I guess you’re the new Office Assistant. Welcome to the team! Okay, that’s a weird thing to say since I’m not on the team anymore, and I’m sure everyone else is making you feel very welcome– they’re a great bunch! The dedication and skill of the people you’ll be working with might knock your socks off. Gary and Keith are(almost) endlessly patient and will be very kind about explaining things if you get confused. There’s a lot to learn, so don’t feel bad if you need to ask a lot of questions! I still had to ask questions three years in! It’s fine! It’s expected.
I think you’ll find that the job is very challenging but also very rewarding. Getting to help people in the ways that you’ll get to help people will probably be as great for you as it was for me. Everyone will be very supportive while you’re learning, and soon I’m sure you’ll fit in wonderfully.
You’ll get to know our clients’ quirks over time. Some of them you’ll groan when you see their names on caller ID, but others you’ll be excited to talk to. One of my favorite things is getting to shop for people– sometimes you’ll bear back how much Joe liked his winter coat or Jane liked the poster you got for her. That feels great. Other times, you’ll be drafting correspondence from templates, making calls to Comcast, or filing. Those things are less fun, but if you keep in mind that it’s all in service to the clients, it makes it easier.
Just never get injured. Never get sick.
I don’t mean “don’t sprain your ankle.” Or “don’t catch a cold.” I mean don’t ever get anything chronic. Don’t ever get hurt hurt. Because if you get hurt you’ll be told that you shouldn’t talk to the team about it because it makes your coworkers uncomfortable. You’ll be told that it’s not a good excuse for fucking up. You’ll be reminded about how hard it’s been on the team that you got your life messed up by something out of your control. Management will make it very clear to you what a problem you are now. And they will push you out like they pushed me out.
They’ll act like every ADA accommodation is a favor they’re personally doing for you. They’ll tell you how hard it is on the team when you need to take time off because you can’t walk straight or feel like someone’s hammering a nail into your forehead. They’ll celebrate your birthday and your work anniversary but you’ll never get a “get well” card. You won’t be able to mention your illness in your yearly review, because “that’s not what they’re for.” If you make a mistake, they will condescend. If you make a real fuck-up, they’ll punish you as much as they can without the union making them stop. You’ll be told over and over that what happened to you, the limitations you have now, don’t matter, aren’t a factor, why can’t you perform like you did before the horrible thing happened to you and liquefied parts of your brain.
They will treat you with pity and call it compassion.
They will make it hell for you to stay.
So enjoy your time here and never, never get hurt or sick.
We’ve been here for over a month. The floors are oak that someone put carpet over but someone else ripped the carpet out, thank goodness . It’s somewhat drafty and badly insulated. Apparently our gutters aren’t great. The fan in the bathroom needs fixing. The kitchen is too small.
We hosted people in the backyard approximately every other day for the first month we were here. Now it’s cold and the backyard is soggy. There are some tomatoes that I should bring inside. I ate a pear right off the tree a few weeks ago and it was delicious. I got a tan but now that it’s cold I look kind of sallow. The cats settled in nicely. Husband and I manage to both be in the too-small kitchen without wanting to murder each other, and we’re both sort of amazed that this is so. The tub is pretty big and I spend a lot of time in there. The furnace is noisy and we don’t run it very much. My office is the warmest room. The bedroom is barely big enough for a bed and a dresser. We’ve managed to keep the place pretty tidy. My office is the only room that is a mess, but it’s getting better.
I’m a mess, but I’m trying to get better.
My job is trying to suck the life out of me, but now that I have a mortgage I’m not allowed to tell anyone to fuck themselves. I still love a lot about what I do, but management isn’t very kind to someone with brain damage. Downright unhelpful, actually. Last week was panic and this week is numb. Next week will likely be panic again.
I sit in my cold house with my warm cats and find peace wherever I can. I nest in my warm office with my cold thoughts and try to remember that things have a way of turning out okay, because I know this to be true. Most of the time, things turn out okay. I keep telling myself that.
It’s weird to be in such a bipolar state. Some things are going so well while other things are going so terribly. And I’m bouncing back and forth between elation and despair.
The house is really very nice and we’re quite happy to be here. I wish everything else was going so well.
My husband and I toured a house yesterday. Immediately when we got inside, I smelled mildew and fresh paint. That was not a good sign. We walked through a few times and told the realtor we’d think about it. On the way back home, we impulsively stopped at a Japanese restaurant and got a light lunch. We decided at that table that we would not buy the house (which did have some lovely features, but several more ticks in the “no” column than in the “yes.”)
And while we were sitting there, me noshing on edamame and sipping water, I told T that I think I’m spiraling a little bit. I’m impulsive. I don’t have a lot of control over my emotions, and I hate it. I have worked very hard to have control over myself, but lately I am snappish, mercurial, sullen. I speak without thinking and am overly friendly with people who (it seems to me) give me weird looks and then try to go back to what they were doing. I ache for connection but shrink away from it, full of doubt.
My normally pretty-damned-good self-esteem is faltering. I don’t think I’m a worthless pile of crap or anything, but I do have my moments of intense self-doubt and calling myself weird, stupid, or crazy, even if it’s only in my head. I can usually manage to push those feelings aside and move onto something else. But yesterday, I felt a sort of melancholy that I haven’t felt in quite awhile– this feeling that the ground was falling away from underneath me and I was in freefall toward… I don’t know. Some sort of emotional doom.
I know myself pretty well, so when I was telling T about all of this I said “I’ll probably feel better tomorrow, because I usually do feel better after a good night’s sleep.” And I was right, I do feel better today. Not all the way better, but no longer like the abyss is looming.
The past 14 months have been one of the most difficult periods of my whole life– and if you know me, you know that my life has had a lot of difficult periods. Already plagued with health issues, I did not need the addition of a traumatic brain injury. But that’s what I got, and I am doing what I can to make the best of it. In a life that’s probably about half over, I’ve learned that often that’s the best thing we can do.
I’m still employed and getting straight A’s in school. But it’s dragging. I’m dragging. My verve and enthusiasm that I worked so hard to cultivate are failing me right now. When we got married, T said he wanted to buy a house within five years, so I fixed my abysmal credit score, paid off debts, and started trying to save. When I enrolled in school, I decided I was going to kick ass and I have. I have done so much with hope and willpower, but now there are things in my life I can’t just power through. There are things, like buying a house, that are in many ways out of my control. Knowing that my goals are years away from being achieved is really taking a toll on my psyche. And I just don’t have the energy to go fast fast fast all the time like I always have. I get tired so easily. I can’t coast by with intelligence and willpower, I have to utilize that skill that I’m still trying to build and has never come naturally to me: patience. I hate patience.
Things have been better, and I’ve gotten stronger. But eventually strength isn’t enough. Smarts aren’t enough. Humor and pretty green eyes, unfortunately, don’t mean much in an insane housing market. They won’t give me a Masters degree for being cute. Work doesn’t accept “well, I’m trying” as a substitute for getting stuff done or answering the phone. And there are some days when the effort of just getting through is so exhausting that I sort of cease to function by 5pm. For awhile, grit, determination, and my eternal/infernal optimism were carrying me. But those things aren’t inexhaustible. I am so, so tired.
The despair I felt yesterday was something I used to feel much of the time. And I kind of marveled at it, like how did I live this way for so long? Because for a most of my life I saw myself standing next to a vast canyon, feeling the wind try to push me over the edge. Feeling parts of my brain telling me to just jump and get it over with. And for the past few years, even after my injury, I sensed that the cliff was still there, but that I was no longer standing at the edge. I’d moved into a clearing several dozen paces away, and I could not gaze into the bottom any longer, contemplating, wondering, tempted.
Yesterday I was closer to the edge again. The wind was whipping. The canyon loomed. And as I always have, I turned my back away. I looked toward the clearing. I kept my eyes on the hope, the potential, life. Because some days, that really is all you can do.
I haven’t blogged in awhile. It’s not because there’s nothing going on. There’s a LOT going on, it’s just that none of it is super interesting.
I’m still recovering from my stupid head injury. I got some money for it, which is nice. Started watching a bunch of The People’s Court on YouTube and realized that I could do a small claims suit. To sue someone in small claims court in Oregon you need to notify them first of your intent and give them time to respond. So I did that and the bastard surgeon just sent me money so we wouldn’t have to go through the whole nonsense of court.
T and I, with our newfound riches, started looking into buying a home and have quickly realized that we are not going to be able to do so without a miracle– or the cooling of the market, which will hopefully happen soon. 10 years ago we would have been able to afford something awesome, but Portland is very hot right now when it comes to real estate, so we need patience and probably to save more money. Or a miracle. If anyone would like to lend us a few tens of thousands of dollars, that’d be swell.
I had an evil coworker who left in the middle of last month, and that makes me happy because she’s terrible.
The cats are fine, we’re both basically fine, everything is FINE. I’ve gotten good at doing subtle makeup. So that’s nice.
I’m still in school, still gettin’ A’s, still plugging away at everything in hopes of a brighter future. I turned 41. I’m tired all the time.
We met in the swimming pool at our high school when I was a sophomore and you were a freshman. I had just given myself an appalling haircut, but you said it didn’t look too bad. I appreciated that
We didn’t get to know each other until I was a senior, in psychology class. We both tested as introverts but were the loudest people in the class. We argued a lot, but it was in good spirits. I broke up with my high school sweetheart and developed a big crush on you. I wrote you a letter to that effect, and you wrote back and used the word “ennui,” which had to look up. I wish I still had that letter.
We went on for years, almost being a “thing” but never made it over the threshold to being in an actual relationship. We dated. We kissed. You asked me one night to help you shed your virginity, and I did because… well, why the hell not? The only other time we slept together was right after your dad died. I didn’t know what else to do to console you.
I fucked around with your feelings an awful lot, and for that I’m sorry. All those times we were “almost, but not quite” were because of me. You were smart and funny and athletic and witty and kind, and wicked hot, and I… for some reason just couldn’t be in a relationship with you. On paper, you were everything I wanted. In practice, it always felt off. I shouldn’t have kept leading you on.
I once dumped you in front of a “no dumping” sign near a canyon. You pointed it out wryly.
You stopped speaking to me nigh on 20 years ago, and you were right to do so. I was a mess, and more importantly, I treated you like shit. I didn’t mean to, but that’s no excuse.
I thought about reaching out to you to apologize. You turned 40 yesterday, and I thought I’d look you up and see what you’re doing these days. I knew you were in a hoity-toity industry and had been for years. I knew you were still in our hoity-toity hometown. I stumbled on your Instagram.
You’re married. You have two sons. Your wife looks nice. You enjoy baseball. You lost much of your glorious hair. You look happy.
I decided not to reach out.
You’ll never read this, but if you ever did– or if I can send a thought out toward you, 700 miles away– I would tell you that I am deeply and truly sorry, that I think you’re wonderful, and that I am so, so happy that you seem so happy. I would tell you that I’m a better person now, that you had a positive impact on my life and taught me the word “ennui” and you were so beautiful and I’m so fucking sorry.
But that would be for me, not for you. You’re fine. You don’t need or want anything from me.
I’m working toward a degree in social work, and my union is paying for me to get my associate’s. After that I’ll probably transfer to the local university (which I dropped out of 12 years ago because I was not a stable person back then) and get my bachelor’s and master’s from there.
You can do a lot with a Master’s in Social Work. You can do so many fucking things.
Education means choices. I’ve worked for the same employer for over 4 years now, and I’ve been in my current job for just over two years. I was really in love with my job for the first year and a half. I get to help people. Isn’t that cool?
And then I got hurt.
I started seeing a new therapist today. My longtime therapist, who I saw for about 9 years but has since moved on to the more administrative side of things and in fact now runs the practice, recommended her. And we just clicked immediately. I like her a lot. I talked about a lot of things, because, y’know, first session with a new therapist. Instead of feeling exhausted afterward, I felt energized and excited.
And one of the things I told her is that I’m doing really well in school. I know I already said that, but it’s important.
My brain injury really fucked up my life. Most of my symptoms have finally abated, but some are sticking around and might be permanent. I can deal with those, I think. They suck, but I can figure it out.
My work performance has suffered. My overall health has suffered. My personal life was affected. I have terrible memory now. I have trouble focusing. My spelling and typing have gone to shit. I have frequent, sometimes debilitating headaches. I often feel despair, which passes, but it’s not fun.
Through all this, my GPA stayed fucking solid. For the last two terms I’ve gotten all A’s. This term I’m taking statistics, and as someone who hasn’t done any math above arithmetic for about 24 years, stats is a fucking challenge. But I’m acing it. I’m acing everything. I started college again at 39, and it seems I was finally ready to do it right. I’m a good student. I’m wicked smart. I’m doing it. It feels like I’m learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Look at me goooooooooooo.
But when it comes to work, I just feel so trapped. My husband and I have great insurance because of my work. I am getting an associates degree for free because of my work. I have stability because of my work. And it fucking beats a lot of other jobs I’ve had.
It’s just really hard to come back from what I’ve seen. It’s hard to know that if I get sick again, I’m kind of on my own. Leave and benefits won’t give me clear instructions. My short term disability insurance, which I opted into and comes right out of my paycheck, seems fucking useless. They’re still processing my claim and sending me forms saying that they’re still processing my claim. And my team, who I gave so much of myself to not let down, doesn’t really seem to care. I think they’re all sick of me being sick.
As if I’m not.
So I’m in school. And my grades are very good. And I’m going to get my degree, and then get the next degree, and get the NEXT degree, and then… then I will have leverage. I will have choices. I will be able to decide where I want to go next. I won’t have to worry quite as much, I hope. I won’t have to be an Office Assistant anymore, at the bottom of the totem pole, replaceable and negligible and treated like a liability because I had the audacity to get a fucking TBI.
So, according to the title of this post and the song that inspired it, “everybody’s working for the weekend.”
You know what I do on my weekends?
Statistics. And whatever other courses are required for my major. And I like it.
School means choices. I’m not going to fuck it up this time.
I used to be someone who cried a lot. Happy or sad scenes in movies, frustration or sadness in my own life. I used to cry probably more than was healthy. But it was good to cry.
Something changed. It started when I was 20, during a very difficult summer. I dropped acid and slept with my friend’s 33-year-old boyfriend while she was away on a trip. Then I went on a 40-day vacation to Boston, Vermont, and London– and on my second-to-last day in London, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. Later that summer, I found out my parents were divorcing. I was a mess. Everything I thought I knew to be stable was suddenly shaky. A lot of the drama was self-created, but a lot of it wasn’t. These are just the highlights.
I had always been an exploder. I became an imploder. Instead of striking out at others I mostly punished myself. I guess I still blew up at people from time to time, and even before this I tended to take things out on myself– and I have the scars to prove it. But one thing that changed was that I stopped really being able to cry, no matter how sad I was.
I took an Eastern Philosophy class at the local community college (My Pretend College, for my hometown readers.) I don’t remember it being a very good class, but it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing that makes one silently sob behind their hands. But one night, when I was 21, that’s what I did. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I wasn’t making any noise. I don’t think anyone even really noticed at first. But I just could. not. stop leaking water from my eyes. I wasn’t really sad about anything in particular; I was sad about everything. And at this point it had been about six months since I’d been able to cry, so this one night I just couldn’t stop. I had friends in the class, and someone had to drive me home because the leaking would not stop.
Over time, and because of an abusive relationship that made me cry a whole fucking lot, I eventually regained the use of my tear ducts. But because my ex was so awful, I stopped fighting back because I’d learned it didn’t do a whole lot of good. The times I did strike out, it was mostly physical. He got in my face one day, mocking me when I said “you won’t let me have any friends.” He said it back sneeringly, “you won’t let me have any friiieeends.” And I scratched his face so hard that he bled. Another time I whipped him in the face with my leather jacket when he had me cornered and was screaming at me. But I did not tend to yell. And when I hit him, he tended to stop. The day I made him bleed, he told his shocked coworkers “you didn’t hear what I said to her.” You’d think that would have made him reexamine his treatment of me, but it didn’t.
When my brother did the bad thing when I was 30, I didn’t yell back at him. I collapsed into a heap of tears, because I’d learned that’s what we do with abusers. We make ourselves at pathetic and small as possible so that maybe they’ll stop.
Anyway. I can yell now. I have regained that ability. But I usually have my temper under control, and I tend to write letters when I’m really pissed off. So I can yell, if I have to. I just can’t cry.
As I’ve said in previous posts, this year has been really damned hard for me. Health issues, family issues, work issues, oh my.
I can’t remember the last time I had a good cry. And holy hell, I need one.
I still feel like things are mostly good, or will be mostly good soon. My marriage is astonishingly stable. My cats are astonishingly cute. I’m pretty good at my job. The head injury is finally loosening its grip on my brain. I had oral surgery and was in pain for longer than seemed reasonable, but that’s getting better too. I have a little more energy now. I feel less defeated.
I don’t know why my tear factory laid off all its workers. I don’t know how I can be profoundly sad and not shed a single tear. I well up sometimes, but my cheeks stay dry.
I feel emotionally constipated. This is not my usual state. Maybe it’s because of the vast number of pills I have to take to be a functional adult. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up. I don’t know.
I don’t have a good ending for this. It’s just on my mind today.
Song in title is from a musical called Brownstone, but I’m familiar with it from Bette Midler’s cover.
I’m going to talk about some stuff I’ve talked about on here before. Moreover, I’m going to talk about two people, one of whom I’ve mentioned several times, and the other of whom I wrote about so many fucking times oh my god damn. I’m not going to say more than necessary about the one I’ve already said a lot about, and I’ll refer to him as “that dude” and similar. I don’t even want to use initials or old nicknames. And I’ll call my abusive ex “Mike” because that’s his name. He sometimes insisted on being called Michael, but I met him as Mike, and he’s a pretentious, abusive, alcoholic asshole, so I’m gonna go ahead and just call him Mike.
Fuck you, Mike.
As I’ve mentioned many times previously:
I was in an abusive relationship in my twenties.
Right after I dumped Mike the abusive asshole, I met and became super fuckin’ obsessed with some dude and I didn’t entirely let up for YEARS
I have Borderline Personality Disorder and that diagnosis changed my life
These three things, which I’ve ranted about at length, frame this dispatch from Kate’s brain.
I got a direct message on Twitter the other day from Mike. This is what it said:
See how casual that is? Just “hey, sup, let’s talk about how CRAZY the world is, amirite?”
He was a dick. I mean, just an utter bastard. But he wanted to get in touch! Even after I’ve told him over and over that I want nothing to do with him whatsoever! What persistence! What arrogance!
My response to him was as follows:
Other than saying “could ever hope” twice in the same email, I think I did all right! I hope you can understand from this brief message that I was not being vicious without reason. He spent years trying to break me. I owe him nothing.
The last time Mike and I spoke was in 2011. The last time (that I know of) that he tried to contact me was in 2013, when he sent an email to my mother. In fact, I wrote about it at the time. That post is horrifically embarrassing to me now, and I’ll tell you why: I was still being a creepy stalker to the other dude at the time and I kinda just… glossed that over. “We’re both members of a group” I said. I didn’t mention that I’d joined so that he’d have to interact with me. I can’t believe that was only eight years ago. So creepy, Kate. So gross.
But at the time, I blogged
I know what it feels like to be stalked and harassed. I have an ex-boyfriend who continues to try to get in touch with me even after I told him I never, ever, ever want to speak to him again So I know what it feels like to have someone from your past who just won’t go away. And I’ll admit that I’ve been a little, shall we say, obtuse in the past when it comes to other people’s lack of desire for further contact with me. But I’ve learned and I’m trying to do better. I don’t want to be the creepy stalker ex any more than I want to have a creepy stalker ex.
Kate, being a fucking liar.
I like to think that what Mike did is “worse” than what I did to that poor dude I harassed, but what I did to that guy was bad enough. I just went hunting for the time I must have blogged about all the shitty things I did, but they’re kinda scattered all over the place. If you read back, you’ll find them. I find it painful to read them now, but I’ve kept them here as a reminder of what I was like when I was sick and didn’t know it.
What changed, what got me to leave that poor guy alone (other than meeting my husband, which happened after) was my diagnosis of BPD. I found out that all the weird obsessive shit, all the dysfunctional relationships, my weird one-sided friendships… they were all caused by some defect in the way I process emotions. I mean, sure, other people played a part sometimes, and I wasn’t always the best at picking people to get close to. But most of the drama came from me.
The dude is certainly not the only person I fucked over with my mental illness, but he’s the one I can point to and say “ah yes, that sure was messed up…” There’s so much written evidence right here in the archives of this stupid blog.
I know that the greatest and only thing that I can offer him is silence. Peace. But it took me a long time to realize why.
Regardless of where the blame lays for how things ended and what happened before, I have behaved abominably since. I didn’t mean to. I thought I was right to be outraged that I’d been cut out of his life. I thought [his wife] was to blame for keeping us from being friends. I was venomous. I was pushy, vindictive, and petty. I didn’t do much in the last five years to bother him, but what I did was more than I should have. I wanted to make them uncomfortable. I wanted to be noticed. I was angry, and it showed.
Kate, being honest
I left Mike two months before I turned 27. Afterward, he would show up at my apartment, which used to be our apartment, without warning. I told him one day that if he did it again, I’d call the cops. For months (years!) he would interrogate me about whether I’d cheated on him when we were together, and wouldn’t accept that the truthful answer was “no.” He asked if I’d slept with anyone since we broke up, because if I had, he would never “take me back.” I did not want for a single second to be taken back. I’d broken up with him, and I meant it.
I moved back to California when I was 29, and the last person I said goodbye to before skipping town was Mike. When I was back there in the Golden State, I got on a pretty even keel, and I eventually realized that continuing to try to be a friend to Mike was really bad for me. As I said in my paragraphs of viciousness above, the reason he didn’t have any family or very close friends was that he was an awful person. When I told him that he was a shitty friend, and that he’d abused me terribly when we were a couple, his response was, essentially “Yes, but there were many days when I did NOT try to push you down a flight of stairs, and I prefer to focus on those.”
I have not spoken to him in ten years. I have no interest in ever speaking to him again. Eventually, I moved back to Portland, and I told our one mutual friend to convey to Mike that I still wanted nothing to do with him.
I’m certain that this mutual friend is how Mike found my Twitter. He wouldn’t have had to tell him, it would have been enough for Mike to have seen who Mutual Friend followed. So I blocked Mutual Friend, too.
I wish that Mike would have the same big epiphany that I did. There are things that I can never take back. And I can choose to learn from those things, or I can decide to stamp my feet and refuse to accept that this is my fault. And sometimes we do things, or a combination of things, that make it so that someone decides they never want to talk to us again. Whether we think they’re justified or not, we can choose to give them the greatest gift of all: our absence.