|You have your coping mechanisms, I have mine.|
Post Script: HOW COULD I MISS THIS? It’s one of my favorite movies. Anyway, the subtitle for this piece should be:
How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
The author, Andrea Addington, is a self-desribed (and commonly known as) an ‘Anxiety Counselor’ who plies her trade in the wilds of New Brunswick. Apparently she has mad marketing skills and is attractive enough (and young enough) to make it into The Mighty. That aside, she offers a basic set of pretty good techniques to help the garden variety anxious ready for their workweek.
I wish these techniques worked for me.
They deal with WORK DEMANDS which are a real thing for a lot of people with anxiety. I get them too, as an added bonus to the real 800 lb. gorilla which is a hostile workplace which Addington doesn’t address.
What Addington describes are what I refer to as the ‘mind tricks’ that I have tried several times (including failing miserably at meditation) that no longer work.
Ergo, Ativan. Ergo, addiction.
But I sure can identify with what she writes here about her ‘catastrophic thinking:’
“Oh no I’m going to go into work Monday morning and have a ton of emails to respond to, I won’t be able to get it done in time and my boss is going to get upset with me and think I am a terrible employee, then I will have an awful performance appraisal and get fired and wont be able to pay my mortgage and lose my house and end up homeless!”
I am dead serious when I write that that ‘fired’ and ‘lose my house and end up homeless’ part is the end of pretty much every fear I have.Every. One.
So I thought, here it is, Monday, which is my Sunday, my I don’t have to run day (OK, I couldn’t resist the Bangles reference), and even though I work four 10 hour weeks to get a three day weekend every weekend (I know: what the hell am I complaining about?), so what would my paragraph of fear contain?
“Oh no I’m going to go into work
Monday Tuesday morning and have a ton of emails to respond to, one of which might be a summons to another inquisition about something I said that was jumped on as ‘disturbing’ by the people I work with who are constantly listening for me to say something they can take the wrong way. Despite getting my work done in time and in good order, they will eventually find some other rationale to convene another administrative investigation board, and, because I already have a reprimand in my file for quoting a movie line, I won’t be able to get it done in time and my boss is going to get upset with me and think I am a terrible employee, then I will have an awful performance appraisal and I’ll get fired, [redacted], but at least I won’t have to work at the VA anymore!”
But this is defeatism, yes, and it’s not like I still try to play the psychological mind tricks on myself to put all this horror in perspective. I mean, seriously, how would you cope at work when behind every set of smiling eyes you see in your office you know they’re just waiting to pounce? It’s not paranoia when it’s already happened more than once. And going back to the story of almost being killed on my front step by a SWAT team is getting a little tiresome.
Yes, I’d quit if I could and I almost got a PR job locally in another Federal agency until one (or more) of my coworkers called said agency and, well, what are the odds of two positions, advertised nationally, going to two employees from my office?
Anyway, with the reprimand in my file, that cuts off any chance of getting another Federal job. So I am well and truly
fucked trapped. I have to deal, I have no choice. Private industry? Again, give me a break? Two words: age discrimination. PR is a young person’s game. I don’t even bother looking at Linked In anymore.
So I how do I get ready for Tuesday?
This article has me thinking about things I can and could do to help, so let me blue sky a little here.
1. Ativan – the go-to benzo. The problem of course is with a dependence on it, one has to ramp up the dosage in sudden crisis situations. But it’s there if needed. Like the old Dr. Pepper commercials, I tend to take it at 10, 2 and 4.
2. All my other meds. What do they do? I don’t know anymore, but if I stop taking them bad things will happen. Big Pharma loses a point or two on Wall Street. Not advised.
3. Prayer. I don’t mean to offend anyone but for me this is a desperation move. I’m always reminded of a Mad Magazine spoof from my youth, titled ‘You Know You’re A Football Fan when’ where one of Jack Davis’ (RIP) football fans is on his knees in front of the TV and the caption reads “you rediscover a childhood prayer when your team is behind by six points with one minute left in the game.”
One day, I don’t remember what was happening, the Ghost of Catholicism Past pushed through all the shit that normally clutters my waking stream of thoughts and blurted out:
“Remember oh most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your assistance, or sought your intercession, was left unaided . . .”
Good Catholics (or those with good memories) I’m sure recognize that as the opening line of The Memorare. It’s an intercessional prayer to the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mother) to get the pray-er out of some serious shit.
Then, of course, when you want to call out the heavy artillery (no offense BVM), there’s this:
“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. . . “
Of course, I feel GUILTY when I utter these prayers because I have not turned out to be a Good Catholic, and where the hell do I get off saying these prayers when I am not in a state of Grace? Do I really think that God, whom I’m not sure exists in the form I was taught, is going to even pay scant attention to the prayers of someone who only rediscovers their childhood religion when they have nothing more to fall back on?
But hey, deus ex machina and all that.
4. Walking around the complex. This doesn’t seem to help anymore because it leads right back to my office and I’m sure when I’m out I catch the cops giving me the look. It’s not a “short calming break.” It’s more like taking a stroll around the prison yard. But in this one, I can buy a candy bar; see: fat.
5. Relaxation tapes. There is no sanction against listening to music at your desk in my office as long as it doesn’t disturb anyone and I have tried this numerous times. Again, it doesn’t seem to work anymore. It throws off my concentration when writing. Then I have to lean back, close my eyes and listen and you can imagine the fear I have of being caught doing that! If I do it for two minutes, that will be the two minutes my boss comes through the door. I try music as well, but I find that classical music is what I reserve to myself when I am home or in a safe place and my good old time rock and roll just reminds me when life was not so painful (and it seems every song has a memory attached to it), so I pretty much spend my time in silence.
6. Reading self-help inspirational pieces on the Internet. See above. They’re column fodder, nothing else (it’s all been done, like 29 shrinks).
Ah hell, what’s the point? Andrea has it all down pat for her situation. Good for her.
The brutal truth for many of us is, at some point, life becomes a slog and a bad one at that. I have been able to punctuate it with brief but happy moments of diversion but as they say, the laughs are getting fewer and farther between.
The only real mental coping mechanism that works is reading various websites that remind me that the world is truly going to hell in a hand basket. Between the US and Russia perhaps willing to start a war over Syria, the North Korean madman anxious to try out his new nuclear toys, the artifice of an unsustainable economy disintegrating and the acceleration of global warming and the rising extinction of species, plus the fact that the next leader of the US is either going to be a warmongering, psychopathic liar or an arrogant, fascistic psychopath, I think I’m in pretty good stead to this – this too will pass – into some kind of nuclear fireball.
It’s sick, but it’s all I got.
. . . some sunny day