Emotional flashback

One thing that really is hitting home for me from this week’s evening session is the realization that I’m being triggered.

Work continues to be an enormous struggle for me. This has been a theme for me pretty much since I started in the workforce, basically seventeen years ago. The difficulties change, but it remains the case that I am struggling pretty hard nevertheless. Usually the trouble is not the work per se, but troubles with bosses, with co-workers, or sometimes with such low level work it bores me to tears.

This particular contract seems to be triggering massive anxiety for me. A second person was fired from our small team at the end of last week. They don’t even get their two weeks’ notice – they’re just gone. We’re told the person was being difficult with the client. Who knows what their side of it is.

And the fact is, I’m not meeting my metrics unfortunately. Last time I did, kind of by a fluke. But this week, I have to fix up last week’s documents, as it turned out I was writing in a different way than what is required. Would have been nice to get that feedback sooner, but oh well. The thing is, fixing up these ‘old’ docs is taking precious days away from the seven new docs I am to produce over the next two weeks.

Anyhoo. I had a real low Monday. I came home completely overwhelmed and convinced I too was about to be fired. I had the overwhelming urge to quit this job, both to avoid the stress of it and to forestall the humiliation of being let go. But – I knew I had just quit another job recently. What’s with all the quitting? In addition, ye olde bank account was crying for funds.

I decided to phone people to ask for advice. My friend J was home, and after I’d semi hysterically explained my situation to him, I started to feel better. He actually came over and brought me food, he was so concerned, which was kind. It was amazing how much more tolerable the situation became once I could discuss it. It was difficult to explain why I was so sure I too was about to be let go, and I realized the situation wasn’t that clear. Though I think the relief I felt had more to do with telling someone else what was going on than with re-jigging my thinking. Maybe it was both.

I went to therapy and explained about the job, about my fears, about my extreme need to quit and how I dealt with it the day before. Ron asked if I was anxious, and I told him I thought I was having massive anxiety, and did I seem anxious. He said he thought there was a layer of anxiety over top of a lot of other feelings. And that I am likely triggered by the work situation into past feelings.

There is a part, V, that has been loud and prominent. This is a young teen part of me. That part experienced so much pain, loneliness and rejection. I spoke a bit about that time of my life, how I more or less stopped speaking to anyone. How I was depressed all the time, and sure this was my fault and my failing, but not able to work out what I could do about it. I remember the heaviness and hopelessness of that time.

So lying there on Ron’s couch, I started to feel some of those feelings. They hurt to feel, but feeling them reduces the anxiety.

At work, my co-workers have been commenting, asking if I’m OK or doing better. I guess I’ve been giving out distress vibes. I’m trying not to do that – I want to be seen as capable as anyone else.

If my feelings at work are kinds of emotional flashbacks to my past, at least my extreme feelings make some sense. Those feelings of alienation and helplessness are feelings I had as a teenager.

Today we had a meeting at work with the big boss. I felt completely alienated, and he actually asked me if anything was wrong. I stood there, as the meeting progressed, and started to acknowledge to myself that a lot of these feelings were coming from that part, and from the past. And it helped a lot. I tried to focus on the here and now, where bad things are not currently happening to me. I was then able to engage a bit with the meeting, asking some questions not in a hostile way, but just in a normal conversational way, and the response was good. So then I again felt more a part of the meeting, and more a part of the team, and less under threat, and less angry.

Ron said that the task is to separate the present from those past feelings. And I knew that before, really. But for some reason this thought is really meaningful to me right now. There is nothing so terrible happening right now. I have a job with some challenges, but also some good points. The boss/PM continues pleasant and seems actually good at his job. He seems to see his job as helping the team get things done rather than harass us or whip us into shape. My co-workers also are fairly decent and we all rub along. And I’m earning good money.

Anyway, it doesn’t make sense that I keep falling into despair or fear because of this contract. It makes a lot more sense if I see it as flashbacks to my past.

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10 comments
  1. I’m glad y ou had someone to talk to about all this it makes everything a lot less overwhelming when you can share with friends.

  2. leb105 said:

    Yes! Please frame this post! Great example of meeting the challenge of navigating past and present!

  3. e.Nice said:

    Wow Ellen. Really good job recognizing what is coming up. I think it is so interesting that the insight makes it a bit more manageable. Probably because it makes sense and doesnt feel so out of the blue? Continued well wishes for your job and bank account!

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks enice. Insight helps because then I no longer am so sure that my current situation is torturing me – it could be it is more reminding me of past issues. Which makes me less reactive to the present.

  4. Two things really jumped out at me from this post. First, there was your statement: “It was amazing how much more tolerable the situation became once I could discuss it.” I have found that as well, as I have very tentatively reached out and told a few people more about what is going on with me. Not everyone has responded well, but encountering some warmth and understanding from even one person (besides my therapist) felt good. It made me feel more connected to someone in the world. And like you said, talking through a bit of it can help sort it out in your head.

    And then you wrote: “…the task is to separate the present from those past feelings. And I knew that before, really. But for some reason this thought is really meaningful to me right now.” I keep having this experience, where something I already learned suddenly becomes relevant and meaningful, almost as if it were a brand new insight. That’s because there is such a big difference between what we know in our heads and what we truly know in our hearts. It’s such a helpful step forward when the truth moves into our hearts.

    As always, wishing you peace of mind and spirit. Love, Q.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for the lovely response Q. It means a lot that you understand and have had similar feelings.

  5. Cat said:

    It’s odd how we can know something for a long time before it actually clicks. I identify with having problems “separating the present from past feelings”….jee always a tough one, but awareness is everything

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Cat! So nice to hear from you – hope you’re well. It is a tough one. Thanks

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