Weekend

Parkrun yesterday: Way too hot and I pushed too hard at the end, which I regretted immediately afterwards. Apparently my heart rate went up to 193 at the end, which seems pretty high. I should be more careful in the heat. Trying to set PBs in heatwaves is kind of dumb. I’ve noticed my average heart rate has been increasing over the past few weeks.

I think I’m pushing myself too hard and I should be more careful of this because it’ll affect my mental health if I’m over-training. Apparently I’m running more miles than 99% of Garmin users, and I’m not being strict enough about running some of them slowly.

But overall I feel pretty good. I spent the afternoons wandering around in the sunshine, which is definitely therapeutic.

The only certainty is that nothing is certain

HR Lady didn’t speak to me today after all, though she was in the office. She had a 30+ minute meeting with Mike, which is probably the first time she’s ever had a meeting with him. This makes me think “hmm”. Is it about me?! He would probably have framed it as being concerned he’d upset me and not knowing what to do. I’ll be honest though, if he’s involved HR without trying to work it out with me directly then I’m going to find it hard not to roll my eyes. But maybe it’s not about me. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe it’s just a massive coincidence that his first meeting with HR came shortly after upsetting me. Maybe.

Later, HR lady went out for lunch with Becky. This has happened three times now. She is supposed to be mediating between Becky and me, but she’s going out for lunch with Becky. The last time this happened I ran it past my counsellor and said “is it normal that I’m a bit concerned about this…” and she gave me a very definite yes. I don’t actually WANT to be in a position where I might need to complain that the head of HR is showing a conflict of interest, and it astounds me that she is putting me in that position. It feels a bit… amateur hour.

She didn’t speak to me at all so I have no idea what’s going on (even though yesterday she cancelled the meeting between Becky and me with no explanation), and it hit my anxiety levels pretty badly.

I don’t need to be worried about this. If I get in trouble then I still have my “I just started SSRIs and they were making me feel worse” excuse. But I am worried. Why am I even expecting to be in trouble?!

Garmin watch stress levels: high.

I don’t like Wednesdays

I often find Wednesdays a bit harder than other days. Last Wednesday I woke up at 4:00 AM and had some intense stress and nausea over the job seeking, which surprised me a lot, because the previous evening I’d been telling my counsellor all about it and feeling happy and optimistic. Based on that I decided to just suspend any active effort on my part last week, and based on that I decided to see her again this week instead of leaving it another week.

I felt fine at work yesterday. Even my watch agreed my stress levels were low.

So I felt quite content and secure yesterday evening telling her all about my change of plans, and she agreed that avoiding unnecessary stress for the next few months was probably a sensible thing. She thinks I have a bit of PTSD, which seems like a serious term for being a bit stressed… but I don’t know. There’s a thin line between being a bit stressed and having a meltdown. I’m never quite sure where I am on that spectrum anymore.

Fast forward to today and I feel unsettled again.

Maybe it’s because my counsellor asked me about the future. Where do I see myself in two, five and ten years? I’ve been seeing her for almost a year but she surprised me with that question. I think I said “errr”. I don’t have plans for the future. My current plans for the future are limited to:

1. I should buy some Bluetooth headphones but I’m not sure which ones,
2. I am going to buy a new guitar but I’m not sure which one,
3. I need to sign up for a new investment fund but I’m not sure which one,
4. Maybe I’ll get a new job but I’m not sure which one.

There are things I haven’t done which seem like “grown up” things that I should aim to do, but I’m not doing them because they wouldn’t actually improve my life. Maybe I felt a bit guilty about that. Maybe I feel guilty I’m not actively looking for another job like I said I would. She reminded me that I’d previously said I’m not paid enough and I’m not challenged. I did say that. And it’s true. I’m coasting in a job I’m not sure I want to stay in.

She also asked about romantic desires. I drew a blank on that as well. I said that if the right person came along then I could see myself in a relationship, but “the right person” is an abstract idea right now. Maybe I feel guilty that I’m not going out and putting myself in situations where I might meet “the right person”. To be honest I just never think about it. I just don’t feel the urge.

Plus, my recent forays into “people” have not gone very well, all things considered.

So also.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the Becky meeting. I had ’27th June’ in my head, but I wasn’t sure why. Today I checked through my emails and there it was – a calendar invitation from back in May for tomorrow afternoon. Cancelled – that’ll be why it was only a vague idea in my head. But no, wait, it says it was cancelled at 2:00AM today!

HR lady works strange hours. She has sent me emails at gone midnight. When she’s in the office she usually turns up at about 11, takes lunch at 3 and seems to leave about 7. I don’t know what compels a 40 year old woman to run her life on those hours, but anyway…

So I’ve no idea what’s happening here. Why was it cancelled? The communication at this company is non-existent really. I expect she’ll be in the office as planned and she’ll speak to me about it… but… who knows? I went through it all in my head while I was running this evening. I feel prepared for it, but I also feel so pessimistic that Becky and I are going to reach an acceptable outcome for me that I just don’t really want to deal with it.

Boring day

The HR lady was back from a two week holiday so I was expecting her to talk to me about the impending Becky meeting, but nope. I did prepare over the weekend for how I’m going to approach this chat when it does happen, so I actually feel OK about it. I’ll just give an honest assessment of how I felt the last one went, and say I’m happy to have another one but only if Becky is a bit more constructive this time. Everything feels calmer and less important. That’s good.

Becky had a personal phone call this afternoon and stepped out of the office to take it, which is unusual as she usually just takes them at her desk. She once read out her credit card number and over the phone at her desk. This is obviously more sensitive than credit card numbers. Hopefully she’s just been offered another job…

I’ve had no updates from either of the recruiters I spoke to last week, which is underwhelming, but I have already decided I’m probably not going to move right now so I don’t care much.

Work seemed comfortable today. My watch seems to think I’m more stressed than usual but I don’t feel it. I think it’s actually measuring physical stress/recovery rather than emotional stress specifically, which is elevated because I started lifting weights again at the weekend and my muscles are not happy. I used to lift regularly but I stopped with illness (anaemia/internal bleeding) last year and suddenly lost a lot of weight. I decided recently that my self confidence would probably improve if I was carrying a few kilograms of muscle again.

Rebuilding

Over the past year I haven’t paid much attention to my finances. Money comes in, money goes out. Whatever. I haven’t been mentally healthy enough to care beyond that. It was one of many things that just went.

I’ve had the fortunate combination of earning a decent amount of money most of my adult life, being completely unmaterialistic so I didn’t spend much of it unnecessarily, and having a dad who showed me how to do something more sensible than just leave it in a current account before I was mature enough to be self-motivated on the matter. I always valued returns over convenience and putting a small block of money I have easily available right now into an account which only allows the initial contribution has always seemed like the right thing to do, but that means I end up with a tonne of accounts and funds I need to keep track of.

I’m kind of a nerd and I used to keep a spreadsheet of all this. Piecing it back together was fairly easy because I had all the information, it just needed updating. Updating it was a big job and unsurprisingly I found that quite a few things were sitting around past their maturation not doing a lot.

I expanded the spreadsheet so now I have a breakdown of things like how much of it is liquid, how much is in fixed term investments, how much my employer contributed to my pension last year, how much tax relief I got on it, how much of what I’m earning is taxable etc.

So I feel pretty good about that and I feel like back I’m in control now.

I discovered two things.

The first is that I’m paying more tax than I need to and I need to address that by making more efficient use of the different allowances. I never used to be big on avoiding tax because I used to feel that I have spare income and contributing to society was a good thing, but when you become the subject of a long and stressful police investigation which ultimately concludes they made a mistake, you do start to resent the fact your tax funds that kind of thing. Anyway, it’s what the allowances are for, I shouldn’t feel bad for using them.

The second thing, which I didn’t realise until today, is that I’m actually taking home less money from my job than I was this time last year. Even though I’ve had a pay rise (in theory), the fact I’m being taxed on interest from savings (the tax is deducted via my salary), and the fact that the government mandated employee pension contributions rose quite steeply this year, have left me with less money going into my bank account every month. This is… frustrating, but it’s also kind of liberating. I’ve had so much trouble at work and this makes me stop and check in with myself about how much emotional energy I should really be investing into it.

I worked out that so far this tax year I have actually made more money from savings and investments than I have from going to work (it’s about a 60/40 split), which is also good to keep in mind and will hopefully keep me a bit more grounded. The 60/40 split is probably a slightly misleading stat that won’t sustain itself for the whole year (it was 40/60 the other way last year), but maybe 50/50 is realistic.

Mike

Mike is the work friend I’ve referred to a few times. I thought I’d write a bit about that relationship, since it seems to have imploded.

I started getting to know Mike shortly before the police issue unfolded last year. He always seemed happy and friendly and I always enjoyed bumping into him in the kitchen. I was a bit surprised when he opened up about having mental health issues of his own. He has had severe anxiety issues and is on medication for it. Outwardly and superficially, you wouldn’t have realised, but as I got to know him I started to see it more.

In the aftermath of the police issue I found him quite valuable in keeping me sane. He didn’t know anything about it, of course, but I could always rely on him to distract me for a while. 20 minutes in the kitchen chatting about anything or nothing was enough to lift the fog for a while.

Over time I started to confide in him about my problems with Becky. He seemed understanding.

So far so good, but things become a bit strained at times. He’s 40, I’m 32, but in a lot of ways I tend to see him as being a bit immature. I couldn’t have a conversation with him about investments for example, despite the fact he used to work in a bank he seems to be pretty clueless about finance, which is a big bell ringing in my mind that he hasn’t really got his life together. Planning for future security and independence, it’s important you know?

He’s very friendly, but his life is filled with drama, which just goes on and on. It’s one minor disaster after another. You’re allowed a few, but at some point I start to question just how random these events are. We have students who work here on placement years who seem to be full of disaster. One went through 4 different phones, 3 laptops, and 2 TVs during his year here. They all mysteriously broke. He moved flats because his flatmates were mean to him. He was often late because his bus didn’t turn up. It was never that he missed it, it just didn’t turn up. With students you tend to give them a bit of a pass because they’re very young and it’s their first time away from home and they’ll probably grow up quickly. But Mike is the 40 year old version of this. He seems to function well in general, but his girlfriend mothers him a lot. He complains to me sometimes about the food that his girlfriend (who works full time) packs for him. He’s a nice guy, but his journey through life has been more of an aimless meander than a process of maturation.

His supportiveness over the Becky situation tailed off and he started being sceptical of the things I’d tell him. “If she’s doing that then that’s crap” was the first one. No, not “if”. He just plain doesn’t believe some of the things she’s done, which is annoying because she’s been kinda gaslighty and for a long time I questioned my own perceptions until I started to pin her down on things.

Then I had a breakdown in November/December which had me do something a bit stupid – I emailed Becky and called her a bully. Which she is, but it wasn’t a smart thing to do. The reason that it happened is because she was bullying me, but also, I had a huge amount of stress outside of work, AND I had internal bleeding in my intestines which had led to me becoming anaemic shortly before. I did not feel well at that point and I stopped functioning as humans should, mentally and physically (some fainting was involved). I’m not proud of that, but I’m not really ashamed of it either. People break down when life gets too much. There are no end of celebrities who have imploded very spectacularly and very publicly when life got on top of them, and it’s only after it happens that they look back and realise they need help. You’re handling it fine, until you’re not. This is a biological limitation which is not specific to me. It happened, I regret it, but I moved on, so, whatever.

But he’s never let me forget that. Every time something happens now it’s “did you email her again?”. It’s 8 months ago now and he still brings it up.

Over the past months he seems to have got closer to Becky. On three occasions since then he’s had me justify myself to him because she’s said something to him that has led him to believe that she really wants to get along with me but I’m just not cooperating. He once believed that I’d Cc’ed her on a complaint about her. I ended up showing him the email so he could see that 1) it wasn’t about her, 2) it wasn’t a complaint and 3) I didn’t cc her, her boss did! He suggested to her that if I don’t want to get along then she should just ‘treat me like a student’ (we have foreign student placements, who mostly stick to themselves and don’t interact with the rest of us beyond whoever is managing them, probably because they find the language difficult), which was really unhelpful because… urgh, I’m a fucking senior developer, don’t treat me like a temporary foreign student.

I feel that as his relationship with her has grown, he’s become less of a friend to me. And I find this confusing, because he’ll happily make nasty remarks about her to me in private. I can’t resolve how one minute he’s casually suggesting she gives sexual favours to her boss (I mostly filter out the stream of inappropriate remarks) and then adding in that she must have to “have a paper bag over her head though” (because that’s a really necessary addition), and the next he’s being friendly with her. I just don’t understand that. I couldn’t be nasty about someone behind their back and then friendly to their face. My brain just isn’t wired like that.

He suffers a lot of insecurity and he wants desperately to be liked. But the two-faced routine I see him do with Becky makes me distrustful. He’s insecure and he wants to have it both ways.

He projects that insecurity too. He’s a failed software developer who now works as an assistant to a manager (for a lot less money than me), so obviously the reason I’ve had trouble at work is because software development isn’t for me. I find that a little bit annoying. He dropped out of university whereas I have a master’s degree. His assumptions about himself do not apply to me. Writing code to make computers do stuff comes very easily to me and I do not appreciate him suggesting I’m not very good at it, especially when he’s never worked on a project with me.

A few days before the WhatsApp argument, I upset him (also on WhatsApp) when he was working from home. I commented that the person he sat next to had moved into another room so it was quiet in the office. He decided it was because of him, even though he wasn’t there(!). I just said “yeah, probably” thinking he was joking. He wasn’t and he got very upset about it and told me that he’s left jobs before because he’s upset someone.

He’s very sensitive to the possibility of someone not liking him and I’ve learnt to manage this situation. I immediately stop. I apologise. I acknowledge his feelings even if I think they’re irrational. I empathise. I try to see where he’s coming from. I empathise. I listen. I really, really try to empathise.

So it pissed me off a few days later when the situation was reversed and he upset me that he just dug in and started arguing with me. I uninstalled WhatsApp. That was a few weeks ago and haven’t reinstalled it. Although I didn’t technically block him, I would not be the first person to block him on WhatsApp after he refused to back down from an insensitive statement. Why do you keep dying on this hill, Mike?

This week at work he’s been tiptoeing around it, trying to be pleasant to me and I am being superficially polite in response, but… it’s just not going to reignite our friendship and I’m expecting a confrontation when he figures that out. I’ll be honest when that happens. I’m not sure how this will be affected by his assertion that he leaves jobs when he upsets people. I don’t want him to do that, but I’ve also learnt not to try to solve other people’s problems.

At the moment I feel empowered by my response here. Someone makes me feel bad repeatedly and I put up a boundary. That’s healthy. My mental state has not been healthy for the past year. This is progress. I will care what you think, but not at the expense of my own mental health.

But will it bother me when we drift apart and I see him getting closer to Becky? Hmm… Time will tell.

Doubts, indecision and mood swings

Second thoughts…

I don’t know if finding another job is the right thing to do at the moment. The past 12 months have been awful for me and it’s only been four weeks since it settled.

The reason I want to leave my current job is very simple: I don’t get along with Becky and being in the same room as her for 8 hours a day can be draining. I don’t feel socially accepted here, which has upset me, but it’s really just her. I don’t have any problems with anyone else and I get along well with most people. I am accepted and respected by everyone else.

But it’s not just that. She happened to add stress to my life at a time when I had too much stress, and having to deal with her on top of everything else pushed me into a breakdown where I had six weeks off work and almost killed myself. There are some strong and confusing emotions jumbled up here.

So…

I don’t know. Today I felt fine. Today I had no problems being around her. I felt confident in myself, and I just avoided speaking to her because she’s a toxic person. She doesn’t deserve my attention and I am not chasing hers. That is as it should be. So, problem solved, today at least. The prospect of switching jobs seemed like unnecessary stress, which I’ve already had enough of.

Bizarrely, something that seems to have helped my comfort at work is putting space between me and my ‘friend’ who upset me before I had the week off. I think that space is me telling myself that I’m more secure now and I’m going to put up boundaries with people who make me feel bad about myself rather than chase their acceptance. I have spent the last 12 months pursuing people’s acceptance because I felt so insecure in myself and my future. I wanted to be accepted so badly by people, some of whom I don’t even have a high opinion of. That’s not who I was before all this happened and it’s not who I am now.

So, job seeking? If I get any interviews from the current round of applications then I’ll attend them just for the experience and maybe I’ll get an offer that looks like a straightforward upgrade to my current job. But beyond that… I am tempted to leave it a few months.

I think I was overly optimistic. The anxiety and nausea I felt yesterday morning was just too much and I couldn’t deal with it at all. It’s too soon and I’m still healing. I am healing, I am making progress and maybe I shouldn’t be disrupting that.

Work…

Hmm, so. My mood has been very up and down since returning to work. Monday was hard, Tuesday was good, today was bad.

Today was bad probably because I woke up very early (4:00AM) and felt very worried about the job seeking. I think it’s a throwback to the police issue, where I’d wake up at all hours feeling scared, nauseous and just wanting to die. It was exactly the same feeling this morning. My body hasn’t recalibrated its stress response. It kind of made sense feeling suicidal in the fog of 4:00AM because I was scared of legal proceedings, but it doesn’t really make sense to feel that way because I’m nervous about changing jobs. I wonder if I should have given it more time, but I don’t know, work isn’t comfortable. What I really need is a 3 month holiday.

I saw my counsellor last night though and she said she could see a huge difference in me since the last time I saw her, two weeks ago. I was talking about planning for my future instead of just how to survive until the next session. She’s right, I’ve come on a long way in a short space of time. I need to remember that.

I found work hard because that was just how I was set up for the day at 4:00AM, which ironically made me feel better about the prospect of moving. I found Becky annoying. When I am stressed, I have a much harder time being around her. It frustrates me seeing her being polite and friendly and professional to everyone else. It makes me feel singled out. Sometimes I care about that, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s fine because I understand that her treatment of me has been bizarre and is a reflection on her and her alone. Other times, when I’m feeling bad, I just want social acceptance. Today I cared and I find it very hard to switch off from when I’m in that mood. Even now, at 10PM, I feel bad about it and I probably won’t sleep tonight because of it.

I found myself feeling apprehensive about the next meeting with her and HR, which is pencilled in for next Thursday but I don’t expect it to happen then. It was left before HR lady went on holiday that I’d requested to speak with her before the meeting, so I’m expecting her to appear on Monday and invite me for a chat. I spoke to my counsellor about this yesterday and said “I just don’t know how to approach this?”. She focused me onto what I’d said before, i.e. that I felt I’d put a lot of effort into the previous meeting and Becky hadn’t; that I’d approached it seriously trying to achieve some improvement between us but she hadn’t. So that’s what I’ll say to HR lady, and I’ll use words like “disappointed”, and express doubt that another meeting will be helpful if Becky approaches it the same way again. It puts the ball in Becky’s court and gives me a bit more time in which I might get a job offer.

I have my suspicions that Becky is looking to leave as well though. She’s not a career focused woman but I noticed she’s been active on LinkedIn (just what I needed to see when I clicked an update inviting me to congratulate an ex-colleague on their new job –  Becky’s face next to the first comment). She’s also had a few days in the past few weeks of coming in at 11AM, which is very unlike her, and a day off sick last week. Interviews?

If she does leave, though, it confuses things a bit for me. I could stay here another few years comfortably if she wasn’t around.

Promising starts

The official job search is off to a strong start.

I’ve had I don’t know how many messages from recruiters on LinkedIn. Probably about 12. I replied to two first thing, one hasn’t been acknowledged but the other turned into a phone call this afternoon and he’s put me forward for five different roles.

I have a call scheduled with another recruiter tomorrow, whose introductory message said he has three roles that may fit.

I felt quite jittery about it this morning and I was questioning why I’m doing this to myself when I could just stay in my nice easy job (that I hate), but happier this afternoon after speaking to the recruiter. I think I’m remembering too much about my last job search, 7 years ago. I think I expect it to go the same way even though nothing is the same. Back then I had no self confidence and the job market was terrible.

I still don’t feel I have self confidence, even though I have tonnes more than I did back then. I think something that has really helped me with that over the past year was seeing my counsellor. When I started seeing her I had to plan out everything I was going to say in advance. Sometimes I would practice it. Now I just turn up and start blabbering impromptu. I think just the experience of opening myself up to someone I really don’t actually know at all has been helpful for my social anxiety. I think, if I’m honest, my last job search was hard because I was scared of dealing with recruiters, scared of interviews, scared of employment, and I self-sabotaged it a bit.

Here is my watch’s estimation of my stress levels over the past 7 days:

stress

 

Meditation

Something I’ve tried recently and have been impressed by is meditation. I downloaded an app called Insight Timer (Android + iOS) and have been using it a few times a day since. It has some premium content but the quantity of free guided meditation content is VERY generous.

It’s basically spending 10-20 minutes calming your mind down, slowing down the racing thoughts and focusing on something else. The thoughts pop back in, but you keep hearing the guide, you realise you’ve become distracted and you re-centre yourself.

I’ve been doing it twice a day, morning and evening, after I wake up and before I go to sleep, and I’ve definitely found it useful in calming myself down in the moment. I have a bad habit of stressing myself out when I wake up at 4:00AM, whereas lately when I’ve woken early, I’ve noticed, put the earbuds in and started a meditation session and usually gone back to sleep after (or during).

I am hoping that it will train me to be better aware of when I’m slipping into negative thought patterns.

There are a lot of different meditations on Insight Timer and it categorises them by all kinds of things. I have mostly stuck to the anxiety section because that’s my problem, but there are a lot of topics – sleep, stress, relaxation, confidence, depression, etc. There’s a lot there.

I thoroughly recommend it for anyone who has trouble switching off.