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I Can't Tell Anyone What's Really Going On

So. I run a charity organization that helps people with anxiety and mental health issues. Hah. The irony.

Even as I write this, I can feel me starting to get into “happy smiling boss” mode, and it’s bullshit.

I don’t have friends, I have people who can do things for me or not. If I see their adding value to me or my mission, great, I try to get close and bring them in thinking they might be of value down the road. I hate feeling this way, I just want to have friends with no strings attached, but given what I do for a living, I can’t.

I run my life like I’m running assets for the CIA. I befriend people to get them to do what I want them to do, but if they can’t help, then I don’t have time for them.

I don’t want to be this way. But my job is too important for me to just blindly go back at this point. We’re saving lives over here, so anyone who can help us is important. I just hate doing this. But I love doing this.

People like me, what I’ve built, and how I’m helping, but I never really feel close to anyone. I feel like there’s a giant ledger out there and I’m putting people’s names in them, weighing their value vs. just having friends. And it sucks. But it works. And that’s the worst part.

I feel like I started a charity sometimes because I don’t feel like a good person inside. The person I was 20 years ago is not the same person I am now, and I’m better for trying to make things better out there, but at what cost to my own sanity?

Bah, I’m rambling. Do what you want with it.

Gah, the feels, dude.

I work here at HeartSupport and can relate on so many levels.

First off man, feeling like your life, your identity has become enmeshed with what you do…that’s a scary place to be…it dehumanizes you, and it becomes easy to dehumanize others…you are what you produce, in this case, you are the number of lives you change, the growth of your org, the impact, the bottomline, etc…and because that becomes the value of your life, what you can produce, you can only treat others as you treat yourself…so they become a means to an end – what can you produce for me? What is it that you can add to my cause? I have limited time, and I can only handle so many relationships in any given unit of time, so I have to maximize my output, and if you don’t hit these particular metrics, you aren’t worth my time…it’s not necessarily about you, in the sense that it’s not that you aren’t worth my time, it doesn’t really have anything to do with you, it has to do with me, I have standards I have to hit, expectations I have to meet, and if I can’t meet them through you, then I have to find another way to do it, because if I don’t hit these, then who am I really? I only am as much as I produce, and if I don’t produce, then I am nothing.

When your performance swallows your identity, your life becomes a game where every person transforms into an NPC, just people you interact with to beat the game. And your reality becomes completely solo-player. There are moments of lucidity where you pull back the VR headset and you “see” these people…they’re really people…but they feel worlds away…like they’re operating on some other plane you can’t even touch if you wanted to…or at least feel terrified that if you were to try to operate there that you’d be rejected…that they’d want you to put the headset back on and keep producing.

The fear of connecting with others is that someone will expose you as the worthless being you fear you are. If they can see you, then you can be cut down. Producing is so much safer, because you can be “too busy” for them to see you…you can be in the process of proving your worth…you have a defense against any potential attack, you are able to shield it with the excuse that “I’m working towards being worthy”.

The brutal part is that this game swallows you…the more you produce, the more expectation you have…you become known as a high producer, and then the game makes you believe that if you produce less, then you are worth less…so you constantly have to put MORE IN in order to get diminishing value of security of your own worth…and it literally squeezes the life out of you over time till you feel so entrapped that you can’t even open up to your own people…you have to find another place to tell people you don’t know I’M DROWNING AND NO ONE KNOWS BUT IF THEY DID THEY WOULDN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT.

It is a brutal trap, friend.

Not sure if you were at TwitchCon, but we had a booth there and I was running it, and I felt this same trap swallow me…I was constantly looking at peoples’ badges as I’m trying to pitch people about HeartSupport. I knew I had finite time, I know exactly how many people I’m capable of talking to within a given unit of time, so I, like you, am trying to maximize the “impact” I create within the Con…I realized that I stopped seeing “people” and I started focusing on status/badges/“importance”. I started to get down on myself if I was talking to an affiliate as a partner was walking by. I started feeling the competition with other booths. I started feeling small, unimportant…the thoughts devoured me.

On my plane home, I was journaling trying to figure out what the f–k happened. I realized that when I focused on self promotion I ultimately shoved all of my insecurities to the surface and got trapped underneath, fearing what would come of the judgment of others, the brutal evaluation of results.

But when I realized that I was living from this place of falseness…I was able to come out from under that trap. The core of your mission and mine is that people matter…every person we talk to…when we try to control the result and the outcome and measure people’s worth based on their potential value to us, we lose sight of the very reason we do what we do…and we lose ourselves in the process…because we are telling ourselves consequently, we only matter when we produce…we are only loved when we generate results.

I have a sticker on my desk that says, “The most important thing about a man is not what he does but who he becomes.” When I focus on my results, I lose myself and others. But when I focus on who I want to become, and I focus on who I’m showing up as, I am able to find the internal freedom to love myself, love others, be present, connect, and yes, even produce…but it is from an entirely different place…it’s not out of desperation to prove myself…it’s out of honesty, integrity with who I am and who I see others as. It is a much more beautiful place to live from…

And honestly dude, I don’t nail any of this…it’s something that I’m trying to learn, because I noticed my life becoming swallowed with anxiety and medicating that with porn only to have shame spur me into producing more which turned the spiral more and more. But I have found moments of clarity and freedom, and this is something I’m exercising and seeing true fruit from it.

You matter so much more than what you produce. As do I. We matter way more than that. Your heart is much more valuable than your hands.

In it with you.
-Nate

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I’ve learned a lot over the years and have gotten better about how much someone can contribute. I’ve had people who I underestimated and thought wouldn’t be worth my time then come and crush it and we’ve brought on individuals who on paper should be huge and then come in and whiff hard. I heard someone once say that you have to pretend like you’re running for mayor, where every vote counts. In our case, every person who can spread the word about us counts. We’re no $5 billion dollar St. Jude’s with unlimited reach and resources, and unless we’re out there making noise all the time, then we’re going to get lost out there.

Didn’t think I was going to run into someone who has a nearly identical issue as I did here, but…huh. Small world.

I guess I don’t know what to do. I’m good at this. I just don’t like myself sometimes.

From: theycallmetaj

I’m sorry to hear about this, I have the same struggle as a provider. I have been off work for over a year and going back soon. Has been harder to get help and support. I support you and found some provider resources online!

I’m going back soon. You can do it! But you come first! Can’t help others is you are not doing well.

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From: sarahtheproud

I don’t have much to say other than you’re doing something great. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone has bad days. It’s okay. I hope that you have better days soon friend.

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From: echoewings

Hey friend, thank you for sharing and creating a space where caretakers can remember that it gets hard for them, too. When you feel like a knowledgeable individual about something, anything from IT to Mental health, there is a point where you believe that it shouldn’t happen to you, and so you don’t address it, which is the opposite of what you teach. It’s okay, we see and love you. There isn’t anything wrong with you, self awareness is an amazing step.

I want to address too that you say that if they can’t help you don’t have time for them. If I am honest, I don’t read that like you are a bad person. You are practicing something really healthy- you are keeping positive and good people around you. What it seems like to me is it has just gotten…clinical. That you spend less time worrying about if they are good for YOU and focus on good for your org. Maybe because you believe your charity defines you. You aren’t a bad person. <3

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From: drdyaus

I feel that what we are speaking about is boundaries. Knowing that just because you are an IT professional, you are so much more then that. You do not have to focus on that aspect of yourself when you are engaged in a relationship. Knowing where one starts/stops is key. Drawing that boundary but also pulling that skillset you’ve learned across your life, is a skill that sometimes takes a good amount of time to practice. You are amazing - regardless of your work. <3

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Hey friend, first of all thank you for what you do. Regardless of how you feel about and view yourself, when it comes down to it you have a selfless heart and making a difference in the lives of others is important to you. I hope that reaching out here helps to remind you of why you started this in the first place, and that you matter regardless of feeling like everything you do is calculated and with strings attached. You deserve to have genuine connections with people. What you have to offer this world matters, but most of all you matter. Hold fast.

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Wow, this got busy in here. Thanks everyone.

I’m kind of a fan of the idea of doing good things makes you a good person, even if maybe under the surface, you…well, you’re just another human-shaped monster like everyone.

It does make me feel a smidge better thinking this as well, that as terrible as I feel about myself, that there truly are some terrible people out there doing bad things that make whatever problems I’m having pale in comparison.

I just don’t like this dual life. The one where I have to play nice on social media, not have too strong an opinion about anything, spouting fake goodness and happiness while I may feel toxic and angry. But if I let loose and go on a tirade about X, Y, and Z, suddenly, I get an article write up on a blog somewhere and our ability to help people suffers. It’s sounds cornball as hell, but I have to wear this mask all the time and it gets tiresome.

If you’ve ever watched The Sopranos, the idea of Tony Soprano going to a shrink was a no-no in mob culture, so a “mental health professional” seeking advice…as a leader, I have to project strength and professionalism (well, mostly). Inside, I’m falling apart. :slight_smile:

Hey friend. We spoke about your topic on our Twitch stream! Here’s the live video response :slight_smile: Hold Fast!

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WHOA. I was a little concerned about this going live on Twitch, good thing I didn’t use any of my actual information, but…guess I was thinking this was a little more private, but…well, good to know for the future.

That said, sounds like I struck a nerve over there, sounds like you all here at Heart Support are dealing with the same issue I am. You have something you pulling from the ground up, you’re trying desperately to keep the lights on and get support, and it turns into a very simple math equation sometimes: can this person help this organization or not?

And boy, replace that story of the kid with the Nintendo and put in that my guy had a NeoGeo and I was right there with you, Dan.