Taking stress leave

It’s happened. I’ve snapped. All work and no play make Geoff go crazy.

Three weeks ago, I left Evans Hunt’s office a broken man. A comment made in a meeting caused me to blurt four non-profane words. This brought me a tirade from someone I had previously respected, but someone irritated with how I was doing my job.

I was already tired, mentally exhausted from a previous project, and my state — regarded as “moodiness” by others — had become such that even minor things sent my blood boiling.

I’d already been threatened with being packaged out, which had only added to my stress and dismay. Years of effort, leadership, ownership, and loyalty were null and void, the responsibility for the mistakes that had caused things to go wrong effectively forgot, and the sole accountability for my behaviour were laid on my shoulders.

You’ve asked your four year-old child to clean their room. At that age, a child doesn’t see the advantage to carrying a few things at a time, and making repeat trips; they try to pick up everything in one go. It’s a huge armful, more than they can manage if they move. So with every step, a toy or two falls out. They stop, and carefully pick the toys back up. Every time, they get a little more frustrated. And, finally, they stumble or trip, and the toys go flying all at once.

That’s what happened to me.

I left because I could no longer handle the crap. I quickly became an emotional wreck. Alex abandoned her geocache quest to check on me, but I was in no state to even attempt to explain. I couldn’t get the voices — the accusations — out of my head.

I’d failed. I’d failed the project, my coworkers, my company, my family, my children, my wife, and myself.

The next morning, Dr. Emma, without a blink, handed me a two-week absence, and a prescription for Citalopram and Zopiclone. I started that evening.

Immediately, I was told that this would take time, weeks if not months, to sort out. It was a mess in my head. I couldn’t think clearly, my memory was laser-focused on all the bad things, I couldn’t concentrate, or even read. Things I loved doing didn’t register at all.

It took nearly a week to finally confide in Alex, in detail. It was perhaps the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do: admit to the person whom I’d pledged my life to support and protect, whom drove the purpose of my life for nearly a decade, that I was weak and incapable.

Alex’s response was to show me the bows we took nearly ten years ago, where we both had admitted that we might cause each other pain, though it is not our intent. Then she told me that we — the royal ‘we’, as in our family — would figure this out. We would get through this. We would endure.

Since then, I have tried to do the one thing I’ve not been able to do in twenty-ish years: relax. I’ve never truly relaxed. My days are busy, my evenings are busy, my weekends are busy, my vacations are busy. I have trouble not doing things.

As proof, our yard has never looked so good this early in the year. I’ve spent hours digging up gardens, pulling weeds, planting seeds and sprouts, mowing lawns, and watering. I’ve cleaned and reorganized the shed. Hung the hammock (though it needs a better hanging position). Tried to wipe out the ants trying to take over the front walk.

I’ve seen Dr. Emma three times. I’ve had a physical, complete with blood tests (it confirmed that my Nov-Mar diet of beer and pizza pretty much did a number on me, though only my LDL was out of whack). I’ve seen Patricia, my therapist, three times (including today). I’ve seen a registered nurse, Greta(?) to help me with my eating habits. I’ve been referred to a psychologist, but I don’t know when that’ll be.

I still feel constantly tired. Soccer nearly killed me on Monday. Not looking forward to tonight. It’s hard clearing my mind. I’m always clenching my jaw (and thus, grinding my teeth).

I just need to find my future. Just don’t know what it is yet.

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