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triggers

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.

Well, one week down for a ten week contract. I am extremely tired. I feel like I’ve burned out – just have that heavy exhausted feeling all the time. I’m not depressed. It’s as if my cells are not getting the oxygen they need from my breath.

The contract is a mixed bags in terms of positives/negatives. The people are nice. I’m with fellow writers who are pretty independent, like me, but also fairly friendly. The Project Manager is acting as boss, and he is younger and fairly soft spoken – I can’t imagine him yelling. The quality assurance person is an older woman, very chatty and seems bright and competent.

The down side to this one is the sheer volume and speed of work required. The company I’m with has committed to completing and enormous amount of procedures in very little time. I’ve already fallen behind, delivering only two procedures when they wanted five. I don’t think anyone actually was able to complete five either, but I suspect I delivered the fewest.

I guess they need volume as opposed to quality. Somehow, I have to be able to produce enough for the right number of check marks on the PM’s spreadsheet, regardless if there is any quality there or not. Not how I like to work.

I feel it is harsh to ask so much from the first week at work. We didn’t get connectivity until end of day Wednesday, or email. First two days then we did more training exercises, though it wasn’t clear that’s what they were at the time.

I am intending to make some kind of plan for myself so I can conform to what’s being asked. It’s just taking me a few days to acclimatize and even figure out what they want and how to give it to them. It’s only ten weeks. I do need to keep this contract if I possibly can, to replenish the storehouses.

I feared I would be let go Friday, after not getting in enough documents, and the PM and QA who had been friendly, suddenly becoming frosty and in the case of the QA, who is nice, worried looking.

Anyway. After becoming enormously afraid and tearful Friday afternoon, going for a walk and coffee to try and compose myself, I made it back to work and at least handed in my two measly documents. I almost quit actually, because the task seemed so impossible. However, I didn’t, and I’ll go back and try to make it work somehow.

I wonder what really causes this exhaustion. This is a challenging contract, but I have this reaction for any new job I take on. I think it’s maybe the stress of clamping down so much on my reactions and triggered feelings. I end up being unable to sleep, I’m so tense. Then I drug myself to sleep, though I also try and do meditation/self-expression/prayer/reading. I am likely not getting proper sleep.

It is so easy for bosses to start seeing me as a problem child. I think it must be something I give off, some vulnerability, some essence of not being competent. I don’t know. It’s hard. Writing about it is bringing all these feelings up. Just being seen as not good enough. That echoes my place in my family – simply not as good as my siblings. Defective. A squashed and hopeless feeling.

 

I’ve been feeling as if I were kicked in the stomach since my session. It feels so very physical, yet when I press down around my gut, nothing is actually sore. It’s like a shocked feeling – what you might feel around the pain, without the actual pain.

I haven’t written to Ron about it, and I don’t think I’ll send the daily tracking to him either, this week. Sending reports on how you feel is for someone you trust and feel close to, and I am lacking that this week.

We really didn’t discuss anything very unusual yesterday and I am not sure what triggered the pain. We spoke about looking for work. We did have two small conflicts, but nothing major really. I had the overall impression he thinks I’m avoiding important things, and I did not know what it is I am avoiding. That endless mostly unspoken difference of opinion on what is going to help me. Then there was the very strong and unusual sense I had at end of session that he was angry, or at least very stressed, and wanted me to leave as quickly as possible.

It reminds me somewhat of all the bad relationships I have known. Including to be honest my father. And I feel like a rebellious client, who won’t conform, and at the same time is completely devastated at the lack of approval and connection that results.

I am containing the pain and trying to get a few tasks done despite a portion of my body being in all this pain. At least I am up and have done the dishes. I am glad I’m not spending the day in bed, even if I did get up late. I won’t try and see my son because I need my emotional resources somewhat intact if we are to have a decent time together.

I suspect my difficulties with severe therapy hangovers, even when nothing huge seems to be discussed, is a difficulty I have with Ron and the way we relate. I didn’t think this for a long time, but I suspect that has something to do with it. The feeling of trying to work through vulnerable stuff while not trusting that I’m being cared about. It would be worth discussing but this doesn’t seem to be Ron’s area at all.

A dark day politically. I’m on a media diet for today – I don’t need to see the spectacle of a malignant narcissist ascending to power in my neighbour country. I just don’t want to know anymore about this than absolutely necessary. Must look out for some hopefulness somewhere instead.

I meant to write a Christmas message, and now need a venting type post. Sorry to be discouraging.

Year after year, Christmas has been a difficult and depressing time for me. I start feeling blue at the start of December and get worse from there. This year was different though. I was very triggered by therapy, which took me two weeks to get over, so that took me to mid-December. Luckily there’s a therapy break of a few weeks. I do not really miss it. I especially do not miss the massive triggers and lengthy recovery periods.

I went back to some depression books I’d found helpful in the past – one called Unstuck, and the Mindful Way through Depression. Stuff in those books really helps, and none of it involves looking back to the past. I’ve been going to the gym every other day for the last week and a half. This can trigger me, but it also helps a lot with the depression. Then, I spend some time calming down after exercise, just taking the time to try and feel whatever I feel, and that seems to help.

I also went for acupuncture at a community acupuncture clinic, which is half the price of regular, so I feel I can afford to go. It seemed very low key, but it brought up a lot of sadness for me again, and it took some days to feel better. But then, I felt as if I may have let some old feelings surface and dissipate.

So by today, Christmas day, I’m physiologically not that depressed. A miracle. I’m not super cheerful, but I feel like I can cope.

The parts of Christmas that were nice:

  • my tree – a real pretty one
  • Christmas service last night – I enjoyed belting out the traditional carols, and the candle ceremony where we each held a candle appealed to the kid
  • Christmas lunch with my ex and my son at my house. My ex cooked and brought food, while I provided a tidy space and cleaned up.

The crappy part:

  • dinner with my family today, which I walked out of.

And here I am at home alone at eight o’clock. My family is awful. You might think they’re fine. They don’t yell. Everyone is ‘polite’. But they don’t give a shit about me. It’s just so hurtful. I have known this. But I have been hoping I’m ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too depressed’ and really, I just need to be more self-confident and look at it differently. And now, I no longer think that. I don’t think it’s me.

My siblings and my mother are very focused on cooking the perfect meal. There are five different kinds of veg, plus three salads. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry, many kinds of wine, two kinds of homemade pie.

So I go late afternoon to try and help out. I feel guilty – I bring a veg, but I know they’ve been cooking for hours. Turns out my sibs were down the day before cooking also. I chop things as directed. No one ever talks to me. There is discussion about the food. I ask some questions, but no one responds much, so I give up. I try talking, but no one responds to that either. I wonder – am I boring, or is something I said really embarrassing, or what? I feel uneasy. I feel jumpy. I decide everyone is just tense from the pressure of cooking the perfect meal.

My father’s friends come – all university people. My sister’s friends come – ditto. My father as always refers to my brother’s job, the university professor. The only people who don’t have academic pretensions are my mother, who is almost completely silent, and my uncle and cousin, who both leave early, before dinner, having waited hours for this perfect meal. I know my uncle is also uncomfortable with the focus on university and nothing else.

At dinner, I feel so depressed. No one talks to me. I sit there silently, no longer up to making any effort. Yes, all the dishes are delicious. I couldn’t care less. I finish my plate quickly and leave the table to read my phone in another room. And then, I leave before dessert.

I feel so furious. Maybe I should have said something, but it gets difficult to know at what point to do so. My father is such an asshole. Maybe it’s awful to say it. He must continually control, to show in every way that you must be an academic to be worthwhile. He really does do that. He has never said a word to me on these occasions. I’m never worthy of a comment or any concern.

I’m still seeing red. I hope I get it together to never go back to one of these big family type holidays. They’re all about perfectionism and my father’s controlling ways. I start to feel smaller and smaller until I’m incapable of speaking.

It would maybe have been better to have the fight instead of leaving without a word. I tell you, it’s hard to deal with passive aggression, with mean spirited childish behaviour that goes back many decades. When everything is an omission. My T has pointed out I can still say something, but I find it difficult. Especially maybe with so many relative strangers at the dinner, who are all fitting in with my father’s agenda, and really, just trying to have a Christmas dinner they don’t have to cook.

They have gotten worse these last two years. I understand they are very stressed out by having my disabled son live with them. I cannot help that and would if I could. I know that’s why these rejecting behaviours have escalated, back to the scale they where when I was younger. My siblings just play along for different reasons. I don’t care. I will not keep doing this to myself.

I hope I never see my family again. They can go to hell.

Another post in my continuing series on my life at work.

This morning was rough. I felt so sad, and so silently freaked out. I often have these swirling emotions where I can’t concentrate, and that happened in the morning. Maybe my distress was visible – a fairly curmudgeonly co-worker asked me how I was doing when I passed him in the hall, and he has never ever asked me that before. I said fine and how are you, and left it at that, because I really didn’t want to start crying at work. But it was kind of nice he asked me.

As far as I know, no one at work knows I’ve resigned. I don’t tell anyone – I’m not close to anyone, and it seems disruptive or complaining or something to do so.

But at our small team meeting, J tells my co-worker B I’ve resigned. B very sweetly looks upset – this sad upset look goes over her face. I’m touched, because she didn’t ever talk to me much. I expected she would be indifferent, but she wasn’t.

Back at our desks, I asked if she wanted to go for coffee, if she was interested in what had happened. She said yes, but closer to lunch. She actually never takes breaks, but she does take lunch. But she didn’t want to be seen by J going to lunch with me, so she went off first, then I followed after, and we came back separately. lol. I tell you, the place is insane. But it’s true, J becomes jealous if she thinks we like each other better than her. Ridiculous as this is.

We sat in the food court. B was really really kind. She’s at least twenty years younger than me, but she was kind and sympathetic, and it was so much what I needed at that point. She told me that her two predecessors had both quit, because of J, and that she was the first to have lasted. She said her first six months there were completely awful, and she survived just because she called the former person who had quit the job, and  went to coffee with her a few times, and chatted about the job. I guess she realized it wasn’t her, it was J.

She’s been interviewing also, but needs to hang on for a promised promotion up a level before she leaves, which she’s planning to do next year. She said she survived by accept whatever J dished out. It’s still tough for her, but J trusts her more now, and is nicer to her a lot of the time, aside from the constant micro-managing.

She said she felt bad she didn’t talk to me before, she could see I was having a rough time, maybe she could have helped and I would have stayed. That’s actually true, though I don’t say this exactly. If we could have been allies, and I could have let off some steam and realized I was not alone, that would have helped. And yet – who knows. I might then have stayed in a bad situation that was only just tolerable, instead of finding something better.

B doesn’t look like a depressed abused person. She looks fairly happy, and she takes care of herself, good clothes, exercise, etc. Some women who come from abuse have that look, they look sad, and don’t take care of themselves, but she doesn’t have that. And talking to her, she didn’t even seem that shy. So it’s mysterious, that she is so very quiet at work.

I used to look like an abused, depressed person I think. I’d wear cheap twenty year old clothes, have a bad haircut, and look sad. I don’t anymore though I don’t think.

We also discussed if J could change. B said you can’t change your personality, so she can’t help it. I said you could change your personality somewhat, but it’s a lot of work and you have to want to do that. I think with J, although employee after employee is quitting on her,  and she’s been spoken to about this major problem, she does not really see any need to change.

It’s interesting because I can see she is taking on board that she is not doing well as a people manager, as they call them in the bank. The thing is, she doesn’t actually get what she’s doing wrong. The problem is so deeply rooted in her, she can’t see it. And so she tries to do things, like sometimes she’ll have this fake ‘kind’ voice that she’ll suddenly use on the phone, instead of her usual ranting. Or she’ll try to make friends with us, suddenly coming over and telling us all about her weekend. But she doesn’t really connect, for one thing since we’re all shell shocked by her previous behaviours anyway. And she works very hard, seeking perfection and putting in endless overtime, which is why she is allowed to continue this costly behaviour. She is useful to the organization in other ways.

So that was the end of our lunch. We parted ways, and came back into the office separately, so J would not suspect the terrible deed of having lunch with a team mate! Walking on eggshells is the technical term I’m looking for here. He he.

In the afternoon, I gradually calmed down. By end of day, I was doing my spreadsheet task so calmly, I almost enjoyed it. I think it was having that lunch, having a human interaction, that helped so much.

Middle of a long weekend. Some things are better, some other things seem worse. Life goes on.

My last post was about loneliness. So about half of that turned out to be true. The friend with the mental health issues indeed has not contacted me for many weeks. Maybe she is dropping me as a friend. I could call her, and I likely will in a few more weeks. Usually she called me – she had to be in the mood to talk, so mostly, I’d wait for her to call. She is fragile, and I know the way she has handled other people who have said things she found hurtful has been to drop them. So we’ll see.

The other friend though, that I’d thought had found new friends so no longer needed me….OK, we’ve been out together twice since my post, and may see each other again tomorrow. So I was too pessimistic about her. When she phoned me, I brought up our last meeting, where she and her friend didn’t seem to want to hang out with me. She said that wasn’t true at all, however, they had waited for me for a while, and so were ready to go home sooner than I was. So I was half right, there was a problem, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. So I do jump to negative conclusions sometimes.

This friend of mine, E, is an extremely competent individual, with a very good job and an advanced degree. We actually get along best when she runs into some kind of emotionally painful issue. I can listen for a long time, and I don’t judge. I try not to give advice, though, OK, I do give some. Anyway, I feel closer to her when she has issues. Last night we spent time on a patio drinking wine and talking, and it was pretty nice. She thanked me for listening.

So I am feeling a bit more socially connected than I had been. I do miss Ron. He’s back next week, so I’ll see him Thursday. Since my panicky emails of two weeks ago, I haven’t contacted him. He’d offered a check in call if I wanted it for this week, but I didn’t set one up with him. I had the feeling that that might just stir up feelings, and it would be more comfortable to just have no contact.

I had a bad week work-wise. I had a problem at work two weeks ago, which I wrote about here, which a week later came back to haunt me. This terrible manager spoke to me in an angry way every single day last week about this same stupid problem, which I could do nothing about anyway, as I didn’t have the document back. I hated her so so much. This does sound juvenile, but I think she triggers the kid part of me.

On the day I finally got this document back, in order to make the changes she wanted, I had to deal with one of the directors there. She complained about me to him so loudly, the whole department heard about it. I was sitting at my cubicle furious, since this was entirely unjust.

So the next day, Friday, is her last day before a two week vacation. So she pulls me into a meeting room, says I haven’t been looking too happy lately (duh – because you are attacking me every day and I can’t take it), what’s wrong. I buy some time by saying I haven’t thought about how to put this. She launches into speech. She is concerned that my contract is ending and she wants to proceed to get me in there full time. What? Then why treat me like this??

I tell her I didn’t appreciate how she handled things about this documentation mistake this past week (which was mostly caused by her, though I don’t say that). That I don’t function well once she comes over and freaks out. When this problem first came to light, I’d been working all day trying to get a complicated document ready really fast, as it was behind schedule, and that once she came over yelling, my mind just blanked out.

The interesting thing about her is she is not perturbed when I tell her negative things about herself. She says yeah, she should try and be a calmer person, her boyfriend tells her the same. Well – good luck with changing your entire personality (I don’t say this). But I do say I need her to try and approach me in a calmer way.

So after our talk, where she has said things like she was the person who fought to hire me, over doubts of her boss and my predecessor….Who knows. Kind of bizarre. But she’s positioning herself as my big ally at work.

I felt better after our meeting. Which is confusing, because I had just been certain that I would not continue with this job. Then I felt better, after talking to her, though I know nothing will likely change. The thing is, I deeply do not want to start somewhere else again right now. It is so hard to learn a new job, a new body of knowledge, all new people. I’ve done it every six months now for a few years, and I feel I cannot do it anymore.

However. I’ve been deeply frustrated and angry at this job. I takes me so long to recover.

I don’t know what to do. She hasn’t officially offered it to me yet, so I haven’t had to commit. She’s just strongly indicated she wants me in it.

I can’t seem to figure out what i want to do.

Tonight I talked to my son. He’s been completely disabled by what we thought were allergies for a few years now. He’s feeling worse again he said. I got exasperated with him on the phone – he doesn’t seem willing to help himself at all, to look for any treatments at all. I don’t know.

I just now looked up multiple chemical sensitivities, which might be what’s wrong with him. There doesn’t seem to be much you can do for them.

He’s always been all about avoidance, and not about trying to get his body into better health. I always felt that he should look for something that would help his body not be so reactive. That does work with my allergies. However, for MCS, as this is called, that doesn’t seem to be done.

No one has officially diagnosed him with anything. He never was doing terribly well, to tell the truth, so the whole thing is mystifying. It’s not like he had a normal life and was stricken down.

I got angry on the phone, but the truth is, I feel so helpless. I don’t know how to help. He feels if we could set him up outside of the city somewhere, if he was away from polluted city air, he would feel better, and would be able to get a job. He has no training or experience in anything, so it would be some kind of service job I suppose. I have no confidence he would feel better, that he would take care of himself, or that he would be able to get a job. But that is his vision. Somehow, get someone to give him money so he can move out of the city, then his problems will be solved.

I do feel despair when I try to engage with this. I don’t know what’s psychological and what’s physical. It’s been years, without a diagnosis and with no progress at all.

He was always extremely difficult, he picked his father and not me, and has many of his father’s beliefs. His father’s beliefs are not very workable as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know. Maybe it is all physical. Maybe it’s all psychological. The fact is I don’t know how to help him. He doesn’t have so much as a diagnosis – the medical system has not been helpful in the least.

I’m going to try not to dwell on this sorrow. I should try and go to see him tomorrow. He won’t get on public transportation to come to me for dinner, so I must drive up to my parents’ and take him out for a meal. It’s difficult.

 

Aack. Loneliness. One of my few friends has now found other friends she prefers, so I feel cast aside. We aren’t that close, but she is someone to do a few things with, but she no longer has much time for me.

I also fear I alienated another friend, who lives in another province. We just visited by phone. I know I touched a sore spot with her, and so she has withdrawn. My friends are withdrawers – if something goes wrong, they say nothing, but distance. I find that difficult. I know I picked them because their style felt familiar and safe to me, but now I no longer like that.

The friend who I alienated, I said something about her ‘diagnosis’. She lives on disability on the basis of this. It’s a tough diagnosis – schizophrenia. This came about because of a breakdown she had many years ago, where she landed in hospital. We have similar issues of abuse in our backgrounds. I do feel that her issues are similar to mine – that’s why we’ve been pretty close friends – we understand how it is. My opinion is that she was misdiagnosed – I think dissociation and PTSD can explain what she’s going through well enough. Though of course I wasn’t there.

This friend is not at all critical or independent minded. She barely knows the internet exists, for instance, and so does no research on her own. She believes what those in authority, doctors, tell her. This would be OK, except she is taking a heavy duty anti-psychotic. I think it’s bad for her health. She has a bunch of health problems that some research has linked to side effects of these medications. Anyhow – none of my business, right? It’s been my opinion for a long time, but I kept it to myself.

However, one day she called and found me in a bad space. I had been struggling mightily with my work situation and was really down. She launched into maybe twenty minutes of talking about her own issues, which admittedly, were severe. But I knew, after about ten minutes, that I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t listen to her any more without talking. My friend was too overwhelmed maybe to ask me how I was doing, she just wanted to talk.

And so at some point there, we were going back and forth, and my reservations about her meds/diagnosis popped out. I didn’t insist I was right or anything. I didn’t dwell. But she hasn’t called me since, maybe, two months, which is completely unusual. I know her, and so I know that what I said offended her, and so she withdrew. Hopefully she’ll get over it if I give her space.

So I feel lonely. Ron is away. I had sent him two distraught emails earlier in the week, as my work situation again deteriorated and I felt completely frantic. It does my head in, there, and I can’t work out how much is my part and how much is the dysfunctional workplace’s and boss’ part. I got so depressed I had trouble washing my dishes, and they were piling up. This is one of the basics I need to be able to do in order to keep working, and when I can’t do it, that really scares me. I mean, not that I was doing other things and couldn’t get to the dishes. I just had stopped doing anything much at all.

Writing to him helped. I knew he was out of internet range, but it helped anyway. Like the kid part of me is so relieved that we’re telling a ‘grown-up’. Kind of crazy.  I decided while writing that I needed to get mad, and that mad energy helped me carry on.