This week was momentous actually. It was the week I said, I need help. It was the week I said, actually, rape is having an impact on my everyday, it isn’t working for me to paper over and smile over the cracks. It was the week I told my bosses that I was struggling with stress, and why.
I can’t take that back now. Now, when they look at me, they will know. What does that mean they’ll think of me, how they’ll judge me? Will they think I’m weak, that I was stupid, that I must have done something to ‘ask for it’? Will they be worried that they can’t give me the next exciting project to lead, because I won’t be able to ‘handle’ the stress? Will they think, but it happened four years ago, surely you’re over it? Will they think I’m not up to the job? Now, you see, they have so many reasons not to judge me only on my performance, but to qualify that judgement with excuses for me having a bad day, when I might only be having an ordinarily bad day, or reasons why a mediocre effort is regarded as better because I’m under more pressure, when actually it might just have been mediocre. One of my bosses, we’ll call him Big Boss, he’s worked with me for several months now, he knows me, he knows the quality of my work, and the effort & hours I’ll put in to make it great, and the pride I take in doing a good job. The other boss, we’ll call him New Boss, he just met me this week. What a way to make an impression.
But I’m not weak. And that’s why I told them. I get up every day (most days anyhow) and I still choose every day to function in this world. Knowing what I do about this world, I still choose to be part of it, and that might seem like an overly dramatic statement, but honestly, many days I think I’m mad to be doing it. I’m one of the strongest people I know. But I’m not special. Too many of us struggle with the same feelings, every day.
I’m not weak, I’m taking control, and that’s why I told them. The volume of work I was doing, the hours I was putting in, were causing me to feel out of control. Feeling out of control was causing my brain to go into panic, I couldn’t think clearly. Getting through the day, I was coming home and literally, literally, curling up in tears. When the tears were becoming a regular feature at work, that’s when I knew I had to do something, to say enough.
But everyone works hard, the hours I was working, evenings, weekends, other people are working them too. I had to tell them to explain why I needed to take action, and take a break. I had to tell them that I need to look after my mental health, that it’s a fragile thing, that I’ve worked hard to regain it, and I can’t lose it again. And I had to get their understanding of why I might need time off during the working day sometimes, because I’m on the wait list at the local rape crisis centre to go back to therapy, have some counselling. Because I do need some help and sometimes, saying you’re ‘fine’ just doesn’t quite cover it.
I don’t want special treatment, I’m not special. But even if I’m the only one doing it, I have to treat myself with special care & attention. I don’t know what will happen next week, and ongoing. I don’t know if they will treat me differently, I know I’ll be sensitive to it. But I do know I actually trust them not to, to be understanding, to do the right thing, as bosses, and as human beings. I work with good people.
There was a time I didn’t. At a previous job, I told my boss. She’d been a friend. Yet she used it against me. She didn’t get away with it, they had to give me some excellent terms when I left, but it took me a long time to trust anyone in a professional capacity again. It was a big step this week, a huge step. I’m relieved I took it. And even if I'm wrong, even if it all goes wrong, and my trust is misplaced, I'm still glad I took the step. Because I did it for me, I took back control and I put myself first.