Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
I recently published a book, Identity Crisis Averted, which reveals some of the challenges experienced in my life that have helped to shape my identity. Much of the work I do as a therapist is aimed at helping my clients gain a healthier sense of identity for themselves; this work would be much more difficult to accomplish, if not impossible, had I not first done the work for myself. Clients often enjoy the safety of the therapeutic space because it gives the room they need to reveal and process their backstory; therapists, too, have a backstory. In the spirit of transparency, I’ll share a snippet of mine from chapter three of my book Identity Crisis Averted titled ‘Rite of Passage’ in this article.
At the time of our second daughter Faith’s birth, I was a manager on my job with about four years of tenure. A master’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree; I was quickly becoming somewhat of a big deal. There were not enough credentials however, to cover the financial struggles we experienced after accruing debt for the services that were rendered to Faith while in the NICU. I picked up a part-time job doing janitorial work at a minor league baseball team stadium during games and after hours. I got off of work from my daytime job at 5 pm, reported to the baseball field between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm and worked until around 1:00 am. I came home wreaking of trash and popcorn daily. Though a manager of about 15 people on my day job, I was at the bottom of a janitorial crew of about six at the ballpark.
I vividly recall one day during a game being called over to a specific section of the ball field where the more affluent season ticket owners sat. One Caucasian male who sat with his wife started up some small talk with me as I searched for the reason that I was summoned to that area. He went on to dump some of the shelled peanuts from his container onto the ground near me, an area that he had already littered with the shells from the peanuts he had consumed. He let out a loud laugh, looked at his wife then looked at me and said, “What do you call this?” as he continued to drop peanut shells on the ground. I replied with a polite tone, “What’s that sir?” He said, “Job security!” After he laughed hysterically, he nudged his wife who looked at him with disapproval and they both resumed watching the baseball game without another word. That was one of the most humbling moments of my life. Though being overqualified for that job was an understatement, I kept my feelings in check, kept my credentials to myself and completed my job. Even when my supervisor at the ballpark acknowledged me for being such a hard worker and a leader, not once did I reveal to him the role I played at my full-time place of employment. I smiled, nodded, responded respectfully, and thanked God for the opportunity to make extra money to keep my family from drowning financially. Looking back, clearing those hospital debts, and putting in my two weeks’ notice on that part-time job was a rite of passage; it played a significant role in helping to shape my identity as a husband, father, and leader.
In order to resolve a crisis, especially an identity crisis, stability is needed. Unfortunately, many people allow other people, circumstances, or their environments, which can all be unstable, to help define their identities. For a healthy identity development however, one has to learn to become comfortable with oneself, despite the acceptance or rejection received from others. Faith, prayer, therapy, self-acceptance, and many other tools have helped me to avert or manage identity crises in my life, especially the one aforementioned, and have led me to want to help others do the same. Therapists and resources are very accessible if you find yourself needing help to establish your identity or managing an identity crisis. If you would like to purchase the book to know more about my story, find it at www.allin-therapy.com/store.
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