I woke at 5am having a panic attack. After a good Monday evening meeting I thought I’d gone to bed feeling more positive about things, but my disease had tricked me. It was my worst panic attack in years. I lay wide awake in bed for about an hour, trying to remember what I had to do in my job. I kept having to go through all my tasks and responsibilities. If I tried to veer off into thinking of something else to quell the panic, it wouldn’t work: my disease would force me back to considering all my job responsibilities. For an hour nothing else in the world mattered except what I did, not even my name, which I would have had trouble recalling in the worst of it. I couldn’t remember anything good in my life, not AA, not my friends. I was stuck in the job, thinking I’d have to remind myself of all the processes forever otherwise I’d be doomed. It’s like I had to prove to myself that I actually had the job, and that I wasn’t an invisible or meaningless person who didn’t have one. All my thoughts were circular, bringing me back to the same abject terror of not feeling safe or secure in the role.
After an hour as the sky outside started to get light, some perspective began to creep in. Drastically I attempted to hijack the panic by calling out for God, which didn’t work. I knew I needed my higher power’s help to get me out of the mental trap I was in, but to begin with my faith in it wasn’t strong enough. In the end I just started counting loudly in my head, to drown out the noise of the fear. At some point I drifted back to sleep, to be woken again not much later by my alarm going off. Returning to sleep in that time was practically pointless in that sense, but I imagine my exhausted body needed all the sleep it could get.
Reminding myself of all my tasks and thus the reasons why I’m important at work had served no purpose. I had next to nothing to do all day. The stuff I had to do would have taken about an hour altogether; I somehow had to spread it out over eight hours. For the first time I didn’t bother asking J for more to do. She doesn’t give very much away, but I get the impression whenever I ask her for another task that I’m bothering her. I’m fed up of having to ask, anyway. It’s bad management that led to the team being over-staffed when I could have been placed in any other team that actually needed me.
The day dragged by, as you can imagine. I mentioned last week that there might be other more interesting tasks on the horizon – I had a short training session with B in the afternoon on how to do some stats, and there are more sessions booked for the rest of the week. Well, it’s not been confirmed yet that I will be taking over any or all of those tasks at some point, which doesn’t reassure me much. Logically you’d wonder why she was spending her time showing me these things if it wasn’t planned for me to start doing them soon, but I’ve not been given any timetable for a handover, I’ve just been given loose assurances that there’ll be more training to come at some point if there’s the time.
When B was training me this afternoon I felt like she didn’t want to be there. Most of the time she’s very pleasant but some of the time, like today, she’s distant with me and I don’t trust her. Plus I overheard her saying to J this afternoon that she’s going to move one along to J’s desk while J is away on holiday from tomorrow. Which will leave a gap between us, a gap I’ll find near impossible to breach since I already find it difficult enough approaching her sometimes. I heard her say that she’ll be so bored when J is gone, moving across to J’s desk so she can be nearer to the manager of the other team that sits on that side will be the only thing that keeps her going. Wow, thanks B! You really know how to inspire warmth in your teammates. I’m sure if I was to bring it up with her she’d say that she didn’t mean it, or that she really just wants to sit next to C (the other team manager) for two weeks in J’s absence because they’re good friends or something. As much as I try not to be paranoid and see the worst in people, I think in this case I can assume that B just doesn’t want me to be her only neighbour for two weeks.
One can’t exactly forget that I had similar problems with people during my first few months at the last company. But I think we’ve established that reminding myself how I eventually got over that isn’t helping in this situation. If it was helping, I wouldn’t be having panic attacks at 5 o’clock in the morning, would I. Yes, my problems at the last place were not exactly the same as the problems I have now. It was a different situation in many ways, and I was probably willing to put up with more shit at the time because I just wanted to avoid a job in Burger King.
I desperately want to believe that this job will surprise me like the last one did. Waiting for that surprise to come is absolute torture, so I think I’m going to have to stop thinking about my last employer altogether now. I really ought to just put it behind me. This company may not turn out to be full of surprises like my last company; this may not be the right place for me in the long run. Thinking that every situation is going to be successful and bear fruit like before could land me in more trouble than it’s worth.
When I had difficulties with people at the last place there’s this thing I used to do to deal with them mentally: I’d imagine sitting them in a room and talking about me. For some reason, it used to work as a miracle cure for resentments. Just picturing what someone might say about can make me see them in a different way, I guess. Because it always worked before I think I need to do it here with some of the team that sits around us. I’ve got it into my head that one or two of them hate me, even though they’ve never spoken to me. Some kind of reframing has to be done with them.
A, the guy who chatted to me out of the blue about travelling yesterday, is leaving the neighbouring team tomorrow to go and do something else in the bank. I couldn’t talk to him at all today, couldn’t even look at him. One five minute conversation and I feel betrayed when he decides to up and leave us. It was pretty much back to hopeless silence with all of my neighbours today.
I’m half aware that my side of the street isn’t completely clean in this situation. I’ve probably been as cold and aloof with them as they have with me. They probably don’t realise how hard it is for me to sit near them and not be able to talk to any of them, and why should they? My office social life isn’t their responsibility.
The moment this problem breaks and I’m talking to people in the office with some degree of comfort will be a wonderful moment. All I want is to have a conversation and begin one new friendship. It’s the simplest thing in the world, making a friend. We humans are hardwired to do it. So why is it still not happening?
If I really am unhappy, my options are leave or stay. I have to know that I have options and that I’m not really trapped, because that will keep making it so much harder. That said, I really don’t want to have to leave, I’d feel such a failure and I don’t know when the hell I’d be able to get another job. It’s pretty obvious, but I plan to take this one day at a time. It’s all I can do now. In six short months, perhaps I’ll be in a better position to move on and find something else. I’m definitely not going to be in my current position forever, that’s for sure. I don’t need to be.