I wrote what’s below at 10:00 pm on day-2 of our recent beach vacation (also 2 days after completing the acquisition of MFD). I went back-and-forth on whether or not to publish this article. Perhaps it would be best served as just a personal exercise for me getting some of these thoughts out of my head and onto the page, but… Anxiety has been something I’ve dealt with indirectly for a decent amount of time, and although this was my first real bout, many people we know have gone toe-to-toe with the anxiety foe at one time or another. If you can relate, maybe this will speak to you. If not, I’ll be back to the financial posts and uplifting (attempting) humorous posts next week. As always, thanks for being here!
(ps- it takes a couple paragraphs for me to find some traction. Bear with me)
There always seems to be a moment – which seems like an eternity – during the tough times when we have the feeling, “This terrible situation is the new normal and things will never get better.” It’s happened to me, it’s happened to us, and it’s happened to many of our friends.
- “The 4th trimester” after Clara was born… Hormones and new challenges eventually faded into memory.
- We each took our turns through grad school = minimal income for the family. We made a budget and did the best we could to minimize debt and reduce expenses.
- Our close friend’s battle with cancer and the many challenges that process presented to her and their family. She fought HARD, they adapted, and they’re starting to come out the other side with a new perspective on life.
- Battles with anxiety – yeah, I’ll go there… In just a few paragraphs.
In these times I always try to remind the individual, “Hey [friend], this illness/battle with anxiety/era of being broke is not going to last forever. It has been this way for a few days/weeks/months but we (you) have a plan and this will not last forever. We’ll come out on the other side and eventually, this will all be just a memory.” It sounds so easy when it’s coming out of my mouth, but when the words are passing back through my ears, it’s from a much different perspective. At that point, it’s not so easy to hear. There are 2 main reasons why:
1) I’ve had reminders throughout my life that reinforce the fact that life is precious and no one knows how much time we have left. Per that fact, I’m making the most of my time and living this life to the fullest. Because of this, it’s difficult to have the perspective to see months or years into the future when this current valley will eventually subside. Wasting that time would be an insult to those without the same good fortune, so I’ll fight that urge.
2) I don’t know for certain that these situations will always work out in our favor. We’ll analyze every angle possible and put our family in the best possible situation to succeed, but we’re limited in knowledge, external factors, and crazy things like random chance. The unknown can be terrifying, so I’ll choose to work harder, learn more, and be in the best shape possible because that will give us the best advantage to make it.
I have sooo many memories from my childhood where the main theme is, “I can’t wait to grow up because ____!” …I’ll get to drive, drink (not at the same time), buy a house, get a real job, have a family, take that family on vacations, and basically just make my own choices. It’ll be amazing! FREEDOM!!!
Wait… I have to pay bills, including things I don’t want but need desperately (life insurance, car insurance, liability insurance (sorry insurance salesman friends), interest on our mortgage and student loans, etc…). Then I eventually realized that ‘getting’ to make all of those decisions can be exhausting and overwhelming. We’ll add in the residual fears as well – of the unknown, will this decision end up being the right one, will we have to go bankrupt because of that move we just made, are we being good parents and putting our daughter in the best situations to grow…?
Situations like these can be overwhelming and emotionally draining to the point of physical exhaustion. Even someone that trains their body and mind to be in stressful situations can’t help sometimes but be inundated in anxiety-inducing experiences.
I’ll let go of the generalities above and just so we’re clear, what’s below is my own experience over the last few months:
As you probably know, we’ve recently purchased a dental practice. What you may or may not know is that buying a dental practice can be a giant pain in the ___. I don’t know how dentists do it without someone to manage the business side of the practice and even then, the whole thing can become too much to deal with. Our current situation is that Monica (my wife – our doctor) handles 100% of the clinical decisions (obviously, even though sometimes I pretend to be knowledgeable because I quizzed her for a few tests in dental school… I had flash cards to reference) and crosses over to make significant calls regarding business/staffing/procedural issues throughout the office. I come in to help in those areas and manage payroll, make financial opinions, take meetings, and develop and handle everything else she doesn’t want to deal with (it just so happens I love most of that stuff).
Maybe someday this Practice Manager role will be my full-time gig, but for now, it’s on evenings and weekends. With that in mind, my daily schedule looked pretty similar to what’s below for the last 7 months:
0515 – wake up and don my workout attire
0530-0602 – workout
0603-0659 – clean up and commute
0700-1530 – full-time forensic scientist gig
1531-1559 – commute
1600-2030 – dad/husband mode activated
2030-2230 – be a practice manager
2230-2235 – me time
2235-0515 – sleep
I was pretty proud of myself for handling this schedule so well for the first 4-5 months. We had some challenges thrown at us in that timeframe and they were all handled pretty well, all things considered. It’s months 5.5-7 that this article is more concerned about.
Chest pains, weird muscle soreness, a constant flow of information through my mind at all times of the day with taking calls for the practice from lawyers, accountants, brokers, the seller, landlord(s), all the while thinking, “Will we make enough money to actually buy this practice before we run out of cash or time?” all had me wondering in the back of my mind – will this situation eventually break me?
If you know me, you know I don’t lack self-confidence or optimism, so the admittance of this legit concern is kind of a big deal.
Even with the grueling schedule outlined above, I found myself not falling asleep some nights until the midnight hour or later. I had too many things to think about and even more that needed to be done. The lack of sleep only continued to feed into the growing anxiety of rational fears.
I forgot people’s names (I never do that), was sweating all day (in the air conditioning), and would gaze into nothingness when Monica and I were in mid-conversation (I make a conscious effort to listen to the woman (what movie, everyone??? White men can’t jump) because some things in life cannot be undone and I won’t be that guy). Billy didn’t listen to the woman and where did that get him?? (I’ll stop with the great sports movie references now – yes, that is a great movie).
There is no – “Next thing I know, I found myself waking up in the ER moment,” portion of this story, but I’d be lying to say I didn’t wonder when that moment would come. Looking back on it now, from the other side, I wonder how much longer it could’ve lasted? Months? Weeks? Days? I’d also like to write about how working out daily put my mind at ease in the difficult period, but I have no quantifiable data to cite. There would also be a good moral to the story paragraph if I told you about how my disciplined schedule kept me focused on what needed to get done exactly when it needed to get done, but maybe it did and maybe it didn’t.
I think that all of these things gave me the ability to manage my anxiety for the last 7 months. Working out kept me in decent physical shape and gave me a half hour every day to recharge my mind while focusing only on picking up heavy things and putting them down. Keeping the strict discipline to stay on schedule kept my To-Do list from becoming too insurmountable at any point. And maybe heeding my own advice at times gave me just enough perspective to realize, “This too shall pass.” That dad/husband mode time period definitely kept me sane in the toughest days – if I was able to keep the other parts of my day from bleeding into that time-block, that is.
What I do know is that we bought the practice on a Friday then immediately went home, packed, and left for a week to the beach. No real job, no part-time practice manager job, and no blogging (other than this article), and I feel better in this moment than I have at any point this year (it’s July). Clara may be giving her mother additional anxiety when she heads a little too far out into the ocean with her father, but otherwise, we’re having the time we all needed so desperately. Sure, there are unknowns ahead – a multitude, in fact. But we’ve got a plan to put ourselves in the best possible situation to succeed while savoring every moment, and at this point, that’s good enough for me.
For the obligatory “moral of the story” closing, I’ll say: Moral of the story is we all need more vacations!!
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