Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one. I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place. I’m usually wrong. I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family. Turns out, not so much. Continue reading
I went back to work on Monday.
By Wednesday, I’d come down with some cold/flu from hell. Psychosomatic sign that I am sick of this place and it’s time to get out? I think so. Continue reading
I am frequently asked if I have children– I don’t ask people why they ask me that question. Is it because I am a woman of a certain age and it’s a “natural” assumption to believe that women over 25 should have children? Is it because I’m not obviously a hyper-masculine bull-dyke and I wear Mary-Janes with quirky socks that coordinate with my clothes that are straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue? Is it because my behavior codes as maternal, in my brusque & busybody kind of way? Is it because I work in a “helping” job and am usually the one with the common sense and resources/information to untangle people’s messes for them? How do these qualities come to be associated with maternal/”do you have kids?” rather than just “oh my God, you people are idiots, step aside and let me fix this,” which is sometimes what my inner narrator feels like a lot of the time? I try not to let that uncharitable & condescending sentiment show outside my head if I can. Is it just that we live in a society where asking about children is part of trying to get to know who someone is? (Why is that?) Continue reading
If there’s something you want, something you need, ask for it.
You have to ask for it, because it’s the only way to make sure you’re going to get it.
Other people aren’t psychic, much less as attentive or empathetic as we’d like them to be. You might mention it once, but what’s the off chance they’ll 1) remember and 2) care enough amidst the noise in their own heads to act on your expressed need or desire?
This bleak fact, that at the end of the day, we ourselves are the only ones who can make sure we get what we need, what will make us sane, healthy, happy, and that the people we care or love about, by DNA-roll-of-the-dice or by choice may not be able to deliver, even with prompting, is the hardest lesson of being a “grown-up,” and the one I struggle with all the time.
Asking for help, rather than expecting people to see I need it– asking for hugs, or giving them out so I can get one in return– repeating myself over and over about “no, I do not want to celebrate my birthday and it’s not a thing that’s going to happen,” and then carrying through rather than caving– expressing the need for solitude, or quiet, or to not be the one making decisions about anything from what’s for dinner to how some social activity ought/not to go– these are all exquisitely hard at times, especially when I do manage to say them clearly around the hesitations of not wanting to feel like I am actually as bossy/ bitchy/ a spoilsport/ just acting crazy again as other people might think I am for standing up for myself. Other peoples’ reactions and criticisms are still really wounding. I still get really paranoid around silence, and overanalyze what’s going on in that silent reaction.
Brene Brown writes in her books about shame versus guilt– that shame is silencing & paralyzing, but guilt isn’t. I haven’t read enough of her books to have worked out my own processes to pinpoint all the things that make me shame-turtle, but the “you shouldn’t need help and it’s wrong to ask for it” message clearly got driven home at some point. At some point, my incapacity to competently and intelligently handle a situation all on my own (even when, objectively, it’s more than any one person could handle), or my need for others to give me some positive emotional reinforcement got deeply entwined with my being a “bad” person if I had to ask for help. If it was freely given, then maybe it was something I could consider accepting (although even then it was suspect, because I have known lots of people who were just manipulative in the end and that reinforced the “don’t ask” button in a different way). In the meantime, I put on a brave face or a brusque face or just straight out lie.
And asking doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the help that you need. You might get half-measures, or none, and have to still do it yourself, with the anti-climax of breached trust in your fellow humans. (Hooray!?! At least it tells you who not to waste your energy on? Framing shit as teachable moments just sucks.) Sometimes, you’ll get help from unexpected quarters– and that’s good, in the end, but can be complex if you’ve been less than gracious to those folks beforehand, and so you’ve got to reevaluate your own shitty behavior.
I’m writing this on day one of my leave of absence, after precisely two hugs (freely given) and four and a half well-meant expressions of taking it easy or good luck or likewise from direct coworkers. I did get several more well-wishes from folks in my working group, and some unexpected help from that quarter, too– which means, again, that I have to examine the divide between my own self-perception and others’ willingness to help when asked not by me, but my boss. I am seriously questioning how long I will stay at my job once I return, having talked myself off the ledge of trying to quit while I’ll out– but the larger question of the cluelessless and/or disinterest of most of my coworkers and my need to look at what I can do to prevent future overexertion as well as to identify– what is it I like about the job, in case I do decide to look elsewhere, what I need to change in this workplace in me and in others for me to tolerate staying, and what conversations I need to have with colleagues & higher ups to see what would work.
Of course, there are other things to do. Sleep. Read. Socialize. Tackle the garden. File for divorce. Get my dad’s mortgage resettled. Other family health & legal projects. They will be good distractions and anxiety-reducers around the hard work of “how did I get here again,” and “how do I ask for what else I need to keep going?”
In between meds means in between states. I am tapering off the 100 mg topomax @ 50 mg and hoping to maintain that dose while getting the rash that developed @ 100 mg x 1 week to recede. So far, it is receding, but slowly. So is the initial mood lift and subsequent dip from going off the wellbutrin 100 mg cold turkey because of those pesky suicidal ideations. Since I tapered back to 50 mg on the topomax, my anxiety dreams have slowed, and I feel about 40% less panicked/ nauseous/ enraged by situations at work, but I still am exhausted and prone to inner rage storms even if I’m less overtly weepy.
Monday, I started on 5 mg lexapro. It takes up to 3 weeks to be effective, so we will see. Today, though, I feel my “usual” hypomanic lift from starting an SSRI, which seems to indicate that the lexapro’s doing something. If it’s not just a hypomanic “crash” from the topomax or the cessation of .5 mg doses of klonopin throughout the day to manage my panic and suicidality instead. Either that, or the resurgence of spring sunlight this weekend, even with yesterday’s snow, and hence an up tick in my circadian rhythms. Although I did sleep 10 hours last night.
Then again, that hypomanic productive mood I feel today, where my head feels stuffy, my chest and stomach feel hollow, and I can laugh at any joke as long as it’s mean might be the result of knowing that come Saturday, I have 3 weeks to figure it out and get some of the personal crap in my life out of the way so it looms less if/when I go back to work.
It will tease itself out, I hope. If I do lots of things, surely something will work.
Today, I said no. That was something I did right, because setting boundaries and holding them is something I have a huge problem with. In addition, telling them no was the right thing to do because I wasn’t really competent to say yes, in the professional sense of giving answers to questions presented.
Today, I told someone at work who came to me for help that what they wanted (immigration and green card assistance for their wife, specifically, logging in to create an online account and then paying for things) was something that I wasn’t comfortable with, and that they needed to either do it themselves or use one of these (*insert montage of me googling & printing*) several immigration-specific resources outside the store who know all about this kind of thing.
And then I said no, again, and again, and again, because he was arguing with me about why I wouldn’t do it even when I said “I’m sorry, this isn’t something I’m trained to do, here are some places that have people who are, I could really mess something up and I am not going to do this for you.” He was really unhappy with me, but I’m an HR manager– not a social worker– and one of the larger systemic problems at this store is kind of a nanny-state issue where people wander in to my office and ask me to wipe their noses for them. The pushback when I refuse is really amazing. Petulant, too.
(I also managed not to laugh in the face of the person who said– “Someone told me I have to file taxes? Is that really true?” When I assured him that indeed, he did have that obligation, and that he could in fact pay a sizeable fine if he did not, and that this was why, in fact, I had chased him to file new withholding certificates, he was in awe of the idea that he had, you know, duties as a citizen and an adult. I think I was too baffled in the moment by “where does he think the money goes if not into returns?” to laugh, but still. I am counting it as a thing I did right.)