So how’s your week been? Mine has been a bit rough. In fact, if I am honest, the last couple of months have been much more than “a bit rough”. So here’s the deal. It has been great getting all the encouraging feedback about my positive attitude and my progress getting back into running after cancer surgery and radiation treatments, but the truth of it is, my life is hard, and frankly, it’s overwhelming me at the moment.
So first, let me say, I am not writing this post looking for sympathy or to have a pity party…I’ve had more than enough of both already. I do want you to understand my frame of reference for the point of this post though, so I feel you need to understand to some degree the weight that I am under at the moment.
To start, my load at work is quite heavy at the moment. After working as a manufacturing and design engineer for 17 years I have moved into the role of Supply Chain Manager for the company I work for. With no training or experience I have found myself responsible for all purchasing, production planning and customer service for the company. My friend and mentor, who was to train me to replace him when he retired, passed away just a few months after I took on the role and since then, I have been flying solo, learning as I go and being pushed into 60+ hour work weeks more often than not.
In addition to the trouble of teaching myself a new job, the pain meds I am currently taking affect my cognitive function, making even more difficult at times to do my job as Supply Chain Leader. I desperately want to get off my pain meds, but I can’t. Despite the fact that it has been 3 months since I completed my radiation treatments, my mouth, sinuses and jaw are still healing, I am still passing bone fragments out through the skin in what is left of the roof of my mouth, and eating is still often difficult. The 3-day pain patches I am on, are highly addictive, and because I metabolize or absorb the medicine slightly faster than normal, on the third day of every patch, I’ve been going through withdrawals. So despite my wishes to get off my pain meds, they have actually increased my dosage to offset the 3rd day withdrawals.
To top that off, about two months ago, we were give a 60 day notice to move out of our rental house. My family and I now have only 7 days to find another rental home and move. So far, we have not found a home in our school district that allows dogs, can accommodate a family of six and is in our price range.
All of this, along with the normal stress of being a parent of four busy kids has been piling up on me for the past few months. A few weeks ago I began having frequent episodes of both depression and panic attacks. It finally became severe enough that I began seeing a counselor to find a way to cope with it all. After a couple of sessions, I’ve have been diagnosed with Situational Depression/Anxiety Disorder.
Now don’t get me wrong, in spite of everything I’ve written above, there are many good things going on. Our four kids are doing well in school. They are doing great in Cross Country, Marching Band and Cub Scouts too. Tania is continuing to recover from her migraine surgery, and even though there have been complications, she has’t had any migraines in a while, and she’s been able to actually get out little. I am back to running consistently. I had a clean 3 month PET scan a couple of weeks ago. Even though it’s stressful, I am back at work full time, and starting to make small progress on catching up on my backlog of work. The adjustments they made to my pain medication seems to be helping, and they have started me on a prescription for the SDAD. All great things!
So what the heck is up with me? Well, I have come to realize that this is not about work or moving, or family or cancer, but about me coping with loss: loosing a core part of my identity.
If you asked me to tell you who I am in 20 words or less, I would quote you the bio under my picture at the top of this page:
“Christ-follower, husband, father, laugher, ultra-runner, cancer survivor, cubmaster, engineer, singer/musician/writer, November beard grower, dork.”
In my mind though, a large part of my identity is in the fact that I am a “self-made man”. My dad bailed on us when I was about 12. Although, he was in and out of my life from then until he died of cancer about 8 years ago, we never had a “father-son” relationship. Although I had a great mom and grandfather that loved me and served as great role models, I was forced in a lot of ways to grow up on my own. I taught myself to ride a bike, drive a stick shift, balance a check book, change my oil/brake pads, do my taxes, paint a house…the list goes on. When I got married, the trend continued. Buying that first house, retirement plans, being a father…just me and Google and lots of prayer. As a result, over the years I have developed a fairly high opinion of my ability to adapt/learn, a confidence that I can do or learn to do anything. I truly believed that there are no challenges I couldn’t overcome. Even when I didn’t have the answer, I’ve always been confident that I could/would find it. That confidence has served me well in life, in my career and even as an ultra-marathoner.
Fast forward to present day: That confidence has been shaken. At my lowest point during radiation, I came to terms with reaching my physical limits. I saw it was okay to receive help when you need it. Even though I am used to being the one offering help, there is no shame in being on the receiving end of that at times. Eventually, that happens to everyone. This is something different. I have now reached the limit of my own self-confidence. When I lay down at night, I cannot confidently tell myself that I’m going to figure how to make it all work. I don’t believe that I will be able to come up with a solution to all these problems.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, to admit I am not who I thought I was. That I don’t have the answers. That I can’t do it all myself.
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. The fact that I now know there are limits to my “load carrying capacity” doesn’t negate anything I have accomplished. This has been an incredibly humbling experience. I am so grateful at how understanding and supportive my wife and kids have been through this. In the end, I have to accept that I can’t fix everything by myself, I can’t solve every problem on my own…and now I know I don’t have to. Instead of finding my identity only in what I’ve accomplished on my own, I’m finding it through my part in the family I am helping create, and faith in the God I serve.
We have had several family conversations about our (and my) situation. It has brought us closer together. I still don’t have the answers yet. I am not sure what we are going to do, but now I know together, me, my wife and kids will figure it out together!
‘Till next time…
Relentless. Forward. Progress.