly-motivated perfectionist in general, my therapist told me is that you give too much of yourself and others aren’t inclined to return the efforts.  When you keep taking on projects and become the person that everyone relies on, you are the person that EVERYONE relies on.  There is only so much one person can take on before, like me, they begin to feel badly done by and resentful.

At my wit’s end, my only course of action, my therapist told me, was the delegate tasks and not take on any additional project or task unless they are personally enjoyable to me.  In my instance, the key to successful delegation is to pass the task to someone who is capable and then divorce myself from the task; I can’t be overly critical of how the task is completed (if its to my specifications or not) because I gave it to someone else to do.

Over the past two weeks, this is exactly what I have done.  What tasks I have taken on have only been ones that are personally enjoyable for me, tie into my strengths, and come with some concessions that make the project less taxing on me personally.

While I still don’t feel as though I am back to “fighting shape,” I don’t feel as taken advantage of either.  Though it’s difficult to say “no” or to pass a task off to someone else, it’s important to know your personal limitations and to respect them.  When you don’t observe your own boundaries, you cannot expect anyone else to observe them either.

In my own case the desire to have everything done PERFECTLY often overtakes my need to take care of my basic needs (eating right, getting enough sleep, remembering to take medicine, remembering to take a bath, etc.).  To keep the two in balance (perfectionism and simple life functions) isn’t simply a matter of “living my best life” Oprah-style, it’s about the necessity of living PERIOD.

When you’re completely spent-- exhausted from project after project-- you of no use to anyone, including yourself.  Certainly, this is a lesson that I have had to learn (and relearn) the hard way.



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