Yeah, So Sue Me.

*Potential Trigger Warning*

I’m going to talk about scary things involving mental illness and suicide.
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I have a confession to make. I have been holding out on you!

Before I get into that, I wanted to point out that I am very aware that I’ve also been really bad at writing, at looking at my social media (which I hate doing anyway), and keeping up with my favourite blogs out there. Christmastime is a real time vampire.

But also, I have a job now.

Say whhaaaaat?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a job. As in, a thing I have again. A place where I have to go to and stay at all day and think and type and talk and have a coffee break and then I get money.

I almost feel like a normal human being!

The best part is that I’m actually making more money than I did before (because I now work 260 fewer hours per year than before, and let’s not even get into the amount of unpaid out-of-the-goodness-of-my-heart overtime I will no longer need to work in order to “get ahead”). My boss is very smart and doesn’t say “supposably.” I have encountered exactly zero instances of nepotism, which is an added bonus.

Also, I have a reason to shower and wear makeup again. I don’t smell like a homeless person anymore and I don’t resemble Joaquin Phoenix! So many benefits!

But I wanted to talk about something else today. And that is standing up for your fucking self when it’s hard.

I got a bunch of messages back in November about how I should sue my old work. Well, obviously I was on the same page as you guys on some levels, but it’s not something I could (or will) write about…. in much detail. But let’s just say I did pursue a thing or two, because fucking obviously, and settled the matter before it got to the point of going on the public record and needing to visit a judge. Avoiding that portion has been great for my anxiety and my soul.

The week after ShitEaters Incorporated canned me, I went though a lot of crazy emotions. I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to be mad at: myself? Them? I felt foolish, embarrassed, angry, sad. I wanted to cause them pain. Then I wanted to disappear. I wanted the owner to call me and tell me his son was an idiot and I certainly was not fired. I wanted to let bygones be bygones. I wanted to move away. I wanted them to pay for me therapy bills. I wanted them to have to job-hunt for me to save me the work. I wanted it to be a dream. I felt bad for them. I wanted to get on with my new life. I wanted their business to fail. I wanted everything to have never happened. I wanted to work in a dark corner of a used book store where no one would ever see me and there was no pressure to do anything except organize things. I hated myself.

I started to spend a lot of time thinking “you should have just swallowed your emotions and just pushed through it and stayed miserable and that way you’d have a job.” My mind had changed: I truly felt that they believed they hired a person (me) who was both capable physically and mentally to do the job at hand. I clearly fell short of that in the mental department. Didn’t they deserve to have a good employee? Why should their company have to suffer the consequences of MY emotional reactions? Why couldn’t they just get rid of the loose cannon that I was, and move forward with a more productive person who would not hide in the bathroom crying 1.2 times per day (rough estimate)?

I felt that way. I sided with them on a majorly self-deprecating level. It caused additional stress and compounded my emotional distress in a way I was not aware was physiologically possible. More guilt. More anger. Less self-worth.

One afternoon, I was texting a good friend of mine. She was horrified at what happened, and she told me she was super pissed that they’d let me go.

“What if you went home and killed yourself?”

Those words were harsh and uncomfortable. She is a fiery redhead, you see. Reading them on this page right now, I cringe. But you know what? Those words are a perfectly real, true possibility in this world. If someone with a mental disorder of some sort (especially depression) was in my position, that person very possibly could have been suicidal. Being misled and fired unexpectedly very possibly could have been the thing that pushed that someone over the edge. What made my boss think that that was not within the realm of possibility for me? I didn’t even know that I would be physically safe in the end until afterward when I noticed that I was indeed still alive. Will I still feel strong tomorrow? I don’t know.

The thought disturbed me.

What made my boss think that his business endeavours were more important than a human life?

As far as I know, robots have not replaced humans in the workforce (entirely). We hire humans to work for us. They are not perfect. Humans have a lot of baggage. Therein I found my resolve.

Humans have feelings. Problems. Families. Histories. Plans. Celebrations coming up. Disasters trailing them.  Annoying voices. Messy hair. Weird shoe choices. Too much cleavage. Tendencies to be late (ahem). Sick kids at home. In-laws in town. Spouses who are leaving them. Fathers who suffered heart attacks. Sisters who died. Wives who gave birth.

Humans have mental disorders. Depression. Anxiety. And any of the million other mental health issues I could name here, none of which truly impedes that person’s ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Depression itself doesn’t stop you from crunching numbers, pushing paper, or serving customers. We are all equal the way. No mental disability dehumanizes or minimizes a person’s worth.

These humans, these wonderful, disastrous humans – they are the only choice. And they are worth so much more than some CEO’s bottom line.

They’re worth more than the inconvenience of being a body short in the office. Than deadlines not being met. Of workloads piling up. Of having to hire a temp. Humans are more important that money.

If your company enjoys a $20,000,000 windfall because you got rid of some pour soul who went on to take his life after being let go, then go fuck yourself. You aren’t the kind of human this world needs right now. Seriously, get off my fucking blog page, and fuck yourself repeatedly.

On that note, I’ve come to realize that money is the only thing that matters to my old boss. It’s the only language he really speaks. Compassionate and progressive he is not.

Emotion is my language. Positive change is important to me.

I began to feel that if I didn’t pursue things, I was tacitly condoning those actions and opinions that hamper our society. I was agreeing that people don’t matter. The thought of laying down and essentially saying “you win, I’m not even going to try to fight back” made me feel ashamed of myself.

It was the best shame I’ve ever felt.

Don’t I advocate for mental health? Isn’t that, if nothing else, the only thing I feel truly passionate about in life?

I think that society accepting mental health in the workplace without the stigma has made a good start – but it’s got a long way to go. I am proof of that.

The only way to change society is to be that change. If the minions of the world don’t stand up to their bullies, there would be no progress. That’s where #MeToo and other campaigns truly originated from – the little guy going up against the beast, over and over until everyone else starts to take notice.

So after thinking about it really really hard, I did what I thought was right. I stood up to them. I decided to force them to turn their minds to the aftershock of their actions. The result didn’t matter. Their attention did.

A million dollars can’t make things better for me. What I truly need is impossible. A law court can’t wave a magic wand and erase the humiliation I felt (and still feel). It can’t restore my self-esteem. It can’t allow me to walk down the street without feeling terrified that I’ll bump into someone from my old office. A court can only award money.

But money is the only thing my ex-employer values. The only thing that gets his attention. The only way I could get his attention.

I’m not going to get into any details. There was no clear winner, and no clear loser. But in and of itself, it was another step toward destigmatizing mental health in the workplace.

I’m going to share the experience here in the coming weeks. No details will be revealed: no dollar amounts, no steps I may or may not have taken, no names, no positions, nothing.

What I can share is my emotional experience. What my hopes are. What my sociological goal was.

I hope my actions can help evoke positive change.

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Don’t Shush Me.

The other night, I was having a much-needed glass of wine — I switched early to iced tea; I’m a bit scared of having more than a glass or two right now, lest I start gushing tears in an inappropriate setting — with the in-laws.

One of my lovely family members was recounting a story about her aging mother. Once upon a time at a graduation event, Granny had just commented on her ex-son-in-law’s lack of hair. Loudly. He was several rows away, but they could tell that he had definitely heard her. Her granddaughter turned and told her to keep it down. Exasperated, the old woman retorted, “don’t shush me!”

I have never met this old lady, but I fucking lover her. The only thing I love more than old ladies who swear is old ladies who speak their minds and demand to be heard. Maybe hurling insults isn’t the best example of this. But still. Say your words, ladies.

Several years ago, I was too timid (read: anxiety-ridden) to ask my old boss for a raise. I was too scared of a lot of things. For me, talking to any authoritative figure about anything was as terrifying as telling your dad you just dented his beloved sports car.

In my defence, that damn car was really hard to park.

It took a lot of fucking courage to get to the point where I did ask him for that raise. I researched my position online, as well as salary reports to ensure the dollar figure I wanted wasn’t outrageous. I asked friends with my job how much they made. And I didn’t just back up my argument: I groomed my mind, too. I watched some TED Talks because I am a millennial. I re-read Lean In, and flagged helpful chapters, which I read yet again the morning I had the conversation. I even went into the ladies’ room to prep: I did a power pose with a stupid grin slapped on my face while I counted to 60.

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“Sir, I’d like a 20% raise. Also, tell Judy she can’t make popcorn in the staff microwave anymore.”

I’d love to report that all of my gimmicks worked. But they did not. I was counter-offered a typical 2% cost-of-living raise. I died on the spot.

Just kidding. The thing is, I’d done a really good job of tricking myself into being ambitious and goal-driven. For the first time in my professional life, I’d been assertive, and requested what I wanted.

Despite what my anxious self told me, I did not melt on the spot and the world did not stop turning when my boss turned down my request. A crowd of peanut-eating gawkers did not appear and start cackling at me. My boss just said no. That was all that actually happened.

Now, defeat hurt. It hurt a lot, and it was hard to deal with. I won’t sugar-coat that fact. But I did recognize that I’d done the hardest part: asking. And it didn’t kill me. So I did what the average individual without soul-crushing anxiety would do: I applied for a new job elsewhere. Anxiety screamed at me not to, but I did it anyway.

Imagine how thrilled I was when I got my asking wage at Shitty Assholes Inc. (I mean, little did I know how things would turn out) and saw a real future for myself on the horizon. I was so freaking pumped. I had done the hard thing and asked for my worth, and it had actually worked. They were like, “Mm’kay. When can you start?”

Once I started at Assholes Inc., I didn’t stop negotiating. I decided ahead of time that I wanted a raise after a few months, and checked that off my list. I made myself follow through in approaching my boss when I felt under-utilized, so that I’d shed administrative tasks and further my career with them. I marched into his office when it was bonus time.

Over and over again, I was successful. It was weird. I was disappointed in a way; I would have much preferred to have been handed all of these things on a silver platter. It would have been nice to coast through life on my stunningly good looks. It was like when you start dieting and exercising and actually lose weight. Part of you is like “oh. So yer saying I can’t sit on my ass and get skinny?”

But alas; I learned that you must actually climb corporate ladders in order to get what you deserve. Sitting around waiting, whether it’s because you’re lazy and think the world owes you everything, or because you have anxiety and climbing does not come naturally to you, is probably not gonna pan out the way you want it to. You will miss out on everything.

So I did the hard, uncomfortable thing*. I didn’t let anyone shush me.

If I want even a tiny chance at getting back to where I was three months ago, I need to not shush myself. I need think critically and act accordingly. I need to be my own cheerleader. I need to keep doing the things to get back to where I used to be: the worthy, capable, efficient, and dare I say happy employee who run the world like Beyoncé.

I can appreciate that many readers could think “hey idiot! Don’t keep taking your own advice. It got you literally nowhere: (A) you didn’t get that raise from Boss #1 and (B) you got fired by Boss #2. TAKING YOUR ADVICE = NO JOB. Obviously anxiety is the clear thinker, and you are delusional. Stay in bed forever.

I agree with your logic, dear reader. Yes, I am almost certainly an idiot. I once scratched off the entire surface of an It’s My Solo Cup because I thought I’d win prize money. I am sitting here blogging because I have not worked in two months, and the only reason I am not a street person is because Boyfriend thinks I’m pretty. I love my bed more than anything and your advice is very persuasive on that basis alone.

But even today, notwithstanding the fact that someone snuck up behind me, inserted an egg-beater into my brain, and went to town with the crank, there is residual “I did that hard thing that one time!” floating around in there, intact. I wasn’t shushed then, and I won’t be shushed now.

It is a fleeting thought. And writing this post is my attempt at catching it with a net.

Because as you so astutely pointed out, I don’t have a job. And I need to go find one.

So don’t shush me.

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*that’s what she said.