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An Equilateral Chainsaw

It’s only been eight years. How silly to expect that I’d finally be free of it.

Long-term readers may remember that back in 2007 I had a slight problem with my job — an overbearing manager who (it appeared at the time) took sadistic glee in making sure I didn’t have time for out-of-work activities like freelance work, hippy wrangling, or spending time with my partner. She said it “looked bad” that I came in at five past nine, even though I frequently had to work through my lunch break and couldn’t get away until seven or eight at night. After all, she did the same. Got to keep up appearences.

She piled on the work beacuse we had a fuckton of it &#mdash; it was a new team, working on a new area for the bank. Despite advertising for three people to take it on, I was the only one good enough (hardly a unique comment). Come the interview, I was the only one to provide a rough sketch of how I saw the new system working (a half-hour task in the interview itself); that rough sketch contained three things that were clearly improvements on the current implementation plan that people more senior had spend three months on.

When I say I’m smart, I mean it.

I was mis-sold the role, told that it’d be a programming job with a side of systems design. It ended up being months on end of interminable meetings about goals and proposals and costing data sources and writing docs and spreadsheets for the vaguely-similar programs in use. I didn’t touch a scrap of code. The deadlines she provided were utterly unreasonable. In my time there, I didn’t hit a single one. The average overrun was two weeks; one was a month late. She didn’t get mad, she got disappointed (which is worse as it’s my mum’s old trick) and set me a whole bunch of different ways of “managing my time” that didn’t do anything to help and visibly ramped my stress levels higher.

I ended up unable to sleep, unable to think straight, in a constant daze of anxiety and depression. Fortunately, the NHS were some help; beta-blockers for anxiety, trazodone for depression and insomnia. It wasn’t enough. I ended up signed off sick with an end date of “when you find a new job”. I did just that eight yeas ago.

Anxiety manifests with a time-dilationary effect in me. The hour-long journey to to my old workwork felt like three times that, playing through scenarios of what fresh hell I’d face that day. Three subjective hours of trepidation and dread. I got one roughly three times a week.

Every so often, I stil get a panic attack. This morning was my first in a couple of years. The ten minutes between my alarm going off and getting out of bed stretched into three and a half hours of semi-dreaming in which I managed to sleep late, didn’t get out of the door on time, and had messages to run before I could get in to work and throw myself on the mercy of someone I know has no mercy whatsoever.

What an 'orrible start to the day.

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