Down in the pit

I’ve had an upsetting day and now I can’t sleep. A bad run in with the boss. He does seem to be working up to letting me go. The things he says are so irrational, so unreasonable – it’s hard to know how to respond. I get that he’s irritated with me, doesn’t like what I do, feels I’m holding up his project somehow. But when it gets to specifics, it all goes up in smoke. He’s so sure I’m at fault, but he doesn’t pin down how.

I don’t want to go into the boring specific ins and outs. You’ll just have to trust me that I’m an experienced writer, and that basically, I’m acting in reasonable ways. He, on the other hand, has basically no experience whatsoever with documentation, and so is trying to manage a project where all the predictable issues are brand new to him. He doesn’t even really know that they’re issues that occur all the time – to him, everything is someone’s fault.

Today, after my co-worker who shares my office had left for the day, this boss came storming in to ask how the project was going. I’d just received feedback a half hour ago, so I was fixing something up. He was furious that I’d had this particular issue. He left, and I swore pretty loudly. He’d been a complete AH. A few minutes later, he came back, shut the door, sat down, and asked, very aggressively, if he was being unclear. He went into a bit of a tirade about how he’d been coaching me, how long this project was taking, that everyone else was faster than me (not entirely true), that at this point, he didn’t see what else he could do, and did I even want to be here on this project?

I returned some of his fire. I was shaking I was so angry and upset. He actually calmed down quite a bit when he saw he’d upset me. I told him I’d just gotten the feedback half an hour ago, and so hadn’t had time yet to fix it. He said he hadn’t know that. Well then, why not find out before the accusations start flying?

He said he’d like it done by end of day. Which was about a half hour away by this time. So I stayed over two hours late to finish this up. I won’t charge for the extra time. There is a problem that I had that was perhaps my fault, and so I was fixing that. However it was an honest mistake. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. All the other accusations were completely untrue. So I stayed late. He left right on time, so wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t stayed.

The day before, he was angry about other QA feedback on my project. Yet there was nothing different about my feedback from anyone else’s. He just attacked me, without asking any questions at all. He’d completely misunderstood. So I explained, which I’m not sure if he even took in.

Anyway, it’s been a crappy time. I still don’t want to be let go.

I had therapy scheduled for seven thirty, so I had to drive straight there from work. I didn’t have a cheque book, or my notebook of dreams. And I was so tense, and so worked up, and so upset, it was hard to do any therapy. When I get that upset, I can’t calm down enough to do any useful work. I just vent for a while. Then Ron says a few things, which are sensible, but any friend could also say them.

The kid makes an appearance right at the end of the hour, where I have been adult and verbal but not emotional. And the kid starts sobbing as if she’ll never stop. And it’s time to go, so I sit on Ron’s couch, trying to switch back into the coping adult.

So it’s too bad this happened on therapy day. I need some degree of calm to be able to do much therapy. It’s contradictory, I know, but it’s true. If I’m right in the middle of the soup, it’s too stressful to have a conversation about anything but how hot it is and how I’m drowning. With a bit of time to decompress, I could make more headway with my feelings. It’s like I’m so busy coping, I can’t feel.

Yuck. One more day. Not sure how I’ll get up tomorrow, with not being able to sleep today.

I think without this job, I’ll miss my two co-workers. I haven’t felt lonely since I started the work. That chit chat and discussions about work does a lot for me. I don’t need deep relationships all the time. Just ordinary ones work fine for me. So I will miss them. Of course, the rest will be good riddance.

I wonder what will happen.

  1. I’m so sorry, Ellen. This sounds like a dreadful situation. I hope that tomorrow is an easier day.

  2. Bummer. My deepest sympathy. I’m hoping this work out for you.

  3. Gel said:

    It does sound like a crappy situation. I hope it changes soon for the better.

    It seems to me that you have a good ability at seeing the difference between what is your stuff and what other people are doing that is crap and has an affect on you too. It seems important to have that ability. Not that it makes anything less difficult. Just in terms of being able to keep moving forward in your ‘work in the world’ and developing skills in relating.

    I like what you wrote in that last paragraph about not needing to have deep relationships all the time. That is something I try to remember since I can sometimes go between total isolation or deep deep connection with nothing in between… there is value in different levels of connection depths. Even light superficial relationships have a place of value.


    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Gel. Yes, different kinds of relationships was a lesson I also learned later in life.

  4. Bourbon said:

    I’m really sorry, I hope the pit gets shallower for you soon x

  5. Ashana M said:

    Oh, i do trust you that he’s being a jerk. He sounds like he’s inexperienced with this kind of work, so unexpected things happen that feel out of control to him. Somewhere along the line, he learned that you have to be aggressive and angry to make things behave. Why he’s picking on you, I don’t know, but he seems to have the idea that it’s safe to vent his need to control on you. No one likes to be broken up with. I think most of us feel better as the one to end a relationship.

    This does seem to explain why you’re feeling so tired these days though. If he has that kind of personality, you must be triggered all day and using all your energy just to cope and stay professional and normal, rather than sobbing or lashing out in retaliation.

    All I can suggest is more sausage and sauerkraut or whatever makes the kid happy. She needs a little joy in between workweeks of this.

    Oh, and i get that you need some calm to do useful work. I’m the same way. Maybe try starting a session after a day like that with some meditation. Or something that’s a little bit soothing. I had one therapist who always played classical music in his waiting room, and he had a huge stock of teas, so we started the session picking out a tea. He didn’t turn out to be the right therapist for me, but the ritual of starting off with a cup of (usually herbal) tea helped me start off calm enough to talk about things.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for understanding Ashana. I think I am using a lot of energy repressing feelings and just coping.

      The idea of starting a session quietly is good. We don’t have a ritual, but I usually sit quietly for a few minutes just adjusting to the environment, and Ron is fine with that. I think though also, if there’s a lot of turmoil in my daily life, I don’t get to the deeper issues I want to address in therapy. It’s more venting / crisis management, which has it’s place, but I need to do the deeper work.

      • Ashana M said:

        Take care. It’s so hard to balance these things.

  6. Cat said:

    The bloke is a first class AH. Good on you for sticking up for yourself, hopefully he’ll think twice before going in for the jugular again!

    I know exactly what you mean about needing a clear head for therapy. I actually couldn’t attend my individual session last week, simply because there was too much happening at once.

    • Ellen said:

      I do understand about having too much going on. Thanks Cat

  7. Hi Ellen,

    Just offering up my support. I pretty much always read your posts but don’t comment often unless I have something I want to add. This new gig sounds tough and stressful.

    I want to recommend the book Hardwiring Happiness once again (I know I mentioned it previously). Although I realize you deal with different issues due to having serious trauma and parts, the stuff discussed in this book is applicable as it really details how we have been wired to have a “negative bias” in our brains due to thousands if not millions years of evolution.

    In short, because we’ve evolved to survive, our brains tend to be highly focused on discerning threats and potential threats more than being happy, relaxed, or enjoying the positive aspects in life. As far as my brain is concerned, I can be a miserable SOB forever, as long as I am alive. It’s a recipe to live a long time, even if not very happily.

    Obviously, the negative bias can be even more heavily ingrained due to traumatic life experiences. I’ve had some, and at an early age obviously it tends to make the conditioning even stronger.

    However, the book Hardwiring Happiness points out that because our environments have changed so drastically from the old caveman days where we were avoiding sabertooths and the like, we now have these brains and nervous systems that are constantly stressed when they don’t need to be. The signals are still there–everyday I’m experiencing perceived dangers and having my fight/flight response triggered. But the reality is not supportive of such a high level of reactivity.

    The book discusses some ways to tone down the negative brain bias and shore up the positive. I found that just reading about it made me feel less damaged. It’s NORMAL to be negative and to feel anxious due to millions of years of evolution, as well as the negative and traumatic experiences I’ve encountered in my life (particularly childhood).

    The question now is how to perhaps undue some of it, relax my mind and nervous system so I can start to repair the damage and recuperate a bit. The science tells us that due to neuroplasticity we can in fact change these aspects of our nervous system and brain over time. Even a little bit helps!

    I hope you continue to do this work as it is clearly paying dividends, even during these challenging times.



    • Ellen said:

      OK, I’ll look up that book, thanks. I do know the overarching theory, that it was a good survival strategy to think negatively and suspiciously, in the jungle.

      I’m not sure in this particular situation, it’s a case of negative thinking. This guy seems fixated on me in a bad way. It happens, on the highway of life. Though I do think I’m also being triggered, making things feel worse for me than they need to.

      Great to know you’re still here! You are my most long-term reader and I appreciate your being here.

  8. what an ass he is to treat you like that! Glad you were able to stand your ground. Meditation at the start of therapy, sounds like a good plan. if ron does it that is. X

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