Actually, come to think of it, there was a blaring warning signal for me in 2007. I did heed to the advice briefly but very quickly lapsed into my normal mode again.
Towards end of 2007, everyone in my Tokyo office was asked to do an online survey of to assess our mental well-being. I have always loved these psychological tests, so I jumped at the chance. I was pretty shocked at the results:
“You are extremely stressed at work… and have a tendency to resort to alcohol and violence; we suggest you seek counselling IMMEDIATELY.”
I cracked up and started laughing hysterically, and even showed my secretary sitting next to me the results and comments. She laughed too. So did the team intern. My boss giggled – but then he told me quietly that perhaps I should go see the counselor, especially since it’s free.
So I decided to humour myself, and made an appointment with the counselor. I talked, she listened. I didn’t think I was stressed, so I went in to see the counselor with a light heart. As we started talking, I (thankfully) started to listen to my own rambles. Perhaps I wasn’t completely happy with the load of work on my shoulders, and perhaps I really didn’t like the new lady who joined the team because she talked forever, obnoxiously and loudly and thought she knew everything, but did absolutely nothing in the office. Did I tell my boss all this, the counselor asked. No, I chose not to. He had enough work on his shoulders and possibly more pressure than me. I was there to help him, not create another problem for him. So I soaked it all up and went on with my life as cheerily as possible. He had high hopes in me, I knew. I didn’t want to disappoint him.
Was I happy with banking as my long term career, I didn’t know either. And I was very tired too, having to study for the Masters in Law and CFA and GMAT on the weekends. I had grand plans for myself and I was leaping 3 steps at a time to get to where I had wanted to.
But I found the counselling quite unhelpful in fact. She never commented or told me what I should be doing. I guess counselling is different from a clinical psychologist. So I stopped after 2 sessions.
A year later, and now connecting the incidents, I did actually get more violent. I would hit my soft toys when I was angry and unhappy, kick the sofa (and stump my toe), want to strangle someone. And I did start drinking a bit more, in the sense that I never used to drink before I was 28 years old.
I had no way of channeling that anger and frustration. I was stressed and didn’t know it. And I didn’t know that my stress translated into the negative emotions I was feeling, which were then converted to violent behaviour (I didn’t kill anyone though).
And because I denied myself the chance to confront the stress I was feeling 3 years ago, it boiled up, accumulated, and snowballed.
Perhaps in a way, for the better. I’ve learnt my lesson.