So Long, Working From Home!

So…. the diet and exercising have NOT been going so great lately. August just has too many birthdays for too many people who really like desserts. I mean, how is anyone supposed to say no to Dairy Queen ice cream cake anyway?? Then there’s the fact that I had to have a minor surgery and my activities are restricted until I get my stitches out in a couple weeks. It was in all caps and highlighted that I can’t even walk the dog, so I’m pretty sure tap dancing is out of the question. Of course, it makes perfect sense that I went ahead and quit exercising a few weeks before the surgery… I mean what’s the point of doing something if you know you’re just going to have to quit, right?

It’s actually amazing to me how quickly exercise became a key contributing factor towards my mental health. I went from making fun of bloggers who suggested exercise as a cure for depression to its poster child in hardly any time at all.

Let’s just pause for a minute to picture what a great poster child I would make, shall we!? I’m picturing a full size photo of myself, but if you don’t know me, feel free to picture some other forty-something, strung out mom you know. There I/she would be in a stained tank top, twenty-year old running shorts, oh-so-bright white socks and tap shoes. I/she would have a crazy happy smile on my/her face and she/I would be doing a really cool tap move. Obviously, there would be jazz hands. At the top of the poster, it would say “Exercise: the Cure for Depression.” Along the left side, the SELFY acrostic poem from my last two blog posts would be spelled out, with the “YOU Do YOU!” in extra large font at the bottom. Seriously, how hilarious would that be?

Back to reality, other than a healthy diet and exercise, my therapist recommended getting enough and a consistent amount of sleep, authentic connection with others and self-care as remedies for depression. Getting eight hours of sleep a night continues to be a challenge for me. I know I said in the last post that sleep would be the topic of my next blog post, but I am just going to have to leave that topic to wiser bloggers for now. When it comes to connection and self-care, however, I have had a major breakthrough that I am thrilled to share about!

As hard as it was to admit, what I’ve realized over the last few months is that working from home full time is just not something I am cut out for. And that’s okay. Not being well suited for working from home doesn’t mean that I am a failure. It doesn’t mean that I made a mistake in trying it. It doesn’t mean that I am a weak person with no self-control. Just because other people work from home successfully doesn’t mean it has to work for me. I have a tendency towards depression that I didn’t bring on myself or make up. It’s just part of who I am. It always has been. Being alone all day in your house may work for a lot of people, but for me, it just makes it too easy to avoid making authentic connections with others and to postpone obvious elements of self-care, like brushing your teeth and getting dressed.

I have been working from home for four years now. At first, it really was exactly what I needed. After working in a high-stress, travel-intensive position, it allowed me to take a breath and rebalance a lot of things in my life. When the isolation started to bother me, I used the extra energy I had from no longer having to travel or go into an office to find other ways to connect with others. I joined a Christian non-profit and started volunteering. I started writing. When I noticed I was letting it get later and later in the day before I would brush my teeth or get dressed, I joined a group of similarly situated women in “style challenges” to force myself to take better care of myself. Posting a picture of my daily outfit in our Facebook group motivated me for a long time to make better choices around self-care. If you had asked me two years ago how I felt about working from home, I would have told you it was the best thing since sliced bread and that I could never go back to working in an office!

Eventually though, I just got tired of all of the extra effort that seemed to be required to self-motivate to do every little thing. It was all just too much. Participating in the style challenges on a daily basis lost its appeal after the first few seasons. Without that daily Facebook selfie looming, there was no pressing need to wash my face or put on makeup. Slowly, basic self-care tasks got relegated to optional activities that may or may not occur five minutes before it was time to pick up the kids from school. Then, about a year and a half ago, we started getting the calls from my son’s teachers. The calls where they said they had “significant concerns.” All of a sudden, we were thrust into the world of pediatric neurologists, neuropsychologists and special education. Dealing with my son’s issues crowded out any mental space I had left. My lunches and volunteer activities that had previously focused on connections with other women were replaced by ARD meetings and therapy sessions.

Giving myself permission to reject working from home as something that works for me has been liberating, but it wasn’t an overnight matter. As with most things, when I prayed to God for direction, He didn’t show me a neon sign. Instead, He began working in my heart towards a slow awakening that I am still working to truly embrace and appreciate, even given the fact that starting tomorrow, I am going back to an office job.

With the help of my Christian counselor and other mentors in my life, I first just started to consider that perhaps my depression was at least in part linked to working from home and that perhaps, just perhaps, there was a middle ground between having a high-intensity job and working from home full time. Once I allowed myself to even just consider these possibilities, I was able to open myself up to an opportunity that I truly believe God put in front of me.

At each step along the way, I was pretty sure the door was going to be slammed shut, but with God’s and others’ help, I summoned the strength to just take the next step in faith and trust God with the outcome. First, I followed up on a couple leads, including an email I’d received from someone I used to work with. I asked if the company he was recruiting me for happened to have any positions where you could work-from-home part time, or where you could perhaps have flexible working hours. It turns out the company doesn’t support regular working from home, but it’s not a problem for me to leave at 3pm every day. Given that the office is 2.5 miles away from my house, this would still allow me to pick up the kids almost right after school gets out. I think I could still have the work life balance that I’m striving for. Then, I just moved forward one step at a time through the very lengthy interview and offer process. One step at a time, one detail at a time, things fell into place in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. In the end, God came pretty close to delivering a neon sign that I should take this job.

I am very excited about starting my new job tomorrow for many reasons, not just that I will be forced to brush my teeth in the morning and actually look other adults in the eye throughout the day, but truth be told, I can’t take those little things for granted. And thanks be to God, I don’t have to.