TW: If you are easily triggered by talk of harassment, anxiety or mental illness, please take care of yourself and don’t read the rest of this post.
After more than two years in a self-imposed hiatus, I’m back. At least, I’m hoping that I’m back though I don’t know how long or how often I’ll be able to post.
There were some events which happened in my life over the last few years which severely impacted my mental health. This also impacted my work, my home life and my writing. In all honesty, there was not a part of my life that was not affected by these events.
The last time I posted, I hadn’t planned on stopping. In fact, my plans were quite the opposite. I wanted to keep posting and growing as a writer. I would start working more as a writer and SO would go back to work.
Part of that did happen. SO went back to work part-time for about four to six hours a week. However, because he was working a few hours a week, he was now ineligible for his disability benefits. This meant that instead of bringing in $800 a month to help with bills, SO was bringing in about $250 a month.
This drop in income meant that I had to work longer hours at my current job leaving less time to write and less time to spend with SO. Luckily, my extra hours came with a benefit. I was promoted to third in command. This promotion gave me a slight increase in pay and responsibility.
However, along with the good, the promotion also came with a downside which almost completely negated the benefits.
As third in command I caught the attention of my site manager; my boss who has very minimal anger control. As someone small, soft-spoken, and non-violent I registered on his radar as a target. He perceived me as someone who wouldn’t fight back and whom he could take out his frustration on.
The worst part about being targeted in this manner was not being yelled at but knowing that when I wasn’t there, someone else was the target for his anger.
I couldn’t rest on my days off because I knew someone was taking the brunt of my boss’ anger. I would continually get texts and calls on my days off from people needing help or wanting to complain about the boss’ treatment of someone.
When I wasn’t at work I would grow anxious thinking about the state of my co-workers when I returned. At least when I was at work I could take the worst of his anger so others wouldn’t have to.
Leaving didn’t feel like a viable option because SO wasn’t able to work full-time and, even with my pay increase, we were just getting by. If I left I would be making less and that was if I managed to find another full-time job. As it was, working over-time was the only thing keeping us from using the last of our meager savings. If I wasn’t working, we would only have enough to pay our bills for a month at most. Keeping a roof over our heads and food in our fridge was enough incentive for me to stay at my job, regardless of how my boss treated me.
This isn’t to say that I took it all lying down. I used the tools I had in order to shed light on what was happening. I took it over my boss’ head to his boss. Unfortunately, because nothing was witnessed by the big boss, nothing could be done immediately. And when my boss was asked, he denied everything.
So, I kept on.
SO was slowly able to work more hours, usually at the rate of one or two hours more a week. While this doesn’t seem like much for a healthy person, for someone still on the edge of recovery, it was an immense increase. SO was exhausted at the end of every shift. When he would push out an extra hour, he would barely have the energy to crawl into bed when he got home. There was no way I could ask him to take on more than what he was already taking on.
My job continued much as it had since I had gotten the promotion. I worked twelve on two off. If I said the wrong thing I would get an earful. If someone made a mistake, I would get a dressing down. If I did what was asked of me, I would get yelled at for not doing something else.
Then the work started to dry up. Our site had to lay off employees because we couldn’t give them shifts. Part-time employees left because we didn’t have the hours and full-time employees were only just getting full-time hours.
We were on a skeleton crew. We barely had enough employees scheduled to cover the workload. If someone called in sick, we were hooped. By the time the work started to increase, my boss had let so many employees go that those of us left had to work overtime on a near daily basis. If we couldn’t work or couldn’t get everything done, my boss would get worse.
And still, the big boss witnessed nothing. It was my word against his because everyone else was too scared to talk about what was going on. They were afraid that they would become the next target.
So I endured, trying desperately to solve the problems but failing at every turn.
I felt trapped. I felt stuck in a bog of fear that was trying to pull me down. I was desperate for help but I just kept sinking. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own but I felt like I had no one I could rely on.
SO was still regaining his strength from his transplant. He was still going to appointments at the transplant center every month and treatment at the family doctor every other week. He had nothing to spare either physically or mentally unless I wanted to hinder his already delayed recovery.
My family lives on the other side of the country, a full day of flying or week of driving. In the five years we’ve lived here we have only seen my family face to face twice. While I was able to get some emotional support over the phone, I couldn’t fully rely on my family due to being geographically undesirable.
And SO’s family had already proven their type of support when SO was in the worst of his illness. While not all of them were bad, there were some who kept telling SO to “take a walk and you’ll feel much better” when he was in need of a blood transfusion. They would brag about being supportive if they went to see him in the hospital but get mad at him if he didn’t go visit them every time they told him to. Knowing this, I didn’t count on their support.
I had no friends to lean on as we had only just moved to the area when SO got sick. And between work and taking SO to appointments, I had no time to make friends. True, I would laugh and joke with my co-workers but I couldn’t consider them friends.
I was alone. I would smile through the anxiety. I would laugh through the panic attacks. But the OCD I had worked so hard to control was slowly starting to control me. The mental disability I had dealt with my entire life was slowly breaking my mind. The abuse and harassment were feeding into the anxiety despite my best efforts to keep it in control.
I was spiraling.
Things didn’t start getting better until someone else stepped forward. At which point the big boss sent out an anonymous employee survey. When the big boss got the surveys back, action was taken.
My boss was suspended from work for two weeks while further investigation was done. After the suspension, he was to return to work but on probation. As is, he didn’t like the conditions which were set and decided not to return to work following his suspension.
Yet, despite this being sorted, the damage to my mental health was already done. The stress and anxiety had grown so much that I was broken. I had made myself physically ill with my anxiety.
SO forced me to go to the closest walk-in clinic to see a doctor. The first doctor brushed me off because I had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder before. I was basically told that everything was in my head and that he wasn’t going to prescribe me pills (which I had already said I didn’t want to take meds as I prefer not to unless it is unavoidable).
SO then took me to another doctor who actually took me seriously and got me help. I was placed off of work for two weeks while I started seeing a psychologist.
Unfortunately, the treatment I’m going through requires me to do things which up my anxiety level. Basically, I have to get worse before I can get better.
As you can imagine, increasing my anxiety levels has not helped with my writing. The only writing I have been doing for the last year has been in my therapy journal. And I barely had enough in me to do that.
I gave up the things I loved because I didn’t have anything left. I had used everything that was in me to keep going. Everything I had was used to survive and get through each day. I was lucky if I managed to write 100 words in two months. I stopped reading; writing; walking; everything.
But I have been rebuilding myself. I’ve been regaining everything that made me who I am.
I may backslide a bit. But I am finally in a place where I feel comfortable in putting myself back into the world. And that is why I am posting this, because I’ve got to start somewhere and why not start with an explanation. Besides, I missed writing.