Deep Work is about more than just time to think or produce big content pieces. It goes to the essence of what we are bringing to the world.
The Hidden Wounds of a Brain Injury
After sustaining a traumatic brain injury three years ago, I went through a very dark period of Post-Concussion Syndrome.
One of the challenges of brain injury is that it’s not visible from the outside. On the surface, I looked fine. I was healthy by all external measures. I was able to exercise. I didn’t slur my speech.
Because I looked and sounded normal, most people assumed I was fully recovered.
But inside, I wasn’t fine.
I was often unable to focus. I was often very tired. I went through periods of depression and suicidal thoughts. I struggled to regain control over my life. And that struggle was more difficult because I felt like I was alone.
People warned me not to talk publicly about my experience because if I did, my clients might not want to work with me.
The Burden of Living a Lie
But pretending, keeping up appearances, living out of alignment with your truth — these things drain your energy. This only made it worse.
Sometimes I wished that I had cancer, or something that others could identify as being “wrong” with me, just so people would understand.
It’s not that I really wished for cancer. But there was a part of me that though that perhaps if I had lost my hair to chemo, people would know that I was still healing.
That may sound horrible to you, unless you’ve struggled with something that wasn’t obvious from the outside.
It’s really hard to speak about pain that nobody else can see.
And it’s the cruel irony of life that to be seen in our truth is both our greatest desire and our deepest fear.
Funny how it always seems to work that way, right?
The experience of that time opened my eyes and my heart to the pains and wounds that others have that aren’t always visible. It taught me that we cannot always see what someone else is going through.
Not just in the sense that we carefully curate our Instagram and Facebook feeds to tell a story to others. We do that, of course. That’s obvious.
The lie starts before. It starts with what we choose to photograph. It starts with what we choose to see. It starts with what we tell ourselves about our lives.
That was the wound that was exposed when I fell to the floor that cold, dark January night. And that was what needed healing.
There were moments when I didn’t know how I would survive those months. The loneliness. The pain. The feeling of navigating in the dark, alone, without a flashlight. But something was there, holding me.
What Got Me Through
Looking back, I can see what it was:
my commitment to continuing my established rituals, and creating new ones.
The small things I had done every day before the accident held me together when I was falling apart.
My Fitness First practice — exercising first thing every morning — got me out of bed when I had little motivation to do so. I could walk only at a 2.0 pace on the treadmill — a pace that previously was physically impossible for me because I couldn’t walk that slowly. I learned not to judge it. If that was what I could do, that’s what I would do.
My daily journaling practice forced me to find wins to celebrate when I spent most of the day napping or staring into space. I learned to celebrate my commitment to rest. (Also: that’s where getting out of bed and going to the gym help.)
In that time I started writing daily. It wasn’t always easy to do with screen time limits. I had to learn to prioritize what was important. I learned to get out of email and other screen time wasters.
That was when I began to practice meditation more consistently. Although I didn’t start my daily practice until the end of that year, the experience with it got me there.
Creating Space for Deep Work
All of these rituals helped me create space for the deep work of going within, healing, and discovering who I am without the noise and masks.
Previously I had always been too busy to take the concept of deep work seriously. I had clients to serve, emails to answer. “Real work” to do.
But in those months, I finally got it: the deep work is the real work. And the real deep work is not the content we produce or the things we make.
The real deep work is the work of discovering who we are so that we can bring ourselves, wholeheartedly, to the world.
Once I learned that, I became a fierce protector of my deep work space.
Without the deep work, the rest doesn’t matter.
Claim your space for your deep work. Protect it fiercely. This world needs you to show up in the fullness of who you are.
There is no work more important than the work of becoming yourself.