All the F’s … and a Toxic Epiphany

Be warned: There may be cursing in this post. I generally try to keep things “family friendly”, but I also feel there are times when a solid round of cursing best expresses the true depth of feeling in a person’s heart. And I currently have lots of feelings in my heart. Lots of not-so-great feelings.

This past week was a complete and utter crap-fest for me. Work is always a bit of a nightmare — not because it is difficult or because it involves life-or-death issues, but because there is just So Much Of It, and because all of it takes time. And, also, because I feel constant pressure to do the best work I am able to do in the amount of time available to me. It often feels like, the more I am able to do and accomplish, the more that gets piled onto my plate. No … “plate” isn’t right. It doesn’t feel like I am sitting down to a wonderfully full plate of beautiful and nutritious food. It feels like someone is piling rocks on my head. The weight of all of it and the worry behind wondering if I can get everything done on time and with as much accuracy as possible feel like a heavy burden. I’ve been thinking to myself: “Self, just hang on, and this will get better,” for about three years now. So far, it has not gotten better. This past week was more of a fire drill than usual. There were emergencies that popped up every single day of the week, which pulled me off of other matters I needed to be working. My company text app was, literally, dinging at me constantly every day of the week. People were calling me. Deadlines got moved. And so on and so on. If it can happen during a work week and it is negative, basically, it happened this past week. It was beyond crazy, and not the good kind of adrenaline-pumping, isn’t-this-fun sort of “crazy”. No. This was the kind of “crazy” that leaves you crying at night and unable to sleep because you feel like a failure.

This all culminated on Thursday, when I got dinged by my supervisor’s supervisor (the Higher Boss) for inadvertently delaying in finalizing a deal. It was around a 2 to 3 day delay. To be fair, there was a delay on my part. This was because I was running around putting out other fires, although I did not get the chance to explain this. But the fact is that I had promised to follow up on something at the beginning of the week, and I failed to follow up until Thursday. The deal went through. Everything got signed that very day. But I got a scolding because this item should have had more priority than I had given it. I did not realize it was supposed to have a higher priority than I had given it. No one told me this, and no one gave me a hard deadline. Fair is fair: I should have asked. Higher Boss never asked what happened or why this particular task fell through the cracks. They didn’t care what was happening in my life or at work. And now, I have to have daily check-ins with my supervisor because it seems I am having trouble prioritizing things. I have been told this is intended as an effort to help me feel less stressed and/or to make my workload feel more manageable. I’m trying to take this at face value, but I have to be honest and say that it does not feel that way from my side of the fence.

I don’t mind the daily check-ins. I like my supervisor, and I talk to them multiple times a day, anyhow. So this really is no different than what I am already doing. But the implication that I f’d up, coupled with all the background information and the fact that I didn’t have full understanding of the intended timing/priority … Well, it feels grossly unfair to me. And, honestly, I’m still a little bit angry about it. No. Scratch that. I’m still a lotta bit angry about it. I’m sure I will get over it eventually. Hopefully by tomorrow or the next day. But I’m not over it yet.

Here’s the thing: This job has made my world so, so small. My entire world has become the 2 or 3 foot space where my work laptop sits. My entire world has become two computer monitors and a crap-ton of contracts. I have been working 9-12 hours a day, every day, for the past 3 years. This past week, I made a point to step away for 30 minutes to an hour for lunch each day. This was the first time in 3 years that I have done this. Before, I was sitting in front of my computer (or standing, as I have a standing desk) for the entire work day, other than quick bathroom breaks for me and the dogs. I don’t have anything left over for myself or my family at the end of each workday. I don’t have mind-space for writing or spending quality time with my husband or daughter. I can’t sleep at night because of anxiety and stress over possibly missing something or missing a deadline. When I do sleep, I constantly have stress dreams. I am So Damn Tired, both mentally and physically. All the time. After I calmed down from Thursday’s phone call, I looked over my running list of open matters. I closed out 30 matters for the month of March. And you know what? None of that mattered one bit.

And that was when I realized something: All my fucks are gone. In that moment, on the phone with Higher Boss, and in the aftermath of that phone call, I felt like I could actually see my very last fuck growing wings and taking flight. I still want to do my job to the best of my ability. I still care about my work, because I have a strong work ethic. I feel this is something that is, somewhat, being used against me right now. Even so, I owe it to my team to do my best to support them and help them. But any motivation and happiness I previously felt in my job are gone. It is becoming harder and harder to see the good points of this job, because all I feel is just … TIRED.

And this leads me to the “toxic epiphany” I experienced this weekend. I know, I know. This was a bad transition, but bear with me because it’s late and, as I’ve already established, I’m TIRED.

As part of keeping my licensing current, I have to attend a certain number of hours of continuing education for my profession. I’ve been too tired at the end of each workday to deal with continuing ed. And each workday has been much too busy to give me time to listen to courses during the day. My hours are due by the end of this month, so I am running out of time! This weekend, I sat down and made a start on them. I binged 5 hours, two of which dealt with mental health issues in my profession. In each of those courses, the presenter mentioned studies that have shown people in my profession are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the average adult in my country.

This hit me right between the eyes. Y’all — We are talking a true “zing” moment, when, suddenly, so many things made sense for me. I’m a survivor of trauma. It was not intentionally inflicted, but it still happened. And it still makes up a part of who I am and how I approach the world. I already struggle with depression and anxiety — both as a genetic pre-disposition and due to the trauma I experienced. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, and that colors the way I approach the world and how I react to stressful situations. Basically, I picked the absolute worst profession I could have picked for myself. It’s like I took my pre-dispositions and just added more on top of them.

And that was when I realized something: I have been moving from one toxic relationship to another my entire professional life. (Granted, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, which was pure bliss. Seriously. It was the first time in my life I truly felt safe.) I kept thinking there was something wrong with me; that, surely, there was a type of job in my profession that I would find satisfying and that would not compound my depression and anxiety. But now, I wonder … Maybe it wasn’t me, after all? Maybe this particular profession is just unhealthy for me? Maybe there is no way to fix this or to make this better for myself? Maybe, this is the reason I always felt like the proverbial square peg stuffed into a round hole? Maybe, it’s time for me and this profession to break up, once and for all. And maybe, I have some serious thinking to do. And, honestly, I am not sure what to do with any of these feelings or revelations or … well, “stuff”. But I do know one thing: I can’t physically keep going the way I have been. It is not sustainable. But where does that leave me?

I honestly don’t know.