05 October 2016

I Have A Little List



I have a piece of paper hanging taped to the support beam on my side desk. 

Not MY petition but A petition
I’m debating the good it does. It’s a debate that will go on for a while.’

The paper is a petition, dated Dec. 29, 2015 and signed by eight co-workers and presented by two other employees to top management where I work. 

Basically, without naming me (cowards) they asked management to protect them from an employee (me) who was using “inappropriate, threatening and alarming language,” and asked management to provide a “safe, secure environment” moving forward.

The petition was ginned up by a former boss and pseudo-management co-worker, who took the ‘incident’ of Dec. 19, 2015 and ran with it in an attempt to get me fired. I don’t need to recount that sorry tale again – you can read it here.

The member of management who received the letter asked for written statements containing specific allegations from the people who signed. None ever came. No specific instances, no dates, times or locations were ever forwarded. Of the 10 people who had anything to do with this petition, five are gone and five remain.

The echo of the HR hack at my last interrogation still rings in my head: “the people up there you think are your friends are the ones that are reporting on you.

Yesterday, I sat in my office, on the far side of the floor, isolated and alone. This is the usual day for me nowadays. I try very hard to keep to myself and communicate with co-workers only when work needs to be done. I have exempted myself from all further get-togethers as a stray innocent remark made at a luncheon in June was used against me. 

And yesterday, the lonesomeness and isolation was making a mess of my mind. No matter how many distractions aside from my normal work I can indulge in, it’s tough to maintain a façade when your co-workers are outside your door, having an animated conversation with your supervisor. 

And you’re not a part of it. I could step out with a smile on my face and a “hey guys, what’s happening,” and watch the conversation die and the group break up. I can’t bear that.
So, back to the petition I have on my desk.

The reason I have it there is to get it through my thick skull that as bad as I want to have some human contact (I won’t even go so far as to say ‘have friends’) in this office, that the atmosphere has become poisoned enough that the HR hack’s warning (and my union rep’s warning) that I have no friends here.

" . . .a BLABBERMOUTH!"
And that I have to keep my big mouth shut. Because bipolar people tend to be notorious blabbermouths. Ask me how I know.
 
I really thought I could handle this. But every day that goes by gets just a little bit harder and it wears me down. 

I sit in silence and dread the sound of people approaching my door, coming up the stair, off the elevator or hearing the phone ring. I dread opening every email addressed to me. I didn’t used to be this way. 

I don’t know how NOT to be hyper-vigilant anymore. 

I’ve been this way since my mom’s health started to go downhill which was in the summer of 2008 and my bookstore started to fail because of the economy. Then I had to sell the bookstore in the fall of 2009 and move to South Dakota for a job in December of that year. Then I had to spend the next year (2010) with my bags packed waiting to fly to Cleveland whenever my mom would take another turn for the worst.

Then in December 2010, I started the job with the VA in Pittsburgh and moved here. From the very beginning there was a good deal of stress as my job duties and expectations were never clearly given to me and I never received one whit of training. It was ‘stumble as you go.’ At the same time, my mother’s health continued to decline and I eventually became her power of attorney and executor of her will. During the period 2011-12 I was constantly spending my weekends in Cleveland with my wife and arranging both my mother’s care and the disposition of our family home. This was NOT a very good period in my life. 

Mom passed away in December 2012. It took six more months to settle the estate and satisfy all the obligations. I really didn’t even have time to grieve. I still don’t think I have as I tend to avoid all the family albums in the basement, especially the ones from the last five years of my mom’s life.

Then in October 2013, the man who hired me left one step ahead of his own dismissal. Like many VA managers, a friend set him up in another part of the organization. I did not realize at the time, that this man had been my protection. I didn’t even know I needed protection. 

What followed then was a procession of detailed managers and two ‘permanent managers each of who lasted less than a year apiece and presided over tumultuous times for our section. The first one flooded the zone with new hires in the spring of 2014, many of whose names were on that petition. They were hired in order to get this manager a higher pay grade. When he didn’t get it, he left, but not before using his new people to gradually strip me of all the media relations responsibilities I had had under my old boss. I went from being the ‘go-to’ guy to being the superfluous clerk. 

He didn’t like me. It wasn’t a secret. He was influenced by others in the section who wanted to purge the people from the old regime. Had he stayed around long enough he might have succeeded. I called him on that and his lack of management effectiveness. I’m sure he didn’t like that either. I’m also sure he and the other employees in his little mafia briefed the new manager when he took over in March 2015.
It also strikes deep. Into your life it will creep.

I know this sounds like paranoia but it’s true. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has faced this situation. The new boss was worse than the last one. Within three months of his hire, the incident of June 8, 2015 happened which led to where I am now.

Eight years of looking behind my back. Eight years of worry and fear. More shrinks, more pills, more attempts at living a life where I could relax and enjoy life without the need for pharmaceuticals. 

Even if the magic job fairy came and performed a miracle for me now, I’m not sure I could dis-attach the wires and circuits that have made me what I am today – at least not for a long time. You just can’t turn it off that easily.