Diagnosed Workaholic

My first session with my current therapist was just over two years ago and after explaining how I had been “coping” for years and what was happening leading up to my pending breakdown she looked at me and paused, and then she simply said “you realize you’ve been self medicating with work for the past nine years, right?” Yes. Yes I did. The fact is I didn’t know how to cope so I worked too much in order to distract myself from myself. When I was forced to slow down, I couldn’t handle it. I was a workaholic. I’m not saying that to downplay actual addictions, but addiction runs in my family so I have always been excessively carefully with the actually addictive things, so I ended up turning to work instead.

The last couple of months at work have been nuts. I’m working crazy overtime and barely keeping shit together for my department. I had to cancel my last therapy appointment cause I can’t take time off work, and I still haven’t been able to schedule a new one. I’m too exhausted for crafts or games or anything that I used to do after work. I’m barely blogging, sleeping is hard, it took me a week to finally sew buttons onto my sons sock for sock puppet eyes. I wake up already exhausted, run on coffee and soda energy all day, and lie down with an exhausted body and overactive mind as soon as I get home.

But I realized today that in the last two weeks I’ve had almost no panic attacks. I have not had the constant urge to self harm. I have not cried myself to sleep or stared at nothing in the overwhelming emptiness of my lack of self. I have not begun screaming at someone out of uncontrollable anger held too long. My emotional extremes aren’t there. Today it occurred to me that I am doing almost no self care at all, so why am I suddenly stable? My meds didn’t change, so it can’t be that. Then my therapists words echoed in my head. “Self medicating with work.” Am I doing it again? Am I so overworked that my disorders have taken a backseat? I don’t know. But two years of practicing self care has at least taught me a couple things.

First, work does not define me. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and I do. No matter how much of my day is stuck on work right now, it does not define me. Second, it is important to not judge. I don’t need to judge my overworking nature at the moment, I simply need to be aware that it is there and that it will not last forever. That I need to keep working to build in more self care while I can. Third, I can’t make this permanent. I need to allow myself to slow back down as work slows back down. I can’t allow myself to get so used to this that I don’t stop.

I choose to be aware of my situation and my past so I can move past this. I choose to be healthy, even if it means that feeling good might not be from feeling good or from healthy practices.

I will not

I will not rage quit my job today.

I will not allow a single email to determine my career.

I will not allow this bitch to get to me, even after nearly three years of her hacking away at my mental state at work.

I will not rage quit my job today.

I will not stay up all night.

I will not be up all night afraid of the dreams that will haunt my sleep.

I will not allow my stress from the day to determine whether or not I will sleep that night.

I will not stay up all night.

I will not spend the day in tears.

I will not hide and cry all day over the devastation in this world.

I will not dwell on my personal experiences of loved once trapped in past shootings and replay the fear in my head while others face this new terror in their own lives.

I will not spend the day in tears.

I will not give up.

I will not forget that this day is temporary.

I will not allow the insanity of my current life and stress levels to destroy the future I am always fighting towards.

I will not give up.

I stand for my team

I report to two managers. I have learned what goes to who and how to work with both, but something has set off one of them recently. I have some guesses as to what, but what doesn’t matter, not when you’re coming after my team. She has begun telling me off for how I manage certain things that are technically under the other managers responsibilities, who is perfectly fine with how I’m running things. She’s pissed that she can’t control this aspect and it shows. She has begun demanding I start writing up my employees for things they have not done wrong. Most of the time I can protect them from that and they have no idea how I am standing up for them when they can’t see it. But occasionally I can’t, she finds (or forces) a way around me.

Yesterday one of my employees compared us to the angel/demon on the shoulders. That technically we say the same things, but it is so drastically different in approach that it feels like those two separate entities. This breaks my heart. No one should feel torn like this at work, work is stressful enough on its own. I want to merge the gap, but how do I do that without losing some of that “angel” side I feel they deserve?

When we have differing opinions she demands that I look at it from a “business standpoint.” That it isn’t her showing a lack of empathy, it’s her watching out for the business because she has to. Well I call bullshit on that! Want to look from a “business standpoint?” Fine, let’s do that.

There are numerous studies on the cost of employee turnover, a good starting point if you’re interested is here. Not only does it have strong explanations, but also links to multiple other studies and articles. In general it is estimated that for each employee lost the company is paying 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary to replace them. So let’s throw out a random number and say your entry level employee is making $12 per hour. Annual salary is $24,960 so the cost to lose and replace that employee will cost $37,440 to $49,950.

So here is one of numerous examples over the last few weeks. An employee is running in at the last minute and clocking in a few minutes late because she had to spend her lunch break getting her mother to the doctor. I am aware, and mention to try to get in a bit earlier and call if you’re going to be late, but that I understand that things sometimes make that hard. I don’t tell little miss “business standpoint” cause it’s none of her goddamn business. Someone else in the office complains and she pulls me aside to say it’s “embarrassing” to have someone else bring it to her attention and that I need to issue a written warning. I mention that the employee technically is on time, but I understand the perception issue and will speak to her. I will not issue a written warning as this has not been an issue in the past and in fact you had just complimented this exact employee on her timeliness. “Well I was looking at a different period of time. This is not acceptable to this business!”

So the following morning I chat with said employee and explain that there are perception issues that can cause concern if coming in at the last minute, and beyond that it is also more stressful for you as well. Try to get in about 10min early as often as possible to have that extra time to settle in and not feel or look hurried. She says that makes a lot of sense, and that she was told we would be “having this chat” but that it made a lot more sense than the previous afternoons conversation. What? Yeah, bitch face had pulled the employee aside after speaking with me the day before and told her that “if you can’t remember to come on time, you can’t continue to work here.”

So let me get this straight. A temporary timeliness issue in order to get your mom to the doctor is worth costing the company tens of thousands of dollars so you can show off your “business standpoint?” And this is one of numerous instances over the course of the last few weeks. I can only imagine what she’s saying to my other manager to see if she can get him to write me up while we’re at it. I only wonder if he will stand for me as much as I do for my team.

Can’t help but laugh

I’ve recently decided that I should stop using the phrase “I can’t help but laugh” because I have become very suddenly aware that it is nearly always towards a person and their problems. It honestly frustrates me that I didn’t think about that before. I work so hard to be sensitive to others, so how did I think it was an okay phrase to use when I see someone struggling?

I was in a leadership training at work earlier this week and during a break was chatting with some coworkers. Now by “coworkers” I mean they hold similar positions to me but we’ve never actually worked together or really know each other. So we started talking about topics from the training, a big one being stress management as a leader. One of these supervisors told me that she is amazed at how people can get so stressed and so emotional. “Why can’t they just deal with it and move on instead of letting it effect their day? I can’t help but laugh!” And in that moment I felt that she was literally laughing at me.

I am someone that needs to be taught stress management. I am pre-programmed to be highly emotional. I handle it well, I am high functioning, I can get through my days with success…. usually. But every few years it hits too hard. I loose my grip on stress relief techniques and have a breakdown. Sometimes I just need a quick stay-cation and med adjustment to get back to life, on rare occasions I need a short stay in a hospital. But I take care of it and get back on track. Why is that something to laugh at?

I’m sure I’m reading far too much into it, and should just shrug it all off like a normal person hearing a common saying, but it did make me think. So now if I find myself thinking “I can’t help but laugh” I will work harder to be understanding of what I don’t know about the person and their situation.

They’re used to it

I sat in the corner of a small room at the office, meditating to bring my mind back to focus and reduce the shaking in my hands. After a long night of bad dreams I needed to spend my morning break in meditation. Then an employee walks in to grab something from the room. Sees me there in half lotus, hands in prayer mode brought up to my third eye chakra, as the voice on my phone guides me to release the intention of my day into the universe. 

She quietly grabs what she needs, sneaks out, and closes the door with as little sound as possible. I walk back to my desk 10 min later and she doesn’t have questions, she’s not weirded out. In fact she was curious only about what meditation app I used. 

My team is so used to this by now. They’ve all walked in as I meditate before. During mindful meditation it is important to refocus your mind as it gets distracted by other things, so it actually helps significantly to practice that while they come in, plus it eases my tension more as I sometimes can’t help but giggle as they try so hard not to disturb me.

I guess the point to the story is (if there is one at least) coworkers are more accepting than you think, and often understand the need for stress release as they are facing work stress as well. So never be ashamed to find a quite spot in your office like an open layout supply closet, or a small conference room with limited windows, and meditate or pray or do some yoga poses. Practicing self care should be done everywhere, even at work. 

Take care of yourself during the day, and set an example for others to do the same. Unless it’s alternating nostril breathing. No Mrs. Therapist I will not practice alternating nostril breathing at work, that’s where I draw the line. 👃😜

At least it was a crazy straw

For a few weeks I’ve been basically at my breaking point, and just powering through. I found I could push through the day and then let everything just hit when I get home. Some nights that looked like staying up all night with panic attacks. Some nights was effectively surrendering to a depression that shuts everything down where I don’t sleep, eat, or talk, just sit there lost. Some nights were filled with nightmares, and some just with the stored up tears of stress. 

Today I couldn’t wait until night. Today I faced the straw that broke the camels back. One stupid little thing that I could usually handle, but today was too much. I ran to the restroom and proceeded to hide in a stall in silent tears for 20 minutes. Then busied myself with mindless work the rest of the day. I’m done. I’m so lost, and so stressed, and so exhausted. I worry about tomorrow, and if I can cope with whatever new crap I will face. But this season is just temporary, right? I hope so.

Well that helps the self esteem 

Gearing up for an annual executive meeting. One of the top bosses comes into town to chat with the team managers of our departments and get all our annual data analytics. It’s nerve wrecking enough based on what the meeting is, then add that it’s only annual so you don’t really get much practice. And then of course I’m having one of my lower self esteem fluctuations where I feel like a constant failure. And to top it off I now have some wonderful hormonal zits. 

Ok, all of this probably sounds stupid and mundane, but keep in mind I am combating a variety of mental illnesses. So when my self esteem fluctuates it is EXTREME. Like I want to curl up in a ball and bleed all of my stupidity out through my arm extreme (fortunately my current mindfulness practices are keeping me out of that trap). And my OCD needs routine and consistancy which is completely out of the question this week, therefore making my anxiety go haywire. 

The zits probably should be the least of my worries, but they really do piss me off sometimes. Primarily because I look significantly younger than I am. So when I break out I look like a 15 year old trying on her moms work clothes. Because I look so young anyway I get people treating me like some stupid little girl if they are first working with me. It drives me crazy and hits on a lot of my emotion triggers. I actually learned a couple years back that I should always introduce myself over the phone before in person, I sound older than I look. But I can’t really call into this meeting.

So off I go all week, sitting in meetings with people I barely know, looking like a zit covered 15 year old in her moms clothes, talking statistics that the monster in my brain will continuously whisper are wrong. Wish me luck!

Team love ❤️ 

It has been a very crazy week at work. Some massive departmental changes threw the whole team out of wack, and we are short staffed while I finish interviewing, and then a very critical member of the team was out sick. Yes I appreciate that you did not spend the entirety of your shift vomiting on your desk, but work just got significantly harder and it was already a mess.

Ya know what? We pulled through! The day had everything done on time and beautifully, we’re set up for success tomorrow and feeling good. Yes everything would have been faster and smoother if it wasn’t all wonky right now, but I am so proud of the work my team got done! 

It is hard sometimes for them to accept my compliments and know how much I truly do appreciate them. So I want it to be known, when a manager tells you on a stressful day how wonderful you are, that you really did keep everything going well, that you are amazing. Believe it!!! Your manager is telling you the truth!!!

I adore my employees and am so proud of what we can accomplish as a team. I hope you all have people in your life that make things a bit more smooth. Whether at work, school, home, or wherever. Surround yourself with a great team. 

Mental Illness and Management

One of the symptoms of BPD (and I assume many other mental disorders) is a fluctuating sense of self. I’m in a current cycle of feeling like a complete and utter failure. It is affecting my work though I’m trying hard to hide it. I just opened a couple new positions on my team and need to hire employees. This is a difficult decision on its own for any manager. Throw in low self esteem with complete belief that I did and will fail everything in life, and hiring just became impossible.

For example, I interviewed a gentleman with more than enough experience, looking for the pay range we’re offering, eager to work for our company long term. Sounds perfect right? My boss is on board with hiring him but ultimately it is my decision. 

I’m FREAKING OUT! I’m basically convinced there must be something wrong with this candidate because, well, he’s my choice and I’m a failure. So I was supposed to make a decision today and asked my boss if I could sleep on it. He said yes but to let him know first thing in the morning if I will be offering the job. 

Sometimes I wish I could just turn off all emotion for a while. Well, technically I can, it’s called dissociation. But that usually leaves me in bed for a couple days. I need emotionless and energy. And confidence. And assurance that this is a good decision while I’m wishing things. 

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith no matter how your brain is being stupid. I can’t stop work from going on, so I will push through as though my brain and emotions are fine. Hopefully I’ll wake up with enough time to meditate in the morning. Should calm my brain a bit.

Hiring anxiety

I have a handful of open positions on my team that I need to fill, so have been doing some interviewing this week. There’s always a touch of nerves for managers as they’re interviewing, and eventually hiring, for open positions. Is this person just good at interviews? Will they really fit in with my team? Did I give them a fair chance to speak? Did I ask the right questions? 

Essentially you’re making a large decision that will impact in some way the life of the person you hired, their family, the people you didn’t hire and their family’s, and all the people that have to work with the new hire. And you’re making this decision based only on a 1-2 page summary the person provided for themself and an hour long conversation. It sucks. (By the way, if your resume is more than 2 pages, it won’t be read. In fact your lucky if the manager does more than a scan of key points on the first page. So please stop giving me 3-4 page resumes. Just saying)

So as I’m scanning through the resumes for my afternoon interviews during lunch, I start making notes on each persons latest job. My 2pm apparently is leaving a job at the psych hospital I was admitted to last December. I nearly choked on my lunch when I read that! Started doing a mental scan of her job description to see if it’s someone I may have seen. How awful would that have been to interview someone for a job reporting to me if they had helped locked my suicidal ass in a mental hospital for their previous work. 😣

Luckily I never had to find out. She didn’t show up for the interview (by the way, hiring managers talk to each other. So not showing up for one interview is basically blacklisting yourself from every potential opportunity in that entire office. Again, just saying). I have never been so relieved to not interview someone in my life!