Numb.

I’ve just been fired.

After being on medical leave for 6-7 weeks, instead of my first day back being my first day back, they fired me. I’ve never been fired before.

Legally they’re supposed to give me my job back after a medical leave of absence. This is the premise on which I’ve been doing my therapy; this is the basis on which I’ve been psyching myself out: my goal has been “return to work.”

I didn’t have a plan for “get fired” even in the abstract. I never thought it was even a possibility.

But here I am.

I’m no longer on medical leave. I’ve been fired.

I feel like a massive truck just came out of nowhere and smashed any possible mental wellbeing I had cultivated over the past few weeks. All the hard work I did – smashed without any regard for how hard it was did me to accomplish.

I’m back at square one – but lower. At least before, I had a job to return to. I took solace in that. It was comforting.

Now I feel at a complete loss – what do I do? What is my plan? My Ego was right all along – I had reason to listen to Fear and heed it’s warning. Am I wrong?

I don’t have the energy to think about any of that right now.

All I know to be true is that today, I was fired

And I cannot help but feel that my mental health is the reason.

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Office Space.

I’m freaking out.

I’m trying to tell myself I’m worrying over nothing, that these are just feelings that aren’t a part of me, and that this will all pass.

But I’m freaking out, and it’s all about work. As usual.

One of the first things I ever did when I was hired a couple years ago was compile an Office Wish List, as instructed by my boss, for myself and all of my coworkers. We were beginning to outgrow our office space, and they were planning on moving. Fast-forward a couple years later, and it’s finally happening.

In fact, when I return to work (after 7 weeks away), I will be walking into a brand new office.

When I say brand new, I mean brand new. My boss purchased the building, and it’s being renovated to suit our needs precisely. The space is pretty enormous and has been under construction for months, now. It’s pretty high-tech and progressive, with lots of fancy bells and whistles. Bells and whistles that I don’t particularly need or want.

Everyone asked for similar, boring things when I sent around the Wish List – more space and storage, privacy, security. Things like that. No one said they needed anything fancy or silly. I need and want more filing cabinets, a bigger desk, and a working table because I push a lot of paper. That’s all I asked for in my Office Wish List.

When I first saw the layout plans, I was excited. They’d tentatively assigned me what I wanted and needed: an office with a lot more space in it. As it stands, my office is tiny. It’s very cramped; to the point that I suspect that fire marshal would not be pleased with it. I have three large filing cabinets taking up the majority of the office. If they’re open, I can’t get out from behind my desk. So when I saw that my office would definitely have room for a table, and perhaps some built-in cabinets and shelving that would take up less space, I was thrilled.

To me, the size and location of my office suggested that they valued and respected my work. As a severely anxious individual, affirmations like this are a big deal to me. I am working on detaching from these things, because they can come and go in and out of my life without notice. It’s hard to deal with the disappointment that accompanies not getting it, or losing it.

Which is what happened.

A few weeks later, the plans were revised and my office size was cut in half. Not only was it smaller than the office I currently have, but it was smaller than all of the other offices in the entire building!

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Yup. I am Ryan Howard from the Office.

Feelings of dejection and embarrassment swept over me like a tidal wave. I immediately felt stupid for ever thinking they’d assign me a nice office that would actually fit the work I do. I felt like they assigned offices based on how much they valued people. Honestly. I don’t even TV in mine, like many others do. Clearly, they do not like me too much.

But somehow, I began to make peace with it. I reminded myself that the plan wasn’t final (although, it was), that there were many other ‘collaboration’ spaces I could use if I needed them. Plus, I was one of the few people who was getting a window.

And you know what? I didn’t want to be that guy. The one who bitches about first world problems and can’t see the good in anything. I knew I needed to be thankful for what I was being given: a brand new office. I still get to work in my own office, not a cubicle. And it’s not outside where it’s either crazy hot or crazy cold.

After a while, though, I was given a bunch of shitty news within a couple of weeks. One was that we were not getting bonuses this year. Another was that some of us (myself included) would now be responsible for paying for parking. Finally, they denied my request to be paid out a bunch of overtime I was entitled to.

I felt slapped. They’d hired some fancy design firm and builders for our office space. It’s got silly things like plants growing out of the walls, a java cafe, and TVs inserted into the walls that cost 6x the amount of a normal mounted TV.

They cut down a thousand-year-old tree to make our boardroom table.

When my boss told me we weren’t getting bonuses, I actually told him directly that it was very disappointing to hear this, especially when I knew how much money was being spent on a new office with a lot of pricey non-essentials. The conversation did not go well.

Now that I’m on the eve of returning (less than two weeks away), all I can think about is how small my office is and how it’s a reflection of their feelings toward me. How cramped it will be. How my stuff won’t fit. How I will still have piles of paper and files on my floor since I’ll still be out of desk space. I still won’t have room for someone to actually sit in my one guest chair for a meeting.

Now all I can think about is how shitty this new office is. I just want my old office back. It was shitty and small too, but at least so was everyone else’s. At least parking is free.

And I’m worried. What if they set up my desk with my back to the door? That would make the most sense space-wise, but it causes me a lot of anxiety. I can’t handle that kind of vulnerability. And what if my door is glass and transparent? One thing we talked about in one of my reviews what that I needed privacy since people tend to just barge into my office all of the time.

Now I’m picturing myself spending the first few days moving shit around and buying a crappy curtain rod so I can hang up a curtain in my doorway (I am 90% sure it’s a glass door).

I’m already picturing myself hiding in my office, not wanting to talk to anyone, just wanting to get my work done and go home. Work. Home. Work. Home.

I don’t want to see the stupid java station, or see the gorgeous dead tree in our conference room. I don’t want to look at my boss’s 4 in-wall TVs. I don’t want to walk several blocks to get to work after paying for parking, only to see my boss pull up into his free parking spot, even though he makes 4x my salary (if not more – who fucking knows).

It’s just shitty.

Today is a shitty morning. I’ve dedicated 3 hours to thinking about all this crap. I don’t feel like working on myself today.

I just don’t want to go back to that silly office.

It’s stupid.

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The Old Hashtag Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now.

But I’m not dead. I just changed the look of my blog. The old one was ugly (I’d thrown it together within half an hour and without much thought), and I knew I’d be tired of it within a couple of weeks. I even wrote a post about it trying to convince myself that it was good. It’s not. Now, I think (I hope) that it is a little better. I hope all 35 of you aren’t completely confused. You are in the right place.

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This picture is actually of me. And that’s a real shot of my actual safe haven – my bed. I hope the pic is not a recognizable one – if it is, and you’re like “Hey! I know you!” then I would ask you to please, please, never confront me about it. Just pretend like you never saw it or know I have this space. Because I won’t even let Boyfriend read it. And if anyone in my personal life ever saw this, I would panic and delete this whole thing. Seriously.

The other day, I was proof-reading a few old pages (proofing before I hit Publish isn’t my thing), and saw I’d typed my actual first name in a post.

My heart STOPPED. It was about 1:00 in the morning, and an literally jolted out of bed, and fumbled though my phone’s editing options trying desperately to delete that name. It still makes me sick to think that I did that by mistake.

The main reason I do not want to be discovered like that is simply because of work. I’m a professional (technically), and I can’t be talking about work and my personal life in such an open way if people know who I am. I’ve taken great care not to even explain what my job title is, the type of business I am in, or who my employer is. I need to remain anonymous.

So yeah, if you know me? Please don’t out me in the comments or give me a sly, knowing smirk. I will die just like the old Taylor Swift.

I also got a Twitter account. I have one post. It is very hilarious, in a not very hilarious kind of way. I’ll think of something better eventually, hopefully. Feel free to follow me: TWITTERRRRR

Anyway, it’s Saturday, and there’s snow outside. Shout out to my pal (it’s probably one-sided blog-friend-ship because she is very popular and I am not) Damn Girl who wrote a post about winterizing the day it snowed in my city. It’s just adding to my tendency to not go outside ever, and giving me more excuses to curl up in my bed and pretend it’s the right thing to do.

But in reality, I’ve had a pretty ok time this week, anxiety wise. Since the snow is white, fresh, and really pretty right now, it’s not depressing. It brightens the night, and hides the dead grass in my back yard. My cats are pretty into it in visually, but thankfully are no longer brave enough to try and escape out the front door when we open it. It’s like the lava game, only with snow. It’s pretty funny to watch those two dumb-dumbs become hypnotized by it. They truly believe they will melt if they come into contact with it.

Anyway, I don’t have a whole lot to talk about today. I don’t feel like it, since last night I spent a few hours redecorating my blog and panicking about outing myself. After two Ativans and some light reading, I finally fell asleep and got up around noon today.

Killin it.

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Let’s Chat.

My boss never did text me back. But that’s okay.

Yes! Really! I’m okay with it.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about it – but it’s been good, constructive thinking. Open-hearted thinking.

I trust myself. I’ve made choices to tend to my own well-being, and to deepen my understanding of myself in this past month. It’s not happening quickly, but it’s happening. I’m a work in progress (always will be), and feel confident that I am making steady strides in reworking the way I think.

It’s actually quite exciting, when I consider this. It makes me smile.

PS my front yard is also making me smile.

I admit that when I’m in the midst of uncomfortable emotions, I don’t immediately think properly. I need to groom myself to take a breath and not act until I have a clear perspective on things. A true perspective.

Other people’s opinions are based on their own experiences, their own worlds. Not mine. They will never see things exactly as I do. That’s impossible. It’s a standard we often put people to – craving and requiring empathy of others. Sometimes we get it, but it needs to come naturally from that person. In a work situation, there are so many other factors also at play that it adds another layer of complexity to situations.

I cannot rely on other people’s opinions in order to move forward with my own decision making. I can’t serve myself that way.

So, my boss didn’t text me back.

But it’s not so simple. One, I know he is out of town. Two, he gets hundreds of communications every day. I am not the centre of his universe. And third, probably most importantly, I could have worded my text much differently.

I wrote my text when I wasn’t feeling sound in my decision. I gave him a huge burden in my text message: I said I wasn’t about to make a decision without his insight. I put so much weight on his shoulders, and didn’t even offer up what I was considering.

That’s a lot to deal with, and could even get someone on the defensive. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t – but I think that my text was too much for him to deal with when he didn’t receive it. I added so much emotion – a ‘whoa is me’ aspect that could be interpreted as manipulative. Like I was only adding it to get his sympathy, and to get my way. While I wasn’t trying to be manipulative, I don’t think it was that far off.  That’s why he (undoubtedly) set it aside to consider another day.

Today (two days later), I wrote him again. This time, I actually came 50%. I explained my plan for my return to work, and asked him for his thoughts. I didn’t cloud it with my reasons or make him feel like he’d be responsible for my emotional well-being. Yes, I want to come across as human, and not a robot, but guess who is the only person who is able to tend my well-being? Me. No one else.

He response was immediate.

He apologized for not replying right away, and asked if we could have a call tomorrow. Compromise.

That’s fine – it’s what I was open to and what I communicated to him. It’s not surprising, and it’s not the end of the world that he didn’t immediately agree to my suggestion.

I feel really good right now. I feel open, I feel at peace, and I feel in control of my own thoughts and emotions.

Tomorrow, I will likely seize up for a moment when my phone rings. I know I will (I mean, that happens when anyone calls me – even a loved one). But I will take a deep breath, set my shoulders back, smile, and exhale the fear that might show up.

Then I will have a chat with my boss.

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Mid-November.

When I emailed my boss last week, I told him I was planning on returning to work half-way into November. That date comes closer and closer, every day.

I’m still not 100% sure about whether this is my plan yet. Today, I visited my doctor (a three-week follow-up visit), but I realized right away that there wasn’t much point to the appointment.

My doctor is great. He’s funny and lighthearted about things, so I don’t feel like the appointments are daunting or too heavy. But regardless, I found myself just plain sad as I provided him with an update. I didn’t have much to say, and we mulled over some of the things that happened that had me feeling shittier than I had hoped to in three weeks’ time.

As a refresher for anyone who needs it, a few key low points:

  1. Not hearing from my boss at all. Not hearing “hope you’re doing alright” or “we can’t wait to have you back” or something… some empathy. Some suggestion that my fears (of not being wanted back) are not real.
  2. Finding that my job, which I am entitled to return to, was being advertised online.
  3. After reaching out to my boss, not receiving a reply that responded to the vulnerability I showed. His email was stoic and felt like an automated response.

So it’s been tough to figure out a game plan. I woke up this morning feeling like my doctor could help me figure my shit out, but it was such an uneventful appointment and I felt sort of lost afterward. It’s too early to bother having him write me off for longer (I have another follow-up with him before my 6 weeks is up), but since we’re not changing up my meds and he’s not a counsellor, he couldn’t offer me much help.

I guess that it did help me realize that not much has changed, and that I haven’t made much progress on myself. That’s not really the best feeling, and I kind of feel like I’m back to square one.

I texted Work BFF afterward, and tried to decipher whether my boss had given her any guess about what he’s thinking. I guess he hasn’t really. She says he wants me to come back, but she didn’t really have any actual evidence of that. She says everyone wants me back, but that doesn’t really matter to me in terms of making a decision. I already know I have a wonderful work family, and I know that most of them are supportive of me no matter what.

But she couldn’t give me what I really needed – that that’s some evidence that my boss wants me back.

I’ve kind of realized that I can’t keep going over my decision without that key piece of information. Am I wanted?

After stepping away from my conversation with Work BFF, I realized that her response wouldn’t have even mattered. Aside from her saying “I overheard Boss saying “oh man I wish she were here, we really need her and I hope she’s doing okay,” I probably would question whether she was right. Any information she knows would be something he says to her in confidence, and would probably be crafted in such a way that takes into consideration that she’d relay that information to me. Maybe it would even be planted information – something to evoke a certain response or action on my part. That’s not the kind of information I want. I want the truth.

I decided that as terrifying as it may be, I need to speak with him. In person. I need to be able to use my own judgment, hear things with my own ears, and get the full picture. I need to read his body language, his tone of voice. See whether he makes eye contact, and when. I need to assess those subtleties. If I want a human response, I need to see the human.

Maybe it’s all just as simple as he said in his email – he hasn’t approached me on purpose, and is waiting for me to connect when I am ready. Maybe not. But I can’t truly know what is going on until I hear it from him, and see it from him.

Apparently his schedule this week is very full; no surprise there. Work BFF wasn’t able to look too far in his schedule since she wasn’t in the office, but I decided to leave it alone and just text him directly.

[Next day update: I haven’t heard back yet.]

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Fear is here. Again.

 

The other night, I was at home reflecting on a conversation I’d had earlier that day with a friend. She is also on medical leave (for vastly different reasons), but what we do have in common is the fact that we both feel guilty when we are enjoying ourselves during this break.

I mean, if someone is off work because they’re laid up in the hospital with some kind of illness, they’re supposed to be miserable, right? They look miserable. Maybe they’ve got a physical injury like a broken bone – that’s easy enough to see and immediately sympathize with. Or if someone has cancer and has just gone through chemotherapy, it’s possible that they do not look like there is anything physically wrong with them, but we sure as hell wouldn’t blame them for staying in bed all day. And if that someone is on a leave of absence, no one will ask questions. It’s obvious and universally agreed to.

But when you’re dealing with an invisible illness, it’s just not the same. I feel like I have to constantly convince everyone that I’m “sick” enough to be away from work. And honestly? Sometimes I feel like I have to convince myself of that, too. It’s a really sucky double whammy of frustration.

Other people’s thoughts are entirely out of our control. I struggle with letting go of what other people think all of the time, but this time it’s more personal than ever. I worry constantly about when I return to work. What will people think? I’m sure they all know that I have not lost a family member, I haven’t been in an accident, and I haven’t fallen gravely ill. I once told someone that I hoped everyone was assuming that I had a miscarriage (please, please forgive me for saying that. I do not wish to say that in a way that offends anyone. I said it only because it’s the only ‘invisible’ thing that came to mind that would happen to a young woman who doesn’t have kids yet, that does not linger nor show any visible symptoms, and likely would not be talked about openly in the workplace). How sad is it that I’d rather they assume it was something physical because it would guarantee sympathy?

And battling these feelings with myself? That’s another story. It almost causes me to do things like wallow in bed, not shower, and indulge in endless Netflix streaming. I feel like I should not be outside, smiling, or enjoying myself. I shouldn’t have any reason to put on makeup, so I don’t. I shouldn’t have anywhere to go and no one to impress, so I have no excuse to be showering and choosing a nice outfit.

I’ve basically sentenced myself to becoming a sweats-wearing hermit who prefers sleep to showers.

I’m terrified of the unknown. What people are thinking, and what my actions may or may not cause them to conclude.

I know my Ego is the one who comes to these harsh conclusions. The Ego is who makes uncertainty scary.

I am learning more and more that I need to cultivate a friendly relationship with the unknown and uncertainty. Because when you think about it, there is no certainty.

The sun could explode tomorrow, and none of this would exist anymore – that possibility in and of itself, though very slim, proves that nothing is certain. In order to truly be comfortable in life, we need to be comfortable with uncertainty.

So if I try to think about all of this from this place, the place of being comfortable with the unknown, what would I be thinking?

I’d be thinking that Fear is here, and that’s not me. Fear is just fear, it’s just an emotion. A bunch of feelings that I am experiencing. Fear is a pretty mouthy guy, but he’s not here forever and he doesn’t know the truth about anything any more than I do.

This makes me feel relaxed, and my safety and wellbeing are not affected by Fear, by the illusion of control in life.

Things change, people think thoughts, and life goes on. My life will go on, too.

Right now, being at home feels more comfortable for me. And when I can laugh, I feel good. When I go out in the sun, I feel good. When I shower, do my hair, and put on makeup, I feel like I’m part of society and I belong. When I’m in that state, I am better at seeing all of the feelings I experience as clouds that pass by. I don’t feel like I’m stewing in my feelings the way I do when I’m closed off from the world.

I need to keep my heart open and just… chill.

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Do Not Insta-Stalk.

It’s 5:30a and I have been wide awake for a couple of hours now.

This isn’t too unusual for me these days. When my head is spinning and I can’t sleep, I usually read for a while, and if I still can’t turn my head off, I will venture into the living room (so Boyfriend can sleep) and watch TV until I fall asleep on the couch.

Tonight, though, I did something really really stupid instead.

I Instagram-staked an ex.

Let’s back up a little bit. Back in March, I realized I hated social media. I realized that it did nothing but rob me of the joy I should feel when I think about my life and all I have. I can’t fathom how many hours I’ve spent looking at photos of other people’s lives and felt that my own was inadequate. Every day, every photo, it was like I was chasing a new dream that I had never even known I wanted. I’d see some beautiful girl who seemed to run around Europe in beautiful clothing for a living, not a care in the world, and feel horrible, wondering why that wasn’t me. Or I’d see the gorgeous, perfect homes with flawlessly designed rooms and perfectly tidy kitchens, and suddenly find that my own home and furniture was totally wrong. Perfect families. Perfect meals. Perfect pets. Perfect trips.

When I was dating (before I met Boyfriend), I would obsessively check and re-check my dude-du-jour’s profile, searching for hints that he was seeing someone else. Hoping he would allude to my existence in his life so I could feel confident in solidifying things. Looking up beautiful ex-girlfriends and comparing myself to them.

I started to post more and more of my own life’s moments. I posted gorgeous photos of my own travels, hiding the fact that I was actually sunburnt and had suffered from heat exhaustion that day. I didn’t post anything about the cost of the trips, and the incredible backload of emails and work I returned to. And I didn’t share the fact that I spent more time hoping people would feel envious of my trip rather than enjoying it in real life as much as I should have.

I posted selfies that had been perfected by apps that cleared the bags under my eyes and wrinkles that had been beginning to show around my eyes. I hid the imperfections of my body or the parts of my outfit that didn’t match the way I’d hoped. I didn’t post the 10 test photos that didn’t make the cut.

I posted a sting of ‘amazing’ events I was attending that suggested that my life was something everyone would want. I hoped to evoke thoughts from people… “Oh look, she’s at a gala! Oh, now she’s on a boat! Oooh, a golf tournament! Wow, that tiny corner of her house with the perfectly staged chair must mean the rest of her home is just as perfect!” I didn’t post the reality that 90% of my time is spent cleaning, working, watching TV, and grocery shopping like everyone else.

I posted photos of my work trips overseas, glamourizing my job and hoping to impress everyone. I didn’t showcase the fact that I was deeply homesick. There are no photos of the fact that I had the flu during a good portion of one of the trips, and spent hours in a hotel bed suffering. There was nothing there to suggest that the work itself involved long hours, stress about the events’ success and the impact it would have on my job, or the fact that some of it was incredibly boring and no better than being strapped to my desk in my home town.

I began to realize that I was doing what everyone else was doing: posting the perfected snippets of my life that suggest it is something more extraordinary than it is. Even though the other reality is that my life is wonderful, and that I don’t need to post stupid photos about it to prove that to myself.

Most importantly, I started to realize that I was hoping that people would feel horrible feelings when they saw my profile: I wanted them to feel jealous.

That was not a good feeling, and it made me feel deeply ashamed.

Without thinking about it for more than a moment, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram (I don’t have other accounts).

I thought I would miss it, and I thought I would eventually creep back. Perhaps I’d log into Facebook for a few minutes one day (since I know it’s actually impossible to actually delete Facebook). Or figure out how to reactivate Instagram to catch up.

But I never did. Since I wasn’t posting, I didn’t care much. And since I wasn’t dating, there was no one I cared enough about to check up on – everyone in my life now is actually present in my life.

Ever since I began this blog, I have had an Instagram account. I feel like it’s a good way to connect with others in the same position I am in. 100% of my @hashtagpanic account has to do with anxiety and depression. I don’t look up celebrity accounts, I don’t have anyone from my personal life on there, and I certainly don’t go looking for trouble.

Until tonight.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I began to scroll through Instagram, and liked some relevant photos. I peered into a couple accounts who’d begun to follow me, and looked up hashtags that aligned with my own interests on there.

I don’t know what it was that made my type in his handle. I wasn’t even thinking about him. I don’t even like him.

But I did it. I stalked an ex. And it did me nothing but harm.

I began to feel all of the horrible feelings I had felt when we were dating. Feeling inadequate, not good enough, lied to. Trying and trying to make a relationship work. God knows I’d had enough of them at that point – I was desperate to make something work, even if, in hindsight, the relationship was terrible.

It led me to see he had a large number of “likes” on one of his photos, and I wanted to see who was paying so much attention to him. I saw links to accounts of girls I recognized but didn’t actually know in high school. They present themselves as having perfect, beautiful lives now. The feelings began to pop up: inadequacy, envy, dissatisfaction.

Then I saw the girl the ex might be dating (who I actually know), and saw that he commented red hearts on a few of her pictures. He never did that for me. I began to feel more jealousy, shame (since she knows I used to date him), and I started to feel like I could never show my face anywhere near this girl again. Anxiety was bubbling up.

I began to think about how this link to him was something I needed to sever – and that the link was through her and only her. I immediately started thinking about all of the things I’d have to change in my life: find a new ladies’ golf group for next year, not attend a mutual friend’s baby shower, steer clear of any event in his industry (it’s a big, trendy industry in my city) so that I’d never have to see them together.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. I tried to calm myself, and think of all these feelings as passing clouds, detach from all of the conclusions I was coming to: they’re dating, he loves her, other people have perfect lives, my life isn’t good enough.

It was just too much. I couldn’t stop the overwhelming overflow of emotions. There were too many, and I was too alone. I nudged Boyfriend, and he hugged me, saying “you having a rough one?” (which is what he typically says when I’m panicking), but he was just too sleepy to really soothe me like he usually does.

So now I am here, on my computer. Getting my thoughts out, trying to see things for what they really are.

Jealousy, Fear, Shame, Inadequacy. They’re all here this morning. Those guys are keeping me company.

But those are just feelings – they’re floating by, and they don’t make up part of my essence. They have nothing to do with my soul. With Me.

I’m trying to take comfort in that, this morning. I’m trying to ignore the tightness in my chest and just quietly observe the crazy thoughts of needing to overhaul my life because of all of these conclusions my Ego has come to.

Because really, all I did was see a couple of pictures. All I did was feel a few feels.

I belong here, in my cozy house. I can feel my cuddly, purring cat curled up next to me and feel needed and important. I feel love when I think about Boyfriend snoozing away blissfully down the hall, and that he’ll still be there for in the morning, not judging, loving me just the way I am.

Love is here. And it’s so much stronger than the other guys.

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