Category Archives: work

Out to Lunch

Today I took myself out to lunch at our local Wendy’s.  It has been three and a half years since the last time I ate there.

Wendy’s was the nearest place for lunch when I was still working at the Terrible Job.  Back then, I went there most days for lunch.  The last few weeks before I quit, I’d sit at my table furiously eating my spicy chicken sandwich and fries and looking at Facebook on my phone.  I mean that I was actually furious.  By the time my lunch break happened, I would have already had a lousy day and it would have been about six hours since last eating anything.  As hungry as I was, I never finished my meal either.  It was during the time period that I was restricting my food intake–sort of an act of aggression but directed at myself.  I’d eat about half my food and then angrily throw away the rest of it and drag myself back to work.

Yes, I was quite a mental mess by then.

Since today is Sunday, I knew I would not run into any former customers or former co-workers.  It would be safe for me to eat there.

Growing up I was of the mindset that I had to go where I likely would be treated badly.  I didn’t really have a policy of avoiding troublesome people.  Well, often enough there was no other option.  I was a kid, I had to go to school.  Going to school involved walking on public streets.  I was just a kid.  What else was I going to do?

Some unhappy kids skipped school, did drugs, got into fights.  Those did not seem like good options for me.

As an adult, I kept up that habit of staying in bad situations.  Often I volunteered for such.  Then came the day when I was at the end of my rope and I decided to go home from the Terrible Job.  I promised myself I would no longer do things that were sure to end in trouble or unhappiness for me.  No longer do I tolerate toxic people or situations.  Sure, it limits where I can go at certain times of the day in this small, crappy town.  But this is my little gift to myself.  I no longer participate in my own victimization.

Today it is Sunday.  I can go to Wendy’s if I want.

I ordered my spicy chicken and fries.  I ate until I was full.  I people-watched.  It felt so normal and safe.  It felt like taking back a little bit of my life, but on my terms.  No self-judgment or self-criticism.  Nobody prying into my personal life.  No having to explain anything to anyone.

It’s really hard to basically start life all over again but not moving away to do it.  Old habits and old distractions and old dangers are everywhere.  I am new, or at least I want to be, and I am surrounded by old.  It has been a very good exercise in letting go and learning how to be detached in a healthy way.

I can do this thing.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decisions, depression, emotional health, enemies, getting along, growth, healing, human nature, peer pressure, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized, work

Weeping Willow

One morning last week I let the cat in through the back door and then just leaned against the window panes for a bit and absent-mindedly stared at the autumn all around.

On the west side of our back yard is an old apple tree and the compost pile.  In the center is a little flower bed.  And to the east is a huge old willow tree.  Except on this day it was lying on its side with roots in the air and branches and limbs strewn over ours and our neighbors’ lawns.

I love our trees the same way I love our pets.  Seeing the tree destroyed like that made me want to find a way to set it back up and let it somehow live for a few more years.  Magical thinking.

Later on I went outside and was able to look inside the termite damaged trunk.  There was a cool spray of dust from the roots slowly falling around me while I was in there.  Then I walked around checking out the full  length of our old willow and found dozens of bees freaking out near the ground under some limbs.  I guess their lives got mightily disrupted because of this.

It must have fallen during the night.  Neither my husband nor I heard a thing.  It was a complete surprise.

We’ve lived here for twenty-three years, so there are some memories attached to this willow.  We had a tire swing in it for awhile.  Our cats had chased squirrels up and down it over the years.  Lots of birds nested there, naturally.  One time, my husband set part of it on fire!  By accident, of course. And another time it lost about half its limbs due to a freak October ice storm.  That tree just might have had a more interesting life than I have had so far.

My husband and his friend made quick work of it with their chainsaws the other day and I have checked out the new piles of future bonfire wood a couple times.  It is kind of satisfying to see the orderliness of it.  Plus, we both thought this clean-up would take months (having had experience with only cheap, crappy chainsaws in the past).  Instead it took only a few hours with a couple of new, deluxe chainsaws.

Since the carving up, I haven’t been out there at all.  I’ve been busy and other things have been on my mind.  When I do see the tree from a window every so often, it still surprises me but not with the same twist in my gut as on the first day.

This is the kind of thing my life is about now.  And for the time being, or maybe forever, I prefer it to the tedious grind of being out there in the world of work, side by side with mostly strangers, and letting the external pressures of every single thing in the universe take over my poor brain.

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Filed under anxiety, depression, emotional health, family, grief, growth, healing, love, pressure, self-care, social phobia, Uncategorized, work

My Sub-conscious, She So Smart

The Terrible Job came up in conversation yesterday.  I handled it.  Pulse good, breathing steady, visualizations under control, rest of day like an average day in the life of someone recovering from clinical depression.

Then  this morning I woke up from a dream in which I tried like crazy to get a job back there at the Terrible Place.

It was going to be different this time.  A retiree who had been a friend and a former co-worker who had become an enemy both came up to me and said the new boss would re-hire me and give me anything I wanted.  I guess they were desperate for my magical skills or something.

The retiree said he would be there because he would also come back to work, and he was already wearing his uniform.

I was right in the middle of crashing a graduate-level photography class.  I was in over my head anyway knowledge- and skills-wise.  I thought, might as well get my old job back, making a living in the arts isn’t working out.

So I started racing around looking for “Bob”, the guy who wanted to re-hire me.

I kept trying to tell people, I don’t know if this will work.  I might have to pay back all the retirement money they refunded me.  I was mentally calculating what my paychecks would look like with all the deductions.  For example, I’d need new uniforms since I threw out all my old ones.

Bob kept being unavailable.  I could see him but he kept having to leave for meetings and such.  But I knew it would be okay because he wanted to hire me back.  He was a different boss from the old one.  He understood what I offered.  He must have since he was willing to give me anything I wanted.

What I wanted was to work in an easier office that wouldn’t leave me bone-tired by the end of each day.  That wouldn’t overwhelm me with responsibility.  That wouldn’t constantly change the Standard Operating Procedures simply for the sake of change or for the sake of someone else’s big, fat, stupid ego.  I knew exactly which office I wanted and since nobody else really wanted it, it would be perfect.

I never did connect with Bob.  The whole plan slipped through my fingers even though I had a couple allies and every reason to think the scheme would work out.

Ha!  How funny is that?  In real life none of this is possible.  No one wants to hire me back.  Certainly not on my own terms!  That one is extra funny.

And no matter how many times I turn it over in my mind, there was no saving the situation when I still worked there.  The wrong people were in charge then.  There were no allies at that time.  And I was completely drained of anything that a person needs in order to be successfully employed, let alone have a career on my own terms.

It is really over with and it hurts quite a lot.

It has been over three years now since I left the Terrible Job.  I’m still on the mend.  I am still not capable of employment.  The financial repercussions are huge and unlikely to go away.  The emotional repercussions are the hardest part of all of it.

It’s really very hard to accept this.  But I have to in order to be healthy and move on.

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Filed under depression, dreams, friends, grief, healing, honesty, human nature, injustice, Uncategorized, work

The Slow Climb

One of my friends posted a job listing on Facebook so I clicked on it out of curiosity.  I had been led to believe that this particular job (with the state) was political and that in this part of the state you need to be a Republican in order to be hired.

I am not a Republican so I always figured that particular job was “out of the question” for me.  I clicked on the link just so I could see if there was a way to tell from the application that you have to be a Republican.  There isn’t anything obviously political about it.  I’m sure they have their ways, though, if they want it to be political.

The application was fairly short.  They mainly want the last five years of job history plus whatever other jobs you have had that would qualify you to work there.  And… have you EVER been fired OR quit a job before you could be fired.

I was fired once when I was 20.  It was quite traumatic at the time.  It was also traumatic having to explain it on subsequent job applications.  I still got the jobs, though.  I even received unemployment benefits after the firing because their investigation showed that my firing was unjust.

That was thirty-four years ago!!  I don’t think about it very much any more.  Maybe if I was “normal”, I wouldn’t have thought about it in years and years and might have even forgotten the whole episode.

Some people would probably chide me for being unhappy about not being normal.  But that has been what I have consistently wanted my whole life!

It’s hard not fitting in.  It’s hard having to invent yourself and your routine… every single hour of every single day.  It’s very hard to attract odd kinds of attention from strangers.  I just don’t think “normal” is all that bad.

I’m not going to fill out the application at this time.  I’m obviously still “triggerable” which means I’m still not out of the depression/anxiety/PTSD woods yet.  I can still picture myself at that job I was fired from.  Still know the names of the people involved.  Still can see the events of the day like it is happening right now.

There is something different, though.  Now I can see how I got into that situation.  I can recognize that a healthy me would not have even worked there to begin with.  A healthy me would not have worked at my last job to begin with either!

The difference now is that I can recognize what a healthy me would be.  That’s a big deal!  It is hard-won knowledge.  It is measurable progress.  I don’t know what it will get me at this stage of the game.  But I’ll take this seemingly small gain.  It actually gives me something to work with.  It might be the difference between “forward” and “stuck”.

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decision making, emotional health, getting along, grief, healing, injustice, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, work

Anorexia Lite!

A couple weeks ago, we went to see Oscar Shorts at the theater. This particular showing included two serious documentaries. One was about the VA’s only suicide hotline in the entire country and the other one was a Polish film with English sub-titles about a family and the mother who was dying of cancer.

They were both well-done but the Polish one was very artistic and made more of an impression on me.

It was very intimate. The dying mother was trying to cram a lifetime of mothering into about three months. Her son was only about 7 or 8. She treated him as an equal. They had some very adult conversations that actually made me uncomfortable. But these conversations were very, very honest and I imagine the little boy will treasure them always.

The other thing about this film that still intrigues me was my reaction to how thin the dying mother was. She might have always been a slim woman, but her illness took away any extra weight she might have once carried around. She always wore a large, light-weight scarf around her shoulders and layers of clothes that kind of hung on her frame. I saw that and kept thinking, I want to be that thin.

I was that thin a couple years ago when I quit the terrible job.

It started in the usual way for me. Stress often gives me an upset stomach. When I have prolonged periods of stress, my stomach always feels bad and my first thought is always, must be I’m eating too much dairy or too much fat or too much sugar.

I never think, oh, there is too much stress in my life and I should make changes in the stressful areas.

Instead, I will cut out most dairy first. If that doesn’t soothe my belly, I will cut food portions in half. The last thing I would cut out is sweets because I love them so much. But I have done that, too.

Something along those lines happened to me when we were first starting out as very young adults with an infant. Part of the eating problem then was lack of funds to buy food with. I weighed 85 pounds during the worst of that. It felt like I was disappearing but it didn’t scare me. I liked that feeling.

It happened again several years later when I took a prescription that messed up my stomach for real. I probably got down to 95 pounds that time.

The next time it happened was when I had a job I loved but my boss turned out to be a narcissist. That time I can now recognize as anorexia lite. At the time I still thought it was a stomach thing rather than a stress thing. In hindsight, it was the stress. I probably got down to between 100 and 105.

The final time began in December 2012. I was still at the terrible job and everything wrong in that place pretty much came to a head that December. There was not one moment at work that month which felt right or satisfying or even hopeful. There was not one thing to look forward to and zero Christmas spirit on top of it all.

My hours had slowly turned into overtime every single day and no breaks. My hour and half for lunch turned into half an hour. And I didn’t get to leave for lunch until I had been at work, and working non-stop, for almost six hours. By that time I was beyond pissed. I wouldn’t have had much of a breakfast because I had started using that extra time to sleep a bit more. By 2:30 each afternoon, I was starving and pissed. So, I’d go to Wendy’s and shove some food in my mouth then throw away some of it and head back to work.

Then in January my uncle got very ill. He was the last living member of my father’s family and so this was a big deal to me. We went up to the hospital to visit him twice and I was glad we did. But there was an outbreak of flu during that time. I didn’t take it seriously, because I NEVER get sick.

Except this time I did get sick. I was quite sick for over a week. I ate very little during that time because I couldn’t. I also took very little time off from work because I thought I shouldn’t.

A month later my uncle died during my one week of vacation.

Then I got sick again for over a week and again ate very little and again took very little time off work.

I knew by then I was losing weight because my clothes began to hang on me and people were noticing it. My hair was thinner. My face looked exhausted. I didn’t think to weigh myself on the freight scale at work. Everybody used to do that, including me, but during this time period I guess I was avoiding the scale. I was in my own little world then.

I got kind of mesmerized by how I felt. My stomach felt so good being empty. No bloating, no gas, no queasiness. I felt so light and small and compact. It felt right not to take up so much room. I felt kind of powerful on some level. If I felt hungry, I could trick myself by focusing on how good my stomach felt when it was empty and it made me not want to ruin that sensation. Though I figured I didn’t look really good, I felt really good in my gut. I liked it.

And that’s what I remembered, and missed, when I watched that dying mother on the movie screen.

After I quit the terrible job, I took myself clothes shopping while we still had some money to spend “freely”. I was thinking I should get some new bras since I was kind of swimming in the old ones. And I caught a glimpse of myself at just the right angle in the dressing room mirror. My thoughts were, I look frail, I look elderly, and that’s probably not a good thing. This is probably not healthy. I should probably try to be healthy.

But I didn’t really want to. In clothes, I actually looked pretty good. And it felt sooooo good to be thinner and lighter and have that empty, flat stomach. So, I was torn.

As it turns out a year and a half later, unless I am under incredible stress, I don’t really have what it takes to go the full-blown anorexia route. Since we don’t own a scale, I don’t know what I weigh but it is obvious that I have gained back everything I lost. It took longer than I expected it to. But it happened kind of on its own.

I’m not happy with how I look and feel now. My challenge is to find the middle ground. Well, actually my real challenge is to find the beginning.

I still have to find out what is really me versus what I have picked up over the years and incorporated just to please others and “get along” with the rest of the world. And then I have to be okay with “what is really me”.

The dying mother in the film knew the answers to those questions in her life and she did what she could in the time she had left. I’ve met lots of people who also seem to have the answers to those questions in their lives and I imagine they are mostly happy or at least content most of the time. That’s what I want for my life.

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Mug Shots

As a school girl, I spent several years avoiding high school biology class because I dreaded the thought of dissecting worms. However, as a college track student, it was pretty much mandatory to have this class on my transcript. So, I ended up taking biology in my senior year with all sophomores as my classmates.

The kids in the sophomore class were much nicer than the kids in my class. Not once in that entire year did I hear anybody get picked on or disrespected in any way, shape, or form in that room. Never did I have to second guess anything that came out of my mouth as being something that could possibly draw negative attention to myself. In spite of the dissection of worms, it was pretty relaxing in there. It made me think that my life would have been quite different and a lot more fun if I had been in their class instead of mine.

The Class of ’81 has a very nice Facebook page, too. All the postings are supportive and polite. They seem to really like each other.

A while back they were trying to compile a list of all the classmates who had died since graduation. One name jumped out at me. Someone said she had been murdered in Florida and it was a cold case. This was shocking in and of itself. But the reason her name jumped out at me was because I remembered she showed up at a party I threw back in 1980.

Party-throwing is a rare activity for me. I do not just throw a party on a whim. Any party that I throw has to have a specific purpose. That way, I can be sure people will actually attend.

This particular party was for a co-worker at the fast food restaurant I was employed at in 1980. Although I was young, nineteen, I was a parent by then and my just-above-the-poverty-line little family was self-supporting. It was a noisy party because I was nervous and had the music turned up so people would have to shout. And because of that, we did get yelled at by our landlord. It was not a drunken brawl, however, and one of the guests brought some homemade chocolate chip cookies.

I know I talked to this girl who showed up at the party but I don’t remember what we talked about. It was so odd that she came. She obviously knew someone who was invited because there would not have been any other way for her to hear about the party. But she was a couple years younger than us and still in high school. My impression of her from school was that she was kind of naive and not super smart. Just an impression based on moments here and there passing her in the hallways.

My impression of her at the party was that she might be a little out of control. She was tall and a little awkward and had very dark hair and eyes. It seemed like she needed to be out and about. Any party, any place, any people would do. Her body language and behavior were fine. I think it was just the fact that a high school girl had gone to a stranger’s party, my silly little party, instead of doing almost anything else, that left me with the impression that she was a little bit desperate.

It turns out that her Florida story is a little less shocking than the word of mouth story on Facebook.

A search on her name turns up at least a dozen mug shots from the same county in Florida. I imagine, then, that she was well-known by the Sheriffs Dept. She looks very skinny in the photos but she has the same eyes that I remember. Eventually, she looks a little ragged and even skinnier. In one mug shot, she has a nearly healed black eye. At one point, she was using the name of an old high school friend as an alias.

There was nothing to indicate she had been a murder victim, though I can see how someone might think that from the way the websites come up in the internet search. No, she was actually the victim of a hit and run accident ten years ago. During a three month period that year in Florida, there was probably close to a hundred hit and run accidents. Only one of them was a John Doe. All the rest were known.

I’ve been thinking about her all day long. If someone had told me that night at the party how her life would end, I would not have been surprised. However, when I learned about it today, I was surprised. I guess because I have lived long enough to have met people who should have met such an end but did not. They are still going strong and causing trouble and will probably live a very long time in spite of it all. I would have thought she’d figure out a way to save herself.

There is an old man in town with the same last name as hers and I wonder if he is her father. I have had dealings with him in the past as have local law enforcement and mental health services. In my dealings with him he seemed to have some kind of mania and/or paranoia. I learned to never look him in the eye, rise to his bait or engage him in any kind of meaningful conversation. If he is her father, then I can guess why she came to my party that night.

I never did use the biology class, not even when I finally went to college. I still haven’t been part of a large group of really nice people. I have not given a party in years.

This summer, I invited a couple people to a bonfire in our backyard. Nobody could come, so we never had the fire. I might try it again this summer. If nobody comes, though, we will have the fire anyway.

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Filed under depression, family, first impressions, friends, grief, work