Thinking about Work


One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is work. I left my last job in October of 2011 because my PTSD had gotten so severe (now that I think of it, I think I was in a ‘self-neglect’ phase) that I was almost suicidal.

My job had started off really well. I was a bookseller at Half-Price Books and I was really loving it for the first few months. For the first time I had a full time job that I was enjoying and I was even making friends. My boss really seemed to like me and she and the other managers had been giving me good reviews. I was highly optimistic about my future there.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong or when. We were dealing with a ton during that time. Rob had just been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and we were adjusting to the new life that comes with that diagnosis. In addition to having to learn to manage the bi-polar, Rob was also taking full-time classes AND working full time. I was trying to help Rob as best as I could adjust and was helping him with his classes to lighten his load. With both of us working full time we hardly ever saw each other, especially because we often ended up working opposite shifts or having different days off. Also, we moved in July and in August my parents said they couldn’t take care of my dog anymore so he needed to come live with us, but a few days after him getting here the apartment people told us he wasn’t allowed so I had to make hurried arrangements to move him back to my parents house and pay for them to care for him. Oh, and also sometime during all that we had to battle fleas.

So I slowly started slipping into my ‘self-neglect’ phase, but I was trying so hard to fight it. I started seeing Sheila every week and that seemed to help for a while, but I guess not enough. My boss-Ginny- started treating me oddly. She switched my schedule, along with a few other workers, around to shifts that she knew we didn’t want. She stopped talking to me in the break room. Anytime I spoke to her she was curt and seemed irritated with me. I had no idea what was going on. I tried to give her space and just do my work. Then she started criticizing everything I did. When a customer was rude she scolded me for not being a better employee, even when the same customer had given several other employees problems just moments before. Things like that just kept happening. And I had no idea why.

I asked some of my co-workers who I was (am) friends with, and they said that Ginny just did that sometimes. She just seemed to go through stages where she tried to get rid of people and to just hang in there, she would stop eventually. That it had happened to them.

But it hurt, I felt like I was being singled out for no reason. I felt bullied. One day she called me into her office and said that my attendance had been poor and if I called in again I would be put on probation (oh, I forgot to mention that during this time my migraines were changing and I was being heavily monitored by my doctor, and my grandmother had been suddenly admitted to the hospital for heart failure and was not expected to make it through the night so I rushed to see her. Surprisingly she is still alive today.) I really think that conversation was the final straw for me. I went on my lunch break and cried hysterically in my car for the entire hour. I felt awful. I knew that my attendance wasn’t exemplary and I needed to do better, but the PTSD immediately made me feel trapped. I just wanted to do my job, but every second was a struggle.

I fought through the next week, minute to minute, crying most of the day even while working. Trying desperately to hide it from my co-workers and the customers. Trying desperately to shove my feelings down. But they just got worse. Every day I walked into the store I felt more like a caged animal, starting to go insane, wanting to scream and tear at the bars. One night I talked to Rob and told him how bad it had gotten. I had been keeping a lot from him, especially about Ginny’s treatment of me, because I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to admit how bad it was. But I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I told him I needed to quit. I didn’t want to, but I needed to. I finally got my courage up to tell Rob how broken I was and that I had let it get too bad. So bad that I needed to leave my job. That I was sorry, that I wanted to fix it, but I felt the only course of action was to quit and regroup.

He listened to me. He asked if he could do anything to help. He was supportive but I could tell he was antsy about me quitting. Later that night I came downstairs to see him crying. It felt like I had been stabbed. I felt like I had let him down. I knew that I had made a mistake. I knew I shouldn’t have let things get as bad as they had, that I should have said something sooner, but it was too late and I had to deal with things as they were. And I knew he was worried about money. But I couldn’t go back. But I couldn’t hurt him either.

I hugged him and told him I was sorry. That I would make it work. To forget what I had said. And I tried to bury it. To push it down.

And the next day I went to work.

I cried most of the day in the back room while working with the stock. I had to take a Lorazepam just to walk into the store, then another one at lunch. I think I took another 1 or maybe 2 during the day too. I know it was a ridiculous amount of medicine. And I was still on the verge of a panic attack the entire day.

After work I dropped something off to Rob at his work and I mentioned to him again that I needed to quit my job. I told him my day was awful and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what he said but the gist was that we couldn’t swing it. I nodded and as I started to drive away I burst into tears. When I got home I took off my work clothes and threw them on the floor by the door. I wanted to be as far from my job as possible. In my underwear, I went upstairs and crawled into bed where I sobbed, literally sobbed, until I got a text. And then another.

They were from Sheila and my mom. I guess Rob had seen my face as I drove away, because he immediately got in touch with them, letting them know he was worried about me and that they should contact me. It was good he did. I wasn’t planning anything, but I felt so trapped. I didn’t feel as if I had a way out of my life. I texted with Sheila and talked to my mom, and when Rob got home we decided that quitting Half-Price was the right thing. I called the next morning and quit. My mom came up and returned my name badge so I didn’t have to go to the store, and I spent the day crying and trying to pull myself together.

That was my last job. I had thought that it would be impossible to keep a job with the PTSD, that eventually they would all make me feel trapped. But now I have the possibility of a future without PTSD. I could have a job. But I’m still scared. I know that some (most?) of that is residual from Half-Price.

Sheila and Lori have suggested taking the job thing in little steps. One step that I thought of is to make a list of things that I want from a job. Here is what I have so far.

My Job Should

  1. have a greater purpose than money
  2. not fill more time than my time with Robby
  3. still allow me to go to church

Basically, I want a job that means something. I don’t want a job just to have a job. I’ve worked at Kroger and Walmart just to earn money and it didn’t work out. I want to go to work each day and feel that what I do is important and makes a positive impact on the world. I would love to teach somewhere.

The second requirement is harder to explain. I don’t mind working. Rob already works 40hrs a week, so I don’t see him then anyways. I just don’t want to work opposite hours of him all the time because then we would never see each other and our relationship would suffer. Ideally, I would only work 1-2 shifts opposite him.

Finally, I want to be able to attend church. If not every week, then at least most weeks. Church is very important to me and I love not only going, but teaching there as well. I don’t want to lose that from my life. I think it is something I really need.

I don’t think my list should be too hard to fulfil, and I hope that it helps me find the right job. Because I do want to work. I just want to find the right work.

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