Work goblins

mirror-reflections-joe-amenechi-a4184I’ve got work troubles once again. I’m not sure how much is just in my mind and how much is real. When I describe it, likely it won’t seem like much. However I have no one to talk it over with and it’s sent my mood plummeting. I have been feeling completely worthless and at fault. I wrote it out and sent it to Ron in the middle of last night, but I think he’s away for March Break. In any case, he didn’t respond.

There is a part of myself which is a kind of attacker part. When I’m feeling threatened, that part can come out and wreck havoc on my life. That’s kind of what happened to me last week at work. The last time this happened for me was in group therapy, and it really wrecked my relationships with fellow group members. And when that happens, I feel worthless.

At work, it wasn’t as bad as in group. At least, nothing I said was personal – it was all about the work issue.

It’s kind of about my role there. I’m a contractor, and I meet with ‘experts’ in the subject matter I’m writing about – managers there who’ve got a lot of product knowledge. So I’m tacitly expected to take a subordinate role, be fairly quiet and accommodating, letting others speak. You’d think that would suit my personality – I’m fairly quiet and introverted. Nope. After four years there, I’m feeling self-confident about what I know. When it comes to work, I like to engage and discuss.

Well, that’s me. It’s OK when everything is calm.

Last week was difficult for me. I had a really tough weekend recovering from therapy. I’d had a new deadline shoved in my face without consultation. And I had a medical appointment on Monday to discover the results of my cancer follow up scan.

The scan was great, and I’m happy about that. The appointment was difficult though, a long wait in a crowded waiting room, plus I’d been into work first and had two meetings already. Worrying about this scan. The whole thing mildly traumatized me – couldn’t sleep afterwards, couldn’t calm down.

Maybe that’s what set me off Wednesday. I was trying to get my project finished fast, which means moving the managers along in the meetings. Then my last meeting before review, the screen in our meeting room wouldn’t work. (I project a document that we review.) I fiddled with it for a long time, then we moved to another room. There, there was also a problem with the projection. Everyone took turns trying to diagnose and fix, to no avail. So we found a third room, which finally worked. Half my meeting was already over. So perhaps my nerves were a tad frayed.

My boss then wanted certain changes, and I argued fiercely against them. One of the issues was much bigger than the project, and there was no point even discussing it, but I waded in. Stupid. The other, he may have been right. And it became so important for me to win, to prove him wrong. My boss. Stupid stupid stupid. That’s what happens when that attacker part takes over – I get super intense about things. And I project a hurtful energy.

I believe this part is modeled on my father. Unfortunately, knowledge was a big big deal at our house when I was a child. Being smart, and knowing the most, was the thing that was valued. And my father had to be the smartest. Or at least, the person who evaluated who is smartest. Someone had to be right, someone had to be wrong. People’s feelings were completely irrelevant.

I’ve stayed away from academia, which is where all this would really come into play. But I do have work where problems need to be discussed and solved – I’m not gardening, or something more physical or creative. I think analysis is where my talents lie, anyway. Though who knows, maybe I could be more creative, given a chance.

I don’t believe that people’s feelings don’t matter. I don’t believe there’s a winner and a loser. But this part believes those things. When this part kicks in, things go to hell in a hand basket.

After the meeting, I then switched into the kid, which is the part of it I discussed with Ron in my session. There wasn’t time to discuss the other part of it. And I’d hoped this would all be water under the bridge this week.

Well, this week’s meetings were not good. I’d sensed I’d hurt my boss’ feelings last week, and this week he doesn’t seem to like me. Then the same manager who echoed my kid voice last week, made a sarcastic comment about me. I’d asked to be included in an email, and she said something like ‘oh and you’re so quiet, it’d be so easy to forget you’ in this really sarcastic voice.

When she said that, I stopped talking, and was quieter the rest of the meeting. It’s probably true, I may be talking too much. Not more than her, but too much for my role there. It did really hurt my feelings. And for her to feel free to say that, I’d say there was not a good feeling about me generally. I’ve always rather liked this manager. She’s older, and she still has style. She’s knowledgeable and down to earth. But I realized, she’s consistently being a little mean – she doesn’t much like me. She’s been in the same role for many many years – maybe I threaten her a bit, who knows. Anyway, I no longer like her. I am going to be guarded around her and not particularly friendly.

In that same meeting, my boss made some comment about ‘did I want to retire’….there was a context, but it felt like a weird comment, like he wanted to get rid of me.

And there’s the thing. As a contractor, as soon as someone doesn’t like me, I’m vulnerable to being let go. They’d save some money – my job isn’t vital, it’s more a nice to have. Anyway, that’s my fear, when I start getting a bad vibe from my boss, as I am this week.

Just before I logged off today, he sent me an email asking me to list my projects for the last year. It’s not something he’s ever asked for before, and it suggests my usefulness may be being evaluated. Or maybe not – but given I feel awful about work, I’m quick to think this is the case.

This is when it’s especially tough being single with a single income. And I wish I had a more stable job while I work on my issues. Work is a good place to work on things, as I’m triggered there a lot.

So I feel down. Kind of like throwing up. Kind of like needing to lie down all the time and stare at the ceiling.

Art: Mirror Reflections, Joe Amenechi

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18 comments
  1. candycanandco said:

    Oh dear. You don’t want to play the game even though you know you could lose your job over it. I can see how your insecurities can be poked at by others in your work. I get myself in similar pickles. Sometimes I try to take a step back from it all and remind myself that me having a job and not having people annoyed at me is something that I want and I am strong enough to fight back to prevent that other part from sabotageing everything.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I want to be able to take that step back, somehow, even if that part is triggered out. If I could just stop talking when that happens to give myself a chance to realize what is happening. Well, awareness is the first step. I think if I had practice, I’d learn it. But the practice part damages my life too much. My plan for tomorrow, when I have more meetings, is not to talk much, but listen more. Thanks for understanding candy.

  2. leb105 said:

    yes, me too!
    the meetings are the worst! I’m going to try not to be the first one to offer an opinion. give others a chance, for a change. that might give me a chance to consider what I’m going to say – or maybe – breathe… good luck.

    • Ellen said:

      Great. There’ll be two of us then, pausing and breathing before we speak in meetings this week. πŸ™‚ Thanks

  3. I doubt his feelings are hurt, but as he is your supervisor I’d worry if he starts to see you as unprofessional. ‘Cos that’s probably his bottom line, how does your behaviour reflect on how his department is seen by other teams… Did you apologize? And maybe explain a bit of what was going on, like the new deadline was stressing you out and sometimes you just get carried away and need to make sure your point is understood. He doesn’t need to know the whole story (ie trauma history), but that might smooth things over. Hope this week turns out to be a bit calmer at work. Take care, C.

    • Ellen said:

      Hi prickly – are you otherwise known as OBD?

      We’re all one team. One manager is new, but the other has known me for years, so it’s not a huge concern. I’m not sure that it reached the level where I can apologize – I just argued too much. It never got personal. I just have a bad feeling about it. Because theoretically, I am supposed to give my views, or at least, not prohibited – I’m not sure what I’d apologize for exactly. I know it wasn’t good, but not that I did something considered wrong. More emotionally unintelligent. Yeah, I might say something re ‘getting carried away’ – I’ll see how things go next.

      I would never mention my MH history to anyone at work.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Yes it’s me… the very brave duck… just forgot to switch wordpress accounts!! πŸ™‚

  4. Interesting story. Sometimes these things happen with work politics, regardless of having parts or not. I understand it’s far more challenging for you to get perspective on because of your parts, but the general issue is pretty familiar to me…

    My only real comment is that I can’t help but see your fighting spirit as a positive thing. Sure, that attacking part of you is causing problems, and I get that you want to gain some control so as not to sabotage your work and personal life. However, I also tend to believe that this part of you is also a part that stands up for you and so there’s a necessity to it.

    I don’t have any answers. I can see why these parts may at times be very problematic because of how they come out at the wrong moments, but to me they sound like each one also contributes very positive things too!

    The child seems to have a child’s simple wisdom, innocence, fun. The attacking part tries to stand up for you.

    Okay, their timing is off, but their spirit is in the right place πŸ™‚

    The worst, imo, is when you lose the part of yourself that fights for your own wellness and your own health. As long as you continue to do that, I truly think things keep improving over the long haul…

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I can see that this may be a common issue for many. Maybe the way I experience it is a little more sudden or separate, but I bet lots of people struggle like this with office politics. May not be more challenging for me at all, just maybe a little skewed.

      This is a very positive way of looking at it, thank you. πŸ™‚ I kind of agree with you. A fighting spirit is good, essentially, as long as I’m not hurting people. I think in it’s current form, I sometimes hurt people. Because this part itself is wounded, perhaps. But I see so many with personal struggles, women especially, turn all that on themselves, even literally by self harming etc. So I’m glad I don’t do that.

      Yes, the parts are all necessary. Ron and I were talking about this the other day. For instance, I remarked that I need the kid’s optimism and enjoyment of life. I guess though, when the kid speaks here, I let you see the cute part of her, more than the whiny, needy, sad part of her. But still, she offers a lot. Thanks for seeing it.

      Timing is off. He he. So true.

      This was like a pep talk for the joy of parts. Appreciated.

  5. weareonebyruth said:

    Parts or not parts, office politics can be tricky. Perhaps, when I read this and the comments the suggestion was to apologize. You wondered for what. My thought was talking to the manager you have known for a long time and say something like, “I am feeling stressed about this new deadline, I apologize if I came across over anxious about some of the points in our discussion.” This allows you to recognize the trigger, state how you are feeling without revealing everything. Everyone gets stressed by new dead lines. I think one of the hardest things for me after integration was realizing many of the same problems still existed. Parts was just how I handled the problems. Without parts, I needed to learn new ways to cope with what was happening. Being anxious in this situation is very understandable. I am hoping that you get things worked out. Hugs. Ruth

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, I could do that. But this manager, I’m not going to apologize to. She dissed me. She was actually extra polite to me next meeting, carefully wishing me a good weekend – so I think it’s OK for her part anyway. I didn’t argue with her at all.

      My boss is another matter. But I kind of think I’ll be careful to be very polite, facilitating meetings instead of leaping in to state my point of view. I think it will smooth itself out – I don’t want to draw attention to something that was maybe not a big deal to start with.

      I understand how parts could be a way of coping, then when they were integrated, you still needed new ways of handling problems.

      Thanks Ruth. Hugs to you

  6. I think when you’re dissociated, life is just hard. It’s harder than it is for may other people, and most people have no idea that it is hard for you or why. Your struggles are very invisible, but it’s also not the kind of thing you want to have visible, so isn’t like having other invisible burdens that you can educate others about, like MS or fibromyalgia. And people tend to assume your mishaps are character problems. It’s hard to be effective at work. It’s hard to manage relationships. The whole thing is just difficult. Basically, if you can get your pants on in the morning and survive the day you’re doing well.

    It sounds like you wanted some thoughts on your work situation, so I’ll comment. I guess the first thing that comes to mind though is really more personal: you feel worthless, but feelings aren’t reality. It’s totally understandable that you would feel that way–there’s a long history of feeling worthless that this could trigger–but it doesn’t mean you are worthless. Personally, I don’t think people can really be worthless unless maybe they’re an active danger to society. Everyone has a place and something to give to others. But you’ll have to decide about that. On the other hand, it is possible that some other people you mention also think you’re worthless. That is just a thought though. Their thoughts are not reality either. That said, feeling worthless is really painful. For myself, I don’t find a logical argument with myself about my worth is helpful. It just intensifies the agony. It does help just to see that I’m in pain and be nice to myself.

    If you think you hurt your boss’s feelings–or even just think arguing was inappropriate–you can apologize. Apologies can mend relationships and make them stronger.

    On the woman who made fun of you: she sounds like she’s just got a bit of a mean streak. Some people are like that. Witty responses can be useful, as is the phrase, “That seems uncalled for,” raised eyebrows or just, “Ouch.” But generally I can’t advise on mean people. I’m not that great with them. If they think they can get away with it, they’ll respond to most challenges by upping the meanness. Because you’re a contract employee, she probably feels she can get away with it.

    It is tough to be single on a single income while you try to work all this out. I really know what you mean. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      That is so true what you say about life when dissociated Ashana. And about mornings, lol. Thank you.It is exactly that – rough in an unexplainable way.

      I do think the feeling worthless, and the extreme emotions I felt after this incident, were blasts from the past. Maybe how I felt in my family after arguments I’d lose.

      Yeah, the woman who makes fun of me is maybe a bit odd. But I do find, she does seem to be pointing out my failings, which are real enough, so in a way, she is useful. I know from other experiences with her that she is a decent person, but she does things like this, so I will be a bit on my guard with her from here on in.

      Thanks for understanding so well. Best to you.

  7. Gel said:

    Ellen
    There are so many insightful intelligent comments here. I don’t know what to add. I’ve learned a lot reading this and the comments.

    Here’s something….you wrote “I no longer like her. I am going to be guarded around her and not particularly friendly.”
    That sounds exactly how I react in situations where someone says or does something that affects me like you’ve described. One way I’ve been working with that is to first give myself empathy for the pain I’m feeling. Then tell myself that I have a right to protect myself. I affirm (privately with myself) that the other person may have treated me inappropriately. But then I also try to be realistic that I may not have interpreted what is going for them accurately and that there might be more there that I don’t see. Other stuff that has nothing to do with me.

    Because the thing is, when I become more guarded and I’ve labeled that person as not friendly and not likeable, then I close down and stop being open to seeing the other parts of them. I turn them into an ‘enemy’ . So now I’m trying to both be protective of myself while at the same time remind myself that they are probably struggling with something too.

    Saying an apology without putting yourself down in the process can be a really good thing for keeping the relationship in a better place.

    Wishing you well!

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, my commenters are lovely and amazing.

      Yes, I take your point about the co-worker. We had another meeting, where I was very much calmer, and she was fine, not putting me down in any way. So I’m going to be wary, to protect myself, but I don’t dislike her. It is perhaps disconcerting for her to have someone dissociative to work with. I’m sure it’s a bit confusing.

      Thanks for your thoughts Gel.

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