Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Winds of Change

Well, friends, a lot has changed in the last few months.  I think it's changing for the better now, but that comes after a very rough patch of very unpleasant changes over the last few months.

The main change is that I've resigned my job and have decided to not look for another one.  I have come to believe that full-time work is simply not possible for me anymore.  My depression and my lack of energy have gone on for so long that I can't even remember what it's like to come home after work and feel like doing anything more strenuous than sitting up in a chair and eating dinner.  I haven't even got the energy to cook dinner, anymore, and Grandmother and I live off of takeout and ready-made meals.  Weekends are almost invariably spent recuperating from the week, too tired to do laundry or even get dressed, much less clean my house or go out and have fun.  The only time I ever get anything done at all is when a hypomanic episode comes along to goose me into action.

I think I might have chugged along like that for a couple more years before I realized that I wasn't living anymore, I was just sleeping and working, with a few hours of mild entertainment in between.  But then my work changed, so drastically that it forced the issue.

To start (as I shared two posts back), our Office Manager, who is also my supervisor and office-mate, went out on medical leave at the beginning of April.  I knew she was going, and we were prepared for her to be gone a while, I had cross-trained with her to be able to cover most of her functions while she was gone.  The leave was to be six weeks, and I figured I could survive anything for six weeks.

But then two other departures happened, things I was not expecting and not prepared for.  First, just before my supervisor went out on leave, her supervisor and our program manager resigned.  This didn't really have much of an effect on my day-to-day existence, since she wasn't my supervisor; but in the interim, her functions were being covered by the brand-new division director, who (being so new) was rather overwhelmed, and was not in much of a position to be of support to me.

Then our Assets Intern, who worked twenty hours a week in the Resource Room (my bête noire, as the only part of my job I actually hate is covering that room for the RR Coordinator's breaks and sick-days, which is always busy with tons of people and absolutely sucks the life out of me) left us as well.  So there I was covering the Office Manager's position, my position, and the Intern's position without a direct supervisor who could help out.  But it was only for six weeks, and I did have some help from other sites to cover some of the Office Manager's accounting duties and my filing duties, so I figured I could tough it out.

But then at the end of the six weeks, the Office Manager's leave was extended another six weeks.  I was already worn out, there was no way I was going to survive another six weeks of that.  And then, at the same time, the program manager's position was filled, and she became my direct supervisor—and there was a bit of a personality clash.

Not to say that we disliked each other, or that she's not a nice person; it's just that after four and a half years of being supervised by my office-mate and friend, someone with whom I got along excellently, and who held my position before I did and so knew exactly what I was doing, it was a shock to find myself supervised by someone brand-new, whose job was massively different from mine, who was not around all the time, who was new to the agency, and who had a wildly different managing style from any manager I've ever had before.  There was bound to be a clash.

The first clash came when the program-manager began requiring us to keep exact hours, where in the past we'd always had a fifteen-minute grace-period at either end of the day, and I was able to stay later if I got in later than that, a perq that I greatly valued.  And then, when I started complaining about being overworked, we had a problem:  I got angry, she got angry back, and it turned into some bad feelings on both sides.  However, despite my seniority in years served, she is the program manager and I the lowly administrative assistant, so her view of the situation prevailed—and I found myself on the wrong end of disciplinary actions.

It was that last bit right there that is the root of the problem: when I went to work for this agency, there was no such thing as higher-ups and lower-downs, everyone was an equal, with different functions and different pay scales related to different levels of responsibility; but over the last three years, a managerial culture has taken hold, hierarchy has taken the place of collegiality, and a very corporate/bureaucratic mindset has become the norm.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is most certainly not my thing.  The way I see it is that if I'm going to be subjected to a corporate management style, I should be getting corporate pay.  Instead, I am making below average pay for an entry-level position in a nonprofit, after four years of service with ten years of prior experience; and in the last months had been doing three jobs at once, one of which was at a higher pay-grade and responsibility-level, without overtime, differential pay, or comp time.  "Disgruntled" doesn't even begin to cover it.  As a result, I was in constant conflict with management—not just my manager, but her manager (the division director) and the HR Director as well.

That conflict was making me even more sick than the overwork was.  Before the Office Manager's leave, I was starting to get a bit better: I was attending weekly group therapy and had changed my meds; my energy was better, my suicidal ideation was lower, and I was sleeping through the night again.  But by the end of May, just a month and a half later, I was right back where I started: more frequently depressed than not, with rushes of anxiety that were almost panic, and the suicidal ideation was so strong that I had to avoid using knives and driving on freeways for fear of hurting myself; making things even worse, I gave up my weekly group and dropped out of the stress-coping class I was taking, because I didn't have the time to do it and the most essential functions of my work.

I was ready to quit at the beginning of June, but I made myself stick it out to see if it might get better when the Office Manager's leave was over.  And then management hired two temps, who took the pressure of the filing and the Resource Room coverage off my plate, so I started to feel like maybe I might survive after all.  Things were looking up, I was getting along better with the program manager, and it all seemed sort of OK.

But no: at the end of June, the Office Manager's leave was extended again—this time for six months.  However, we were able to keep one of the temps because of this, and so I waited to see what happened.  Nevertheless, while I was trying to recover from the months of overwork and the weeks of interpersonal conflict, my job performance was suffering.  I was making mistakes, leaving things lying around in a mess, missing more days sick, and not getting very much work done when I was there.

Mid-July, this erupted into another disciplinary action, part of which I thought so monstrously unfair that I spent the next week in a mindless rage, unable to think of anything else, unable to sleep, and unable to function properly.  It made me so sick that I actually developed pneumonia-like symptoms, short of breath and coughing like Camille, sweating like a racehorse, and unable to stand up without getting dizzy or to walk farther than the kitchen or bathroom without having to sit down.

When that was over, after I had burned off my rage and could look at things calmly—and after I met with my manager one last time in response to the disciplinary action, and came to realize that things were never going to get any easier—I decided it was time to go.  One more of those episodes would likely kill me.  So I gave two weeks' notice.

The moment I did so, this huge weight that I didn't even realize I was carrying was lifted from my shoulders.  Looking back over the last two years, I saw that I had just barely been holding on all that time, had sacrificed all of my energy just to working, and had nothing to show for it but a lot of clothes and jewelry that I never wear.  It took this change of circumstances at work to finally force me out of the rut and to see that my job was simply not worth the energy I was pouring into it—and that if I kept on going the way I was, I'd be either in the loony-bin or the morgue by the end of the year.

So that's that.  I had my five-year anniversary in June, and now my last day is next Wednesday.  But I'm leaving on good terms instead of in a rage, I'm training my replacement and organizing the office for a smooth transition, and looking forward to a going-away party at the end of my tenure.  There will be pie!

So what do I do instead?  I don't pay rent or utilities or groceries, and my credit-card debt isn't near as bad as it was; but there's still about eight thousand left, as having to replace my dentures increased the debt unpleasantly.  And of course I still need health coverage.  But that's what Disability is for: I'm applying for SSDI as well as State Disability, unemployment, worker's comp, whatever I can get my hands on.  I can take on temporary part-time jobs as well, and I plan to start selling my jewelry, drag, books, and extraneous decoratives on eBay over the next few months to build up the kitty.

I've also decided to go ahead and self-publish Lord Foxbridge Butts In, in order to monetize it sooner rather than later.  I might make less in the long run than if I'd got it accepted by a publisher, but self-publishing is so common nowadays, and gay-interest literature so small an audience, that I don't know that a publisher would make that big a difference.  Besides which, with more time to actually write, instead of squeezing it in between work and sleep, I will be able to get more books out—I can have a whole stable of books out earning royalties instead of creeping one out every three years.

This whole new life just opened up before me with this decision to quit work: I can write, I can take proper care of Grandmother, I can take care of the house, and I can take care of myself.  It will be a real life where I'm doing real things that are important to me, not just hanging on by the skin of my teeth to a job that's just going to get harder and harder, making me sicker and sicker.

Wow, is all I can say.  I'm so unbelievably relieved.

So anyway, you can look forward to hearing more from me in the coming months.  And in the meantime, here's a little something pretty to reward you for reading all those words.

1 comment:

  1. Heavens. You *have* had a rough couple of months. I'm glad you found a solution, and I hope things improve from here on out.