A few weeks ago, I scared myself. For the first time in my life, the borderline symptoms that occasionally wreak havoc in my personal life carried over into work. My work situation is far from awful but now it is different. Gone are the days of pranks, inside jokes, and banter. Instead, there is an increased level of responsibility and underlying fear.
That afternoon, I felt the frightening rage build. I stomped in and out of my office, threw myself into my chair, and flung a handful of pens across the room. For an awful five seconds, I considered destroying my office—and my stellar professional reputation. I refocused on my DBT distress tolerance strategies and let the moment pass. In therapy, I expressed my fear that my symptoms were now being exacerbated by the one area of my life in which I have always had control. A week later, I had a similar incident in which I slammed a clipboard onto my desk. That night at group, I wept and said the time had come to voice my anger and concerns. I know too well what can happen if I don’t express my negative feelings. I know too well how quickly I can go from being compassionate, strong, and capable to cruel, weak, and incapable of maintaining civil communication. And so I spoke out. In my own gentle way, I aired my grievances and resumed control of myself and the situation.
I can’t change ineffective co-workers or lessen the workload expected of me. But I can change how I handle these difficulties. I can be the leader so many loved ones and mentors believe me to be. This week was exhausting, but no longer emotionally draining or scary. More importantly, I am aspiring to see the effectiveness and stability that has made me excel at work begin to permeate my entire life. I deserve that. I can make that happen.