This is Part II in my little I Got Fired + Swearwords story. Here is Part I.
Quick catchup: We left off when my supervisor and the company owner had just handed me my the proverbial pink slip.
Between hyperventilating breaths, I told my bosses that I couldn’t believe they were firing me because I’d been on medical leave. Amid a hurried exchange of glances, both of them quickly claimed it had nothing to do with my leave of absence. Nothing. They shook their heads determinedly, like two kindergarteners lying to the teacher about eating paste.
Of course, I think they are full of shit. And I am pretty certain that my facial expression at the time let on just as much. But I also knew there was no point in arguing. They’d certainly rehearsed what they’d planned to say to me if I questioned them anyway. There was no point in standing my ground.
Mostly, I just didn’t have that vitality left in me. I was depleted of any energy I had mustered for the day, like a burnt out light bulb hanging in the room, completely useless. Here I was, experiencing a collaborated effort to squash me run its course successfully. My soul felt crushed, and the somber cloak of dejection wrapped itself around my hunched shoulders. I knew depression was present. I’d never felt it come on so rapidly, so surely. It owned me.
In a room that was now so unwelcoming to me, so uncertain, depression felt so safe. Depression understood. It was there for me, and it was all I could rely on. In the preceding moments, I’d so swiftly been taught that I couldn’t rely on my bosses treating me with compassion. I couldn’t rely on a tacit respect of the law or even of human decency. None of that was within my grasp. I let depression stroke my head and tell me everything would be okay. I could rely on its presence.
The two men left the room, awkwardly aware that there was nothing left to say, and closed the door behind me. And I sat there, feeling like a fool. How had this happened?
Immediately after everything went down, I realized how painfully obvious it all should have been to me in the days leading up to doomsday. There we so many God damn signs: My boss was keeping me at arm’s length. No one from the management team contacted me to ask how I was doing. The email responses leading up to my final day were more and more uncertain. For once, my anxiety disorders were right. Why hadn’t I just quit while the ball was still in my court? How could I have been so stupid?
We all routinely look at signs and overreact, don’t we? Especially the anxious. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to tell myself not to jump to conclusions. Hundreds of times any given worst case scenario that I so often felt so strongly was imminent had never even happened, in the end. Like a teenager who drives like a daredevil, I began to feel immune to anything bad actually happening to me. It was always just in my head.
My headspace has never been a safe haven. Although tragedy never really struck, so many impending situations played out so catastrophically in my mind over the years that it almost didn’t matter whether something bad actually happened to me. I still go through the trauma all the time. If I were to meet someone at a bar, for instance, I’d still go through the very real experience of my friend not showing up, strangers turning and laughing at me, telling me to leave, that I didn’t belong. I’d experience it all while I sat waiting in my car, twenty minutes before I was due to walk through the doors. That’s kind of what anxiety is. It’s a bad reaction to an experience that isn’t even happening.
And so, I grew to experience that worst case scenario, but never have to live with the actual consequences. But now I know that living in the reality after the bomb goes off is just so much harder than I ever thought it could be. I’m left picking up shards of my life without a plan. I don’t know how to deal with this. What do you do when the nightmare comes true?
The thing is, looking at perceived signs and overreacting is an anxiety- and depression-prisoner’s worst downfall. In therapy, one of my monster challenges was rewiring my brain to essentially not jump to a horrifying ending every time a difficult situation arose. While that is a positive thing that I still know I need to work on, and still believe in, it really didn’t help things this time around. It kind of worked against me.
I spent so much time over the past couple of months reassuring myself that the disastrous consequences I’d invented in my mind were not real possibilities. That they couldn’t possibly come to pass. I mean it when I say that I did not, for one minute, believe that I could lose my job after taking medical leave. I’d just worked far too hard training myself to be rational about it. And it left me completely unprepared for this. I’ve found myself suddenly climbing Everest wearing a pair of Chucks.
I can’t help but feel angry with myself for not listening to anxiety back at the end of September. It was telling me all of the right things, trying to protect me, and direct me toward the safest pathway. But I didn’t listen. Now I’m left doubting my ability to read the signs and act appropriately. I’ve realized that I don’t know anything.
So the last couple of weeks have been hard. Really, really hard.
A real live actual worst case scenario is so hard to deal with, because it crosses over into your physical experience. It’s so much more than simply contemplating an outcome and living it in your mind. Simply put, not only do I have to deal with the emotional issues, but now I have to deal with the physical ones. I don’t feel capable of showering, let alone accomplishing anything that would make any normal human stressed. I need to do scary things like job hunt, to appear intelligent, groomed and put-together, and capable of doing the professional job I am trained to do. And I need to accomplish small things. Today, I burst into tears while I waited in line at the post office to buy a single stamp. I’m failing badly so far.
For me, this stuff feels insurmountable.
I know it’s not healthy, but I hold so much resentment toward my ex-boss right now. Let’s face it; I have zero control over my thoughts these days. Usually, I try to take responsibility for my emotions. But I just don’t feel like I brought this on this time. I was good at my job, and acted reasonably in an effort to mend myself. I didn’t fire myself. It was all him. The humiliation and indignity he’s caused me… it just hurts so badly. I relive the meeting every single day. I can see my supervisor, eyes downcast, and hear him say “we are terminating your employment” all of the time.
Every time I go out of the house, I feel terrified that I will see him or someone from the office. I’m frightened about my future, and how I might react if things start to get intense for me again at another job. I was trusting and was so wrong once, so how can I be sure that it won’t happen again? I can’t fathom taking risks anymore.
I want to live in a different city, in a different country, and I never want to have a boss ever again. Depression and anxiety are ruling over me right now.
I just want to disappear.