I can't pinpoint the source, but something has caused my anxiety level to shoot through the roof this week - maybe even last week, too, after we got back from Boston. My first day back to work was last Tuesday and it was the 3rd day of our office being bombarded with calls about the gas shortage in the western part of North Carolina. Since I missed out on most of the calls while we were gone, I sort of got thrown in the ring on Tuesday and had NO IDEA how nasty these callers were. Again. First Asheville, now it was Charlotte.
The first day back from a vacation is always hard because you've usually been gone long enough to have had time to shake the rage and tension from your system. Then you come back and it starts all over again, but that first day is tough to take - it's like no other. The only good part about last week was after Tuesday, we were allowed to shut down the phones Wednesday, Thursday and Friday since people were being so hateful. Callers went straight to voice mail where they were greeted with a recording regarding the gas shortage then allowed to leave a voice mail. When they were on, we were constantly answering the phones and getting no work done. It was a gift from Heaven not to have to answer phones for 3 days. I've been here 3 years and that's NEVER happened before. We had to check messages every 30 minutes during our normal phone duty and return any calls that weren't about the gas shortage. I'd much rather handle phones like that ALL the time rather than the way we do it now. Most people don't leave messages and if they do, they are usually so self-absorbed, they don't remember to leave either their name, number or what they are calling about. NOTE: To the folks who call and say "My name is Tom and my number is 919-555-5555" and hang up - we ain't calling you back for sport - tell us WHAT YOU WANT and we'll call you back (maybe). People have NO phone etiquette.
In any case, it was refreshing to be off phones for 3 days. I was hoping for a 4th day on Monday, but no suck luck. We've been back on regular phone duty all week. While we're not being run over with nearly as many calls about the gas, calls are still coming in, and the callers are still just as belligerent. Everyday this week, shortly after I've gotten to work, I just melt into a ball of nerves and anxiety. It's miserable. I'm not even on phone duty first thing, but just to hear them ring seems to send me into a tailspin. Oddly enough, I'm the least anxious when I'm actually ON phones which tells me my anxiety builds just knowing what's coming. I hate it. Sometimes I can't believe I've been doing this for 3 years on November 1st. I've tried to leave before - had a job interview once and really wanted the job but didn't get it. The only time I've not had to answer phones was during my first week, one day last year when I had a cold and coughed so much I lost my voice, and the 3 days of last week. That's 8 days in 3 years I've not had to answer phones while I was at work. Geesh.
During my first few sessions of therapy, I talked to my psychologist about my anxiety since that is what bothers me most and is seriously disrupting my life. She gave me a few tips on dealing with moments of stress and anxiety. I tried them out and they seemed to be working, but then this week happened, and my progress seems to have been shot to hell. You know that nervous feeling you got in high school when you had to give an oral presentation? You'd have butterflies, and clammy hands, and no matter what you did you just couldn't relax until it was over? That's me. That's how I've felt this week. Just jittery and nervous for seemingly no reason and with no trigger. I can say for the most part it's probably because of the phones, but then it happens at home, too. Home is the one place that feels anxiety free usually. I can't lose home. It's my haven.
I'm tired of this roller coaster. I don't know how to get a grip on things. I'm literally counting the days until this job is over. I've got October, November, December and most of January. Each day, I think that's no time at all, but right now it seems endless. My mind is crossing off days quicker than the calendar is. I wonder if my next job will help me regain my sense of control over myself? I wonder if after enough time passes and I slowly start to forget how horrible these phones are if my mind will begin to heal itself? I wonder if I'll be able to go in public, a job interview, hang out with friends, even simple things like going to a meeting with 20 or less people, will I be able to do any of these things without flipping out? It's scary to think how my anxiety owns me. I have no idea how I got to this place, but it's the worst feeling when you end up planning your life around anxiety or even the fear of anxiety.
Someone who doesn't work in our section made a joke last week about all of us getting PTSD after we leave here. I said "GETTING?!?! How about HAVE?" Oddly enough, when I told my psychologist about my job she too, mentioned it sounding like PTSD. That's just wrong. I'm not saying I was forced into this job and I take a bit of responsibility for accepting the job, but in my defense, I was NOT told about these phones. If they had told me or I had experienced them before starting work, there's no way I'd have signed on for this. I've almost quit several times, had a resignation letter typed up and everything, but I'm not irresponsible, and I can't abandon my job without having another one waiting in the wings. That makes it hard. I'd love to cash it all in and stay home, but I don't have that luxury, and I don't think it'd be fair to put all the financial responsibility on Seth. In any case, I have a desire to be happy at work and be happy at home. I want to work - I want to contribute to SOMETHING. I don't think that's asking for much. I hope this job crosses me off as having paid my dues to the "needy," but I'd much rather be on a different kind of team helping the needy. Mostly, our callers just see us as their punching bag and for lack of a better way of putting it, it's ruined me and it's ruined my life.
I don't usually share this stuff with anyone. I guess I felt like the internet would understand.