This blog has been inspired by two things that I separately realised recently that have coalesced to cause me to need to write. When I need to write, it’s to get something out that’s been on my mind, that I need to be done with, to get out, which by getting out, gives me some peace. Unfortunately both are about work. But also not about work.
Control is important to me, it always has been. I’ve always referred to myself as a control freak, writing my lists and ensuring that the outcomes of endeavours were always as I set out for them to be. It made me a conscientious student and worker, it gave me a feeling of comfort, knowing that I was succeeding, knowing I was in charge of that, in control of my destiny.
I play around with control, to an extent, in my private life. It’s a relief, sometimes, to let go, to totally acquiesce control to someone else, within certain agreed parameters, for a moment in time – and this is the critical thing - on my terms. It takes a certain special type of person, of relationship, of trust, that we’ve built up over time between us, for me to give over that control. But when I can, it’s a beautiful thing. And brings so much peace. The world becomes still, calm, tranquil.
Aside from those few times, not being in control has always made me feel stress. It always has, whether at school, at work, at home, wherever. The need to be in control, and the effects of not being in control, they haven’t really changed. Except, that now, when I feel stress I feel out of control, to the extent that I feel panic. Lately at work, I have been feeling the kind of stress where I feel panicked. And when everyday, day to day, stress tips into panic, that’s a problem.
I’ve already connected the need not to feel stress to ensuring that I don’t suffer post-traumatic nightmares which then result in insomnia (because I am afraid of falling asleep in case I get the nightmares), which then result in tiredness, leading to inability to stave off depression on a downward spiral I always struggle to break free of. But, this week, I had a ‘doh’ lightbulb moment. I am feeling panicked because I am somehow connecting the feelings of being out of control to how I felt when that control was wrested from me against my will. Simply put, any stress is causing me to feel panicked because my brain is taking me back to the rape. It might just be work, it might be entirely safe, but my brain at its basest level isn’t making the distinction and isn’t processing that the two are very different.
This makes me extremely angry. The rape has effectively, if only for a period, I hope this will get better, made me unable to do my job to the best of my ability. Back when it was only about a year afterwards, I lost my job, because of the rape. My boss at the time said it was because the rape had made me lose my resilience, and she couldn’t rely on me anymore. I successfully negotiated better leaving terms because she had no right to discriminate against me based on what had happened to me, but I’ve often wondered if she was right. I’m not as resilient. Not at the stuff that matters at work, like coping with a normal amount of stress.
[I think in life terms, I’m incredibly resilient. I continue to live, to get up each day, and when I fall, to put myself back together. But that’s not what other people see. Professionally, that’s not what matters, it’s not what people see].
The other thing that happened is that a friend mentioned that it was my choice to work this weekend. I’ve been very much resenting work, that this week I’d vowed to myself that I would get my life back in balance – and I couldn’t achieve it. I didn’t think it was my choice to work this weekend, I felt very much that the work needed doing, that if I didn’t do it, I would feel the stress again – and I realised this morning, that I was getting stressed about getting stressed… Winding myself up into having to work in an attempt to avoid being stressed later.
So, I’ve done a little work, but not a lot. I know that tomorrow I will feel out of control, I will feel stressed, I will feel panicked. I hope I’ll catch myself in time, before the panic sets in, and remind myself that it’s just work and it’s not the place where I was 4 years ago.
But I am starting to wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t go back to therapy, not to talk about rape, but to talk about stress, and control, and how I manage both. Therapy of course scares me, because the point of therapy is to wrest control… And the danger of therapy is that it brings everything back so much closer to the surface and makes maintaining the illusion of sanity that much harder to negotiate everyday. So, I’m not saying I’m going to do it tomorrow. I’ve learnt over the last few years that some therapy works, some doesn’t and the right person is very important, more so than the type of therapy. But I promise you, I’ll give it some thought and I’ll find the right person. It may have been 4 years, but there’s a long way to go.