Anxiety and stomach adventures — day 6

Today was an incredible day, for many different reasons. There have been a lot of changes in a very short period of time. My diary should be overflowing with entries, but it isn’t, just due to the nature of so much craziness at once.

During my recent phone conversation with my mum, she told me stop focusing on everything and instead focus on one thing at a time (the analogy she used was horrible: a plate of peas, and to take one pea to the side and deal with it, then the next pea, etc… and to stop looking at the entire plate). I knew she was right, but it’s sometimes very hard to do that because everything feels so overwhelming (“there are so many peas!”).

So going to work Sunday night was a “pea”, so to speak. I broke it down into smaller steps: 1) preparing for work, 2) biking to work, 3) reading my work Email (I usually have to read 500-600 mails a day, and those numbers are not an exaggeration by any means), 4) dealing with one work-related issue at a time, 5) preparing to go home, 6) biking home. I also made sure to reward myself once finishing #6 (either with some candy, playing video games, or whatever else — as long as it didn’t induce stress).

The fact that I was able to do all of those things made me feel accomplished, but I didn’t really have a chance to appreciate the accomplishment, as I was exhausted mentally and physically by the time I came home. I made somewhat of a bad assumption that Monday morning: “I did Sunday! Now I should be able to do Monday! I’m getting better!” I really shouldn’t have assumed that…

Monday night was one of the hardest nights I’ve had since all of this began. My lack of sleep made things horribly worse; I cannot even begin to imagine what life must be like for someone who is both agoraphobic and an insomniac. Telling myself “you can do this” was providing both reassurance and more anxiety at the same time — I’m not sure if readers will understand, but I’m certain anxiety sufferers will. Part of me knew I just wasn’t ready for all of this yet, and I knew that Tuesday night (tonight) was going to be absolute hell. One pea at a time? Fuck, I don’t even LIKE peas!

When I arrived at work, the first thing I heard was how one of our single-points-of-failure servers had crashed (for a third time in a week). Oddly, this didn’t phase me: I was too focused on telling myself “you can do this”. Plus, the past two failures I had dealt with on my shift, so this was nothing new to me — I knew how to handle it, and all of the insanity/stress involved in mitigating the problem. I felt okay with that.

Suddenly out of no where, my boss wanted to meet with me. I loathe meetings (stuck in a room without the ability to leave until the meeting is over… yeah), but usually these are short and go well. My boss wanted to talk to me about, well, everything.

Apparently the severity of my situation had made it up the managerial chain (my boss -> his boss -> his boss) and then to HR. It was being used as evidence of two things: 1) that our department is understaffed and incredibly overworked/stressed, and 2) that the company wasn’t doing a good job of “taking care” of its employees.

You see, I don’t expect companies to care about their employees. I expect a company to say “if said employee cannot perform the duties required of him, or deal with the stresses of said job, then get someone else”. I’m not one of those “my employer owes me!” types, and being as this whole thing is a personal (not professional) problem, I figured “why would my employer give a shit about any of this, other than how much time I’m NOT at work?” I really do believe that’s how a lot of companies operate too, so I know I’m not off my rocker.

And that’s why I was shocked to hear that the company is in fact greatly concerned for my health, and that quite possibly positive changes will be being made to try and decrease the overall stresses of our job as a whole. I remember hearing that and feeling both shock and relief at the same time. Even now, though, I think “Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it”. Always the pessimist…

My boss and I talked and shared stories. Apparently lots of bad things have been happening to people this month, not just me. Health issues for all sorts of people (employees, family, and peers alike), and in some cases, life-threatening. The amazing part was, all of the insanity (for my boss and others) apparently began during the same week I freaked out. I find that intriguing. Neither my boss nor I experience “holiday stress” or “holiday depression”, but this is the first year we’ve both had a series of major issues happen around Christmas.

He then stated something along the lines of “You know, you’ve never taken a vacation the entire time you’ve worked here”. I told him the longest vacation I’d ever taken while there was 3 days (along the edge of a weekend, so 5 days off essentially), and that I’ve never taken a “real vacation” in my entire life. I added, “After this week, though, I want to take 3 weeks off. I have 235 hours of vacation time, so I should be okay”.

His response caught me off-guard: “Why after this week? I want you to go home right now and take at least 2 weeks off, preferably 3”. And this is where the “incredible” part of the day began.

As I heard those words, something happened to me. I was fully aware of what was happening. Within a matter of seconds, all the stress in my shoulders disappeared, the Xanax-concealed tension in my mind dissipated, and my stomach instantly felt normal. All of the horrible problems I had been experiencing on a constant basis for a week had completely picked up and left.

I didn’t say anything when this happened. What my boss had said made me feel completely at ease. I had the option of leaving work right then and there and not going back for weeks. I was also told that during the 2nd week to contact him and let him know how I was doing, and if I needed another week or two, I could have it. I’ve never been “offered” something like that.

I, obviously, agreed with the whole thing. I told him that I would prefer to try and finish the rest of tonight, because part of my self-healing process involves going to work and “toughing it out” to make myself gradually remind myself that work is an OK/safe place to be, regardless of the unexpected stresses that can happen while on shift. He understood. We worked out my vacation schedule; I won’t return to work until January 18th.

The rest of the night was weird. I had something like 4 hours left when we had this meeting. I felt hungry, and the slice of Hobee’s coffee cake we had leftover from the holidays suddenly sounded delicious — so I ate it. A small part of mind kept saying “Don’t eat that! What if you feel sick at work like you did last week?!”, but I ate it anyway. It rumbled around in my stomach for a minute or two (this is a problem I’ve had for years; I haven’t had a completely “drama-less” meal since maybe 2001), and that was it. I still felt fine.

On the other hand, I was absolutely exhausted due to lack of sleep. It was around 4 in the morning and I kept putting my head down on the desk. I kept considering asking my boss if I could take a nap, as I figured he’d probably be fine with it under the circumstances, but part of me was also saying “tough it out, you promised yourself you’d make tonight work, and you should stick with it”. There were times I’d literally count the seconds, since I wanted to go home so bad — not due to agoraphobia, but because I was so damn fatigued.

The clock hit 0600, and my other co-worker showed up. As it turns out, I was supposed to work 2200 to 0600, not 2300 to 0700; I’d shown up for work 30 minutes late, yet no one said anything. I told my boss, who said “Ha, I didn’t even notice, don’t sweat it”. So there I was, at 6 in the morning, ready to go home.

I remember preparing to leave and not making much eye contact with anyone. I couldn’t be bothered; I was too tired. I told the guy who just arrived that I’d see him in 3 weeks, which was a shock to him, and I left. I remember walking down the hall to where my bike was, feeling drained. Normally before I leave work I’ll use the facilities, partially due to my disorder and partially due to the obviousness of it (I think most cyclists do this, for what should be bloody apparent)… but not this day. I felt totally fine.

The ride home was interesting. I remember feeling enervated and very, very cold. But there was no anxiety over the trip home, no “what if you need to use a bathroom en route?” disquietude, nothing but borderline happiness.

Once I made it home, I stood outside of my flat and took in what all had happened in the past 10-12 hours. I also had Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them” going through my head, and for some reason, that made me feel sad… yet happy at the same time.

And here are my diary entries.

0636 – Home. I thought I worked 2300-0700, but it turns out I was wrong, and was 30 minutes late. A strange thing happened after the meeting w/ my boss – I felt more or less at ease. When I went to leave work, I felt no anxiety. None. While I biked, I just felt cold. When I got home, and left again to drop off my rent, every part of me felt okay. I thanked God for giving me a feeling of pure normalcy. It’s still with me now, too. I doubt it will last; such the pessimist I am. I am going to try to sleep, finally, and I hope I wake up feeling as I do right this moment
1543 – Woke up, I think…? Not sure if I even slept, because I don’t remember. My body has that “you just slept” ache to it (needing to stretch, joints popping, etc.), but again, I don’t remember falling asleep. I feel okay right now, just like earlier. I do feel a bit hungry though
1630 – Eating some Indian naan, and using the computer
1740 – Eating more naan, with Korean ssamjang. A strange mix, but was feeling like trying something new. Stomach feels okay