I had a breakdown last night: working while anxious and overwhelmed. An interview with Drew Kincius

Responsibilities at work, stress about money, anxiety manifested in physical ailments, what happens when the pressure reaches a boiling point?  Drew Kincius talks about the scary night when it all became too much, when he tried to walk into traffic. His journey towards stability, with the help of his community, offers perspective to people on the edge of overwhelm.  If you work with or care for someone coping with anxiety, this episode is for you.   

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Interview guest, Drew Kincius

Interview guest, Drew Kincius

Here are three take-aways from Drew’s story, both for those that are struggling with feeling that it is all too much and for the coworkers, friends, and family that surround them. 

  1. Reach out relationally.  If you see someone struggling, give them a call, grab a meal.  And here are some helpful pointers for the interaction.  Don’t just ask a vague, “How are your doing?” question; you will get a vague answer.  And, as Drew said, maybe don’t start out the interaction with making it all about their problem.  Connect on a human level.  Perhaps ease into the conversation, maybe share a story of your own struggle or weakness, making a way for them to be vulnerable as well. 

  2. If you are a support person, whether at work or in a personal context, be patient and be an advocate for the affected individual.  It is tempting to prescribe a path for healing, to try to force someone to follow your suggestion.  For Drew, it was important to feel ownership and agency as he chose his journey towards healing.  Beware of pushing too hard. 

  3. If you are feeling on the brink, like it is all just too much, I offer you Drew’s words of insight:  if you are struggling with feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, there is no shame in asking for help.  Who are the safe people in your world that you can share with?  Beyond your social sphere, there are resources available.  Many workplaces offer you access to heavily subsidized or free counseling through the Employee Assistance Program, or EAP.  You may have forgotten about your EAP, or the info is buried in your employee on-boarding packet.  So, I encourage you to ask your HR representative about access.  These services are completely confidential and can be so very helpful. 

Here are a few other highlights from our conversation:

There can be a division between work and home life

13:48 - Drew Kincius

Yeah, and I mean leading up to that, then there were moments when I would just sit in bed like lay in bed and just be really really sad. And that happened a lot after that too. And because I was in a very public facing role, I didn't feel comfortable with, I would shut down when I got home. Which is really unfair to my family. But I could be open and vulnerable with them. And so, at a certain point I decided that I need to be open and vulnerable with everyone else and not just fall apart when I get home. Because, once again, that's not fair to the people that I care about to say, oh I'm on during the day, and then forever, you know when I get home, then I just, I'm trash. I just shut down.


Be proactive about your mental health

14:39 - Drew Kincius

I hadn't really been to a counselor in three or four years, so that was a moment where I said, oh yeah. Just like with your physical health, maybe your mental health should be something that you proactively consider instead of just being reactive if you're having a massive heart attack and you're being reactive. There's probably habits that have led to that and that's, that's what it felt like, not to create some silly phrase, but it was, it was, it was like I had some sort of attack right but it was more about my soul and it was more about my emotions and it was like physically something locking up. So from there on, I was just a lot more open.


Don’t ask vague questions

16:52 - Drew Kincius

If you walk up to somebody and say, How are you? They're going to say, "Oh, I'm fine" or, "Oh I'm great." But, but they're not universally sad or happy or whatever the phrase is. And so, when you ask a question like that of a question you're going to get a vague answer. And so, that's really helped me to say things like, when a man is, somebody, what's the best thing that's happened today? Or, if I know someone is struggling with something, just ask a question like, how are things, not how are things, but, but hey I heard about a loss in your family or or just just saying, I'm here for you if you need me. But not setting that, not setting an expectation of saying I have to help you. And if you don't call on me I'm gonna be upset.


If you are a support person, call for back-up

20:49 - Drew Kincius

Call for backup. And she did that. I mean, there was a point when I came home from work and my parents and my sister were randomly at my house because Colleen had talked to them and said sometimes, something, something's going on here, something's not right. And the biggest takeaway from that is is they, they came over and said, we are here to help but we're not going to tell you what you have to do. But you need to understand that, that you that this has to happen sooner than later. Because I have so I had so many distractions in my life. And I think that's why I stayed so busy, because in the dead space is when you really started to think about what's going on…


And so, so when I say ask for backup, I mean you never know if somebody doesn't feel comfortable with talking to you about what some their issues are. To have other people reach out. And it can be something as simple as just a quick phone call and just saying, hey what's up. And not starting it with, hey I've heard specifically that in this exact instance you are struggling right now. That's a lot to throw on someone. They get defensive. But if you just call and say, hey what's going on? And if you, if you mentioned something that you're struggling with, something it's not going super wrong in your life. The likeliness of somebody else opening up about that same thing is gonna be a lot stronger because they there's empathy there.



Practice patience

23:21 - Drew Kincius

And so patience is very important too, because I'm sure if my family had a choice or if my wife had a choice, in that moment, they would have just physically taken me and put me in a car and just went to someone to talk out my feelings. But once again, they'd be them mandating that for me and I would always say, well you made me do this and you made me do that. Which is, I'm not saying that's the right thing for me to do, but most human beings, although it comes from a good place, they treat that as, as, as aggressive or some sort of attack or something like that.