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Category Archives: history

I’m cheating on my therapist (part 2)

You might want to read part 1 first. It’s kinda long…

Session number four (at least of the “active” sessions) started out with V talking to me about being bullied again. But this time, it was my grandmother that we were discussing. During my very first conversation with V, we were talking about those “resource” people and V was asking me about extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. I told her that I loved my grandmother very much, and that she was a big part of our lives growing up and into my adulthood. But that I had some mixed feelings about her, because she was always harping on my weight.

And like some weird television show, I had one of those epiphany moments. I realized very clearly how abusive my grandmother had been to me all my growing up years. How much she had damaged me, hurt me, bullied me, abused me. There was no physical abuse. She loved me. But she hurt me so much.

She compared me to people around us, other girls, other women. She told me I’d never be happy if I didn’t lose weight. She told me that I wouldn’t get a husband if I didn’t lose weight. She took me to her aerobics class as often as she could (very often in the summer when I was out of school), where I was forced into working out with other women of all shapes and sizes. Then she pointed out how I couldn’t keep up with this woman or that woman. She compared me to her (younger) friend’s daughter, a girl who was two years ahead of me in school. Pointed out how slender and in-shape that girl was, how smart she was, how happy she was.

She watched what I ate when we were together. She pointed out what I shouldn’t be eating. She encouraged me to deprive myself, and to eat only the things she gave me. She chastised me when I ate too much, or pointed me away from the cookies or the cake that she had baked for others in the family.

I was the only girl in my family, the youngest of four. I was also the only one of the kids who was overweight. I snuck food because I felt deprived of the food. Oh don’t get me wrong, my mother was watching me, because she, too, was unhappy that I was overweight. But she was more subtle about what she did and said. And she didn’t do the overt comparisons that my grandmother employed.

I went to fat camp, subsidized by my grandparents, because I know my parents couldn’t have afforded it at that time. It was a spectacular failure. I might have lost five or ten pounds at the time–the diet was very restricted and the activities were very forced on us–and I gained it all back very quickly…and then some, I’m sure. And my grandmother pointed it out, reminded me how hard I worked at the camp, and how I was letting it all go to waste.

I loved my grandmother very much. She loved me. She had her own weight issues, her own body image issues…I know this affected her and how she treated me. I know it affected her and affected my mother as well. That doesn’t mean what she did to me all those years wasn’t painful and damaging. As an adult, I understand where it came from for her. I’m working hard to separate her as the woman who loved me from her terrible behaviors toward me. I’m trying to remember that I’m NOT damaged. I am whole and I am okay.

My grandmother is only part of the reason that I never feel like I’m enough. Good enough. A good enough daughter. A good enough sister. A good enough wife. A good enough friend. I work ultra-hard, go the extra mile, do all the little things and the big things…and yet even when people are appreciative, I worry that it wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.

My mother had three boys. All she wanted at that point was a little girl. A daughter, who she could dress in lace and ruffles, who would wear sweet pink dresses and play with baby dolls, who would love her tiny tea set and be the epitome of every dainty little girl. I was none of that. I hate lace and ruffles–they made me itch–and I wasn’t overly fond of pink. I hated dresses. I never once picked up a baby doll and I totally ignored the expensive and lovely tea set that I’m told my uncle bought for me at my mother’s urging. I played with the boys’ toys, with the boys themselves as often as I could work my way into their play-time, and I wore pants and tee shirts. And I was far from the dainty little girl she had hoped for. Very very often, my mother would speak of me, and then tell people all those things…I waited so long for a baby girl, I wanted to dress her in lace and ruffles, I wanted to see her play with baby dolls and tea sets. She never wanted any of those things… Over and over my mother would tell people of my failures. My mother loves me and I love her. If you read any of my blog posts, you can’t miss that. We’re amazing friends. I’m in awe of her. I’m deathly afraid of the day I will lose her. AND she made me feel like I wasn’t enough while I was growing up. I wasn’t who she had expected me to be.

I try so hard to be enough. I’ve been bullied and abused and put down for who I was. I only ever wanted to be loved.

As we were talking about my grandmother–and in part about my mom–V asked me to picture myself as a child. I could immediately remember my little bedroom. The walls were painted a pepto bismal pink, my white iron daybed mattress covered in strawberry shortcake sheets (which were in part pink), the white dressers and desk that had once belonged to my mother, the deep cranberry wool carpeting that my grandparents had passed down to me from a previous house. The full length mirror on the back of my door. The tiny little black and white television on my dresser, under the shelves that held the dolls my grandparents brought for me from every trip they took out of the country (I had never asked for dolls, they just bought them for me). The window air conditioner an uncle gave us for my bedroom. V asked me what that little girl was thinking, and I blurted out she just wants to be loved….she doesn’t want to be alone.

In previous sessions with T, I didn’t really understand talking to the little girl that I used to be. I’m not sure why this time it was more accessible. Maybe because of the revelations I had about my grandmother and my mother. The thing is, I don’t know how to make it better for that little girl. I was alone. I felt unloved. I’m not alone as an adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, I have a good relationship with my father and my brothers. My husband loves me very much. I have a very good friend whom I’ve known since second grade. And yet I still feel not good enough. I just want to feel good enough.

I don’t know what’s going to come next. I was supposed to see V again next week but I’ve canceled the appointment due to my mother’s health. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about all of this when I have free brain time, but I’ve been pretty occupied with my mother’s appointments, her care, and taking care of her personal and business issues. I have another appointment scheduled with V in a couple of weeks. If I can manage the appointment, I will. In the meantime, I’m still seeing T, so maybe I’ll be able to address some of these thoughts with her. We’ll have to see how it goes, considering everything else happening at the moment.

 

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Me speaking to me

My last appointment with T (last week) was partially about Robin Williams, as I felt like it was interesting how it had affected me. RW was a part of my entire growing up years, both in film and on TV, and I was sad. Sad for him and sad for his family. But I also found it interesting how people responded–more about his life and his humanity than how it ended–so we talked about that a bit. Then we talked about how I’ve been kind of stuck on watching (or mostly listening) to Frozen. The songs seem to touch me in some way, and T encouraged me to continue to listen to the songs and “let them do what they need to do for you.” I don’t really like the animation–it in fact is rather offensive to me–but the songs are hitting me right now. So any time I have nothing on the television to watch, I put Frozen on and while I’m doing other things, I enjoy the songs. And it isn’t just “Let it go” that works for me, it’s almost all the songs…even though I don’t necessarily know why.

Once we were finished talking about that, we started talking about my previous homework. T has asked me to listen to a couple of specific Miles Davis songs, to see if that kind of music would move me, but again it was a bust. I see music so different from her (and others, I’m sure) because it’s more a “friend” or companion for me. It’s not about the emotions of the song, or even the words…it’s just about the companionship. I always have something going in the house–the TV or music–because I don’t particularly like silence. Sure, there are times when I will be in silence, but most of the time I like some kind of noise when I’m alone. I have tinnitus, and the way I chose to deal with that is that I keep noise on all the time to keep the tinnitus at bay. So television and music is just background noise…company, that is all. So finding the emotion she is looking for just won’t work for me.

We talked a little about the issues I have with eating–thinking about it so much, and how I not only pre-think it, but then I think about it as I’m eating and after I’m eating–and how that was going. I asked her if I’d ever told her about my grandmother. My grandmother loved us all, and was a huge part of our lives. Being the only girl, I got a lot more of her attention than the boys did, which was not always a good thing. My grandmother had her own weight issues, as did pretty much every woman in my family and in my life. As I was really in the hardest time of my life, pre-adolescence and etc, she was learning how to eat healthier and exercise. She went to extremes (which was “normal” for lots of people during that time period) on a low-fat diet, trying to control her cholesterol and blood pressure and weight. She went to extremes working out as well. And she talked about everyone around her, family and friends and strangers. She talked about their weight and how it fluctuated, and she talked about their size and the food they put in their mouths. And I was always overweight, so she put her hooks into me and tried to “help” me. She took me with her to her aerobics classes, and told me I needed to lose weight and eat differently. This went on for years and years. I never lost weight because I snuck food and I ate the things I wanted to eat when she wasn’t around. I hated dealing with her during those years, even though I loved her so much. I wanted to please her, but I hated that she hated how I looked and who I was. As a child, I had no idea that it was HER who had the issues and that she was projecting them onto me. At about fourteen, maybe a little younger, I was out with my grandmother and my mom. We were shopping for bathing suits for my grandmother because she was headed to Florida for the winter and while there she taught water aerobics to her elderly community every day. So she needed multiple bathing suits and she wore them out. So we went to Loehman’s, which if you don’t know, they were a discount store and their changing rooms were just a big open room where everyone could see everyone. We found her a couple of suits to try and went into the room to keep her company while she tried them on. After she bought stuff and we were back in the car, my grandmother immediately starting talking about some of the other women in the room. How heavy they were, how they didn’t look good in what they were trying on and if they just lost weight they’d look so much better.

I got so mad. I was always the good kid, I never talked back and I clung to my mother all the time. I never stood up to anyone, I never gave my opinion because I didn’t want to have a confrontation. Maybe I was younger than fourteen, maybe I was twelve or so, I’m not sure. But I was sitting in the back seat of the car and I said, “You need to stop!”

“Stop what, darling?” my grandmother asked.

I told her to stop talking about other people’s weight. Stop talking about what they look like or what they should or shouldn’t be wearing, or should or shouldn’t be eating. Stop judging them. She had no idea what I was talking about. I told her she talks about everyone like that, whether she knows them or not. And I said to her, “What if you overheard someone else talking about ME like that? That I’m too fat to wear a bathing suit? That I’m too fat to be eating that bagel? That my hips are huge and my thighs must jiggle…”

I don’t think she got it because I recall her saying, “But you just need to lose some weight and you’ll be so pretty!”

My mother looked at me over the seat back–she was driving–and I think she felt appalled. But she said nothing. I told my grandmother that every time she said those things about other people, she might as well have been saying it about me. Then I fell back against the seat and clamped my mouth shut. It’s possible my grandmother may have apologized and said she would try not to talk like that anymore, but I’m not sure if that’s real or I made that up as an adult to make myself feel better. I only know that things didn’t really change, as she continued to watch my food intake and my weight.

T asked me if I had ever told my younger self that it was not my issue but it was grandmother’s issue. I didn’t answer, but apparently I had a look on my face because T sort of smiled and said that it was clear I didn’t believe what she was saying, that it would make a difference. I asked why she said that and she said that every time she talks about being kind to my younger self, I make a face. I told her I didn’t understand how to do what she was suggesting because I AM an adult, and as an adult I understand what the issues were. And how was I supposed to talk to someone (my younger self) who didn’t really exist anymore. And she tried to tell me that younger self still lives inside me and she’s STUCK because I haven’t gotten past those traumas of my youth. I said I didn’t understand how to talk to “my younger self” in the manner she suggested. So she asked me to try to picture that day and picture all the details. Then picture myself as an adult sitting next to myself as a child. And then talk to younger self about how the things my grandmother was saying and doing were HER issues and not mine. That I’m a fine and creative child, sweet and compassionate, smart and worthy.

I could only tell myself that it was my grandmother’s issue, not OUR issue. Then I cried, and I asked T if I could go home and write this instead of saying it out loud. She said “sure” and asked me to email it her before our next session. I think mostly because our time was up. I still haven’t written it, but I will. I just don’t know how it will work for me or how it will make a difference. But I always promise to try things…and if they work that’s great. If not, I will try the next thing.

Anyone else talk to their “younger self” ? Does it help you?

 

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Flashback a la pants

I know, I know. It’ll make sense in a minute.

When I was a teenager–a fat, short teenager–I got a job. I was fourteen years old and the law in our state was that you had to be fifteen to get a job, unless you got a special permit. I got the permit to get a job. I was a mousy child, never really interested in being away from my mother and always a goody-two-shoes. Until I hit about 12 1/2 years old. Then I must have gotten bored with school or something, because I turned into a real brat. I skipped classes, I skipped school, I made a pest of myself, I drove my parents crazy. At fourteen, I wanted a job really really badly. I got my permit and I got a job. In an ice cream shop (Baskin Robbins, to name names). I was so freaking responsible, that by the time I was there for two months, I was opening the store alone in the mornings. I rocked. But I digress (and it won’t be the last time I digress). Also, let me tell you that BR cheated you (I don’t know if they still do this) because your ice cream scoops were hollow. I had to train to make scoops based on weight. That’s how the sizes changed back in the day…by weight. As a fat kid, I hated that idea, and so after my training, I cheated often. I scooped REAL scoops for my customers, except when the boss was watching (sorry for screwing up your profits, boss!). So hey, when you go for ice cream, make sure you get waited on by the fat kid, because they’re going to give you REAL scoops, and they’re going to make sure your ice cream gets REALLY covered by hot fudge…not that splat splat splotchy fudge treatment that they got trained on. Oops, digressed again. Just remember, fat kids are awesome.

I applied for the job and I got the job. But the job had requirements, one of which was a “uniform”. I had to wear a golf shirt with the BR logo on it (which I think I had to buy and I had TWO so I could wash one while I was wearing the other as I worked almost every day after school and after one day of working I always had ice cream spilled on my shirt) and a pair of chocolate brown pants. Did I mention I was a short, fat teenager? I mostly shopping in the women’s departments at Sears, Kmart, JC Penny, and another cheap store I can’t remember the name of that is long gone. I also bought clothes from stores like DRESS BARN. I was fourteen. It sucked. So, the brown pants? Unfindable in my size and shape in the specified color. So my mom and I went shopping for material at a fabric store. Also, did I mention we were poor? Yeah, poor. Not like middle-class poor (which isn’t really poor), but like, poor. So we had to find material that was on sale because I needed a lot of material for one pair of pants. And thus became my traumatic childhood experience with polyester. The pants were made of 100% polyester, which did not breathe. And even in the well air conditioned ice cream shop, I sweated and I had chub rub. My mom sewed me the pants, which were baggy and had a thin, weird elastic waistband because that’s the only way to get them to fit me. I loved working at the ice cream shop because it was always cold in there, and as a fat kid I longed to avoid sweating as much as possible. During the summer when we were busy and the doors opened and closed all day, letting in the humidity, I took breaks in the big walk-in freezer in the back room. I pretended to go look for ice cream or check supplies. It was fantastic in there. Oh, I digress…again.

So, ya’ll know about my crocheting hats with my mom for chemo patients…well, anyone with a medical condition that leaves them without hair. Really, the point behind me crocheting was making sure my mother had hats to wear. I know she thinks I’m doing it to give the hats away, but REALLY I’m doing it to make sure she has comfortable hats to wear. I even bought a skein of yarn that she looked at (3 times) but didn’t buy because I knew she loved it but thought it was frivolous. I went back to the store and bought the yarn without telling her, then quietly made the hat. I then took it to her and to my delight she has been wearing it every single damn day. I made it to fit her specifically, to the diameter and length she wanted. The hat is gray and sparkly, so she asked me to make another one with white sparkly yarn, so she had a second hat when she wanted to hand wash and dry the first hat. So I’ve been working on that, but for some weird reason the yarn feels different, even though it’s the same yarn. But in between those two hats, I’ve been trying to find a yarn that is light and airy, because she says most of the hats make her feel hot. So I found a thin, soft yarn, and I worked it to her specifications for sleeping. It’s just a cap, really, that barely comes down to her ears, sits close to her head, and doesn’t shift around. We fitted it several times before I finished it, and last night she told me she slept in it and it was PERFECT. The previous hat she was using to sleep in, that she got at the wig appointment, is a slouchy kind of hat that shifted around and ended up sliding down her face. So she’d wake up with her eyes and nose covered, and she was unhappy. So now she’s sleeping in the second hat, while still wearing the first gray hat every day. I’m so thankful to be able to help her in this way.

As a child I needed her to make those pants for me (and she made other clothing as well) because I couldn’t find what fit me properly in the stores. She was a whiz with the sewing machine. If I sat down at the sewing machine I could make a mean pillowcase. Or a tote bag. They’d probably both be crooked, but I could do it. Now, I’m crocheting her caps that fit to her specifications. What she wants exactly. And it’s so much flashback to my youth and those ugly, horrible, polyester pants.

 

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Weighting for the right time

Yeah, I know that doesn’t look right, but you’ll catch on quickly.

I’ve struggled with my weight since I was very very young. Though I don’t remember a ton about my childhood, I know I snuck food and ate hiding in my bedroom. If I close my eyes, I can picture the kitchen in my childhood home, and the exact location and drawer where the snacks were kept. I can remember how I learned to hide food wrappers in my trashcan, and sometimes in the trashcan in the kids’ shared bathroom. I remember the shame, but the feeling of urgent need to eat when I wanted to eat. Unfortunately, it was always snack-food that I ate. I’m not sure if I thought my mother kept less track of that food than what was in the refrigerator, I only remember thinking the fridge was off limits.

I don’t ever remembering “binge eating” as a child. I only remember eating junk food as often as I could find it and sneak off with it. Back then, there wasn’t this huge push to eat healthy, non-junk food type food. The snacks we had were cheap–because money was in short supply in our home–and plentiful. From memory, I would say that I always leaned toward sweet snacks, not salty ones. And my weight was always over the average for my age. Many times, I thought of how I weighed more than my older brothers. It sucked, but I was never able to get it under control.

In my pre-teen years, my parents sent me to fat camp. I hated it. It didn’t work. I continued to eat and gain weight. These days, I don’t suspect anyone would be surprised by that, as fat camps don’t work. Restricting a kid’s food for two weeks, a month, two months…it’s a waste of time and bound for rebound effects. As an adult just starting college, I joined a local gym and went for months. I enjoyed it, but probably because I went in the middle of the morning and the place was basically empty. I was able to walk on a track in a climate-controlled environment, listening to my walk-man, burning some mad calories. I used the weight equipment here and there, and I lost some weight. Later, when I was working full-time while I was part-time in college, I got a treadmill at home. I walked on that sucker, kept notes, and lost weight again. I was down to a weight that made me happy–to some extent. I was below 200lbs, and felt like I had curves–hips and boobs–that men would like. I met my now-husband at that point, and we started dating. I actually got sick with mono and strep throat at the same time, and landed myself in the hospital for the first time in my life. I got stuck in both hips, repeatedly, with Demerol for several days for pain relief while I was in the hospital. When I got home, they told me to take it easy, and my treadmill days went by the wayside. And boyfriend/hub and I went out to eat all the time. That poor guy…he was whip-thin when I met him. Not so much after we met. *sigh* <insert guilt ridden feelings here>

In my post Weight for it, I mentioned how I put on some weight after Butthead arrived. She changed my daily schedule, changed my regular routine, and I still have not recovered. And since she’s been here–and since that post–I’ve put on even more weight. It’s frustrating and upsetting, and I can’t seem to get back to where I was. I try to pay good attention to what I’m eating, but the obsession is difficult for me to handle. I can’t seem to moderate without going overboard. I’d like to figure this out, it’s not a fun place to be. I have a lot of stupid food issues.

I see my nutritionist tomorrow…the one who has helped me with my heartburn issues. I’m taking probiotics and digestive enzymes (which have their own “trauma” attached to them, sadly), which have worked a treat for the most part. But it has almost meant that I’ve been able to eat food more easily, which I’m sure has lead to some of the weight gain. I know I have an issue with carbs, as I tend to gain weight easily with carbs, but I can’t go carb-free because my body turns on me, physically and mentally. Here’s hoping the nutritionist will give me a path to get on that will keep me from obsessing over anything and helps me lose some of the weight.

Meanwhile, I’m biking for twenty five minutes, five days a week. And I’m biking at a good clip, too… and it’s made not one iota of difference with my weight. Which blows chunks. I don’t understand how that’s possible, which is partly why I’m hoping the nutritionist will be able to help me figure things out.

Also, it’s fucking cold outside. Just an FYI.

 
 

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The unknown years

When I was young, I worked. I worked for my mother’s office before I was legally able to work, mostly admin stuff and some computer desktop work. Filing, mailings, that kind of stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, but they paid me, and it was before I really knew what a 9-5 job was like.

When I got into junior high school–before it was a middle school, FYI–I was bored. I was bored with school, bored with studying, and I wanted to start saving for my own car. My older brothers all had cars, so I wanted a car. So at fourteen, I got a special permit to work, and I got a job in food services. I worked after school and on weekends. Someone in my family had to drive me to-and-from work because it was too far away to walk. After about a year, I moved into retail, where I worked both as a sales person and as a cashier. Most of my time was as a cashier. I worked summers, after school, weekends…as often as they would allow so that I could continue to save money. I bought my grandparents’ old car. Then I bought my own car…a convertible.

In high school, I was still working retail, but I also started to dabble in computers. I began repairing computers for people on the side, and I started using a computer at home. I learned everything I could about computers, about software programs…word processing, spreadsheets, databases. I learned to help other people with computers. I got a part-time job working with computers when I got into college. Then I went part-time with college and full-time with computers. I never wondered what career I’d be in or what major I’d have in college.

Now, here I am, after my computer career has ended, and my writing (and publishing) career has stalled. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to still be publishing and I’d LOVE to still be writing books…but I am not. It’s not working for me right at the moment, so I am at a loss. I feel like a twenty-year-old who is trying to decide what major to pick in college. I’m “back-packing around Europe to find myself”…only I’m still at home.

I never wandered, or raised a fuss, or partied, or lazed around. I worked from the time I was able to, and I educated myself on my own and through formal schools. I knew what I wanted to do, what I enjoyed, what made me happy and furthered my life. Now, I’m lost and stagnating. And bored. I’m living the unknown years at the wrong time in my life. And it stinks.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in about me, anxiety, change, feeling lost, future, history

 

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When I was (part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post, When I was.

I had a job that was important to me. I did my job well, I was respected, but I was overworked. Hub and I were newly married by only about a year. And I got sick. I was so tired, so much, and I ended up with walking pneumonia. I took a leave of absence from my job to try to recover…they were understanding at first. They let me go on short term medical leave, but my illness got worse. I got over the pneumonia, but I was weak and tired…way more than was normal after a virus. So we started going to doctors (which I talk about in other blog posts), but during this time I began writing. I wrote a book, staying up late into the night, writing until my arm was weak and my fingers couldn’t grasp the pen anymore. I slept late into the day while Hub went to work to support us…taking time off to go to doctor’s appointments with me when he could. Other times, my mother took me to see the doctors. But the writing was cathartic, and it seemed to give me life–a reason to find consciousness every day–as I struggled with my health. And with the anger and fear and anxiety and depression that followed me every day. I had no idea what was happening to me physically, but the writing kept me in another world that was normal and sane and happy.

My grandfather was sick…he wasn’t well during my wedding. Less than a year later, he died. I was so sick that I wasn’t able to see him much during that time. I got my book published the summer of 2001, so I was wrapped up in that excitement, even as I was still struggling with my health. And I’d been out of work for over 9 months, and my company finally told me they couldn’t continue to hold my job open. They said they would try to find another position for me when I was ready to return, but I was too angry with them, so I quit. I also wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work full-time again, because my recovery was so slow. So I started a new book. Again, it kept me alert and sane, grounded in my life even as I lived in my book and with my characters. As I was making my way through my illness, with my writing, with my new world of not supporting myself and relying on my husband for everything, 9/11 happened.

For years I struggled with my health, with doctors, with not knowing and anxiety…fear. And through those years I wrote books and published them. A couple of times I published through other publishers, then I decided to open a publishing company of my own. Just as I got sick the second time. It took me much longer to get the publishing company up and running because of my second illness, but I managed to do it. I had help from family, but the majority of the work was my responsibility. I did everything except accounting, and even then I did some of it because I tracked and paid royalties to our authors. And I ran this publishing company–which became a huge part of my life–for ten years. Along with publishing my own books. But the industry changed massively over the last ten years, and small publishers like us were becoming obsolete. Between that and the issues I went through with my Prilosec-fever and subsequent anxiety issues, I finally closed the publishing company this past fall.

I published another book last summer, but I haven’t really written one in a couple of years. Although I feel the urge to write, I haven’t really been able to. And it makes me feel lost and alone, without a purpose. Which makes me sad. Writing has always been the thing I turned to when I felt lost or in pain, alone, fearful, anxious, unhappy. Whether it was poetry or fiction, I always fall back to my writing. This time I am writing on this blog, but it isn’t exactly the same as the creative type writing I’ve done in the past. I miss it terribly, but it’s just outside my reach.

For now.

 

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When I was

I’ve never really talked about what my career was or is. Mostly, I think, because I’ve been at a standstill in this part of my life.

I started working very young doing office work for my mother’s company. Then I went into retail as soon as it was legal for me to do so. I worked through middle school and all through my high school years. Once I went into college, I ended up working full-time and going to school part-time. I was in college for a writing degree, but I was working in computers. I grew up in a time when computers were NOT common in the home. You know, back in the day when dial-up was through a 2400 baud modem. Anyone? Anyone? <chirp, chirp> Yeah, I know, a million years ago. I accidentally fell into a computer career because it was interesting to me and it was easy. 90% of what I knew I had learned on my own, and I took that and made a career out of it. It paid really nicely, allowed me to work at a flexible and easy-going job (initially), and so I loved it. I continued in school for writing–because I had always been creative and I loved writing–but I worked in the computer industry. And I remained in the computer industry all through college and after, even though my degree was in writing.

I let my writing go for many years. I found great interest in computers, as they changed often and it kept me intrigued. I also found out that the industry I was in was not so accepting of females, and yet I’d grown up surrounded by boys, so I was less than intimidated. I went from working for an all-female company–where we wore shorts to work in the summer and walked barefoot in the office all year round–to an engineering firm that was riddled with geeks and nerds. The only women on staff in the 50+ company were in the accounting department, the HR department, or at the front desk…with the exception of one female engineer and me. I became fast friends with the female engineer, and felt an easy camaraderie with my direct boss. He was interested in mentoring me, and I was lucky that he was not only knowledgeable and patient, but he was respectful of women. I enjoyed the challenge in this job, and made friends with many of the male engineers. I helped that company move physical locations by doing much of the framework for the new building’s network. I worked my ass off for that company, assuming (naively) that I would be rewarded. My boss was being moved up the chain of command, so I thought that my months and months of extra hard work would put me in line for his position. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company. He was resentful of my intimate knowledge of the company (I had not only written all the policies for the network and IT department, but I also was keeper of the company history)…and I was friendly with almost everyone in the company. With the major exception of the owner, who initially approved of everything I did…until he hired my new boss. My new boss basically sabotaged me to the owner, and within weeks of his hire, I was fired. The one and only time I’ve ever been fired. Called to the HR office, where a woman I was friends with for years gazed at me apologetically, and handed me my termination papers. Then I was walked back to my desk by the security person who I had helped train,where he  watched as I packed up my desk and then he walked me out of the building. It was the one and only time I felt set apart in my industry, despite always being in the minority. I even asked the HR woman why I was being fired, and she literally shrugged and said “you’re an at-will employee and the company has decided to let you go.”

I was incredibly soured on the industry at that point. I had a mortgage to pay for, bills that required payment, but I wanted to do nothing. I was angry, and although I interviewed for jobs and had offers, I was hesitant to put myself back in the same position as before. But I finally found a company that I thought would be good to me. There were women in charge, it was woman-owned, and I felt that I would be supported in my position in the company. Again, I was working directly for a man, although this time he was not as amiable as my first male boss. But he did want me to learn, so I took that as something worthwhile. I invested myself again and worked hard. This time, I was given much more opportunity, and I ended up running the company’s IT systems on my own when my boss moved on. I was given a lot of responsibility and I lived up to their expectations…and then some. I was extremely well-respected by management, and I was able to hire a staff. And then, like the previous job, the company decided to expand into another building. Which I facilitated very successfully. I continued to be well-respected by all the staff in the company, and the owner was extremely fond of me. Until such time as my direct boss–the woman I’d been working for for years–decided that they needed a VP of IT, and that I was not experienced enough to fill that position. So she hired an older man who had management experience, but almost no IT experience to speak of. And that’s when my job went downhill. He liked me just fine, though I wasn’t entirely fond of him. But he also expected me to work way more hours than was reasonable, and he dumped every ounce of work on me because he couldn’t do any of it. I was overworked and stressed beyond belief…and I got sick.

When I was part 2…

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in about me, angry, anxiety, failure, history, stress

 

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