I have a good, well paying job. I have a house. A yard. A car. I have lots of clothing and shoes and makeup and books and a phone and a computer and TVs and pretty items. I’m engaged, and planning a wedding. I just went on vacation. I do not have debt. I am attractive. I am not hungry, or cold, or wet, or injured, or ill. I have two of the sweetest pets I could imagine. I have a loving family. I have loving friends. I have money in the bank. I have food in my cupboard. I am intelligent. I have no papers due. I have no upcoming tests. I have free time ahead of me.
I have everything I ever wanted.
And yet, my anxiety and depression hover around my beautiful bubble constantly. Threatening to prick it and shatter everything I hold dear.
I don’t know how it would happen. When it could happen. Why it would happen. If it could happen.
But I still stay in my bed any time I can, huddled deep in my blankets.
My eyes gaze, dead, at nothing. Contemplating how I feel. Not focussed on the abundance in my life. Not of the love that surrounds me. But of the deadness inside of me.
How no matter what I experience, there is that shroud of darkness.
I’m trying to just plunge forward. My feet feel like they’re stuck in deep mud. But I’m still trying.
Sometimes I give up – But I don’t let myself give up for long these days.
I’ve been sick with a flu for a while, and it’s given me too much time to reflect on the darkness. The ugly, dark, heavy coat of anxiety and depression.
I’m trying to remind myself it isn’t real. It isn’t tangible.
But it’s present right now.
And as perfect as my life is, it’s heavy. It’s muddy.
No matter how nice I look, or how together things seem on the outside, there is still a struggle.
I’m not giving into it. Not fully.
But tonight, I am acknowledging it.
If only to tell it “you are next to me, and so, you are not me.”
I keep making promises that I cannot keep – and I apologize for that. I keep saying I’m “so busy but I’ll write soon!” but then I just don’t. My advice is not to have any real expectations when it comes to me and my writing. Sometimes I will write, sometimes I will not.
Pardon my mental illness, but it’s all part of it.
I’m overwhelmed with life. There’s nothing more I can say than that.
When I started my blog, I was on sick leave. I had nothing but time on my hands, and reflection was a big part of my healing. Writing helped that.
Now, I do have enough time to write. I still spend a lot of time napping, watching hours of Netflix and make terrible television program choices, and I read a lot, and I bet I spend more time than anything scrolling through Pinterest, not looking for anything in particular. Not even pinning anything. Just kind of looking at things.
My point is that I have not added anything significant to my life aside from a regular old 9-5 job, which we all have, and which I have had in the past as well without incident.
But after the humiliation I experienced this fall (I can’t believe it was like 6 months ago now…), life has changed a lot for me. I feel like talking about it today because I am home sick, but I am actually well enough to sit up and feel boredom.
You can tell you’re really sick when feelings of boredom don’t arise. You can tell when you’re (hopefully) getting better when you are bored.
I have technically – on paper – put my old job behind me. I made my arguments and made my peace as far as anyone on the outside is concerned, but things have not settled for me in my mind.
It’s something I’m working on ignoring. Not in an unhealthy “swallow it all down and deny” kind of way. Just in a “these feelings will pass, don’t focus on them, don’t think about last year’s incidents constantly” kind of way.
But it is still very present in my mind, and therefore, in my life.
I have some severe scars following my dismissal from my job (read about it here if you have no clue what I’m talking about). The very short version: I was on medical leave for 6 weeks for my anxiety and depression, and on what I was told would be my first day back at work, I was fired instead. This multiplied my anxiety and depression in ways I’d never experienced, but I did find the courage to hire a lawyer, settle out of court, and move on.
The scars have two main branches, I’ve noticed. One involves my new work persona. The other involves being in public.
Don’t Talk To Me
I’ve been at my new job for almost three months now, and despite a couple of very unfortunately-timed bouts of illness (it is nerve-racking to have to call in sick when you’ve only been there a month; aka PLEASEDON’TFIREME), things are going well there. The job is a breeze so far, the people are nice, and my boss is really great too. There’s nothing I can complain about – so why am I so unhappy with it?
I go to work, do my work, actually take my lunch break, and then clock out at precisely 4:00 and head home. I used to work through every single lunch hour, and I never left when I was scheduled to be. There used to be (and still is, I hear) a dust cloud of gossip and stories hovering in the office at all times – I can’t recall a day I went in and didn’t hear some story about someone. Now? I really haven’t even overheard anything. People exchange recipes, ask about vacations, and update one another on their spouses’ medical issues. People certainly aren’t gossiping about me (although right now? I’ve been away sick for more than a week so they may be wondering if I have Ebola or something).
I’ve noticed, though, that I am reserved. I am not funny at work anymore. I am not trying to make friends, and I don’t start conversations. If a few people are sitting in the lunch room, I quickly go in, get my food, and hurry back to my cubical to eat alone. I never ask my group about their home lives or families. I never go out of my way to compliment anyone. I smile when I enter a room, but I don’t say anything or make eye contact. When group events arise, I opt out.
I don’t want to make friends when I don’t actually have control over whether I will ever see them again. I lost nearly everyone (except Work BFF) at my old job – poof, gone. No one reached out, myself included. I know they must know I was fired, and they’re not going to compromise their own jobs by befriending an employee who was fired.
I have thought about connecting with a few of them, but I can’t handle the potential for being ignored. Being ghosted. Being rejected. And now, so much time has passed that it would just be straight up weird to contact someone.
Those people, who I felt were my family, are just lost now. Just a memory. I am trying to come to grips with that, and I am discovering that I am certainly not cultivating friendships at work the way I used to, in all of my past working career.
Now, my job is just a place where I work.
Don’t Look At Me
I now work in the same downtown district as my old work’s offices. We are only about two blocks away from one another. Every time I am near their offices, I can’t ignore the heavy feeling that there is an invisible dome surrounding it that signifies it is Their territory. Not mine.
Now, this is our busy downtown core – the business district, the shopping district, the tourist district. It is an area that belongs not only to this city, but to everyone.
But not me. I walk swiftly, hunched, eyes darting from side to side, head down, just trying to get to my destination as quickly as possible without being seen. I feel like someone in exile, someone who isn’t allowed to be there, and that I’m doing something wrong or dangerous. Like the police could arrest me at any moment and humiliate me for thinking I had any right to come anywhere near this area of downtown. I don’t belong here, it’s Their territory.
Every time I enter an downtown establishment, I search the room – not for my companion, but for Them. Are They here already? Had They had the same idea for lunch today? Is that Them, also here for the movie? Are They also picking up bread at this bakery?
A couple of times, I’ve met up with Work BFF for a coffee or to drop something off. She knows the drill now – I can’t come onto Their property. I can’t meet at a Starbucks on the same block. We have to meet at a spot well out of Their Zone. She asks me where I’d like to meet, and makes sure “it’s okay” with me before we meet up. She knows I can’t be seen, and I love her for understanding.
One time, as we were walking to a coffee house, we saw Them walking ahead of us about a block ahead. I felt like the blood had drained from my body and couldn’t figure out what to do. I stopped momentarily, my eyes wild, and Work BFF calmly told me it was okay, and that we could still go. That They weren’t going to the same shop as we were.
In my mind, I couldn’t take that chance. I wanted to call the whole thing off – not go for coffee after all. It was freezing cold out, but I thought perhaps we should take off in a different direction, add 10 minutes to our walk, and go to a Blenz in a totally opposite direction. BFF gets me, but she also knows how to handle me. She didn’t give me a hard time as we kept our distance, ensured one full block separated us from Them, and let me be sure they were indeed headed into a different shop.
As we sat and drank our coffees, I ensured I could see the entrance to the coffeehouse so I could monitor each person who entered, always watching for Them.
“They don’t ever go to Starbucks – don’t worry. I promise,” Work BFF told me, and she was right. After a while I did see Them – they passed by, just on their way back to their office.
Disaster averted. But panic attack, although low-grade, not averted. It has the best of me. And it’s constant.
What would happen if I ran face to face into Them? Would I die? Would I be injured? Would everyone stop, stare, and listen intently as He yelled at me, telling me what a horrible employee he thought I was? Would everyone agree? Would He shove me aside? Would He give me a dirty look? Would He stare at me? Would He nudge his friend, point, and whisper something about me?
No, probably not.
In fact, he’s a pussy and would likely pretend he didn’t see me, leave if possible, or just get his shit and leave.
But I react as those all those things are possible. I still can’t face Him. Not after what he did to me. What he took from me – what I’ve given up, what I’ve lost, what’s changed.
I am missing a large part of my confidence, my sense of belonging, and my sense of security. I haven’t taught myself how to regain any of that yet.
I am not whole. Despite things turning out in my best interest, all things considered, I still feel like I am the loser in the game I played with Them.
I have an on-again off-again relationship with anti-anxiety meds.
And it’s never been because I am against them, or because they hadn’t worked.
I know anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication (same thing, as far as my Dr. says) is a majorly contentious topic. Even when I was looking up memes to put on this post, I kept seeing a picture of a forest that said “this is an antidepressant” with a picture of a pill beneath it that says “this is shit.” That bothers me a lot, because every person is different, and every person will experience something different when on a drug. They will work for some of us, and they will not work for others. Let’s just respect each other on that one, k?
But I just wanted to discuss the topic. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want!
I was hesitant about disclosing what drug I am on, but I figure it probably isn’t a big deal to tell you that I am on Paxil. Those little pink pills have saved me. It’s been the one drug I have been on the most throughout my life, and I don’t intend to stop taking it any time soon. I am stable (ish) on it, and have way more control over how I go about my life.
I first started taking them in my late teens (see this post). I know a lot of people have experienced too many side effects to bother with them – but for me, they have been worth it. Now, at the age of 33, I am on them again, and still, they are worth the cost (minimal, thanks to my work’s benefits program) and side effects (also very minimal).
Sometimes it can be a real bitch when you’re trying out a new medication. That goes for a lot of meds out there: Even when my doctor prescribed sleeping pills for me, there were a couple that basically made me feel like I had injected caffeine directly into my aorta. Not exactly helpful. Drugs can be finicky. But under the guidance of your medical practitioner, you might be able to find something that works for you.
I can’t remember for sure if the first medication I tried was Paxil. It might be that I tried a couple. I might not have seen any results, or maybe I had too many side effects and tried a couple until I found one that worked well in my system. It’s been a really long time. The thing is, I have tried several different types later on as an adult, so it’s possible that I’m mixed up. It probably doesn’t really matter. All the same, it’s been a bit of a rocky road.
When I was young, I wasn’t that great at taking my medicine. I would forget half of the time, and one time I took six of them in one day because I mistook them for Tylenol 3s. They look nothing alike so to this day I do not know how I made that mistake – I just kept popping them because I still wasn’t getting the pain relief I so desperately needed! Don’t worry, I did call poison control and they said I would be fine, but would probably get pretty sleepy. I ended up napping for like 9 hours straight that day. (Coincidentally, I also have a story about how I took 6 Tylenol 3s – on purpose – since they weren’t kicking in as fast as I needed them to. I would not recommend it unless you like having a hot, itchy head, a frightened coworker, and a very, very deep sleep).
The only major side effect I can remember was that if I did forget to take it, especially for more than one day in a row, I would feel very nauseated. I remember that it would often be so bad that I needed to take them at the exact same time every morning. If it took them even an hour later, I’d feel sick enough to want to vomit. I’d struggle through work, and would even stay home. I was also struggling to take my birth control in a timely manner around that time, so it’s possible that that was the reason for the nausea too. I was very not good at the complexities of timing in those days.
I’m currently on Paxil today, and find that I definitely do not notice that I feel as sick as I used to. I’ve totally forgotten them many times, but never was it so bad that I ever needed to take a sick day because of it. I don’t know if they’ve altered the ingredients over time (I have no clue how things go in the pharmaceutical world), or if my own body chemistry just meshes better with it now. Either way, I don’t care. I’m on them, they work well enough, and I am not sick.
A few years ago, when I had re-started my prescription (after a breakdown – that post is for another day), I was going through a particularly rough patch and wasn’t convinced the drug was doing as good of a job as I’d expected. My doctor had me try a couple of other prescription antidepressants, and fuck. It was horrific.
First, I tried Prozac. Not only did I just plain not feel any better (emotionally), but I was always feeling kind of sick and anxious. Not the combo I was looking for. Plus, the goddamn things were gel-caps – those, to me, are horrible. I can’t handle those things for some reason – I feel like they stick to my tongue and they taste disgusting. But since I felt sick for more than a couple of weeks, my doctor said it was unlikely that that feeling would subside, so he wanted to try something else.
I tried Cymbalta.
Cymbalta and I are no longer on speaking terms.
That stuff was the most wicked stuff I’ve ever taken. When you first start taking an antidepressant, you will normally feel a little out of sorts for the first few days, or even for a week or two. That’s normal; your body is adjusting and the symptoms don’t usually last too long. That was somewhat the case with Prozac and me – except the nausea never truly went away. Same goes for Paxil. Sometimes you’ll feel a little loopy – maybe in a bit of a haze. That’s what Cymbalta was for me. But it never went away. And it was intense.
I felt very alert, and very, very woozy on Cymbalta. The whole time.
One thing with prescription drugs is that you should never stop taking them abruptly, or even try to wean yourself off without talking to your doctor first.
Even when you do switch up prescriptions under the direction of a doctor, things can be shitty.
Cymbalta and me were not getting along. Since I felt super loopy and spaced out, after a couple of weeks, I was done. I went into a walk-in clinic (my doctor works there, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see him that day), and begged to go back to my safe, predictable Paxil. The doctor said “sure” and said I could simply switch that same day. I had run out of Cymbalta anyway, but still had lots of Paxil at home, so it would be no big deal.
Except it was such a big fucking deal.
The next day, I started experiencing what I can only describe as hard-core withdrawal. As someone who has never taken recreational drugs to the extent that I have been addicted and, uh, jonesin’ (…what’s the lingo here? Sorry, I am not cool.), I figured my ailment was akin to Joaquin Phoenix’s rehab scenes in Walk the Line.
I was now taking my Paxil, as directed, but simply stopped taking my (rather high) dose of Cymbalta. I felt so sick, so spaced out, and incredibly dizzy. I felt like the entire world moved every time I moved my head an inch. I was sitting at my desk at work, unable to focus on anything. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror after holding my head in my hands for a good 10 minutes. I was sweating and my pupils were totally dilated. Very pretty.
I then did what any reasonable person would do: I had someone pick me up and take me to the doctor I Googled my symptoms, convinced I could find myself a cure. As it would turn out, a lot of my symptoms were pretty consistent with symptoms of vertigo. I texted a friend who legitimately has vertigo, and further confirmed my self-diagnosis. Now I was on all fours, moving my head around like a weirdo, trying to mimic the Foster Maneuver.
It didn’t work.
I texted my mom and she was horrified that my doctor hadn’t stepped me down off of my medication, and suggested that I visit a pharmacy to see if they could give me 2-3 pills so I could ease myself off the drug slowly. Clearly I needed some of the drug back in my system so I wouldn’t be so dopesick (thanks, Urban Thesaurus). Luckily for me, there was a pharmacy directly below my office. Off I went. Staggered.
I recall feeling very dazed and confused as I waited in line to speak with the pharmacist. I question whether there was even a line to be standing in. I was studying the label of some Cold FX and trying to figure out how to get myself and my car back home in one piece, since I could barely look at the wall without spinning out. I felt like I had to look at that Cold FX package – I was experiencing some tunnel vision and if I lost focus, I would probably pass out. When I finally got to speak with someone, they (surprisingly) would not hand over random prescription drugs to a random girl who looked incredibly strung out and could not form a cohesive sentence.
Dejected, I went back upstairs and proceeded to [who knows? I was way too high and messed up to even remember. Maybe I worked? Or maybe I napped George Costanza-style under my desk. It’s impossible to know].
I never did talk to my doctor about the withdrawal episode I encountered. It did wear off after a couple of days, and a social-anxiety fiend such as myself was more than happy to take a couple of days off in lieu of dealing with my issue in a reasonable manner.
As I mentioned, I did continue to take my tried-and-true Paxil, and do to this day. There have been a couple of times when my doctor suggested trying other drugs (since my panic attacks do not seem to be willing to chill out, even on Paxil), but for me, it’s been better to stop toying with things and just pop an Ativan when things get tough.
You know, coping at its finest.
Paxil isn’t a cure-all. If it was, I would not be in the midst of a 6-week work hiatus as we speak. But it keeps me level enough to make real life decisions and face most days without too many issues. Paxil ain’t broke (well, not overly), so I don’t try to fix it.
And as Marilyn Manson said, “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me” … kind of.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 its 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.
Having depression is like being stuck in a maze that has no exit.
You don’t ask to be there, and you don’t necessarily realize that you’re even in it. It’s often a slow-boil scenario where you slowly begin to detect that you’re not where you used to be. You keep turning a corner to get somewhere new, to make sense of things. But there is no point. You never make the correct turn into a field of flowers where unicorns prance around beneath a rainbowed sky. You’re stuck.
Several years ago, I noticed I was in the depression maze and that I’d been wandering around it for an indeterminate amount of time.
When I first became aware that I was in this maze, I kind of looked around and it became apparent that although I’d been meandering left and right for months, I didn’t actually understand what my goal was. Like, aren’t you supposed to enter a maze intentionally, with a purpose? To reach the exit on the other side? Or to reach the middle and win a prize? With blatant disregard for my need for clarity and purpose, the depression maze did not provide me with an answer. I was just kind of there.
The depression maze has zero objective. You don’t even get to meet David Bowie.
Despite this, I decided to look at my circumstances so that I could evaluate and plan a course of action. I noticed a major shift within myself: a few months earlier, I’d written “I just love life!” on my Facebook info page. But depression had crept up behind me very slowly, wrapped its arms around me undetected, and stripped me of all energy and motivation. Over time, things for me had just kind of become devoid of meaning. I no longer had interest in doing things or being around people. I was kind of sad, bored, and uninterested in life. In the months preceding, all I accomplished was watching every episode of Lost on Netflix. Where was that girl I used to be? Well, she was lost in a fucking depression maze.
Naturally, when I first began to realize that I might be depressed, my course of action was to wallow in it like a real sonofabitch. I mean it. I really took advantage of the situation and indulged in every trite ‘depression activity’ that crossed my mind. These activities were easy and required little energy.
I began each day by curling up in a little ball revelling in my stoicism. I moped around and stopped using my smile muscles, and spent more and more time at home alone. I turned down plans that would make me happy, and stopped reading and exercising. I no longer wore makeup or got dressed on weekends, instead staying in bed until noon. Or later. I fantasized about living in a mental institution where there were no stressors, and no expectations. Just PJs, slippers, and prescription drugs.
And I cried. I cried a lot. I cried hysterically, and quietly, and dramatically in the shower. Crying was all I had to hold on to. It was the only way I felt like I was experiencing emotion. Crying = Sad. Right? Sitting in my closet crying really hit the spot. I would consciously think to myself “Look at how sad I am. This is so sad. I am hiding in my closet crying, all by myself, and it is just so sad. I could be in a movie about depression right now.”
But veritably, sadness isn’t really a good representation of what depression feels like. Feeling sad is more of a nice side effect than anything. Because for me, depression was the absence of feeling. I didn’t care about anything, and I didn’t feel compassion for myself or anyone else. I didn’t feel sad; I felt empty. And I wanted to keep it that way.
I recall my sister coming over and writing a very inspiring letter to me about self-love and self-care. But I folded it up and put it away in my nightstand. I didn’t want to experience self-love. I wanted to be left alone, crying and eating my cup-a-noodles in bed without interruption.
That was the most fucked up part of depression. I wanted to feel like this. If something that could potentially bring joy or change came about, I gave it a dirty look and rejected it. I didn’t even doubt the love people in my life had for me, I simply didn’t care about it. Nothing mattered anymore. Even when my cat came running up to greet me with little meows, purrs, and head-bumps, I somewhat resented him for trying to change my mood.
Truthfully, immersing yourself completely in a sea of melancholy is very satisfying – to a point. Everyone basks in that pity party once or twice in their life. But I had taken it to another level. As I became more and more detached, it all began to feel very frightening when I recognized that I didn’t want to live anymore.
To be clear, I did not want to kill myself. I just didn’t want to be alive. I wanted to just sort of disappear, stop being, hit my off button. I was exhausted, and this depression maze had proven to have not only no significance, but no escape. Wanting to be not-alive scared me. Sleep was my only avoidance strategy, and it wasn’t working. There was no end to this existence in sight.
At one point or another, depression, for many of us, morphs into a real problem. It starts out like a limp. You can function like this, limping around for weeks, still able to do all the normal stuff in life: you can still manage to get to work, buy groceries, and, uh, bathe. But eventually it can become a full-blown broken leg. And you can’t carry on like that without some kind of intervention. You need medical care, a cast and crutches, and a way to heal.
One particularly dark day, I had been in bed crying for hours. Nothing had triggered it. I was just laying there detached and pathetic, indiscriminately emptying my tear ducts into my pillow. I hadn’t showered or dressed in several days. I hadn’t been able to drag myself to work that day, and this intensified my feelings. Or not-feelings. I wasn’t sure if this meant I was getting closer to the point of wanting to end my life. Depression had morphed into a tangible problem. It was very disturbing.
This hollow mental existence was now threatening my physical existence. It went beyond an aversion to showering: it was jeopardizing my job and my life. It was one thing to take morbid pleasure in the experience in my pretty apartment, knowing that I did have a life to return to, even if only in theory. It would be another thing entirely to wallow in my parents’ basement, unemployed and futureless. It would be even worse if I became suicidal. I was a tiny step away from hitting rock bottom.
But I noticed a glimmer of hope in that.
Now, I still didn’t want to get better. I was still messed up about that. But I’d arrived at this groundbreaking cognizance that I didn’t want things to get worse. I knew that I wouldn’t take my own life at this moment, but there was no way to magically cease to exist. This was as far as I wanted it to go. I didn’t want to lose everything in life I’d worked for, and I knew that feeding my depression was leading dangerously close to just that. The things people respected me for, and the things I was proud of – they’d be gone, irrevocably. I realized that I’d found a secret trap door in the depression maze.
It was a sobering moment, and without allowing myself to move past this realization and think worse of it, I called my mom.
Removing myself from that deep level of depression didn’t happen overnight. It involved going through that trap door, which was mortifying and daunting, and wandering uphill and down through another maze. It was painful. But pain is good. Pain isn’t nothing. It kept me going.
To an extent, I am still in the maze. But in this other maze, there are doors. There are opportunities. There are people I can talk to, doctors and therapists. There is medication. There are friends and family members who listen and don’t judge.
It’s hard work, and it’s ongoing. I have ups and downs. But I try very hard not to lose sight on that glimmer of hope, even on the days when I feel hopeless and don’t want to feel good.
There is a reason I have tinfoil as my backdrop on my page. It’s not my attempt at conveying my love for 90s kitsch design.
Although, forgive me, it is a symbol for something, and that is just as lamenting.
I’ve mentioned that I have a wonderful, compassionate partner in life: Boyfriend. We’re not married (yet – we’ll get around to it one day), but we live together. We’ve built a home and life together and are truly committed to one another. His love for me includes all of my flaws – including my anxiety and depression. He is my best person.
It wasn’t like I revealed everything about myself on day one of our relationship. I managed to keep my crazy in check for months and months, actually, and it was a long time before I felt comfortable enough to share this side of me with him. Mental health isn’t something people tend to talk about in general. It can take a long time to gauge whether or a person is someone you can trust and rely on. Whether they are wired with that element of sympathy or empathy that’s required of something to be lean-on-able is not always obvious.
Realizing someone has the capacity to be your “rock” doesn’t happen in a snap, either. It is a series of learning, of reading your feelings and emotions in symphony with their actions. You just kind of slowly discover that yes, this person is a good one. You can share your secrets with him or her, and you are safe. This person is a cornerstone. Your counterpart.
When I first explained to him that I had an anxiety disorder (admitting to multiple disorders seems like a lot to swallow, so I like to start with just one), I was able to recite to him a brief canned address that allows most people to understand anxiety on a beginner level. I never expect much of a response, or even many questions. It’s just something for them to digest. He digested it well.
Like most decent people, his response was positive and supportive. It was a good first step to handling the unhinged bag of loose screws I can sometimes be. It provided him a bit of a warning that I could, at any given moment really, have a full fledged panic attack.
Which did eventually happen, of course.
The first time I had a panic attack near him, he was the supportive person I’d hoped he would be. I couldn’t have asked for better. That doesn’t mean he 100% understood what was going on. After I had calmed down, I did my best to guide him through what it really feels like to have a panic attack.
The best way I was able to explain the epicentre of my anxiety attacks is to think of the heart as being made of tinfoil. It keeps you alive by pumping blood through it effortlessly and rhythmically. It is reliable and steadfast. But it needs to be handled with care: in reality, it is vulnerable, delicate, and intricate.
Now imagine that your fragile tinfoil heart is physically being squeezed.
It takes literally no effort to crush that tinfoil into a hard, compact little ball. All of the life is squashed out of it. It cannot function properly in this state. It feels tight and tense and tiny. It hurts.
It feels irreparable.
And the rest of your body is useless when that feeling takes place. Every sense is affected: your vision seemed darkened and blurry, your hearing is muffled. You are shaking and sweating. Your breathing quickens. Your mind is out of control.
The only thing you can really concentrate on is the fact that your heart, once open and light, is now dense and solid. Nothing passes though it with ease. The heart centre you’d thought of as your axis of stability isn’t there. This stupid little crushed ball has taken its place.
That’s what an anxiety attack feels like to me. Like my heart is made of tinfoil, and it’s being crushed. It’s kind of hard to un-crush a ball of tinfoil.
When I was a teenager, I used to return from school after a very demanding day of sitting, and would fall asleep in front of the TV before dinner. Since I was a child, they had to physically drag me out of bed in the mornings. Sleep and me were like peas and carrots.
My parents weren’t into me and my preoccupation with my bed. They’d rather I help with dinner or that I do things like homework. They argued passionately that I was lazy, that I could not possibly have had such an exhausting day that I needed a nap to recover from it.
When I tried to argue, I didn’t really have much of a leg to stand on. I wasn’t one of those kids who was in tons of extracurricular activities, clubs, or sports. I relied heavily on hearing that teens just need more sleep than adults, and that parents just don’t understand. I figured I’d grow out of it. And for a long time, I thought it was laziness that turned me into sleeping beauty.
When I became an adult and did not grow out of it, I began to question why.
I then began to assume it was because I had an erratic work schedule. That I didn’t have kids yet, so there was no reason to schedule my sleep. That I stayed out late.
I noticed that childless friends my age who also had erratic work schedules and partied did not, overall, sleep as much as I did.
But really, it wasn’t much of a problem. Since I had few responsibilities aside from getting my ass to work, it didn’t really matter much.
A couple years ago, when anxiety caused me to take a week off from work to re-group, I napped a lot.
A lot, a lot.
I pretty much napped exclusively that week. I’m fairly certain that I woke only to feed myself and check Facebook.
That’s when I began to realize that my bed, and sleeping, has nothing to do with being tired. It is my safety zone. It’s my escape. It’s the only place and state in which the world cannot harm me.
Many would be quick to argue that it’s just a way of hiding from my problems – and I completely agree. But sometimes, when everything is coming at me from every direction and life is just getting too overwhelming, the one thing I can do to hit the STOP button is to go to sleep.
There’s no medication involved, not one gets hurt, I am not making any rash decisions that affect anyone. I get to take a break and check out, even if it’s only for a few hours. I am cozy, safe, and warm. I can relax, I can breathe, and I can be uninterrupted. I am not embarrassed, I am not thinking, and I do not have to think about my next move. I don’t have to think about anything – my mind wanders in and out of dreams and for a little while, and I have achieved what I really want: I have disappeared.
Granted, my problems are still going to be there when I wake up. But for me, naps are a total godsend.
After that nap, those problems sometimes don’t seem like the enormous mountains they were earlier in the day. Sometimes I care just a little less about them. Sometimes the thoughts and panicky feelings have dissipated just enough that they aren’t clouding my judgment. Sometimes I feel like I’m not so out of control anymore. Sometimes I am no longer considering all-or-nothing solutions. Sometimes I feel a bit silly for having felt so strongly about my problems.
Not always, but sometimes.
Sometimes I take sleep to the extreme. When I’m crazy-stressed about something big, and experiencing too many panic attacks, sleep does nothing except turn out the lights for a short while. When I wake up, I am still in the midst of my perceived problems. I nap over and over, day after day, not finding any solace aside from the brief breaks between feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, sleep is just the only way I can block everything out for a couple of hours, but doesn’t help beyond that. Oftentimes I find myself dreaming about eerily similar situations.
I have recurring dreams about being in high school, not knowing what my class schedule is, and it’s almost time to graduate. But I haven’t been to classes in months – and don’t know where to go, and I can’t find anyone to help me. I’ve dreamed that I’ve actually failed right before graduation.
You don’t need to be some kind of dream guru to note a link between that kind of recurrent dream and life’s stresses. And as you can imagine, this kind of sleep does absolutely nothing for me. There is no healing – just added stress, actually.
Thankfully, I don’t find that these naps happen too often.
Cuz for the most part? I have a nap, dream about random things, and am able to unplug from life for a few hours. I wake with my cat cuddled into me, feeling his purrs reverberate though my own body, and feel a little more okay.