Sometimes you read something and it feels like someone’s just punched you in the gut, winding you. That happened to me when I read this today. I read it in horrified fascination on my way home from work. It’s like the author climbed into my head, had a rummage and then described what she found.
And it describes perfectly what is going on right now and has been going on for a month or three. I’m not going to summarise it so if you want this post to make real sense (or as much sense as is ever found in this blog, we must be realistic) you’ll need to click on the link. I have a really good job now. Stressful, certainly. New not just for me but for the institution I work for. But it’s great. Exciting. Three years ago I was newly back to work after six weeks on sick leave. I couldn’t keep my concentration on anything and was out of my mind on psychiatric drugs. It wasn’t long before I was in the psychiatrist’s office again, unable to work.
And, sadly, recently I have reminded myself of that time. Staring at my inbox, wondering how to keep track of all my emails, wondering if I can even keep track of my mind. Crying in the loos. Hyperventilating. Not sleeping. Just in case you don’t already know, not sleeping is hard. With each passing sleepless night come a few more ragged edges. I feel raw.
Work has been slightly better this week so far because I’ve created a spreadsheet. Let me repeat that word – spreadsheet. Oh yeah. So far it has four pages, each one split into tasks, sub tasks and comments. With colours. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Love. It’s not as detailed as it needs to be yet, because I slipped up in recent months and stopped using it. I had it in my old job but it didn’t need to be so full on then. I got so overwhelmed in this job that I stopped filling in my spreadsheet and started trawling through emails over and over again instead, trying to spot anything I might have missed. Never abandon a spreadsheet. Nothing good can come of that.
I need external sources of organisation because I flounder when left to my own devices. My memory is shit and my emotions have a savage power to derail every coherent thought. But I’ve kept going, fronting. I can be a mess one minute, calling hubby to calm me down from a panic attack, but walking, smiling, chatting my way into a meeting the next minute. I’ve been rewarded for fronting. I’m exceptionally good at it. I am a naturally disorganised, chaotic, forgetful person but thanks to the necessity of refining a carefully honed facade I have found ways to cope successfully at work. Now those techniques are being put to good use and it’s exhausting.
I get massively overstimulated and struggle to regulate my energy levels. Yesterday I started work at 7:30am, remembering to make a slice of toast a couple of hours later, pausing briefly to refill my coffee cup. By 2:30pm I was wired. It was just non-stop, my brain was going the whole time, responding to queries and problems, preparing things, fixing things, soothing people. So hubby and I had a snowball fight. 😀 I felt calmer after and went back to work for another three hours before slipping into a drained haze in the evening. Energy levels are constantly up and down. No wonder I can’t sleep. The mix of anxiety and constant vigilance is overpowering.
So that’s me at work. Checking myself over and over to make sure I haven’t dropped anything, worrying excessively when it turns out I have dropped something, no matter how small. I went into work at silly o’clock on a day off a few months ago to check I hadn’t left my filing cabinet unlocked, my mind filled with worst case scenarios, all culminating in me getting fired. The more I worry the more alert I become, and the more I front.
What happens when I’m not at work? I can’t switch off. And I lose my ability to cope with normal things. I have tried describing how this not coping feels but I can’t find the right words, it’s too all-consuming. I feel so close to shutdown at the moment that I have now resolved not to go back to church until I am feeling better. I haven’t been part of the band since November because I had an argument with someone and it was so bad that band is now no longer a safe place for me. That leaves Sunday services and small groups, which meet at people’s homes during the week. Small groups are on hold in our church for a while, so we can all meet up together. I’m not sure why the church leaders consider that to be a good thing. It’s quite a big church and when a friend, hubby and I turned up last week we hated every bit of it. I am known for being gobby and forthright in my usual group (surely not, I hear you gasp) but when I was asked for my opinion last week I couldn’t make any words come out (any … words … will do). Too many people I don’t know. So that’s out, which leaves Sunday services.
Nope. Reasons for struggling with church are best kept for another post, methinks, so I’ll just leave it that I can’t cope with spending Sunday afternoons recovering from Sunday mornings when I just spent Saturday recovering from the week. No more church for a little while.
I can’t let my guard down at work, I can’t slip. I can’t tell my boss the whole truth. I’ve wanted to recently, the urge to ‘confess’ has been quite powerful. I imagine some sweet release of telling him everything, explaining to him why I need help managing my workload because I need to be extra careful about stress levels, telling of the not sleeping and the crying and the panicking and the frustration and the everything else. But I remember all too well from my last job what can happen when you do that and I no longer trust even the nicest boss with my mental health. I have told him a version of events. He knows of some difficulties and that will have to do. I have to keep fronting.
So if I have to keep fronting there then I’m being as good as I can be and stopping fronting elsewhere. Evenings this week are being spent knitting a wee bag to help me learn new stitch techniques that I keep messing up, and watching Once Upon A Time, which I adore.
Because this is terrifying. Imagine juggling three balls and another gets thrown in, and another, and another, and another, and another… and you can’t stop, you can never stop, because if you do you will never be able to pick those balls up again. That’s my reality. The world is not equipped to cope with people like me. People like me hide and we will always hide. We tie ourselves up. We exhibit only a small amount of emotions. Whatever emotions you may see in me, whether it’s despondency or anger or delight, that’s a tiny fraction of the real me, tiny. The real me, the whole me rarely gets let out, she rarely gets to play. Watch out when she does.