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.

My Ex-Boss Thinks “Irregardless” is a Word.

This will serve as Part I in How I Lost my Fucking Job, I guess.

My mind has settled, relatively speaking (major disclaimer there), although I am extremely susceptible to panic attacks right now. I have had several every day, all lasting a really long fucking time. Today I was trying to do the whole “5 senses” routine, but couldn’t remember what the senses are, aside from seeing. Which is the easy one. Suffice to say, it didn’t work out. And the depression? Good lord, I will write about that another day. Anyone who’s looking to fester in a pool of misery, stay tuned for that.

But tonight, I’m feeling a little feisty and a little angsty in a non-teenage way. For no good reason; I have received no good news, had not had any revelations, or experienced any profound mindful meditation sessions that have eased my tension. I’m still fucked up. But I’m in a writing mood, lucky for you.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my boss. I scribbled his words down as he explained to me what my position would look like when I returned to work. I had asked him how hiring a second “me” would change things.

there will be changes – nothing drastic – won’t be switching my job – nothing huge

If you’ve been reading my blog, you might recall that I’d seen a job posting for my own position online part-way into my medical leave. Naturally, I panicked immensely, doused the underside of my tongue with a hit of Ativan, and connected with Work BFF to get more details about the posting. She assured me that they couldn’t possibly be replacing me; that they must be adding to my understaffed department.

I calmed down (to the best of my ability), and eventually scheduled that call with my boss. He assured me that they were only adding another member to my department – just as Work BFF said.

But my boss ex-boss is not, as it turns out, a forthright fellow. At least, not in the strictest sense.

The thing I’m having the hardest time reconciling is how blatantly he lied to me about things. Both over the phone, and over an email. Both times, he assured me they were adding to the team. That there would be no changes to my position. I believed him.

I mean it. I really truly believed him. Like, in the way a 15-year-old believes her 17-year-old boyfriend.

It made sense, especially from a legal standpoint. Because, math. I’m no mathemagician, but adding is not replacing, as far as I know. And everyone in my life – Boyfriend, family, friends, even my therapist – agreed. I guess, though, that lying over an email and even over the phone isn’t out of the realm of possibility for an executive, is it?

I spent the following days thinking and writing a lot about trusting in myself. I reminded myself that when Fear is here, I need to observe it and let it pass. Recognize that it doesn’t know the truth, and focus instead on the fact that I trust myself. Love, belonging, safety.

But this time, Fear was right. And everything I, foolhardy, had so carefully built, came crumbling down the other morning when my boss and supervisor told me my position no longer existed.

So here’s what happened, in case anyone cares (or in case I’m ever in the mood to relive a nightmare and, as usual, Netflix doesn’t have any good horror flicks on rotation).

My two superiors got straight to business when the three of us sat down at the table that morning, It was me, my supervisor, and my boss.

I noted that my supervisor looked like shit. He looked like he’d been up all night with a sobbing infant or like he’d just been dumped before prom, neither of which scenario was probable. But I honestly didn’t think much of it. It was kind of an awkward time, and he was likely worried that perhaps I’d be standoffish or have a panic attack during the meeting. And, sometimes he just looks like shit.

My boss (the CEO) looked like a dead fish: grey colouring and big dumb eyes that moved spastically. They darted from me, to my supervisor, to the table, unsure of themselves, looking for some kind of an auxiliary in anything they focused on.

He started sputtering out a few token buzz words and business idioms. He is one of those guys who tries really hard to sound like he knows what the fuck he’s talking about by saying things like “paradigm shift” and “synergy,” and is especially prone to using those words in the wrong context. And words that don’t even actually exist. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad to watch.

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I am 90% sure he once said “moo” instead of “moot.” I spent the afternoon trying to discern precisely what I’d heard.

Enough about what a dum-dum he is.

After explaining that they were doing the usual “checks and balances” (a turn of phrase I hadn’t heard since 1993), he told me that they’d hired another supervisor and that my role was no longer available.

In that moment, my brain worked more quickly than it typically does in that type of setting. I stumbled over my words, interjecting, “wait – are you guys firing me?”

Fish-eyes fixated on my supervisor, who immediately filled in the gap and did the dirty work for him like an ever-loyal henchman.

“We are terminating your employment.”

For a nanosecond, it felt like someone sped up the track like in one of those dub-step songs right before the beat drops (*I do not recommend relying on my understanding of musical vernacular). I know that sounds contradictory. But for that fraction of a moment, my mind raced around every corner of itself like a pinball, searching for some way to truly cipher what had just occurred. Somewhere in there, my Ego was shouting “No no no no no” all the while, just in case I thought this was a positive situation. Was this even real?

This was supposed to be my first day back in the office. Not my last.

But then the beat did drop. My supervisor slid a manilla envelope across the table like a tiny bald mob boss, which I grasped with trembling fingers. I felt all of the blood drain from my body and my beating heart somehow maneuver itself up and into my throat as I clumsily opened the envelope. All I saw on the letter was a dollar figure, which I immediately recognized as severance pay.

And suddenly, I was Taylor Swift at the Grammys (you know the one).

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Pity.

It’s been a couple days since I was terminated. During that time I’ve cried a lot, medicated, and hidden in my bed. My brain is not currently a place I want to be in. I have felt a multitude of feelings and emotions in the past day. Feel free to choose any synonym for “sad” and I can assure you I have felt it. But in the end, all I feel is numb. Losing my job has put me right back into the deepest crevice my depression has to offer me. I’ve never felt it this badly before. The despair, the guilt, the shame, the fear – none of it can hold a candle to the nothingness. The emptiness. I’m afraid of my own heart right now.

I tried to overcome it today, I really did. I told myself that I was in charge of my own emotions. That I could choose to be okay with the way things panned out. So I went to the grocery store. I made dinner. I laughed while watching The Office. But as soon as it was over, I was right back in the middle of my head again. It’s not somewhere I want to be. I want to turn out the light, and just stop feeling. I want these feelings to stop. I feel like depression is a disease tattooed all over my body and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. It’s spreading. I has already enveloped everything I know. Every thought, every feeling, every idea I have.

That first night as I lay in my bed and told myself not to take another sleeping pill, I just gave in. My depression gets to win, at least tonight.

I never, ever thought this would be me. But is that even the truth? I should have seen it coming, shouldn’t I?

Letting people go is something my organization has done many times. It’s somewhat habitual, actually. The words “termination” are words I’ve personally written in many letters to unsuspecting employees during my career there. I always felt sick doing it. Did my employer ever think about how easily they choose to fire people? How it affects these people? What is it about them that makes them come to the conclusion that severing ties with a living, breathing human being is a better idea than trying to work it out, give warnings or second chances? Work on the person rather than replacing him or her? Or is my employer’s quest for gold just too intoxicating? The prospect of walking down that path they’ve cleared for themselves must be much easier than walking up a mountain road to fix a problem. Do they know that the organization is known as the company “where [redacted job title]s go to die”? You can insert three or four specific job titles in there. Mine too, I guess.

And while I’ve now lumped myself into that group of those who were doomed, I can’t help but take a disparate view and say to myself that “I am different than all of them.”

Because I never fucked up on the job. I had glowing reviews. They gave me raises when I requested them. They praised my work, and even flaunted their achievements to their rivals while giving me due credit. More than once, they told me that certain projects were in the best shape they’d ever seen.

But they fired me anyway. I went on an anxiety- and depression-induced medical leave of absence, and the day they told me was my first day back in the office, they fired me. They replaced me. They lied to me when we discussed my return to work plan. They had a minion lie to me, too.

Aside from how abject my mind is, and how wronged I feel, I feel sorry for them. If there is one emotion I feel from the bottom of what’s left of my heart’s ability to feel, it’s pity.

My boss is a kid. His dad created this company, not him. He never had to work from the ground up. He was given opportunities to succeed that millions of people would never have been given. Deep down, I know he knows his privilege and advantage in life.

The next day, when I came to pick up my things, I noticed that he avoided eye contact. He shot the shit with a random dude and excused himself to make a “conference call.” But I know his game. And I feel bad for him. Because he’s playing the “fake it till you make it” game. And it’s not working. He hasn’t enough experience to face things and man up.

The worst part is that he is playing that game with peoples’ lives. He has taught me nothing but the fact that mental health stigma is still very real, and that people who try to get better are going to end up fucked over. 

That’s the golden rule in action, isn’t it.

This post is a mess. I’m sorry. But my mind is a mess, too.

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