“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Epicurus
I wish I could say that I came to my senses on my own and kicked workaholism to the curb after I realized how it was affecting my mental health and relationships. Wouldn't that be a cool superhero kind of success story? Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Not one bit.
The consequences of overwork are the physical exhaustion and the unconscious chipping away of your emotional and mental health. For me, I wasn't sleeping, I was scatter-brained, and worst of all. I was constantly anxious and always irritated. The more I worked, the more anxious and neurotic I became. Money quickly became something I loved yet resented. I hated the perpetual cycle I couldn't seem to get myself out of and how constantly hopeless I felt. "Just stop working so much", I told myself over and over again and again. But that's how addiction works right? I had all the intention to stop but the second a student called to reserve a lesson, I would immediately revert. In hindsight, I should have known at that time that I was just a full-blown addict and needed help. But, who would sympathize with someone who was, on the outside, sustaining a "standard quality" of life? Who would listen to someone who chose to work more? Soon, I was overwhelmed by so much anxiety, fear, and exhaustion that relief came only when I thought about how much money I'd be able to leave my family when I finally flatlined. The simple truth was, I knew that I would not be able to sustain this style of living for much longer.
When my partner moved in with me, she saw the extent of my addiction and worried endlessly. Unfortunately, I was so high-strung that whenever she brought up the obvious fact that I worked too much, I would snap, release my inner banshee and defend my habits, accuse her of trying to sabotage my plans, and criticize her for not understanding me. However horrifying it is to recall the things I said and believed at the time, it was in those moments of clarity and self-reflection after fights that I realized how delusional and a wreck I had become. My work habit was extreme, I'll admit, but it didn't seem to matter when I was still living alone. I had gotten my heart broken and remained single for several years, lived alone in a new city without friends, been away from family. No one would notice or be bothered by the damage that I was inflicting on myself as long as I plastered on a smile and did my job well. During this time, morbid thoughts of suicide occasionally popped up because I had lost a sense of connection to people and to life. However, once met my current partner, things that never used to matter started to, I could no longer hide or ignore the fact that my actions and behaviors were visibly disturbing and hurting someone I cared deeply about.
By late 2018, with my relationship in shambles, my anxiety through the roof, control slipping through my fingers, I finally decided to seek help for my anger management and overall life issues. Unfortunately, therapy in Japan is still quite archaic. I was diagnosed in less than 10 minutes with nothing more than "just stress" and immediately prescribed mood stabilizers. The visits didn't do much in offering me any other methods to deal with my problems. So I began looking elsewhere. Fortunately, at that time, I met a counselor who told me about life coaching. Until then, I had only just started following Jay Shetty because I thought he was easy on the eyes. I had never considered the possibility of hiring a life coach and was skeptical at first. But who was I to judge? I was desperate to get my life back into order and to become a better person for my partner, my family, my friends, and myself. Unfortunately, before I could do much, the deterioration of my partner's mental health became undeniable. While things at home were starting to cool down, unbeknownst to me, conditions at her dental clinic were getting worse and worse. She had long been a target of subtle workplace bullying but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her boss, the head dentist, suddenly began cutting hours and firing off employees. Spared from the cutting board, however, my partner, the newest employed hygienist, was forced to be the one to tell her seniors of their termination. The bullying got worse and when she went to her boss for help, he accused her of spinning tales. Her anxiety became so severe that she became fearful of leaving the house or of any social interactions. She cried and stayed in bed, unresponsive for days. Then, one night, she cried, "I want to die."