Every time I deal with medical professionals of any kind, I am reminded of a lot of things that I learned when my mother was terminally ill–and when I actually almost died.
The biggest things: always trust your gut about your own body; don’t hesitate to leave a practice if they aren’t listening; only see practitioners who partner with you rather than dictate your care to you; and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and others. In fact–be fucking prepared for that.
I don’t really hold the whole messed up filling debacle against my original dentist. We’re all human. It was his last day in the office before paternity leave. They had squeezed me in. They were behind. And my tooth was pretty difficult. I knew he struggled with it. He definitely cared.
But, as my therapist would say–while I can see him and have compassion for him and not be angry with him for his shortcomings–his shortcomings caused me trauma. Pain. Affected my life in a really negative way. And I have a right to a) not trust him anymore; b) not want to be the guinea pig anymore; and c) take my happy ass elsewhere.
This is actually VERY important.
My mother and father failed me. A lot. And for most of my life, I excused it. Purposefully didn’t see that what they did was neglect and abuse. I didn’t see it because I really didn’t want to. Because I loved them. Because I saw how hard they tried. I saw their intentions. I was angry instead at the things that made them fail. That weren’t them. And I was loathe to claim my experience. Loathe to acknowledge that I–in fact–suffered trauma and real pain that affected my entire life. And that it wasn’t okay. No matter how much they intended to be better.
Their goodness–their intentions? Those things don’t invalidate my experience. They also don’t heal the trauma they caused. But recognizing–just voicing that–fuck–that happened–well, that does heal things. Or starts it, anyway. I’m starting to recognize that the simple acknowledgement of all of that is true self-care. It doesn’t feel as good as a bubble bath. In fact, it actually hurts a lot. But acknowledging the truth of what was is a relief.
I’ve noticed that, in most cases where things go wrong medically–for me–it’s because the practitioners tasked with my well-being are not listening to me. The ones who actually help me partner with me, listen to what I have to say, and let me point them in the right direction. When they don’t, sometimes, I almost die.
When I had my surgery, my surgeon told me I was dangerous. I’m one of those patients who is really involved in her care, but I have this tendency to try to understand and self-diagnose. I have a bio degree and know anatomy and how the body works. So, I know enough to be able to do a lot of great research. I see connections. I try to figure it out. That, in and of itself, is not dangerous. What is dangerous is that, as a child, I was taught to minimize my needs and the trauma I experienced. I was taught to work through illness and pain. To ignore feelings. To not indulge my weak body–my brokenness. This becomes dangerous when you also happen to know a lot because–if you’re me–when things get to a point where ignoring them isn’t going to happen–because fucking oww–you don’t go to a healer. You fix yourself. And that means you delay treatment or maybe you don’t fully understand what’s happening–but think you do–and treat it with the wrong tools.
Or, if you do go to a doctor–as is my way since almost dying–you might fix yourself if you feel the doctors aren’t listening. Instead of just going elsewhere. Or you may keep letting them treat you while fixing yourself without telling them. For me, there is a pocket of rage that opens up when I’m not heard. It either makes me repeat myself until you do listen, or if I feel like you will NEVER listen (which is often the case)–I will simply disappear (literally) or just not share anything anymore. While doing my own thing, without your knowledge. See? Dangerous.
This month’s dental crap and many years of medical crap have led me to a few conclusions. And oddly, these things are connected to my frustrations with work at the moment.
Yesterday was my 2 year anniversary with my current employer. When I was hired on, I came from what could only be described as an abusive situation–with good people that I was very loyal to–who took advantage of me quite a bit. When I left, it was really hard because some of these people were my family in a way. I still regard my old boss as a big brother. Even today. He wasn’t abusive, but we were all part of this abusive corporate philosophy and way of doing business.
Someone recently asked me why women get involved with psychopaths. Having been in that situation myself, I told him, “Well, they never start off that way.” They lure you in and control you so much that you don’t even see the abuse. Until you’re in the middle of it–wondering how the Hell you’ll get out.
That was how my old company was. And it cemented my loyalty. Because that’s who I am. If you treat me well, I will hold on forever to who you were–blindly and stubbornly refusing to see how you’ve changed. It’s part of the pattern from my childhood. That refusal to acknowledge my real trauma because I still see the good intentions and still believe the people perpetuating that trauma are trying their best.
At some point, all abusive situations come to a head. And something has to change. So, I decided to leave. When I did it, I was very intentional about it. I was not going to work long hours. I was going to work from home. I was going to be paid more and have better benefits. I wasn’t just going to be what I had been. I wanted to spread my wings and use my actual skills. And I had to work with, and for, good human beings.
Miraculously, I found that. A progressive company with a fantastic, caring CEO; a female friendly culture with generous time off, a bonus structure, and a young, close-knit culture. I was able to do things I never would have had the opportunity to do elsewhere. My team was amazing. My manager was like my big sister. I was recognized, appreciated, and most of all: seen. I could be myself.
I had always struggled with being myself in work situations. Mostly because people in this industry are not ethical, often. People, in general, often would try to take advantage of my good heart. In past situations, I wouldn’t befriend coworkers because I had been stabbed in the back a lot. I had very rigid boundaries about what I shared. And it followed me here. It was months and months and months before anyone knew my parents were dead, for example.
But here–it was different. I was safe. So, eventually, I did open up. I had real friendships. I was proud of my work and my team and my company. Even though the work itself was really hard.
When I joined my company, we were in the midst of a lot of change. The company was started as a very people-centric organization, and that helped them thrive. They did very well, but wanted to expand and grow. When I joined, that growth was happening–big time. It prompted them to change compensation right before I got there. It went from a salary climate to a performance driven comp plan with bonus potential. Growth was not easy, and we grew really fast. People who had been with the company for years left or stayed and complained about how the culture–which was so us–was going downhill. I never noticed it because my team was stable and amazing.
But then my manager left. And while she was replaced by a teammate–it became very different as the team shifted due to people having babies. I was suddenly in the middle of this very tense stand-off between friends. And I could see all sides. It was not fun for me.
I also quickly realized that my old manager had shielded us from a lot of things that our new manager either couldn’t or wouldn’t shield us from. It was also clear this new manager was really trying to climb the ladder and really struggling in her role. I offered support as much as possible. I weathered the change well, as I usually do, and actually had my best year in this profession–from a production perspective. But my enjoyment of the job plummeted and my stress skyrocketed. I was not working long hours, but I dreaded work. The standoff got worse and things changed again. And again–I was in the middle.
Then shit happened with my client and I was moved, for what was supposed to be a couple weeks, to a long-standing client in an industry I just don’t enjoy. I was tasked with doing things I did as an entry-level employee. I was bored out of my mind. Mostly because I wasn’t using any of my skills–the skills I’m paid for–the things that have made me so successful. The things that allow me to actually enjoy my job. I had worked hard to not have to do these things. At first, it was whatever. I looked at it as a vacation. Which I actually needed. But it slowly became clear that the goalposts for the new client launch were constantly moving. So, a couple weeks has now been a month. I get that delays occur, but there was zero communication about it to me–or my manager. I was in this limbo. I fucking hate limbo. Considering how everything went down with my old client, I was super frustrated. Then, this week, I was told I’d be moving to the new client on Monday–but that it may be pushed back a bit. Due to that, I pushed my wisdom tooth stuff off to mid-May–when I could have had it done next week. Then I got a random meeting request with no explanation. That happened yesterday. It was my new interim manager introducing himself. The meeting went fine, but it made me less enthused. Mostly because now I was being told the launch was happening the week of my wisdom tooth appointment. At that point, my frustration showed a bit and I basically laid it out that I had time off scheduled for that week and I was not changing it. He took it fine, but the whole thing felt so disrespectful to me. It didn’t inspire much confidence–especially when he shared that the contract hasn’t been signed and this isn’t a long-term thing. This is a trial to see if we’re worthy. Which means–as a lead–my ass will be under fire. During my recovery from oral surgery. Which they’ve known about for 2 months. Communicating with me–so I could have done it while I was thumb-twiddling would have been nice. Respectful. Would have shown they had even an iota of concern for my well-being. So, I was not pleased.
I’m a woman of my word, so I will launch with them and I have no doubt that if the trial fails–which it might considering how badly they’ve communicated with me and others–and how mismanaged this has been from the get-go–I will likely be whatever to them. I’ve worked really hard and have a stellar reputation, so no matter what, I think my job is secure. There are other clients and my managers love me. But if it goes south–or even if it doesn’t–do I want to work for a company that has become this?
This isn’t the company I love. I have been shielded from a lot of shit. I had good fortune to be surrounded by good people. But these people? They have treated me like I’m a resource–not a human being with a life. And that angers me. And that makes me seriously worry about where this ship is going.
Mostly because that’s what happened to my last company. That was what was wrong with all my past shitty employers. That’s what is wrong with all the effed up everything in this world.
I work in a people-centric business. My humanity is what makes me the best at what I do. I am an expert at fixing shit because I have strong relationships. I never ever ever approach anyone with the mindset of what can you do for me. I don’t use people. So many of our competitors have that as a core value–using people. And it shows. It’s this icky philosophy of growth at all costs. Of lying to secure and win business. Of running people into the ground because you can. Of not paying well–low-balling at every opportunity. And clients leave because of it. Mostly because it’s a terrible way to run a business. While you might make huge profits, you burn out your workforce; alienate the people you need to succeed; and don’t deliver on what you promise.
And this is what my company’s culture is steering towards, and I realized it when I was referred to as a resource.
This shit is the same thing that makes for bad medical care. That rush to make money–to do more and more and more. Fucking greed. Capitalism. I hate it. I want no part of it.
So, what do I do exactly? I was talking to my work friend who is in the same place. We are each other’s sanity right now. I told her I would follow through on my promise–give it my best shot–but I’m not investing in this place more than I have to. They don’t have my back. I’m not safe giving them all I have to give. It’s sad and disheartening. I had hoped that this new client would help me feel better about the shit I’ve witnessed this month–but this is just kind of devastating and the worst kind of thud I’ve had professionally since it became clear I had to leave my last job. I love a lot of people here. But it’s going the wrong way.
I have never wanted to do this work forever. That was not my plan. But I had hoped this would be the last job I had before leaving corporate work for good–for my own stuff. Do I go to a competitor that will pay more, but will be the same? Or stay with the devil I know–that I believe could turn around and be the entity I know them to be?
It’s that same abusive situation. Running over and over in my life. I can’t just leave this whole thing and do my own shit. I’ve tried before and it wasn’t pretty. And I’m not able to be what I need to be anytime soon.
The only thing I can think to do is tell the truth to myself; practice lots of self-care and boundaries; and work really hard to make my actual goals happen. I’ve given too much to these things that weren’t serving that. So, maybe I won’t win a trip next year, but maybe I will find an exit to a life I’ve earned and deserve.