My Descent Into All the Things

Some time ago I was diagnosed with anxiety, PTSD, and (more recently) cyclothymia. This means that a lot of my life has been spent trying to do everything all at once, occasionally succeeding, but mostly overloading myself so as not to pay any attention to my increasingly unstable emotions.

On top of a standard 40-hour workweek at Fulltime Paid Office Job (FPOJ), my social calendar with friends had a minimum of three items per week, my freelance work clocked in at about an hour a day, I was helping a non-profit/social organization with three to five events per week, and somewhere in there I needed to make art, read a bunch of books, crochet everything, re-brand my business, do domestic things, go to therapy, work out, and every so often I’d get to schedule in sleep.  This has gone on for …about two years.  We’ll exclude some very negative incidents that occurred between late 2011 and mid 2015, but they also contributed to my current state of life.

Things fluctuated between feeling fabulous and overwhelming, until my workload at FPOJ became a constant source of looming fear in the form of paperwork. I’m not going to list specifics of exactly how much work I had to do, but let’s just say that it involved a solid 6 to 7 hours five days a week of straight working. When I say that, I mean that a minimum of 6 hours out of my 8 hour shift were spent doing actual work. Near Memorial Day I would have people arriving as I got there, waiting for me specifically, and the last customer would leave either at the end of my shift or within an hour of my shift ending.

I process a LOT of paperwork per individual/company, and I consider myself both organized and efficient, but there is only so much that one person can do in an hour.

The work stacked up.  I began utilizing my ten minute breaks for the first time in years, still feeling guilty about leaving my desk during even that time period.  I can’t remember the last time I felt like anyone appreciated the work, only that if it wasn’t done, there would be reprimanding or belittling.  There is always reprimanding and belittling, but at least if the work gets done, then there is …less?  I’m not sure.  It’s not the healthiest atmosphere.  You just work, and you get your check, and you should be thankful to even have a job.

I started at my current job in March of 2007, in Department 1.  In January of 2010 I was moved to Department 2 (amidst much chaos) as a replacement for a coworker with medical issues.  In July of 2010, that coworker passed away.  In December 2010, our GM passed away.

We’ve always had an office staff of less than 10 people.  It’s very, very close.  Things got…strained.  The Ops Manager (who was also head of HR) picked up the title of GM, to replace our coworker who had passed away.

To date, I am still in Department 2.  Here are some things that have happened over the past couple of years.  We got a new corporate office and now the GM has an assistant from Department 1.

In May of 2015 I was told that I would be promoted to management, and what my title would be.  I was sent to a manager’s workshop/intensive in October of 2015.  In November of 2015 I asked outright as a followup (what my position/salary would be).  I was told there would be an answer after the budget was adjusted in January of 2016.  In Feb 2016 I asked outright again and did not get a solid answer.  At this time no concrete date, amount, or specific title have been given.  (The GM is retiring, they say, at the end of next year.)

I was also told…
…..that I would be sent to Florida for a week-long intensive that would end with me getting an industry certificate, and when I followed up on that I was told that it wasn’t happening.
…..at the end of 2015 that I would be going to manager’s meetings every other month.  So far this year I’ve been to 2.
…..that I would have carte blanche on internal paperwork/digital/filing systems. I still have to get three different approvals from one person before a single file can be put away.

All of this clearly makes me feel very secure, confident, and appreciated.

In February of 2015 we hired an employee to train under my coworker who would be retiring the following year. Retiring Coworker (RC1) worked directly with me since January of 2010, was my only coworker (excluding the manager), and we had a good system going for what it was. RC1 was extremely helpful and we were a solid team. Our job descriptions were different but our individual duties formed a circle – she needed my completed work to finish her job, and vice versa.  I would help her when I could, and she would help me when she could.  Usually once a week or so, one of us would ask the other if help was needed on any specific project, and both of us felt comfortable asking the other to complete a task.  It went smoothly and I miss her very much.

In January of 2016, Retiring Coworker retired, Replacement (trained-for-a-year) Coworker (RC2) moved into her spot, and Replacement Coworker’s sister (RCS) was hired for the specific reasons of “in case one of us has to go on vacation/be out”.  RCS had a primary function of being an assistant to RC2, however I was told specifically by management that RCS would be helping me with basic things (phones, copies, filing, etc).  This meant that there were now TWO full time people doing the work that ONE person had done for years, and I was getting no help with my workload from anyone. This included having to answer all the calls, all the time and help all the walk-ins, all the time.  In the span of one shift where I had an off-site meeting, I came back to 24 voicemails.  I’ve been frequently told by customers that if I personally am not available or not in the office, they are told to call back when I am.

The very short version is that when I have asked for help, I have been told that 1) that’s not (my coworkers’ job) and 2) that (my coworkers) cannot be taken away from their tasks of handling finances.  While we have different job titles and my job description doesn’t include utilizing our bank/billing software, or in-depth AP/AR, that doesn’t remove my responsibility to still handle certain billing issues on top of my normal tasks.

Regardless, there’s no reason that everyone in my department can’t handle SOME standard customer/vendor receiving.  Our office crew is not a large one.  If employees in a very small, open-office, walk-in-friendly environment are not on an immediate project, it is unreasonable for me to be the only one handling all phone calls, walk-ins, and inbound paperwork.  This is especially true when A) Department 1 – right on the other side of the office, in the same room – runs on an “everyone helps everyone / just get the cycle done” basis, and B) Retired Coworker and I used that same basis.  I do not understand, and thinking about it makes my entire body tense up.

As we moved forward to our busiest season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), with 4th of July being our peak, the thought of having to do all that work myself, after the massive overload during Memorial Day Week, made me have nightmares and crying fits. I was about two breaths away from a breakdown.  I absolutely could not detach myself from work.

And so, after therapy and hard work and medication and asking for help and TELLING people I needed help and then EMAILING requests for help and the only thing changing was my pile of work getting larger, my stress leave for 6/28/16 – 8/9/16 was approved.

At first I considered sleeping for a week straight. Then I considered going on a very long solo road trip. Then I started thinking about how much I miss dance, but after some price checks and general reviews, Ginseng Yoga has once again earned my business on a daily basis. The studio is a delightful place of healing, and it’s helping me regain health and strength. It’s calming, it’s quiet, it’s what I needed.  I’m going to incorporate a Barre class into my schedule (my main plan, thwarted by gas prices, was to go to Xtend Barre) – and maybe once all of my fitness routines have turned into daily routines, I can go back to dancing again.  Presently?  Yoga feels right.

It’s been just about a week, and I feel like I can breathe a little now.

My nightmares aren’t every night, and don’t always involve work.

I take one to two yoga classes every day, and have been working hard at readjusting my diet. No daily fast food, no unplanned trips to Del Taco. More produce, more homemade food.  Less sugar, less caffeine.  Not much less, but less.

This time off is also helping me to adjust to my new medication; the side effects are a little troublesome.

I’m going to make efforts at posting regularly, in attempts to track my symptoms and side effects, but more in an attempt to remind myself that there really is life outside of paperwork. There really are good things out there, things that I enjoy that are healthy for me to do.

I just need to start somewhere.

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