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
There’s a fine line between long-needed solitude & escapist reading– and catatonic denial & avoidance. I’ve been trying to avoid crossing over, engaging in little small ways with the world the last couple of days even as all of me wants to just curl up in a ball and do nothing for a very long time. (Nothing defined by read nothing too emotionally challenging, eat, sleep, spend a little time in the garden, repeat…) So I’ve made calls to the plumbers & HVAC contractors to enquire about furnace service, something my dad hasn’t gotten around to doing as yet. And I put in my short term disability claim over the phone, though that made me short of breath & panicked at the idea of scrutiny. I went out of the house to get groceries, even if it was just to the corner meat market, & today I didn’t buy junk food, even if I did space out & leave my wallet at home. (Thank goodness they know me & would take my check, because of course I carry my checkbook.)
Tomorrow, I’ve got therapy first thing in the morning, and that will provide me with papers to fax in for my leave, and I will do that. (Functioning! See!) Continue reading
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.)
My therapy homework this week is– every day– to write down something that I did right, at work or at home.
Just like when I was sitting in my therapist’s office and he said that to me, all kind intention and just brimming with empathy– this man is good in the essential sense of that word– I’m leaking and choked because I can’t hear it, can’t think it.
Medication changes and more severe than usual spring mood swing aside, I don’t get enough thanks or praise, and when I do get it, it’s often laden, conditioned. “You’re the best,” because I did something so ridiculously, outrageously pampering of a grown-ass adult, just to get the work off both of our desks, even though it means it pushes the boundary back toward me though it’s not my job. “It’s nice that you work late & weekends,” (because the other guy didn’t.) These aren’t words that mean they see me– it only means that I exist as a contrast, an outline against some other condition/behavior/thing they want to avoid and make their life easier as a response. And I feel like it’s insincere when I hear it most of the time, because people just want things from me that make their lives easier. They don’t care about me except as a delivery vehicle.
I feel pretty invisible, most of the time– partly my role, partly my introversion, who knows what else– and when I’m visibly upset, most people don’t ask if I am okay or even let the pause be awkward before leaping in to the thing that they want– either because they’re oblivious, or selfish, or because there’s some perceived power dynamic and it’s better not to acknowledge that someone “above” you is having a shitty day in case they’ll get… what? I don’t know. I don’t understand the dynamic of it. I guess it’s mostly that it’s my job to be the one to deal with people’s feelings and people can’t deal with the idea that I might have some of my own.
At work, too, there’s a power dynamic between “just” the admin and the sales teams. It’s shitty. The sales leadership aren’t as well trained as they could be, and they’re allowed to get away with inconsistent & lacking behavior as long as the sales are on point, while the administrators run around mopping up after them. It’s the same any place, but the rhetoric here is that it’s supposed to be different and the divide from reality is stark, isolating, and disenheartening in the extreme. When you feel overworked, under-appreciated, overwhelmed with entitled stupid questions & never given a pause to train anyone in order to stop the stupid questions or any subset of of them, it’s– misery, pretty much, pure & simple, especially when you’re more or less suicidally depressed and no one seems to notice except your second assistant in a year and oh, yeah, guess what, she’s going to grad school so you’re going to have to start training somebody else by mid-summer.
There are smaller things that I did right this week. I admitted that I made a mistake about something that won’t be the end of the world. I helped someone qualify for housing benefits. I helped someone with a leave of absence and explained how short term disability worked. There is more. I can’t recall any of it in the constant onslaught of shit I deal with, day in & day out. Some of it’s firing people for stupid mistakes (the worst reason to fire someone, imho, at least be blatant about it), some of it’s wading through unqualified applications, some of it’s saying no for the 40th time and handing the person the explanatory form they’re too lazy too fill out themselves.
I can’t help feel, though, that the main thing I did right this week was admit that right now, I really do hate my job and I need to take some time off before I do something stupid like mess up something for someone or quit. (Like, you know, last time.) I don’t feel better about it, for managing to pull myself up short of my 2009 mistake and having admitted weakness, reached out for help, and asked for a leave of absence, without disclosing all the particulars of my diagnosis. I still feel stupid and paranoid and crazy and like there will be a negative impact on my job when and if I return, and who knows. Maybe there will be, but I suppose this all still buys me time.
I’m still really scared and anxious and depressed the moment I start thinking about it, in terms of– what will happen if I come back? Do I want to? What do I do while I’m off? What if the med change doesn’t help? I can’t fucking look for a new job in this state of mind. (You know, the usual crazy morass of anxious over-thinking.) I actually left early for the first time since I started work, after overreacting to something my two-weeks-brand-new boss said in– what I think were objectively understandable circumstances for context he didn’t have and didn’t bother to have before he set me off– and people are probably all gossiping about me at work by this point because I was clearly upset & in tears when I left and was shutting things down in my office. I idly looked at things I might theoretically otherwise want to do as job search queries (after isolating the parts of my job I like the most) and started to panic because it’s not that I hate the company or the job, really, it’s that I can’t draw a breath without 5 people shoving into my office– so I went right back to time-wasting internet shit– but it’s one thing at a time, I guess.
Things I did right this week. I didn’t stop showing up for work, because: crazy, and I went home early for a long weekend after a somewhat weepy but otherwise reasoned discussion.
I guess we’ll see how the rest plays out from here.
I did a better job after a good, cathartic too-many-drinks with strangers gettin’ my drunk on & long, much-needed twelve hour sleep at listing some things that my dad has done right to be appreciative/positive/non-critical, or has done things that have made me uncomplicatedly happy since I moved in with him. (Yeah, every four years or so I get four-drinks wasted. I’m a cheap date.)
And now that I’m writing this I can think of two more: buying me my DSLR and my smartphone, with which I took the above photo.
I started to see a new therapist just last week and while of course these things take time, it seemed to go well in that he listened and re-framed what I’d said and was actually kind of quickly & scarily perceptive about my main issues– though I had actually put together a list of things I knew were issues and had made a point to talk about them and my concerns about being stuck in particular ruts or being afraid about where certain things in my life right now were leading me toward.
Without boring you with a ton of the details here, one of the things I brought up was the problems I’ve been having with my dad, both long-term and of late, and how he’s really been getting under my skin and how I’ve been so wound up about him and about everything else that the temptation to be awful to him in retaliation for real thoughtlessness & inattention & old-dog-new-tricks stubborness & his self-destructiveness around his own health when his November hospitalization led to the diagnosis, in no uncertain terms, that he could change the way that he ate or he could be dead in a year.
All my responsibility & need for appreciation & guilt at not paying my way (which is bs but still) quirks and all my inner child crap that rebels every time he never says thanks or interrupts or tells me how to do a job he knows nothing about or… everything else– it’s a bad, toxic combination right now. And I don’t want to kick him while he’s down. But I do want to stand up for myself, and I always anticipate all the ways it will explode because he’s an unmedicated bipolar & so completely unpredictable (and sometimes just viciously mean or just a flat-out-screamer) that I often just don’t. I don’t want to continue to silence myself, though, or what the hell was the point in leaving the husband?
My therapist gave me homework to do while I’ve been on vacation: to try to think of positive things about my dad.
It’s been hard, because every time I try to think of something nice there’s a counterpoint that says “except when he uses X characteristic to bludgeon you into compliance.” His desire to share knowledge is also a desire to be a know it all and show off and he never lets you get a word in that yes, he’s told you before or yes, you actually read the review of the show before you attended it, thanks. His desire to tell me how to behave at work has more to do with all the times he’s gotten himself fired from a job for being outspoken, but his outspoken = drunk & unmedicated, and mine = medicated and in a legitimate open door corporate culture. The lectures just raise my hackles and make me feel stupid. And I cannot get out of his way, or more accurately, he is always underfoot, and then he gets mad at me when he’s wandering around the kitchen like a zombie while I’m cooking supper and trying to use the small space to feed us & do something creative.
I am still feeling really conflicted and angry, I guess. But here we go: some good things:
He remembered that I like W.S. Merwin & got me the Library of America for Christmas this year. And a collection of Mary Oliver’s prose, the only book of hers I didn’t own.
He’s mostly stopped questioning if I’m going to finish everything on my plate, and mostly stopped huffing when I pull my plate away from him when we’re out to eat and I leave half for lunch the next day.
He can every once in a while be counted upon to cook steak tips for supper, which are pretty much one of my favorite food groups.
He tries, tries again. He sometimes succeeds. He was trying harder to be less grumpy last week. It wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t apologized when he did snap at me, but he did at least get the hell over himself PDQ.
… And… that’s it right now, which is sad, that those are only things I can think of that don’t come wih some flip side when he’s being an ass. But I’ll work on it some more.