Maybe I can't be an adult after all?

This week all of the managers at work are either on leave, or at a conference. That leaves me in charge.  This means:

  1. I have to move over into the main building to work from the manager’s office.
  2. I have to supervise people who have suddenly been released from the iron-fist regime of their dictator team leader.
  3. People are expecting me to deal with things that the team leaders were unwilling, or unable to address.
  4. I have to work with my back to the door, and that door is made of glass.

I think Allie from Hyperbole and a Half describes the feeling quite well –

Image from This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult

I’ve hit my “one more…” thing.  The inner tension is incredible.  So far, I’ve had to deal with one staff member who hasn’t turned up for work without an explanation; and a part-timer who has more interest in FaceBook, than her work.

I am not a manager.  I am not going to cope with this.  I am afraid, very afraid.

Then…

I am a manager.  I can do this.  I called the person who didn’t turn up and left a message on their phone.  I emailed their team leader and manager to tell them what had happened.  I called HR to find out if she had leave booked, but had failed to write it in the diary.  I mentioned to the staff person more interested in Facebook than work, that her time needed to be spent on the job.  This is easy.

I need to find a middle ground between these two extremes.  If I do either, it will kick into gear all of my other dysfunctional behaviour.  I can’t let that happen.

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30 thoughts on “Maybe I can't be an adult after all?

  1. That image is so spot on.

    I refer to this in myself as a disturbingly low stress threshold. But I have a feeling that’s descriptive of a symptom, not the underlying problem. I can’t make better sense of it than that, though, so there you have it.

    I don’t suppose there’s any way to make it so you don’t have to work with your back to the (glass!) door? Safety isn’t the be all end all, I know, but it seems like without a sense of physical safety the rest just feels like white-knuckling it.

    • Hi Holly,

      I love Hyperbole and a Half… my favourite post is The God of Cake – really clever and so descriptive of my niece when she was that age.

      This feels like another stress thrown at me when I didn’t need it. I was already struggling, and even the staff are saying I’ve had a lot to deal with today – there were also staff illness, reorganisation of the weeks roster to do, cashflow issues, and then lots of petty stuff like due date stamps. So it’s comforting to know I’m not over-reacting, but awful in that this is what I will be facing for the rest of the week.

      I can’t change anything about the physical layout of the office… I’m stuck with my back to the glass door and wall. I’m so hypervigilant it’s crazy. I can’t even listen to music, as I need to be able to hear people coming up behind me.

      I know I should be thankful that I have a job and am able to work. I am thankful, really. But weeks like this, make me wonder whether the work is more destructive than helpful.

      One moment at a time…

      Thanks for the support Holly, I really appreciate it.

      Take care,
      CG

  2. Ha! The God of Cake is awesome. When she grabbed the first handful of cake and her mother responded just by saying ‘it’s not for you!’ I had this thing I get where I’m surprised and then become aware that I’m tensing up, waiting for violence. I keep reading along and lookit! No violence. And then I think, “Is this what it’s like? Is this childhood?” It’s thrilling and sad all at the same time.

    I read more of her blog. She’s funny. And she’s a David Thorne fan. I do so love David Thorne.

    “I can’t even listen to music, as I need to be able to hear people coming up behind me.”

    Yes! I’m lucky to work from home but I can’t for the life of me figure how to arrange my office so that when I’m at my desk I’m facing the door. I solve this by simply keeping the door closed. But if I listen to music, I can’t hear anyone knock. So no music. The glass thing … that sounds extra hard. I’m imagining it and feeling for you right now.

    I think sometimes work absolutely is more destructive than helpful. Figuring out where that line is can be difficult though.

    • Oh, I didn’t even think of the potential trigger in the cake post, I’m really sorry… I knew it had a positive outcome, otherwise I would never have put the link up here. But yes, if you didn’t know about the end, it could be scary.

      What amazed me were the things like the father teaching her how to escape from her room if she was in trouble; and her mother being firm but consistent about the cake. There was no yelling (except on Allie’s part), no violence and no brooding anger. Parts of me don’t understand her parents, and others don’t understand how Allie had the courage to take a piece of the cake to start with… so confusing, but in a good way.

      I ended up with my desk in the middle of the room at one place I worked, just so that I could face the door at all times. I got some strange looks, so explained it away as wanting to feel like I was on the Starship Enterprise… for some reason I thought that this was a reasonable explanation for my oddities.

      I could never work from home… I’d never work, or end up distracting all day and doing my work hours through the night. So, I admire your dedication.

      I’ll see if I can shift to a different desk tomorrow…

      It is a difficult line to find. I also think that it changes depending where we are in our healing. I’d love to win Lotto and go down to part-time work. I think that would help me balance everything a little more. But, as I don’t even buy tickets, that dream will have to wait.

      Take care,
      CG

      • Oh no, The God of Cake wasn’t triggering at all. It’s just interesting to note how often and how drastically my expectations differ from reality.

        “Parts of me don’t understand her parents, and others don’t understand how Allie had the courage to take a piece of the cake to start with… so confusing, but in a good way.”

        In a good way, yes I feel that too.

        Your explanation of wanting to feel like you were on the Starship Enterprise is pretty fantastic.

        I hope work is going better for you today. (?)

        an xkcd comic you might enjoy: http://xkcd.com/616/

        Holly

        • It’s good to have our old perceptions of what is going to happen, be challenged. Sometimes posts such as God of Cake can be subtle ways of doing that.

          I gave my explanation about the Starship Enterprise, while totally hamming up a Captain Kirk impersonation too…

          The Lease comic is great… I felt that way the first time I brought something on hire purchase.

          Today is going much smoother 🙂

          Take care,
          CG

  3. I have fluctuated between these extremes more often than I care to think about. As if being the manager (and the “grown up”) isn’t hard enough, the swinging back and forth is a real anxiety zapper.

    Something my therapist said to me once that helped me in a similar situation was that they wouldn’t have chosen you to do the job if they didn’t think you could do it. So, as hard as it might be, can you try to believe that someone somewhere believed you could do it, even if you don’t think you can.

    The other thing I’d suggest is to accept that as manager, there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Don’t do as I have previously done and spend your days in meetings and dealing with the staff, and your nights catching up on your own work. Do prioritise, seriously. Work out what are the things you REALLY have to get done (one criteria for this is – who will die or be homeless if I don’t do these things? Mostly the answer is “no one” which automatically helps me put things in perspective).

    Some days all I do is deal with the “sand pit” behaviour of some people. Accept it. It will drain you, but don’t stress about it – a core part of your job is managing people, so if that’s all you can do some days, well, they just have to accept that.

    The other thing to do is delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate. People are used to managers giving them stuff to do. So do it!

    As for the desk situation, that sucks. Some offices have little tables scattered around. Do you have them, and if so, are you able to use one of them under the cover of “it’s really hot in there” or “the sun is in my eyes”?

    Ooh, and the other thing – take breaks, go for a walk. Managers are always disappearing on unknown errands or meetings… just take time out for you so it doesn’t overwhelm you.

    Ok, this must be the longest blog post ever, so I’ll leave you with my silly practicalities.

    ((hugs))

    • Thanks for the advice Kerro.

      Funny thing is, none of the managers here know about my dissociation or what stress does to me, so they have no way of really knowing whether I can do the job, or not. I made it pretty clear after being team leader for a month, that I had no interest in being in the management team of this library.

      Take care,
      CG

  4. Yea fixing the desk was my very first thought! Then go to Little Miss Facebook’s page and post something about her on her wall like “Your boss is watching you and you’re about to be fired out of a torpedo bay”. Star Trek reference get it? You’re so not overreacting. I think you’re amazing! Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel calm and in some sort of control. We can’t control everything so just do what you can. What’s the girls Facebook name? I’ll post on her page that people in America don’t like her. Too evil? Darn it!

  5. Do years of therapy, coping, compartmentalizing, humor, etc., help at all? I don’t mean multitasking, but having all of those internal tools at hand.

    I used to hate being shoved into managerial duties and not get managerial pay.

    Your graphic is perfect. You can do this. You’re strong and smart. I hope everything goes smoothly. My rainbow unicorn army is willing to do the faxing. I hope that helps a little.

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      Yes, the years of therapy, coping, humour, etc help. Those are the things which help me realise that if I go into compartmentalisation, I’m in trouble. When I lose connection with parts of the system, that’s when the dysfunctional behaviour kicks in.

      Thanks for the support and offer of the rainbow unicorn army 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

  6. I hope today went better for you.

    Kerro is right about your managers, they would not put you in the position if they thought you could not do it. They may not know about your dysfunction, or are even consciously aware of it, but sub-consciously at least they maybe aware of some things. It is not a bad thing, a lot of people helped me out without being aware of my issues.

    Well take care and look after yourself and take it easy.

    • I know you’re right, but I also feel that the public face that I show the world hides so much; and if they knew what was behind it, I wouldn’t be let out in public, let alone to manage people. I also have no faith in them as managers, they are totally clueless as to what is going on around them within the library. When I was dealing with an extremely difficult customer the other week, one of the managers from another area saw the problem and apparently stood nearby, ready to intervene… meanwhile my manager walked past the incident without blinking an eye – she is that unaware.

      I’m glad you got the support when you needed it… I have similar stories of peoples consistency helping me through difficult times.

      I’m taking it one moment at a time.

      Thanks for the words of encouragement 🙂

      Take care of yourself,
      CG

      • Of course it hides so much everybody has a different face or persona in public. Years of civilisation has taught us to hide our weaknesses in public. Some cultures took it to the extreme and hid almost all emotion.

        I would hope they would let you out if they knew what was behind it. Most people will show empathy, but then there are the stupid few and of course the misunderstandings…

        Clueless managers are in any business. We have some and our company and its clients lose a lot from their lack of management skills and vision. Some are just good at talking others are just there for so long it is too expensive to make them redundant.

        You must do a good job as you don’t want to do it, but you are still asked to do the job and hey, worse people have become managers.

        In some ways I got the support I needed, other ways I didn’t. Most of it I shunned. This was long before the days of Mike King and John Kirwan speaking out, hot lines and schools with counsellors who were trained to do their job. I suppose I helped myself the most through a lot of determination and wanting better. I could have given up, but it is good I didn’t as I am now able to help out others.

        • You’re right, all of us hide things in any given situation. I’m not sure what we would do as a race, without those internal filters and protective mechanisms. May be we’d be kinder to each other? May be we wouldn’t.

          Bad management is another fact of life. I just don’t want to join the “bad manager” ranks. I know I’m not capable of handling the stress of the position at the moment. I’m good at supporting a team leader I believe in, and encouraging others to do the same. I have management training, and am identified as an informal leader. But both of those traits don’t sit comfortably on me at the moment – they still feel as if they belong solely to Sophie and M.

          I understand, and am sorry, about your experiences. Support can be difficult to access and accept, especially in our recent past. JK in particular has done a huge amount to raise awareness…

          I’m glad you persevered. I’m glad you’re here.

          Take care,
          CG

  7. I work from home – but luckily I’m out in the country so visitors are few. The people who do visit me know that I like them to call first. My office is on a corner of the house facing the back, which sounds dangerous but I can see anyone approaching from either side before they see me because of various fences and trees. People who don’t know me will usually go to the front door which we never use and is out of sight from my office. If I hear someone knock I know it’s someone I don’t know, so I can take a quick peek through a small window (without being seen) to see who it is. If I don’t hear them knock, they can’t see into the house without coming around the back so will assume I’m not home. But if it’s someone who knows to come to the back door, again, I am out of sight so I can choose whether to respond. If I’m really feeling anxious, I might lock all the doors and close the internal doors so that the place looks closed up. But I can keep my office blinds open most of the time because I will notice someone coming around the house. I have also found that I will notice movement reflected in my monitor (unlike others here, I don’t find it hard to have my back to the door most of the time). Also, we have a gravel driveway and venetian blinds, both of which are really useful!
    As I write this, I realise that I haven’t actually thought about a lot of this stuff in a wee while. A year or two ago I lived in a state of agoraphobia and hypervigilence and anxiety, constantly watching in case someone came near the house. I still don’t want people to visit me and I would rather know in advance before I have to interact with someone, but I actually feel lonely now – that’s new. I am wondering what it would be like to have a real friend – that was far too scary before! It’s nice looking back and knowing that life was more difficult once and now it’s better. Word for the day: hope! Please never think that it can’t get easier.
    I’m going to publish this anon because of the details I’ve included but CG will know – warm fuzzies to you 🙂

    • It’s amazing what we’ll do to keep a sense of safety, isn’t it?

      Thank you for sharing so much of how you cope Hermit, I really appreciate it. I’m sorry you go through this, but it’s also good to know that we’re not alone in coping with how to deal with it all.

      Probably the safest I’ve felt was when I lived out on a farm during my university years. I lived in part of a converted barn which looked out over the paddocks. The conversion was at the end of the barn, with the rest of it still being in use for storage and parking of machinery, so it didn’t look as if there was a flat there. Most people went to the main house, and never disturbed me. The most excitement was opening the curtains in the morning to be greeted by a grazing cow or horse. It was even better when I farm-sat for the neighbours, as they had huntaway dogs who would bark up a storm if anyone stepped foot on the farm.

      There is hope, there has to be!

      Take care,
      CG

  8. Hi castor, you have my complete empathy. I’m terrified of authority and cant imagine myself “in charge.” just the fact that you have that second strain of confident thought puts you miles ahead of me. And the glass door does sound upsetting. I hope this week is going well for you. Sending calm peaceful wishes your way 🙂

    • Hi katie,

      I hate being in charge. I can do it, and parts of me enjoy it, but overall it kicks me into negative compartmentalisation. This might change as I continue to heal; but at the moment, authority is negative for me.

      Thank you for the wishes…
      Sending positive thoughts your way,
      Take care,
      CG

  9. CG, can I play devil’s advocate, for a minute? You know that I believe you have every ability to do this management gig, even if you don’t feel like you do. I also completely understand feeling like you’re not able to handle and don’t need the stress (hello, I changed jobs partly just for those reasons).

    So… what I’m wondering is, what would happen if you said no to the offer of the temporary management gig? Apart from the obvious internal freeze because you had to say that word, I mean, what would happen in the workplace? And how would you feel about it?

    Just a thought… kill me if you think i’m being outrageous.

    • Hi Kerro,

      I can do the job. I just know that when I do, the stakes get really high. It kicks me into dissociative coping and compartmentalisation. I lose more time outside of work, I self-injure to dangerous levels more often, and everything on the crazy scale ramps up a peg or two. It’s a trade-off that I’m not prepared to do anymore. But, if I’d said “no” to doing it this time, I would have been labeled “uncooperative”, “difficult” and “against the library”.

      I’ve already got the “difficult” label in the therapy setting, I don’t need it everywhere!

      You’re not being outrageous, not at all. I’m just glad the week is over and the managers are now back.

      Take care,
      CG

      • I’m glad the week is over for you, too. Please take care and try to do something nice for yourself over the weekend. And then, when the crazy fades, you can figure a way out for next time.

      • CG,
        I just had to say how familiar this sounds since I worked for my local library for 8 years. They actually witnessed my first breakdown and when I applied to work there again, one lady was kind enough to take me back. But, they saw me spiral down and it was very difficult and humiliating to have people see that. I had two horrible supervisors and one co-worker who made my life miserable because of the mental illness thing and I know that it showed on my record at least once.
        Just wanted you to know that I feel for you and I too am glad that your week is over. Please do something wonderful for yourself 🙂

        • Hi tai,

          I’m so sorry you went through that, so very sorry. Some people can be so cruel without thinking of the consequences to the target of the cruelty. What you describe is exactly the reason why I won’t tell the people at work about what I’m going through. They are nice people, but very narrow-minded in their views of what “normal” is.

          I hope you’re feeling better.

          Please take care,
          CG

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