22 August 2016

One Way Out

I had a pretty heavy session with my shrink today.

She agrees my job is killing me.

She wants me to find a way to quit. I'm supposed to talk it over with my wife.

I'm wondering what kind of world my shrink lives in.

I think my dream from last night convinced her. In my dream there was an urgent voice telling me it was December 22 and I needed to get ready because Christmas is almost here.

You need to wear something red and green, the unknown presence urged me. You don't want to miss Christmas. You are so unprepared.

You need to get presents, you need to find your Christmas decorations.

I wasn't at my present house. I felt that I was at my family home but then again, it wasn't really. Somehow I sensed my father's presence, but he wasn't the voice urging me.

I roused myself in a way one rouses themselves from a lucid dream.

Barely cognizant, I thought out loud. "It's August, what the Hell?"

And then I fell back into a deeper sleep and it started right up again.

It's December 22nd! You're unprepared! You need some red and green! It's almost Christmas! You need to get moving!

This time I REALLY yelled in my dream - 'It's AUGUST DAMMIT! It's not Christmas! It's not December 22, it's AUGUST!

This actually went on for awhile.

When I finally woke up completely, I remembered what December 22 was.

December 22 was the day the work police came to my office to question me about the 'concerns' of some other employees. It was the day I was ushered off the premises and would remain off the premises until March 11.

I have no idea what this means but it shook the hell out of me.

I told my shrink that July 8 (when the SWAT team came) and December 22 will always be forever burned into my mind and it is nothing that I can erase. Like December 13 when my mother died, ever year I will remember because my conscious and unconscious mind will MAKE me remember.

I told my shrink that despite the way things were going at work now, that in the six years I have worked at the VA, that job has sucked any joy I had left in my life right out of my system. And now it plays across my subconscious. This may seem to be overstating the case, but for me, but it is a form of torture; my own form of PTSD based on mainly those two incidents.

The obvious questions:

Can't you find another job in government locally?
I have really tried. I was actually interviewed at NIOSH (part of the CDC) in Pittsburgh last October and thought I had it nailed. The two jobs that were open actually went to two of my co-workers. No one can tell me something funny went on there. They talk under the radar and I'm sure the word was put out. I had, the summer before, actually been flown to Raleigh to interview with the CDC. Nothing came of it.

So even if I was willing to move, the odds are the word would or already has gotten out. And, seriously, they're not looking for someone my age at my rate of pay anyway. 

Can you find a PR job in private industry?
I have tried that over the years. I have no agency experience and they look askance at government employment in this field (and I understand why). Also: I'm too old and male. They like hiring younger people fresh out of college that they can pay cheap. The young man that was hired at NAMI (last blog post) is a perfect example. And I applied for that job and wasn't even interviewed. Even if I had been, my salary would have been less than half of what I'm making now.

I'm a dinosaur. There's no going back to print journalism or radio. Both of those career fields are as good as dead.

I tried telling my shrink that I'm trying to gut it out, play mind games with myself, use my copious annual leave and try to find something else to occupy my free time.

The problem is, well, the problem is the paranoia and anxiety I experience every day there, the quasi-PTSD from the two incidents and the growing intrusion of work in my dreams.

Again, it may seem like I'm overstating the case but when you're already working with bipolar 2 and general anxiety disorder the things other people have the resilience to overcome, people like me get ground down.

And yes, I feel like a loser. But I keep working, keep plugging away. I get up and march my ass back to the office and do the best I can. I should think that would count for something on the credit side of my life account.

But I think my shrink is worried about me. She wants me  to talk it over with my wife.

The session ended before I could get into why it wouldn't matter.

We need my salary to keep the house. Period. And pay the bills. Period.

When I got married I made a commitment to keep up my end of the deal. I do this because I love my wife and felt she deserved the life she had not had. I wanted her to have a house with a real backyard. A good car. Room to enjoy life. I wanted her to be happy.

Going on disability goes against every fiber of my being. I have worked with only seven months total of unemployment since I was 16 - that's 37 years. I was taught that real men with all their limbs and otherwise healthy, do not sit at home watching TV drawing a government check. If I had been to war as a reservist (which I was, but never saw combat) and was wounded or disabled as a result of combat experience, it would be different. To look at me is to see no wounds. I don't see wounds. Other people have it far worse.

If I did this I would be ashamed of myself, fairly or not. I would have trouble looking my wife in the eye and everyone else. I will drag my battered psyche and my fat ass into work until I drop or make retirement which would be in seven to nine years, depending on the breaks.

And we could not keep the house on disability payments.

I am employed. I am lucky. There are people much worse off than I.

There is no way out for me except one. And my wife would rather have me alive.  But if grinding down my life is the price I have to pay some day to hold up my end of the deal, then I must be willing to pay it. I have two other failed marriages where I didn't make it work. I will be damned if I don't live up to my responsibilities this time.

So next week, I want to hear how my shrink thinks I'm going to quit my job while simultaneously finding a way to shit money out of my ass.

No matter how this ends, even if I drop at my desk, no one is going to accuse me of being a lazy ass who didn't work for a living. Somehow, someway, I have to find out how to make it work.

It's just rIght now, I haven't a clue how.

God bless and keep my wife. She remembers the day the cops came too: every time the phone rings when she's in the shower.

And while you're at it, please stop these dreams and the early morning panic that goes with them.

He felt her lying next to him, the clock said 4:00 am
He was staring at the ceiling
He couldn't move his hands

Oh mama mama mama come quick
I've got the shakes and I'm gonna be sick
Throw your arms around me in the cold dark night
Hey now mama don't shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light


(Springsteen, 1983)