Friday, June 10, 2011

A Fading Identity

Work·a·hol·ic  [wurk-uh-haw-lik, -hol-ik]
noun: a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits

Four months ago I hit the proverbial wall. Hard. The anxiety attacks that I experienced were completely new to me, the depressive episodes a little more familiar. As I blogged about at the time, despite all evidence to the contrary, I wasn't the least bit convinced that I needed to take any time away from work. Well, perhaps a couple of days, I thought. I am deliriously grateful that my physician convinced me otherwise. I go back to work (on a gradual return to work basis) on Monday. I believe that I am ready. But it's been a hell of a journey.

I can't easily put into words how different I feel, how far I feel I have come. I know now that I can't  blame my job for where I landed. I am responsible for what happened, and I'm responsible for my recovery. You see, the thing about workaholism's just another form of addiction. And the thing about addiction's just a strategy for dealing with life when we don`t deal with our core issues.

Part of my recovery approach this past four months has been to see a lovely therapist. I started seeing her several months before my "wall smack," so she knew who/what she was dealing with by the time I fell apart. It was quite apparent to both of us that I had some issues with unresolved grief, and that I had absolutely no idea where my "off" switch was when it came to work. I knew how to work obsessively, but couldn't for the life of me figure out how to stop working, or thinking about work. I didn't know who I was when I wasn't working, or teaching, or studying or...and the list went on. I was a human "doer," who needed to learn how to

I have now figured out how not to work. I've taken the time to do some serious soul-searching, the deep, seriously self-reflexive kind of looking at myself and asking myself what I want and need, how I want to live my life. I don't want to change everything about me, because I had a lot of pretty good things going on, and I liked most things about myself. But I definitely want more of what I have found recently. Rest. Writing. Reading. Knitting. Gardening. Walking. More mindful eating. Meditation. Yoga. Balance.    

I had a pretty amazing experience this week. I was so happy to write a blog for my youngest daughter's birthday (see last post). I really wanted to find the story about Yoga Kid and the caterpillar for the post, which meant finding and going through one of my many old journals. I found the story, but was actually more blown away with another journal entry that I came across. The following excerpt from an entry that I wrote about myself twenty years ago is clear and convincing evidence that when we don't deal with our stuff, it eventually deals with us. As it did with me, in February.

October 14, 1991

I went to my psychologist's appointment, and I really liked her. She recognizes my "control" issue, and taught me two very important things about myself:

1.  I find my self-worth only in what I do, and not in who I am.
2.  I need to grieve my past.

So the freaky thing about this entry is that four months ago, my present therapist and I came to the same conclusion. A deadly form of deja vu. It`s obvious to me that one can never have too many therapists in one`s life. Sooner or later, something takes.

I`ve grieved some more of my past. And I`ve figured out my worth. It may have taken twenty years, but I`ve done a lot of the work, made the important transition to a better place.

I`ll return to work on Monday with a renewed sense of self, a new identity, and a profoundly felt intention to do things differently. I`ll be observing myself closely to ensure that I stay on track. But I won`t be the only one watching.


  1. Good luck, Dawn, keep working at it and I will do the same here. Together we will overcome.

  2. Thank you Lynda. Yes. Yes we will.