Not a good day, really. First thing this morning I had an appointment with my doctor, requested because I thought maybe I want to try anti-depressants again, to combat the naturally increased levels of anxiety associated with my job. The doctor ended up seeing me half an hour late, as he always does, causing a great deal of stress as I would have to be at work within the hour. He only gave me a few minutes, just like he always does, in which I had to persuade him that my problem really isn’t just a case of mild newcomer nerves. I got a prescription for three months’ worth of citalopram, which I was on last year. I had thought it might be useful to try something else, something that won’t cause all the unpleasant side effects that put me off citalopram before, but since the doctor was clearly too busy for a proper discussion, I had to make do with what I was given. I really can’t wait to move next month so that I can sign up with a new doctor.
When I was finally out of the doctor’s surgery I rushed home to take the first tablet in the course, before I had to go to work. Maybe it’s an alcoholic thing to do, rushing home in a frenzy to take a pill in the hope that I might feel better, rather than leaving it for tomorrow. With some extra serotonin in my system, I think I felt OK on the tube to Notting Hill this morning. I certainly didn’t feel horrible like I have every morning for the past two weeks. That can probably be put down to the expectation effect, rather than any real chemical action. SSRI’s such as citalopram take weeks to have any real effect, which is how they are not habit-forming.
At work I had three hours of customer service to look forward to – after yesterday’s ‘experience’ they seem to think I’m ready to be let loose on the public properly. I logged on to find about 300 customer e-mail enquiries that urgently needed responding to. The same guy who sat with me yesterday at the helpdesk sat with me again today, offering help when it was needed. I got the impression after an hour that I should be starting to feel more confident in answering the enquiries on my own. My supervisor began to sound tired and bored with my endless requests for help. After two hours, I noticed him rolling his eyes nearly every time I spoke. I began to panic, horrified by the thought that I was being a burden, and I made a few mistakes, choosing to go ahead and respond to enquiries alone rather than risk further eye-rolling by asking for more help.
After three hours I had to take a break just to calm down. I went out to Starbucks, sat down and stuffed my face with sugar. My hands were shaking; I was sure that I’d finally proved myself to be the failure that I always thought I was in their eyes. I’d reduced someone who was supposed to be helping me to eye-rolling boredom. In his eyes, I could be a bit slow, at best. Stupid, at worst. The thought of being seen as stupid is absolutely horrifying to me. I don’t know why.
After using up my paid break I returned to the office where I was allowed to get on with the other part of my job, the bit that I’ve got used to over the past two weeks, where I have to update the website with retailer offers. I’m comfortable with this bit of the job: it’s got nothing to do with customer service, it’s just typing words and numbers into a live website. Of course, two weeks ago I was in a similar place with this part of the job to the place where I am now with the new part. I thought I’d never understand any of it two weeks ago. Now it’s almost a piece of cake. If I can get my head around that, surely I can understand anything. Well, that’s what I’m hoping.
At 5pm Melanie announced to the office that our thanksgiving dinner was ready and waiting for us downstairs. I didn’t know why the whole company was choosing to go to a thanksgiving party, until I got downstairs and saw all the alcohol. About fifty fresh bottles of various descriptions sat on a table in the corner of the room, and the thirty or so employees of the company were fighting their way over to the table to lay claim to their share of the night’s alcoholic refreshment. Melanie and some of the other directors had cooked turkey; with all the booze distracting everyone the food was almost a second thought at this point. I put some meat and potatoes on a paper plate and went to sit on the only free seat in the corner of the room. It’s a really bad space for a party: only one large sofa and a few swivel chairs had to accommodate thirty people with their dinner and drinks. From the moment I sat down I knew I wasn’t enjoying myself. Everyone separated off into their little cliques where they were bound to stay for the rest of the night. Melanie, who I might have felt comfortable chatting to, was busy serving up the food in the kitchen and didn’t look as if she would be mingling any time soon. I forced the food down my throat in three minutes and decided I’d had enough of the party. I had to leave. No one was really interested in socialising: it was all about getting pissed as quickly as possible. I had hoped that tonight would finally be my opportunity to meet the other people in the company, get to know some faces and names outside of the small, uncomfortable little team that I always work in. Alas, I didn’t stand a chance of making a single friend.
I wasn’t the first person to sneak out early tonight. One of the guys who trained with me three weeks ago was out of the door like a shot after forcing his food down in a similar way to me. At least I didn’t have to be the first to leave. Just five minutes of the event was more than enough for me. It’s not the fear of drinking that puts me off these kinds of things: it’s the fear of being around drunk people. I can’t handle it.
As soon as I left I was full of doubts once again about the future of my job. Someone was bound to notice my sudden departure. They could be thinking: what an ungrateful arse, staying only long enough to eat our food without bothering to talk to anyone! With the added pressure of the extra work that I am now being expected to do every day, I’m really fearful about the whole thing tonight. I went straight to the gay step 11 meeting from Notting Hill – I desperately needed to be in a safe place with safe people. There I managed to share about what had just happened, though it was an incredibly busy meeting and I don’t usually manage to jump in when there are so many others needing to speak. I’m glad I was able to go to the meeting tonight, and I’m really glad I was able to talk about all the things going through my mind. As a consequence I felt much better, for a while. People came up to share with me their experiences of dreaded office parties, how we all find it impossible to deal with so-called ‘normal’ people in the real world where getting drunk is the highest priority for most. The trouble with socialising in the ‘real’ world is that it’s all so meaningless. None of the conversation that I heard tonight was of any real interest to me; a few years ago it wouldn’t have mattered as I would have been too wasted to care. Today I can’t ignore the fact that most of what these people want to talk about is utter shit! I don’t want to be judgmental, it’s just the way British society works. As long as you can get really drunk, nothing else matters.