The last 30 days

Wow….that last month has been filled with stuff that’s been overflowing from my head and running down my entire body, pooling around my feet in a mucky, sticky puddle that just won’t dry up or go away.

I have so much to write.  I have so many drafts pending…..  I’ll tell you why I haven’t been writing you soon.  Just need to get my thoughts together.

And yes, I mean you Mike….and yes, Drew and MH you as well.  It’s all the same in different ways.

So much to feel at once, I can never finish a post or an email.  I think, when I get a chance this weekend, I’m just going to post it all in one, long, epic post that will answer everything, all at once.

You’d never know it would you?

One of the saddest parts of mental illness is that you’d never know it would you?  You’d never look at this photo and think of how much suffering is going on behind my eyes.  What a weird, deceptive game.  I feel like everything is falling apart and I look like I have it together.  Or maybe it’s just me.

Just remember, my friends, to never look only on the outside.  My friend Sara died two years ago this week….by her own hand…the last photo I have of her is a happy one where she wears a huge smile and her eyes shine.  No light there now…..no Sara there now.  That scares the living shit out of me sometimes.

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You know…

I don’t get this. I have been fine, mostly, with the ptsd issues for years now. I mean, there are the things I think I’ll always carry with me: the hypervigilance, the nightmares (narcolepsy plays an accompanying role there too) and the kick-in-the-gutt panic reaction to either vanish into thin air or burst into flight like a startled bird when someone or something reminds my deepest memories of something dangerous that may or may not be a threat in the moment.  I still startle easily, even in my  endlessly busy office, even thought there is a constant stream of people, phone calls, email messages, knocks at my door and now, most irritating, an in-house instant message system to keep in constant touch with colleagues no matter where  you are.  **Good news staff, it even sends notifications to your phone if you happen to be sitting on the toilet so you’ll never miss a moment!**  It is actually kind of nice to be able to pop off a message to someone I like but can never find a moment to say hello to but the day my bosses discovered it turned the entire thing in more of a servant call bell.  Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic but still….annoying.  Point was, now I have another thing to make me jump….the alert sound when a message (or email, voicemail or IM) comes in is intentionally loud to be heard over the constant activity of a busy hospital, scares the living crap out of me.  Nothing, however, beats the times patients (or staff!!) decided to bang on my windowed office, sometimes with a cane or other gait aide, on the window behind me.  I think my butt leaves the chair by at least half a foot when that happens.

*Bing – email*
*Ding ding ding – IM*
*Bing – email*
*Riiiiiiing – phone Bing – email Bing – email*
*Ding ding ding – IM*

*Door opens – Grainne, can you help me with (one of a fucking gazillion things no one seems to ever be able to remember how to do themselves INCLUDING changing pager batteries or using the photocopier- I shit you not.  The worst part?  There are TWO secretaries sitting directly beside the photocopier…. who also ask me how to use it)

I deflect the request or answer, depending on the moment.  When I look back I have ten more email, have missed three calls and have a dozen IM’s when suddenly….

*BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM* on my glass walled office – from behind me.

I LEAP into a standing position (helps wake me up at least, when the narcolepsy is calling me to sleep, and turn to find a grizzled old man, angrily waving his cane at me because he’s trying to check in for his appointment and no one is at the front desk.  (for like, eight seconds because they are helping someone else).

I help them, of course, because I’m a nice person and hate to see someone have to wait for five fucking minutes when they want something NOW and, just to add injury to insult, I have to ask if they’ve had their flu shot this year.  They answer honestly the first time (they catch on fast, these patients) and, if not, have to force them to wear a surgical mask in the department.  This never…ever….ever….EVER goes well.  You should hear the things I get hurled at me.

“Oh I can’t wear those because I can’t breathe through them.”

Riiiiight.  Yes, I follow.  We do like to asphyxiate our surgeons in the middle of complex surgery so I understand your issue.

“I’m allergic to them.”

You can’t be allergic to a mask.  I’m sorry.  It’s not possible.  It’s non latex, paper based, completely unscented, no dyes or chemicals, nothing but paper fibers for crying out loud.  But I just keep telling them that it’s not to protect others from THEM its to protect them from getting the flu from all us flu shot carriers who likely have the virus coursing through our veins but are not getting sick because we got our shots.

They pause.  Squint their eyes at me, quickly look the fact up on their smart phone, and put on the goddamned mask.  (usually only until they’re out of my line of sight).

I go back to my office to find I’ve missed a dozen calls, a million email and ten million messages from my bosses demanding to know why I’m not answering their calls or emails. Generally this is when I go hide in the locker room with a coffee and try to pretend I like my job.  (Okay, I really do like my job, I just dislike that I have to be five different employees at once and somehow my bosses are still always annoyed that I can’t get everything done.)

I had a meeting with one of them on Friday – the passive aggressive one, and it was to be 30 min.  “Just a few minutes, I swear Grainne, I know you’re swamped.  I just need to blah blah blah.”  aaand it started at 100 and ended at 345.  *sigh*  In truth, the last hour was mostly me scrolling passively aggressively through my mile long to do list, asking her how, exactly, she’d like me to prioritize things.

“Well, these ten things are top priority to me” she’d say.

Okay…makes sense.  Now, tell me how to get that done plus payroll for over 100 staff and patient by patient audit of all clinical patient stats entered by each of the 120 clinicians in the last month, all in the next four working days.  She just looked at me because there is no answer.  She was quite kind, really, and acknowledged that we keep having these same meetings where we discuss my workload with the other boss and strategize on how we can make things accomplishable, let alone reasonable, and we come up with things that never get put into action and then I drown in work until the next meeting.

“If there was one wish I could grant you Grainne….anything that would make this better, what would it be?”  she asked, kindly.

I couldn’t come up with an answer.  “I’m not sure there is one thing.  I just hate struggling and working so hard every day, putting in free OT, not seeing my family and now I don’t even get to see the staff because I’m closing and locking my office every day, madly working away with no breaks, no company and no interaction other than to tell you and other boss ‘no,  I didn’t get to that yet’ twenty times a day and to help people out the fastest way possible without any conversation or meaningful contact”

She openly recognized it was not okay for me to be trapped in there, socially isolated.  She realized I’d not gone to any of the parties, lunches, gift exchanges.  She knew I’d been in my glass bubble working away like a trained animal who was still being poorly treated and denied food and water for not being fast enough, good enough.  I mean, people walk by my office and look in, giving me sad, sympathetic eyes all the time and they’ve started bringing me coffee and cookies as if sneaking food into a prisoner.  In the end, you know what she said?

“Grainne, I know this isn’t right.  I’m sorry….I don’t know how to fix it.  All I can say is, Chin up, as little as that helps….” and she left me to use my last 15 min which turned into 45 min of free overtime to finish my day.

But that just set the mood.  That night, on my way home…the way I take every day to and from work, I got to a back road that takes me into my town and was stopped by an officer for what I assumed was a sobriety check.  It was actually the beginning of a road block though, because there had been a fatal accident just down the road.  There is a bridge on that road that is terrifying in the best of road conditions; blind turns both sides, narrow and with cross intersections appearing out of nowhere on the north side…..many people have crashed there.  This spring, a 21-year-old kid was driving his mom’s BMW along in the morning, doing just over the speed limit (which is 90 kmph out there on county roads) and for unknown reasons, he lost control of the car just before the bridge, veered off to the side and threw himself over the railing, crashing down into the train tracks below upside down, killing him instantly.  It was so sad….so sad.  Every time I’ve crossed that bridge since I think of him and wish him and his family peace.  But, back to the road block this past week – I was detoured around an even scarier route covered in ice right next to the river and could see many rescue vehicles across the fields.  I hoped people were okay, whatever had happened, and then, later that night heard there was an accident on the bridge where one of the two vehicles had slid on the ice, turned his car sideways and t-boned himself on the driver side, directly into an oncoming minivan.  The driver was 18….died instantly at the scene (as they were both travelling at around 80 kmph and he got crushed by the front end of the van).  They had to use the Jaws of Life to pry his mangled body from the wreck and the driver of the van, alive but injured, was left with a front row view of the carnage…which confused me since she was clearly alive and he was clearly dead….I guess they had to get him out first before they could find a way to get her out.  She was in her early 40’s…my age…driving along the route I take every day and usually would have been exactly where she was when I leave work on time.  I’d been delayed by a few minutes that day, thankfully.

So yes, sad story….so close to Christmas a family has lost their barely adult son and it is heartbreaking to thing of how their holiday will now be attached to his death for the rest of their lives.

The next day, at work, I got a text from a friend saying she’d not be in that day.  She had been in an accident and was on bed rest for two weeks while she healed.  I really care for this one and asked her if she was okay….turned out she was the driver of the minivan.  I called her immediately and she sobbed into my ear for 20 minutes, trying to explain how her husband thought she had lost her mind and how everyone was trying to check her into the psych ward for PTSD.  Then she told me what she could not stop seeing play out in her mind over and over and over.  The kid who had died had been a friend of her son of the same age, further complicating the guilt and trauma.  I soothed her, calmed her, told her she was okay.  I told her I had been in a bad wreck years ago and came away with ptsd from it (neglecting to tell the entire rest of the story which is the real thing I struggled with all those years – but that wreck was still fucking terrifying and I remember every single sensation to this day including the sound of the metal ripping from the roof as the rescue crew tried to get me and my friends out of our obliterated vehicle).

So I’ve been trying to be a good friend….allowing her the room to talk to me when she needs to and not prodding her to go to get help or asking how she is every five minutes. She’s got a good family around her but they are offering terrible advice so I’m trying to offer alternate options, learned from years of CBT and other personal battles won.  Of course, I’ve not told her any details of my car accident….that certainly won’t help her heal, I know, but it seems to have reactivated a panic centre in my brain I thought I’d been able to settle years ago.  The crash was a LONG time ago…I was a teen!  We all lived and went on with life…everything worked out as well as it could have, but the failure issues at work along with the trauma my friend is living through and me trying to  help, plus other personal issues at the moment have sent me spinning.

Yesterday, Dayne, Colt and I went christmas shopping.  It was icy out.  By the time we got home I was barely able to stifle a scream every time someone stopped quickly in front of us. Dayne and Colt understood, took turns hugging me when we got home.  Colt was the sweetest….arms around me,

“Shh shh shh mom…it’s only.  I know exactly how you feel.  Sometimes it gets so big inside you just have to let it come out of your eyes as tears.”

He’s twelve guys.  He’s autistic…..so detached from most empathy and feeling, and this is what he told he as he hugged me and rubbed my back.  Dayne was next in line, holding me tight, letting me cry without even understanding why, really.  I had a hot bath, took a sleep med and crashed out to have nightmares plague me all night, waking screaming as my brain thought I was about to die over and over.  It’s 130 and I still can’t shake it.

It’s just hard sometimes, right?  I know this.  I’m lucky….I have beat back so many of my demons and have so much better a quality of life than I used to have.  I rarely panic, rarely fall into depression. I have the arthritic pain totally under control….that bitch is mine now and I don’t let it stop me ever.  I can feel it now, all through my spine, my head is aching, jaw and face pulsing, shoulders, knees, arms and chest aching that deep bone ache.  Everything physical hurts and I don’t mind.  I’m sleep and tired and struggling to stay awake even though I just took my meds to wake me up.  The narcolepsy isn’t sharing control with me yet but I’ll get there.   It’s the internal stuff that’s just swirled out of control….out of nowhere.

Shit. I have to stop typing or I’ll never stop.  If you read this far, thanks.  I don’t have anywhere else to put this stuff.  Going to drag myself into a shower.  See if I can unscramble the thoughts some more.

 

 

The things that chase me

I used to work in retail a million years ago; and not just a little mom and pop store where people come and go, already knowing what they want, but big, busy, packed with customers, Christmas-shopping-nightmare, endless lines and demands and nasty glares, retail.  I worked at the Gap for a while.  People would come in and drag me around the store demanding info and opinions on “what their 12-year-old niece would like” or “what are all the teenagers wearing these days.?  I was okay then….smiley, happy to help and very, very good at customer service (i.e. reading people and instantly assessing what sort of ‘service’ they would best respond to and providing it one the spot).  I generally find that people who have never worked in that particular trade think it to be an easy, mindless job but it’s far from that.  If you’re not good at it, you end up getting treated like a personal assistant who has never quite understood the duties expected in your job.  If you are good at it, you are endlessly in demand and get run off your feet for exactly the same wages as the ones who don’t even bother to try.

Like I said, I was really good at it so I tended to be busy through my shifts and preferred being busy to wandering the store aimlessly, refolding things customers had messed up and rehanging the pile of things they had tried on in the fitting rooms.  Selling was easy for me.  I read people at a glance and knew how to approach them.  I could tell if they were going to be annoyed if I asked them the standard:

“Hi there!  Is there anything I can help you with today?”

We had a rule that you had to greet every customer the moment they entered the store (ten feet/ten seconds, I think, or maybe that was one of the other many companies I worked for over the years).  I could usually tell if they were there to buya something for a loved one and actually wanted to make the purchase or if they were doing a secret santa thing or buying a gift for someone they felt the were obligated to buy for, out shopping becuase the had no other choice.  That skill came in pretty handy, being nearly desperate to please, be accepted and liked by every single person I encountered.  I was told I was an excellent sales person more times than I can count but really, I was just so fearful of failure and rejection I was treating every encounter as if my life, not my sales quota, depended on success.  Anyway….the point is I had no trouble working in retail and was regularly one of the top sellers on any team I worked worth.

Christmas was a nightmare from December 1st until after the New Year every single year, no matter where I worked.  There was always the argument over who was going to have to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (in Canada, our “black friday’ happens the day after Christmas and all the stores have ridiculously low deals to clear out their stock after the rush of sales from December).  Every day was a long, exhausting process of greeting, assessing, running about the store offering products that might fit the customers’ needs, endless trips to the back room stock area to see if we had everything in a different size and then, if you happened to be good on cash (as I was) getting thrown up there with a line up of dozens of miserable, glaring customers waiting to dump their hard-earned money into my till as I plodded my way through the process of ringing them out.  Some stores, like the lingerie store I worked for while I put myself through school, used security tags that had to be searched for and removed, go over the final sale policy very clearly (because somehow almost everyone thought they should be allowed to take panties home, wear them around a bit and then, if they didn’t fit quite right, they should be allowed to RETURN them and exchange for another pair.  Seriously.  The go-to come back for that from me was;

“It’s a sanitary issue.  Would you be okay knowing that all the panties you’re buying right now  might have been worn by someone else?”

It usually caused a shudder and a sudden light of understanding to flicker on in the customers’ eyes.

Once you had covered all the info, the store had us wrap the purchases in a lovely pale pink tissue paper, add some scented beads and box the item, even if it wasn’t a gift, which slid perfectly into our classy paper bags with ribbon handles.  Yes, it was lovely and really made a difference to customers and yes, it was a great idea for the company to treat their customers that way, making it seem much more expensive and classy than our competetors, however, at Christmas time, when there was a consistent line of at least 20 people waiting to pay at each till, all that pampering made things a bit more complicated.  It was interesting though, as you looked down the line you could see people’s expressions go from patient to bored to down right pissed off as they waited, silently counting the number of people ahead of them down as we cashiers madly hammered in purchases and discounts and packaged and folded and explained and thanked and smiled and checked our watches ten times a minute to see how close our next break was.

It was exhausting.  No…wait.  It was EXHAUSTING and every year I could not wait until the whole damn thing was over.  Once it was, there was a zen like lull in the shopping centre, people just milling around, drinking coffee and fingering the fabrics of the items set out front of the store to entice them inside.  I loved it….we all did.  Those few days afterwards were pure bliss….until it started to get boring and suddenly your 6 hour shifts started feeling like they were 20 hours long.  It was in those times I learned how to create a perfect table of panties, laid out by style, fabric, size, colour and price point.  I also now know how to make a visually perfect stack of folded jeans.  To this day, the clothing that sits in my family’s dresser drawers are little works of art; like perfectly folded origami animals, each corner sharp and even.  The army would hire me to make their bunks and fold their uniforms in a snap if they ever knew….and there was such a job.  lol.

I could talk forever about experiences in retail, including about being assaulted, proposed to, offered bribes and being robbed …. twice …. for the little bit of change we kept in the floats.  But, this story is not about that….it’s about how much I’ve changed over these years.

Since Colt was born (12 years ago!) my life changed entirely.  Becoming a mother to a disabled child who was so unhappy and screamed constantly (I’m not exaggerating, he would scream from the moment he woke until the moment he fell asleep for nearly two solid years.  He would lose his little voice at points and let out the most heartbreaking scratchy silent wail of sheer misery…even while I fed him, bathed him, changed, him, rocked him….  If I tried to cuddle him it would cause panic in him and he would shove against my body with hands and feet with everything he had in him.  He could not stand the sensory overload, I learned years later, but at that time I believed he hated me.  It was the worst feeling I’ve ever felt….and I’m including being ejected from my foster family at 15, being raped, abused and everything else I went through in my early years.  I had produced a beautiful little human being who was the most unhappy sould I’d ever med and he absolutely despised me.  It was as if he already knew how difficult his life was going to be and knew that it was entirely my fault.  He sensed instability and fought to keep himself as far from it as possible.

(I totally understand that was not even close to reality now….and got it by the time he was 2 or 3 but then, on my own with his dad working in another city, hours away, and no family to help me or even guide me, it wasn’t a far stretch).

Eventually, I learned to pick him up and hold him with one arm, as far from my body as I could, facing outward so he didn’t feel smothered, and I would walk the house in circles crying right along with him.  We’d stop, eat through our tears, and then walk for another 3 hours, nonstop.  It was this that triggered a lot of stuff from my past that I had been avoiding like mad, refusing to feel.  Then PPD hit and everything went to shit….Dayne was so tired he ended up driving off the highway into a farmer’s field one night after a sleepless night and long day and very nearly lost his life….and then lost his job as we had no vehicle.  Then my foster-mother, who was always on the fringes of my life at that point, flat-out rejected me and Colt, saying she couldn’t handle the screaming.  I was now trying to support the three of us on 60% of my 20$/hour salary and I fell apart. All the mess of the past came crashing back in on me and it was too much to carry.  Therapy, meds, psychiatric visits…..it all started then and it’s been a hell of a journey since.  I finally started threapy, was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder and was depressed beyond words. The attachment disorder came to light while treating the ptsd from my entire childhood from birth to….well, pretty much to when Colt was born.  Of all the things I carry with me, its that one that I struggle with them most.  Anyway – that’s another story too.

Now that you have the summary….the reason for this post will make sense.  Today, I am nearly paralyzed with fear when I have to go christmas shopping.  I cannot tolerate Walmart (hate that place anyway) or a busy grocery store.  If I force myself to go in (Dayne, Colt and I share that task and all go together each week as its good practice for Colt to stretch his coping wings) I end up highly anxious, on the verge of a panic attack at times, twitchy, hyper aware of EVERYTHING including smells, sounds, movement….I mean, I can pretty much tell you what every person in the isle I’m shopping in last ate from the smell of their breath.  It makes me feel physically ill most times.  Last year, a woman next to us in line to pay had recently eaten some kind of salami and when she turned to stack her groceries on the conveyor belt I caught a whiff of that mixed with rotten teeth and I have never been able to even think of eating salami since.  I gag when I look at it.  Needless to say, this experience makes me rather unbalanced and bitchy, which I’m sure is a ton of fun for poor Dayne who is only trying to do everything he can to support my emotional needs.   It’s become so bad that even Colt has now takan to conforting me in busy stores.  He’ll put his arm around me and whisper in my ear:

“Just take a deep breath mom.  Close your eyes for a minute and think of being a home on your chair with a blanket to keep you warm.  Imagine Jack (our cat) on your lap and pet his soft fur in your mind….” while gently rubbing my back or holding my had.

It makes me cry.  That’s what I to do for him when he is overwhelmed.  In the last year or so, it seems, he’s started to understand that he can do the same for others and he loves to give it back….to comfort.  I explain to him how I feel in busy places quite honestly as I want to make sure he knows he isn’t the only one who feels overwhelmed sometimes, and here he is, not only understanding that message loud and clear, but also returning it to help the one who helped him.  I freaking love this kid.  Have I mentioned that lately?  He is such a wonderful kid.  He’s quickly turning out to be as loving, protective, and passionate as his dad.

Back to the retail experience – I remember, so clearly, coping with crowds and demanding shoppers and totally unexpected crises with ease.  Once time a guy came into our store and flashed us….flashed us and then started jerking off, right there next to the silk pajamas.  I didn’t flip out….panic…anything.  I got a few moms with kids into the back change room area immediately, had one of the other staff keep an eye on him (must to her displeasure) and called security and the cops, both of whom showed up in minutes and arrested the dude who walked away in hand cuffs, still humping the air like a dog.  I didn’t even think of that experience again for years.  No nightmares, no flashbacks (which I used to have but, thankfully, no longer seem to).  In contrast; In the present, the parking lot of the grocery store makes my heart pound if it’s more than a quarter full.  Where I work now, I’ve witnessed many medical emergencies including heart attacks, strokes, choking, asthma attacks with little children absolutely blue in the face, no longer even bothering to struggle for air.  I was at work the day one of our docs killed himself by jumping from the top floor of the parking garage I park in because he had been caught doing inappropriate things to patients while they were under anesthesia.  Just a few months ago I found a man in cardiac crisis stumbling through the garage, desperately trying to find his way out to get to emerg and I was ultra-calm as I took control of the situation, assessed what I could, and guided him to help.  Crisis, I do fine.  Crowds…..not so much.

It’s in these moments, like yesterday when I bailed on Dayne and Colt in the middle of grocery shopping to go hide in the car, that I remember; although I’ve done a lot of work on my mental health, the parts that stay behind will probably always do so.  It’s the stark comparison between when I felt I could appear normal to now that bothers me.  (okay, “normal” is relative.  I clearly remember smashing all the glasses in the kitchen I shared with a boyfriend who was rather….perverted in ways I was terrified of….raped me one night, insisting it was a fantasy of mine that just needed exploring.  After smashing the glasses I lay down on top of them, naked and bleeding from his strange forced fantasy, and ground the glass into my skin, trying to replace the emotional agony I was feeling with physical pain I could easily cope with.  He stood at the kitchen door smirking and watching with a psychopathic glint in his eyes.

“See Grainne?  I told you to trust me…I knew you’d love it.”

His comment surprised me so much it snapped me from my dissociation and got up, showered, plucked as much glass from my flesh as I could, and carried on with life.

I was never “normal” but once upon a time I pretended to be.  Now, I’m partially healed and I have faced a lot of demons…..faced them head on and shrunk them down to tiny paper models that dissolve in water or burn in fire and I can deal with life now.  Well, better than before at least.  I think that’s a win.

But wow, do I ever still hate Christmas shopping.  Just so strange how some things seem to stick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Rescue

Well, despite my usual fears and hesitations, I decided to adopt a policy of continuous communication with my two bosses over the last week or so, just to be absolutely sure they were understanding how much I was struggling with the impossible workload.  They didn’t say much aside from acknowledging my communication but they did try not to ask me for anything new beyond the things they were already waiting for.  They didn’t have much of a chance to be rude or dismissive because they were mostly at the other side (or were busy) so that was also helpful.  Then, on Tues night, just as I was asking Dayne if he’d pick Colt up so I could work late again, I got a text from one of the casuals who sometimes come in to help me out.  She had been asked by boss number one to help me catch up a bit.  Shortly after that happened my phone rang and the other causal told me the same thing, only it was the second boss who asked her.  Apparently, even though they were across the hall from each other, the two bosses failed to communicate their plans and, because my casual colleagues are freaking amazing human beings, decided not to let the bosses know of their duplication and BOTH of them showed up on Wednesday morning to help me.  LOL!  They are both very skilled and hard-working so I was able to toss tasks at them with little explanation and they worked at a near frantic pace.  Between the three of us, all doing my job, we managed to get a ton of work done.  Payroll was completed and audited before lunch time (it would have taken me the entire day to do it alone) and then one of them audited the entire month worth of statistics while the other reconciled my accounts.  I worked the whole day through without stopping once (I made them take lunch though, my amazing rescuers) and by the end of the day I had taken a five page to-do list down to two pages and was able to walk out of there on time, stress very much lessened.  I took today off, just because, and it’s now 215 in the afternoon and I have done absolutely nothing today.  🙂  It’s been wonderful.

Aside from the crazy workload, work has been pretty good lately.  I’m not sure exactly what started it all, but something has cued everyone (aside from my bosses) to start making sure I know how much they appreciate me.  They are a great group, both departments are, and I get along with everyone just fine.  They are always respectful and appreciative….so it’s not like they constantly take advantage and never say thank you, but most people don’t go out of their way to thank you for the little things.  These last weeks, exactly that has been happening…staff are purposely changing their usual routes through the hospital so that they pass by my office and stop for a moment to tell me how much the appreciate my hard work, attention to detail, for taking such good care of them, for being so dedicated and, sometimes, just to offer me support and understanding.  I suspect some of them have been talking after witnessing an exchange between the bosses and I.  I am *very* careful about the info I share with the staff and I don’t complain at work, particularly about the bosses or issues involving staff …..gossip runs rampant through workplaces and with over 200 people spread across two hospitals it’s nearly impossible to stop information that has been shared.  My coworkers are very careful about patient confidentiality, but when one of their own is being treated badly or being taken advantage of, they tend to want to protect.  The bosses have a terrible track record with many of the staff, most of whom have been working under then for many more years than I have.  The need to advocate is strong in these two groups but when it’s for someone they care about the desire seems to double.  I adore them for it…..it keeps my sense of self-respect and self-protection in sharper focus.

I tend to internally cling to this stuff….allow other people’s opinions and words shape a part of myself that should have no effect whatsoever  on my own confidence or sense of self-worth, so it’s something that usually repels me, being thanked and appreciated and emotionally supported.  It’s always been a part of me…wanting that approval; yet I hate that need and I dislike the part of me that seeks it out.  My therapist believed that it began when my parents died when I was just a little one and was reinforced from there.  Being taken in by a family who used things like love and support as bargaining chips to make me do and be what and who they wanted.  When I did not live up to their demands or expectations, regardless of how counter-intuitive they were for me, the love and support was withdrawn.  Of all the ways my father hurt me, the one I remember most vividly was him refusing to tell me he loved me because he was angry with me. I clearly recall being very young and accidentally pulling his hair when he gave me a hug.  He hated when people touched his hair or beard and despite the infraction being entirely accidental, he was furious.  I apologized immediately, tears filling my eyes before he even spoke because I already knew…..at four or five years old, I already knew.  I would tell him I was sorry and I loved him and he would flash a menacing glare in that sulky way of his, and would pointedly ignore me.  I would then spend days begging for forgiveness, telling him I loved him and that he was the best daddy in the world a thousand times a day until he finally gave up and told me he loved me again.  It was utterly exhausting.  Of course, almost every man I ever dated when I got older had similar traits to that….I sought it out against my own will. My ex husband Harry and then, later on, M were the worst two offenders when it came to using their love and affection as a reward when they were getting what they wanted out of me, and a motivator to keep me in line by withdrawing their love when things weren’t going their way.  Dayne is just about the only one I’ve ever loved who has not every punished me in that way.  I guess that’s got a lot to do with our ability to get along as well as we do;  we can be anything, together, and even when our thoughts, actions or behaviours are entirely at odds, our friendship, love and partnership never becomes a bargaining tool.

It reminds me of just how lucky I am in this life and how very little approval from the outside world actually means.  (Not that I want my colleagues to stop surrounding me with gratitude and friendship….that kinda always makes my day!)

Ahhhh.  Happy day off.  🙂  I’m going to finally go grab a shower and wander over to the sitter to get Colt.  All three of us are taking tomorrow off and we’re going to go visit my friend Tiffany.  It’s time for our annual ink and I’m really excited to get a new piece.  It won’t be a huge one this time but I’ve left it mostly up to Tiff to design. She has never, once, designed something for me that I didn’t immediately slap onto my body.  Should be a fun day shared with my boys.  🙂

Overworked

Stress overload today.  You would not believe how long I’ve been trying to post something to this blog and have been entirely unsuccessful.  I can’t even get an entire email out to staff without being interrupted a dozen times and all I have managed to write for myself, to get my head clear and feel like I do more than just work like a dog all day and then pass out to run through nightmares all night, is get a few lines written and then I end up drafting/deleting it.  I can barely manage a full thought…..in fact; THIS is the farthest I’ve managed to get in a while.  (So, if nothing else, I’m posting this as it is.)  I’ve closed and locked my door and my phone is forwarded directly to voice mail so, I’ll type like the wind and see what I get out.

Work is impossible right now, as I’ve likely made clear above.  The bosses vacillate between being pissed off that something didn’t get done and understanding that what I’m being asked to do is an impossibly unless I find a way to operate in three separate realities at once.  They get it….I mean, I’m doing my job, the job of a financial officer, a pay clerk, a scheduling clear, an HR consultant, a union coordinator and a statistical analysis.  Did I mention that I actually only work half-time for each of them?  A total of 20 (ish) hours per week, for each department?  Any one of those roles above could take up those 20 hours on their own…..all together and then doubled by department???  It’s not happening.  The biggest issue with this is probably me….I want to do it all and I want to do it all well.  I really want to manage all of this somehow but no matter how I blend it and revise my processes, it’s quite obvious that it’s an exercise in futility.  That it makes me feel like I’m about to have a stroke, burst into tears, vomit all over my desk and kick myself square in the confidence for being a ‘failure’ is all mine to own….however….my passive aggressive and full-on-in-your-face aggressive bosses are not helping the matter.  One likes to try to make sure I know she is better educated than I am and the other quietly seethes and tells me how disappointed she is when things don’t get done.  I work over time quite a bit and have forced them to pay me but there is no money in the budget for that (I know, I reconcile and track it monthly) so they compromised and allow me to build up 15 hours of ‘flex’ time, paid at regular time, which I can never seem to take because one day off from this chaos can put me so far behind again it’s ridiculous.

The other frustrating side to this is that there are people who do some of my job here over at the other campus.  They are not admin officers (and get paid a bit less than I do because of it) so all the HR and budget stuff is mine across the board *sigh*, but they do have some similarities in role.  The glaring differences are hard to swallow.

Here – We have two registration clerks who handle all the patient booking and we easily have 60-100 patients coming through per day.

There – They have the two secretaries, same hour allocation as here, and they have maybe 10 patients per day between the two of them.

Here – It’s absolute chaos here with over 150 staff to manage who all have office and treatment space located in the department where my office is.

There – It’s a freaking ghost town and the staffing levels are less than half.  They also do not congregate at that site but have office/treatment space on the unit they work for, so there is NO ONE around the two secretaries aside for one or two clinicians who see the few patients that come in each day.

Here – My phone rings non-stop and the registration desk is constantly in motion.  When the clerks step away for a bathroom break, patients start coming to me and I end up stuck there, helping them get to where they need to go.

There – No one calls.  Ever.  One of the two secretaries tells me that the other doesn’t even do the minimal tasks she is assigned and spends the entire day texting on her phone.  The other secretary, the phone texter, tells me that her counterpart spends her entire day chatting with her mother on the phone.

***I can’t even get a lunch in.  I work before my hours, after my hours and can never take flex time back.  When my bank is at 15 hours, I start working for free.  I discuss this with the bosses and they tell me….get ready for this….the other site is TOO BUSY to add tasks onto the secretaries over there.

…. (I almost asked them if they were joking when they said it).

So, I know that’s a load of crap but I also realize that it would be in the secretaries best interest to make their jobs seem busy so they don’t have to take on any more work (any at all, to be more accurate).  I sucked it up like a big-girl and just did my work as best I could and tried to draw some satisfaction from that rather than focus on how unfair the workload split actually is.  Then, one of the two over at the other site got a new job and my boss had to hire a replacement.  For some reason I cannot fathom, she hired a woman who, although quite lovely in personality, has the skill-set of a toddler in her role.  She does not understand any of the software, processes at the hospital, phone system, paging system or payroll.  She has to use the software, processes, paging system, and enter payroll  so…..kind of not a great start.  That can all be learned though, so, I absolutely thought nothing of it.  Then she was asked to do me a favour and run a Committee meeting when I was drowning and missing all my deadlines one week.  She didn’t have to do anything aside from record notes for the minutes and send them to one of my bosses.  She did…..but the notes were so useless, we couldn’t even understand them.  First, she didn’t capture any detail at all…not even enough interpret what the group was talking about.  Second, she has a hard time with english (she’s a secretary whose job includes booking patients and using the phone!) and, apparently, cannot grasp the written any better than the spoken.  She spelled everything wrong, mostly phonetically; i.e. Lori was spelled Lawrie, and she didn’t use any punctuation at all.  She capitalized random letters and sentences she did manage to form were in broken english and the grammar was….well, there was none, let’s put it that way.  She also has no idea which tense to use…ever.  “Bob say meeting Was cancel and Every body emailing to said to processed to department”  ……is an actual quote from the minutes (names changed, of course).

The boss who was on the receiving end of these minutes is the aggressive-aggressive one and this secretary knows how she is.  She didn’t even spell check it….didn’t ask someone to proof read it….didn’t even send it to the passive-aggressive boss first to see if she could double check the notes…nothing.  I wondered aloud why she didn’t just write it in Spanish (her native tongue) and then run it through Google Translate before submitting it.  That made me wonder if she even understood half of what she was hearing.  Maybe she just grabbed random words from the conversation and that was the best she could manage.

Right.  All fine though!  Not everyone can record minutes and if you’ve never done it, it can be challenging to keep up.  That’s okay.  That’s fine.  Except for the fact that she’s in a role where this skill is a requirement!  I had to take a test to prove my ability before I was hired here, into a lower paying, lower ranking job after my old job was terminated and I was put on layoff notice.  I ended up with a decent salary because my scores were very high…..I’m over qualified for this role, by far, but I was just happy keeping the work, pension and benefits so I sucked it up.  This woman makes 4$/h less than I do.

Four.  Dollars.  Less.   That’s what I can’t swallow.  The difference in workload …. we’re not even on the same planet there….and all of that is only worth FOUR dollars an hour?

I am suddenly quick sick of this shit.  It’s ruined my motivation entirely and I get angry now, at myself, when I get all stressed out about being behind.

(Exhales…..)  Wow…that was a lot of info I managed!  I got interrupted a dozen times but just refused to stop this until I was done.  And look at that….I DO feel better and more clear headed.  Just needed to remind myself that I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty for around here.  Time for another meeting with the bosses I think.  Will try to plan my course of action here so I stay in this level head space.  For now, however, I have two weeks’ worth of work to do in four days and it’s not the kind that can be delayed or put off so……back to it.  For now.

Narcoleptic Nights

I’m tired today.  Tired and stressed….so much work to be done and no time to do it (so I’m going to sit here and waste 30 min on a blog post….haha.  Grainne-logic.)  I do need to get my head on straight though and this dream I had earlier this week will not stop playing on repeat in my brain.  Might as well write it out and free it from my head for a while.

The medication I’m taking to stay awake through the day is still working fairly well.  Some days the *tired* creeps up on me but it’s not a daily happening.  I’ve been crashing early again…like before dinner early….but I think that’s stress from work mixed in with the change of seasons.  I love the fall but this time of year makes my bones ache so bad I want to rip my entire spine out of my body just for a break from the pain.  Anyway….dreams.  The days are okay and the nights are a bizarre mix of dreams, nightmares, suffocating, endless REM cycles and dreams where I think I’m awake but I’m not.  The dream I can’t let go of was one of those dreams.

**DREAM – (although I didn’t think it was a dream at the time) STARTS HERE**

The other night I thought I heard someone (something….) screaming outside my house.  It sounded like a wild animal….maybe a bobcat?  Sometimes the sound was human but not a noise I’ve heard any actual human being make, and then it started to sound like a little girl.  It was 4 am when I checked my phone so I got up to see if I could see what was going on.

I went to the window and then to the monitor that shows our security cameras that have night-vision lenses.  (Yes, they are as cool as they sound.  Dayne works with this stuff so we get to play with lots of fun new cameras and security systems as he tests their capabilities out before introducing them to his customers).  There was nothing on the camera at all….not even little bugs flying by, which was odd because they are always triggering our cameras to record their little light trails as they zip by in the dark.

“Grainne?  What are you doing babe?”  Dayne’s voice said to me, out of absolutely nowhere.

I jumped a full foot in the air and spun around to face him but he wasn’t there.  Strange.  I listened carefully, now fully triggered with senses on fire; I could hear e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g suddenly.  The fridge, the fan on the laptop from Colt’s room across the house, the fan in our room, the water heater and furnace kicking softly on, the electricity in the wires in the walls…..

“Dayne?”  I called.  It was much louder than I had meant to speak and the sound of my own voice startled me.

*Scream* – far off, outside, sounding more panicked than before.

I crept down the hallway back to the dark bedroom, peeked in on Colt as I passed to find him sleeping fitfully all tangled up in his blankets the way he is most comfortable, and walked into our bedroom.  Dayne was sound asleep in bed.  I touched his foot and called his name but he only wiggled away from me, rolled to his other side and resumed his deep breathing rhythm.

Huh. “Must be hearing things….” I whispered aloud to myself when I heard the scream from outside again, only this time it sounded like it was right outside my bedroom window.  Something rustled in the lilac bush on the other side of the window and a hand reached up toward the window screen, as if to pull it off by the little plastic tab that was (for some strange reason) on the outside rather than on the inside.

“Dayne!”  I shrieked, shaking him now, panicking and trying to figure out how to get the fuck out of there without leaving Dayne to be murdered by the screaming would-be intruder (or the one causing the screams which was an even scarier thought that flashed through my brain).

I couldn’t get Dayne to wake up so I ran to Colt’s room to rouse him, at least get him to safety.  I had a plan to get him into my car and lock the doors with the key fob and then return to get Dayne out of harm’s way.  As I left the bedroom I heard Dayne again, right in my ear.  “Grainne.  I’m right here.  It’s okay babe….everything is okay.”

I froze in fear.  I was looking directly at his sleeping form on the bed.  The hand outside had left the window but I didn’t know where it had gone or, for that matter, what sort of creature it belonged to, but worse than that was the confusion that overwhelmed me as I stared at Dayne lying in bed, sound asleep, while I could clearly hear him talking in my ear.

I crept closer, studying his sleeping face; watching for movement.  “Babe?  Grainne?  Come on back to bed.”  He said with not a single movement aside from the rise and fall of his chest as he inhaled and exhaled.

“Dayne?”  I answered.  “Where are you?”

“I’m right here beside you.  Come on now….it’s time to sleep, let’s go back to bed.”

I was now standing directly beside his head, bent over at the waist, staring at his lips from 2 inches away.  “I don’t understand…..I kept hearing this screaming….”  I said.

Still close enough to him to exchange breath, I jumped when his eyes suddenly flew open and widened to an unnatural shape and size.  I stood up and stepped back and, as if attached to my body with string, his limbs mimicked mine as he lay there.  His eyes rolled back into his head his mouth movements synced with mine when I spoke, only no words came out.  “What the hell is going on?” I cried out, terrified now, as he lip-synced my words and expressions.

I heard a noise behind us and spun, afraid it was whatever had been trying to get in the window earlier, but exhaled when I saw it was just Colt.  He was standing in the doorway, white as a ghost.  Dayne was twisted up like a pretzel on the bed, limbs following mine even though he was not standing, blankets getting knotted and wrapped around him as he moved.

“Mom?”  Colt said in a quiet voice.

When I looked at him, I opened my mouth to answer but the words came out in a scream; the same scream I’d been hearing outside only it was coming from my own throat.  I couldn’t stop it once it started.

“Mom!”  Colt yelled above the racket I was making, hands clamped over his ears.

“Grainne!  What’s going on?”  Dayne yelled, fighting the blankets that seemed to be holding him back, trapping him where he lay.

The scream tore out of me until I ran out of breath and then kept going, pulling everything from my body once there was no air.  I tried to stop and breathe in but it wouldn’t let me and I started to panic, clawing at my face to break the noise my body was making.  My heart started to slow and my lungs were burning for air, pulsing inside my chest, diaphragm in painful spasms, body starting to curl in on itself as the oxygen faded from my blood.  Dizziness overtook me and I fell to the floor, still screaming even though my body was no longer capable of sound.

I felt the last spark of life leave me and everything faded into blackness; my vision gone, my senses numbed and sending incoherent signals to my oxygen starved brain.  As I slipped away, I no longer felt any pain or fear but I could still hear the scream ringing in the background, drowning out everything else.  My heart stopped in my chest and I felt the blood slow to a stop in my vessels but still, that scream was still sounding.  My very last thought was that it wasn’t my body, but my soul that was screaming….and then I wondered what came next.

**DREAM ENDS HERE**

A moment of blackness was abruptly broken as I felt myself being roused from sleep.  I opened my eyes to find Dayne beside me in bed, eyes open and full of concern.

“Babe I’ve been trying to wake you for nearly 30 minutes!  You were scaring me this time.  What in the world was making you scream like that?”

I was too afraid to answer.  I didn’t want to find out I was still dreaming so I just shook my head, turned to my other side, flipped my sweat/tear soaked pillow to the dry side and curled up in my blankets so tight I could barely move, hoping to keep myself safe until morning.