[personal profile] blcwriter
I have been working, more or less steadily, since I was 15.  The only time in my life that I didn't work for more than a few weeks was between Memorial Day 2009 and late August, 2009, when I had a nervous breakdown, quit my job as a lawyer, and wrote a shitload of pretty good Star Trek fanfic while being very, very depressed and trying to figure out what to do next.

Since then, I have pretty much worked continuously, and always at 40 hours or more.  My first two jobs post-lawyerdom were in retail and nominally hourly, but I was also in management and you just worked off the clock once your "shift" was done.  

I have been fired several times-- mostly due to flare-ups in my depression causing me to screw up, and my lack of a diagnosis and the legal profession's unwillingness to work humane hours or manage associates appropriately.  When I was a lawyer, I kept getting depressed and anxious about the bad cases I had that should have been settled and instead were continuing on despite good advice on my part to settle.  I couldn't accept that it was the client's choice to make shitty decisions, and to do the best you could in the meantime.  That need for justice, rather than just doing my best under the constraints of an unreasonable client eventually would cause me to screw up, and which later made me realize I needed to get the hell out of the profession.  There are things that are more humiliating than being fired, but childhood bullying is the only experience I have to compare it to, and both are awful, scarring events that still give me nightmares and trigger overreactions to and panic about otherwise mundane interactions.

Once I stopped being a lawyer, I held on to jobs longer-- I left both my retail jobs voluntarily, despite some conflicts with my bosses, and found new jobs more or less one on top of the other.   When I got out of retail, I went into non-profit HR work-- and found that non-profit management is just as selfish and messed up as retail management, just in slightly different ways.  

In all my jobs, I have been the smartest person in the room.  This has not been a comfort.  My depression and anxiety and the fact that I know better and other folks won't take good advice (I am always right, after stuff is messed up and someone (me) then needs to fix it) are a bad combination.  I know that I could fix everything if I was the main person in charge.  At the same time, I know that I have neither the energy nor the patience to be the person in charge, because I will face something Unpleasant and will procrastinate until everything goes up in flames.  

The last five plus years post-lawyerdom have been a struggle to find work that is enough of an intellectual challenge to ensure I'm not bored-- but not so much work that I burn myself out.  I think that I burn myself out-- and let others burn me out-- for what are shitty reasons, in the end.  I choose work over a personal life during the week.  I choose work over pursuing my interests outside work-- I could and should be trying to make a go of my photography, for instance.  And then I am exhausted by work, and need too much solitude during down time.  I'm never refreshed after the weekend-- just less exhausted.

I construe my identity around work, around doing "enough" work that is "good," around being the best at whatever I do.  I am sure some of that is just the innate neurosis of the "gifted child" thing grown into an anxious, restless adult.  I am sure that another part of it is a reaction to my mother, who never worked a day in her life without complaining that she was entitled to not work at all, and whose constant whining about money while not doing diddly to care for herself or her kids has built in me an enormous resentment for people who don't even try to conquer their mental illnesses, trauma, etc.  I'm also sure that another part is due to my relationship with my sober-alcoholic father, who always worked, even when the work was "below" him, because work was an end in itself as well as a practical necessity.  Other parts are due to the scarcity of my mother not working and me being perpetually anxious about enough food, enough rent, enough clothes, enough ... everything, and generally being an adult child of two mentally ill parents.  I rely too much on retail therapy to soothe myself when I am feeling anxious, and I resent the people in my life who are (in my opinion) being parsimonious for no good goddamned reason.

I try to tell myself that if someone just tries, then it's OK if they fail and have to start over.  I can't apply that message to myself, though, and I have a grandiose notion of failure that I only apply to myself.  I know damned well that even my ability to influence and persuade is limited by other people's neuroses, distractions, personalities, etc., but I still blame myself for lack of foresight, lack of preparation, lack of timely response and so on.  Because I'm "smart" and "capable," and there are people counting on me to do better than other people have done previously (not just my imagination, "you're the best X we've ever had" is something I've heard a lot) I feel like a failure for not being able to fix everything. This, despite having done lots of therapy about what is and what isn't my responsibility, and trying to find comfort in the knowledge that I have left behind scorched earth and still managed to re-grow, recover, and do moderately well for myself.

My prior employer, a large branch of a national non-profit, was fraught with poor, disconnected leadership and poor fundraising and other revenue generation.  They also had a large number of employees who lacked basic training and information, and whom I was able to help a great deal.  Regardless, though, I was being driven nuts (and letting myself be driven nuts) by my colleagues' incompetence, my boss' laziness and inattention to detail, and the general lack of organizational decision-making.  As I had done in the past, I decided to look elsewhere and get out.  

I found another job and then on the Monday I was going to give my notice, I was instead laid off along with several other experienced, skilled mid-level managers who were the people actually doing the work.  I was furious.  I still am.  Never mind that I was planning to leave; I was planning to give three weeks' notice to allow for adequate transition, and instead I (and a half-dozen other very reliable, expert-level people) was being let go, while the people who failed to generate revenue still had jobs.  I was furious for the people who would no longer be getting adequate help.  I was humiliated and furious for myself, because I'd just given my boss a critical 360-degree review.  (Despite my inability to shut up about telling people they're wrong and how this is often insubordination, even when I'm right, I did use that to squeeze more severance out of his boss, once I told her that the layoff felt more than a little retaliatory.)  

I was and still am extremely discouraged.  

This new job is not what it was billed to be, either, and is even more dysfunctional than my old job.  I wouldn't have imagined such a thing, but there it is.  I am just about three months in, and I need to leave because otherwise I will end up in charge of making decisions for needy, unprofessional people, and I know I don't want that.  It's very discouraging, though. 

I am sick of looking for the perfect job, because I know I am a perfectionist and because I know whatever job I will end up in, people will over-rely (and I will let them) on my competence until I am burnt out.  I only know how to give 150%.  I'm tired of giving 150%, but it would be the rare workplace that would be adequately staffed and managed to let me go home at a decent hour and not be the first resort for help.  I am tired of "failing," and of feeling like a failure because of things I can't change. 

I am in the luxurious place of my loans being almost completely repaid, and having no significant debts or expenses.  I know that I could blow my whole life up and go work in a garden center or kitchen someplace, but I am tired of starting over every few years.  I am tired of searching for the "perfect" job or even just "better."  I am tired of driving myself nuts, and of letting other people drive me nuts.  I am tired of knowing I would not be able to run my own business; one batch of bad depression and I would go under.  I am tired of being afraid, despite knowing that I can always start over (having done so a lot).  I want the Work Fairy to give me the gift of being content with an adequate job, of patience with other peoples' foibles and flaws.  I want the Self-Care Fairy to give me the gift of respecting my own boundaries and saying no more consistently.  I want the Serenity Prayer Fairy to give me the wisdom to get out of my own way and just let things be messed up without my diving in to take on too much... again.

I know that I'm capable, mostly.  I know that I'm mentally ill and that this is my worst enemy.  I know that my arrogance around being more capable stems mostly from wanting to help others, to fix stuff permanently, and is less about pride and more about compulsive perfectionism-- which is its own separate form of mental illness.  And I know that I'm tired, but I have to start over again.

Damnit.

I'll start over again anyway, and hope I don't set myself up for failure again.

ETA: This is not to say that I believe that all mentally ill folks can or must work.  Rather, my experience skews my expectations for myself and my family, even as I don't hold others to my overly-Puritan work ethic.

Date: 2017-07-05 02:50 am (UTC)
minoanmiss: A spiral detail from a Minoan fresco (Minoan Spiral)
From: [personal profile] minoanmiss
*

Date: 2017-07-06 08:40 am (UTC)
weepingnaiad: Pinky & Brain - hugs (Hugs)
From: [personal profile] weepingnaiad
Oh, m'dear. *squishes tight*

Man, this really resonates (even if our experiences are very different).

I've never been a full-on perfectionist, but I relate to so much here. It has taken a long time and a lot of those stupid decisions made by others to finally drill it into my head that I will do only what I can and give them no more than 100%. I haven't stopped caring, but I find it easier to say 'fuck it' when they do the stupid shit despite what I've explained.

I'm sorry you're having to look for another job. I hate you having to go through that, but I also feel like this is another symptom of the structural problems in our society. It's a rare workplace that wants to keep employees permanently and most just view employees as a cost to minimize not as an asset.

I will keep my fingers crossed that the job search goes well and that you finally find something that doesn't steal your soul.

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