Lovely friends,

Today, 18th January 2019, marks twenty years since I was first diagnosed with a mental illness.

My oldest friends have laughed with me and commented that in hindsight it was obvious - these days my mental illness would be identified much earlier, probably primary school. But my oldest friends might also pause to think, hang on - twenty years? Has it been that long?

The biggest changes over the past twenty years haven't been in me, or my treatment, or my mental health. The biggest changes have been in our society's attitudes towards mental illness.

You see, it isn't just about the diagnosis. It's about the shame, the stigma, the fear. The bloody stupid, damaging, dangerous secrecy.

The first time I was seriously depressed was in 1996. I was self-harming, as teenagers often do when their feelings overwhelm them. I told my friends, who told the counsellor. The counsellor told me that I was overreacting, and suggested my parents should ground me. And that was as far as it went. It could so easily have turned out badly. It was months before I could see any point in living at all, but I had some wonderful friends who stuck by me despite every attempt on my part to alienate them.

In 1999, I saw another counsellor, who sent me to a doctor, who told me that I was suffering from an episode of depression, probably compounded by anxiety. She prescribed me my first SSRIs (antidepressants) and I had the first good night's sleep I ever remembered. 

That GP wanted me to see a proper psychologist, and get proper help, though, and here's where I see the biggest changes in our society: I didn't. I didn't tell anybody, not my friends or my family. I didn't book in to see a psychologist. I didn't even go back to that same GP again. I did not tell one single solitary person about that diagnosis. I suffered in silence for two more years.

When I finally decided it was time to get proper help, I was at uni. This was early 2001. By this stage I had a series of increasingly severe phobias, including the one everyone noticed - that phobia about planes crashing into me - as well as the secret phobia, where I panicked about going up and down stairs. I rang up the uni medical centre and they arranged an appointment.

On the first floor.

There was no lift.

It was just like at the university library: there probably was a lift, but it wasn't accessible to the general public. I was too embarrassed to tell the staff that I couldn't use the stairs. Clearly I could: I wasn't in a wheelchair! In those days I didn't even have the words to be able to say, "I have a mental illness and I struggle to use the stairs. Do you think I could use the lift?"

I left without seeing the psychologist, and instead spent a whole fortnight's pay (I was a part-time working uni student remember!) to see a private psychiatrist in the city, in a proper tall building where everyone used the lift.

It was then that I finally told my parents and my closest friends about my diagnosis. Nobody really knew much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, except that it was supposed to be all about washing one's hands, which I didn't do any more than a regular person, but it was okay. I wasn't shunned. The few people who knew tried really hard to show that they were supportive, and did their best to help.

The first time I told my work colleagues I was a dental assistant. I was surrounded by people whose job involved washing their hands dozens, if not hundreds, of times per day, and regularly administered drugs to patients that altered their moods and consciousness. Most of my colleagues didn't mind at all, and a few went out of their way to read up about OCD.

Over the years I became gradually more and more open about it. My extended family found out; as far as they were concerned my OCD was no weirder than my habit of hiding under the dining table with a book while everyone else was outside playing cricket. I started new jobs and made a point of being open with my colleagues: when it came up I would mention that I had a mental illness. By now mental illness was being talked about. 1 in 4 people might have a mental illness. People were taking all kinds of SSRIs, not just the old Prozac. Jack Nicholson was on our screens counting the cracks and checking the light switches and being the hero of the romcom. Occasionally somebody would say something rude about my 'craziness' but I was always much ruder back.

The first time I announced it - "I have a mental illness" - to a general audience was at a Mental Health First Aid course at work. There were a few surprised faces among my colleagues on the course, but none were as surprised as I was when the trainer showed us that OCD can be as debilitating, as disabling, as paraplegia.

That course marked the start of a huge cultural shift in my workplace. Not long after the course I had a phone call from a middle-aged tradie in a remote country town asking me what he should do - his staff member was feeling suicidal. He'd asked the questions just like we learned, and now he needed some help. But - stressed the gruff voice on the phone - he wanted to deal with it in a sensitive way. He didn't want the suicidal colleague feeling judged.

After that phone call, I sat down at my desk and cried. It was one thing for my close colleagues - the HR team and the health professionals - to be understanding (my boss saw me crying and apart from checking I was okay, he didn't even bat an eyelid). It was another thing entirely for a very blokey bloke in a blokey workplace culture to be talking about the best ways to support a colleague through a mental illness, asking for assistance in ensuring that his colleague didn't feel less valued or respected while also getting the help he needed.

For me, that was the day I realised we'd made it. Sure, there are still a small number of people out there thinking that mental illness is a sign of weakness, or craziness, or that it's all made up. But that isn't the general consensus in our society any more.

We still have a long way to go: mental health services are grossly underfunded, crisis support is limited or nonexistent in some parts of the country, and there are still twice as many suicides as there are road accident deaths in Australia.

I personally still have a long way to go. I spent the whole of 2018 unmedicated, and there are lots of people who will want to congratulate me for that. Please don't. It isn't permanent: my mental illness changes over time, getting better and worse in waves. I have no doubt that one day in the future I'll be back on medication, and there's no shame in that. Hopefully I'll catch it quickly enough that I will not develop any really difficult obsessions or compulsions ("OCD is like a box of chocolates you stole from an evil wizard. You never know what you're gonna get.")

I could try and tell you what I've learned from having a mental illness, or where it has taken me, but we don't have another twenty years to cover it all.

After my time as a crisis counsellor I try to avoid giving advice. It's self-indulgent and it doesn't work. What I will do, though, is ask you take a moment to look at your own life. When did you last read or hear a news story about mental health or suicide prevention? When did you last see a friend posting about mental illness, or RUOK? When did you last have a conversation with someone about how they were feeling, and how their mental health is? When did you last say you needed to stay home and have a mental health day (and secretly, you really meant it!)?

The biggest change in the past twenty years is not in me, or my treatment, or my mental health. The biggest change in the past twenty years is - you.

Hello, your close friend Behr here, aka Itzak Berky.

We arrived last night in Volgograd via military transport planes (fast becoming my favorite mode of travel, although private jet remains my most favorite). The bearded men are confusing me. On the one hand they talk about how much they "want" me. On the other hand they keep telling me they hate me. Apparently (according to bearded Russian men) when I was injected with chemicals and dosed with radiation by my adoptive father and set loose as The Bear of Berlin, I killed hundreds of Red Army soldiers with my ball-peen hammer and biting mouth with retractable jaw. So, they are still mad about that business, but they creep me out the way they look at me and say, "We want him." I don't think it is sexual but you never know.

The two children are insisting that the bearded men let us all go so they can throw me into a fire. I've never felt so loved in all my life because also the dead German soldiers who glow red with spooky eyes want me as well. They are surrounding the city and trying to start a seige. The large dude in the fancy uniform with the pretty lightning bolts on his lapel is riding his horse around the city in the air instead of on the ground where horses and cattle belong. And people shouldn't be allowed to fly in a airplane unless (a) They have more than one million dollars in financial holdings, (b) Have sworn allegiance to President Trump. The bearded Russians are annoyed with me when I discuss this topic.

The leader of the bearded men took me to see this weird old guy who is in charge, possibly a mayor or something. I figured I would get a lecture or something equally awful but then this dude tells the bearded leader man that he is dead and tries to set him on fire. Around this time the children and the hairless ass weasel were able to slip out of the city. This is good because I do not like the meal they gave me last night. It was too bland for my tastes as I have a highly refined palate.

Your friend Behr wishes these nitwits would make up their mind about what to do with me but the dead soldiers seem to want me something bad. The hairless ass weasel said something about them being scary and nasty but I think they seem very nice.

My friends.

I can't remember if I wrote about the last time I let my regular stylist cut my hair. Despite the cost, I went to her because I felt like she understood my hair, what I wanted, and her cuts grew out nicely. The last time I went to her, the appointment did not go well. I left feeling down, and I could never really figure out what was off about the cut she had given me, but no matter what I did, it wouldn't lay right or behave. I was disappointed, and almost in tears over the incident. She was telling me about this guy she was sleeping with who tried hitting on a friend of hers, it was a friends with benefits situation, and as she was talking she grew increasingly agitated. Next time I get a cut that I can't work with, or doesn't seem right, I am going to reach out to the stylist instead of telling myself that it is just me because when I went to the new person, she told me that my hair was very uneven and not blended. She had the technical terms for what I had observed on top of my head.

Yesterday I met a friend for what was supposed to be a celebratory birthday lunch. Our birthdays are in December, and we thought that meeting at the cute gelato place downtown would be nice for both of us. She got there ahead of me, but I missed her call, and both of her texts informing me that the place was closed for the next two months. At least one of the owners is Italian, as in speaks with an accent and goes home to see her family routinely, but I wondered if something had happened to make her close up shop like this. We ended up at the ice cream and coffee place across the street, it's several layers of different businesses stacked on top of each other, but the flow is such that it feels natural and progressive rather than commercial and industrial. The kitchen is in the basement, there's an outdoor area if you want to enjoy fresh air during the warmer months, an art studio, and a lighting store way up at the top of the building.

My friend and I sat in the second tier which is tables, benches, and an area with several love seats, and maybe a fireplace, or at least the illusion or idea of one comes to mind when I think about it. There are almost always mothers with small children in that area. There's a stack of games people can play, we sat near the far side where a set of stairs leads to this cabinet/cupboard type thing. You can see out over the shop which has an old fashioned feel to it. The owners have eight children, and usually at least one of them is working. My friend treated me to hot tea, we both chose a cinnamon blend after she asked for anything with ginger, and was told that wasn't one they carried. One of her sons needs surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand. He fell on it, but it was deemed not broken at the time, then he proceeded to fall several more times, and now the break is so old the bone fragment is starting to die.

After tea I went to get my nails done. I can never decide if this is a splurge, or just something that people do occasionally because they don't associate pedicures with the health benefits that I do. While the laquers, gels, and acrylics aren't anything to brag about from a health perspective, sitting with your feet in warm water while someone else makes sure your nails are trimmed in a way I can never replicate at home is one of the times where I can just sit back and kind of forget about everything. House Hunters was playing in the background. I love real estate shopping, but it kind of annoys me how little information they share on these types of shows. The remodeling ones are more fun for me, I love to watch people go in with a vision in their heads, and make it happen. Maybe it's because I remember doing that when I was a homeowner, living in an apartment really deprived me of that, like they say, you don't know what you've got, until it is no longer yours.

The other day at work one of the guys told me his hair was long enough for a man bun. He then proceeded to pull the top part of it back, securing it with a rubber band that wasn't pulled as tightly as it could have been. This was absolutely hysterical, and I could not stop laughing about it. I snapped a picture with my phone, and threw it up in our group chat for others to see. I gave him a #Samurai tag, and from the side, it wasn't as hard to believe as it would have been in real life from another angle. My boss picks on him and his hair, and I do too, partially because it is funny, and partially because I am envious. I have always wanted thicker, darker hair, and his is really nice. He said something about getting it cut, it had gotten long without me really paying attention to it, I actually think it looks good when it is longer, but agreed that he did need to get the back cleaned up at the very least.

For some reason me looking at his hair and realizing it needed to be cut led to me looking into the mirror and realizing that I really needed to get in again. To get back to the pedicure for a moment, after seeing how dark my toes were, I decided to do something lighter for my fingertips. My tech had scarlet nails with gold fireworks on the tips. I can't wear any shade of red that has too much orange in it, but it looked absolutely fabulous with her skin and hair. When I asked about it, normally her nails are plain, she told me she was going to Orlando in two days, and then it made more sense. I had wanted to get either of the guys I have had in the past, they both gave me a look, but the woman who runs the place had assigned me to her, and I wasn't going to argue because one time when my right first toe was really sore, she took care of it in a very gentle manner that minimized the pain almost immediately. 

By this time I was past the point of being hungry even though it had been hours since the tea we had in lieu of lunch. I went to a couple of other places that cut hair. One place couldn't even bother to greet me, I ran into a woman I knew from church, it was nice to see her again, but the place was dark, depressing, and unfriendly. I had tried to stop there once before, never again. Down the street and across the way was another discount place, I thought maybe I could get a simple trim, but they were booked out quite a ways and I didn't want to wait. On my way home I thought I would stop at the chiropractor, but forgot that they are now closed on Thursdays. Fortunately I remember my therapist telling me about the woman who cuts her hair, I saw the sign, and decided I could at least stop by and book an appointment.

The woman who greeted me seemed very familiar, but neither of us could place each other. When I asked if they took walkins she said that they did, and after explaining what I wanted, she said she could take me right away. She was very brisk and businesslike, and I felt like she had a great handle on what I was trying to convey without having the actual terms a stylist would use. I learned that her daughter had weighed one pound and two ounces at birth, I can't even imagine what that must have been like, but now she is a healthy and happy four and a half year old. After my cut she washed my hair, and I really liked both the shampoo and conditioner she used. My hair is easily weighed down by products, but this was lighter and smelled faintly of citrus. By the time I got back to her chair I was sold on her. She gave me a fantastic cut, and didn't put a single thing into my hair like so many others have in the past.

I left her an extravagant tip after she told me how much it was going to be, and still came out ahead if you take into account what I would have paid had I gone back to my regular stylist. It's funny how I can see things so clearly in the lives of others, and then lack that clarity when it comes to my own life. The other day at work I had a customer who was very difficult. He had never owned a cell phone before, and unlike the 82 year old woman who was determined to figure it out, he said that others could do things, but he couldn't. I spent an inordinate amount of time with him, trying my best to be patient while having a completely separate internal dialogue with myself. The guy I was working with actually sent me a text that I missed, I try to pay attention to people at work, this can be a tough line to walk because there are times when I need that communication from others.

When I first started this job, a couple had come in needing an upgrade for his phone. He had had surgery, and was unsteady, his mental capacity was not what it could have or should have been, he was frustrated, irritated, annoyed, and relied on his wife to be his caregiver as well as his second set of eyes, ears, and processing power. I had help with the sale, I got credit for the phone part, and another employee got credit for the entertainment portion. I was fine with that, he had earned it, but the next day when I went into work he told me that he had taken something from me, and I'm not really sure why that hit me the way that it did, but suddenly I was not just furious with him, I was very hurt. No matter how many times I replayed it in my head, I couldn't get past the emotions. I went over the interaction again, I had absolutely nothing to do with that sale, it was rightly his. It didn't make sense, I shelved it for a while, and then sent him a super long text about it just to get some closure on the event.

Years ago I worked with a woman I didn't like initially. We became friends, I can be hard to get to know, and I don't know why I'm like that when I want to be more open, warmer, and accepting of others. I went through a period where I really did not like working with him, there are a couple of events in particular that really stand out in my mind. One day he would not stop interrupting me, and I finally looked at him and said something I regret. It probably wasn't so much what I said as the tone that accompanied the statement. Later on I heard my own words coming back to me, and that cut more deeply than I would have imagined it could. He stopped talking to me about anything other than work related items and issues, and I thought it was just me until another person brought it up, by that point I told myself that I didn't care, and on some level, I don't think that I did. He had his place marked out, and I had my own mental space in the same shared work area.

We went through a phase where we could get along as long as there were other people around, but as soon as we were alone that thin shell of social polish was gone. I have worked with many people who have ignored, or otherwise not gotten along with me, you might even say that I have a reputation for bringing that out in others, and I would have to admit that the common theme there is me. One main difference, on my part at least, is that it never felt hostile or angry. It was more like I didn't exist, and in my mind, he was almost like a display table, or one of the windows. He was there, but I didn't have to do anything to entertain him, and after a while, it was really refreshing. I can socialize and interact with others, but it really takes a lot out of me. I need reset periods, and another nice thing about the silence is he let me do what I wanted as long as it didn't interfere with whatever he was doing.

Business picked up, and one of the things I have always liked, admired, and respected about him is how he works the sales floor. I am not a numbers person, not in the sense that he is, I love the patterns numbers can make, I know my phone number, I have a great memory, but I have trouble with the sequencing, I have the digits, but putting them into the proper order can be very difficult for me. I'm not a budget person, he can write out what charges will be down to the penny, and I was envious of that because I could see that a lot of people needed to see the numbers in black and white ink. He has special pens, a guy I went to high school with brought a test pen and pencil to each exam, I'm a pen and pencil person, so even though others teased him about it, that made sense to me. It is useless and pointless to compare yourself to others, but I do it anyways. One day in particular took me back in time, and I can't even remember what the trigger was now.

There was a job I had where people hated me. My manager wrote out a list of reasons why I should go, he collaborated with the other women I worked with, and I can't describe how I felt when I saw the sheet of paper that had every nit picky annoyance of theirs written down under my name. Furthermore he had written that I refused to sign which was another lie. I was hired to do a job, I was their top sales person the very first month after I arrived, and they did not like that about me either. The bitchier and uglier they become, the harder I worked to stay on top. I can't say that their hatred fueled me, rather it was an intense desire to insulate myself from them. At one point I was the sock queen, averaging 10% which was about triple what other top sellers were doing. My district manager was a complete bag, but even she had to acknowledge that I had made a name for myself as far as sock sales were concerned.

What I learned is that you have to put socks on people's feet. I tore open the package, gave them to people, and more often than not, they bought them. We wrote them off if they didn't, at first I felt guilty about this, but small items are trust builders. A $20 pair of socks is less of an investment than a $200 pair of shoes, and most people still haven't figured out how socks, and then shoes, is how you engineer truly amazing footwear systems that actually fit. I was great at my job and everyone knew it, but nobody wanted to praise me for it, probably because they didn't think that I needed that type of encouragement. It became a game to me, but it wasn't much fun to win. I had a rotten marriage, trouble with my children, my health was not good, we had fitness day and I had such bad eczema I couldn't wear a t-shirt because the rash on my arms was unsightly as well as painful.

I didn't think I could be lonelier, or more upset than I was at that job. I left on poor terms, and still have trouble facing those ghosts of the past whenever I walk by there today. I was a member of management, but the employees beneath me made my job as miserable as they possibly could. Nobody is immune from this type of thing, and I felt bad that now the roles were reversed. Now I was the person on the bottom looking up at someone else who was higher up on the food chain, corporate ladder, whatever you want to call it. One day I was talking to my mom about it and she came through with some advice that helped me. It's been hard for me to be happy for others when things are not going well in my own life, misery loving company and all that. Determined to change, I went to my new job trying to avoid the way that I had been at my previous employer.

Because I hadn't told people how I felt there, I thought I could try something new here. That may have been a mistake, I was very foolish to have tried to juggle two part time jobs although now I think that if I could have just gotten through those first couple of rough days, I might have been able to make it work. There are times when I really miss that type of work. I've been a visionary for as long as I can remember, people say things, and they converge in my head until I can see it as if it actually exists. I can do this with people too, they don't even have to tell me what their dream is, or what goal they want to achieve. I can identify where they excel, what they have trouble with, and because I'm a natural encourager and cheerleader, I pour a lot of energy into building others up in a way that I want to be supported myself.

I hate needing other people. I would like to be able to do things on my own without having to ask for help. I've read so much on vulnerability, sharing how I feel, telling people honestly what I think and feel, it seems as if I can never quite strike the balance between this is a true thing, and this needs to be said, and this is coming across in a way that is extremely hurtful to someone else, or there are times when what I say that I feel is important gets brushed aside, laughed off, or otherwise not taken seriously. Other people being good at things I'm not doesn't take anything away from me. The other day the difficult customer already had TV service from our company. Because someone else has a gift that I don't, I was able to get credit for a sale that I didn't really earn. While I will complain about people taking sales from me, a much better way to really get to me is to be nice enough to give me a sale that isn't authentically and genuinely mine.

Keeping score has been a part of my life for so long, I can't even really remember a time when it wasn't the way I saw the world. I give generously, and I do not enjoy being indebted to others. I did not want this person to be nice to me, I wanted him to stay in the box where I put him. Suddenly I was the person acting childish and immature, and that rankled further. To make matters worse a rep stopped by while I was on break. I will never understand women like her, and she will probably never understand me either. If you're not going to tell me about the products, I really don't have a use for you, but I felt like I had to do the conversational thing, why, I'm not sure, but while I was talking to her about who even knows what, girl stuff, I got a sticky note listing the trainings that I had to complete. It was a way out, and I told her I needed to do them while she kept talking.

Now that I have some perspective, I wonder if this was a boundary issue. I felt like there was something unspoken between him and her, she was talking to me, he wasn't really talking to either of us, and to be fair to him, what is he supposed to say when we are talking about clothes, handbags, and perfume? I carry quite a few things around with me, I love things that smell nice, it's like a reset button for me so a lot of the time I'll take a minute at the end of my break to enjoy smelling whatever it is I've chosen to wear that day. My friends and I were talking about this the other day, a cologne I used to adore is no longer being manufactured, the guy wearing it didn't even have to do anything other than stand next to me for me to be fully transported to a spot he could never see, but I could describe in detail down to the grains of sand clinging to salt soaked skin. 

He left, and she packed up her things so quickly and abruptly that it really made me wonder. She's engaged to be married, he has a girlfriend, but I still feel as if there is something between them, and I can't really say what it is exactly. The last time she was in I had the same feeling, as if there were the words I was hearing, but there was another level of conversation that I couldn't be a part of because neither of them were saying it out loud. I felt like he didn't want me to be talking to her, I didn't want to be talking to her either, but I couldn't find a way out of it on my own. Even when he gave me one, I wasn't assertive enough to use it, maybe he didn't respect that, I don't know. Maybe they really wanted to be talking to each other without me around, it really felt uncomfortable being around both of them, I don't know her well at all, but he's normally not like that. If he wants privacy, he goes in back, and that makes a lot more sense to me. Privacy out in the open is tough.

The other night I had a dream that the store was robbed. There's a pattern on the shirts that some of the guys wear. We, I don't know who else was with me, but I saw the shirt with a bullet hole and a pool of blood, that was incredibly disturbing, and I know people are fine, but there's a part of me that wants to get in my car, drive there, and urge them to be careful. This is the second dream I've had with that shirt and excessive amounts of fresh blood, it would be lovely to get behind that and make it go away forever. It was so real, I can still see it flashing before my eyes. The dark store, the sound of a gun firing into someone. No face, just the checkered pattern on the shirt, and enough blood for me to realize that we are down at least one team member. I went online to read about it, but didn't get very far into it because I felt like that was just helping me relive a moment I need to forget because it didn't even really happen.

I need an action plan. I want to go to the library. It's been a while since I listened to a good audio book. I want to go grocery shopping and get back into making meals again. My friend tried her hand at a new veggie burger recipe, and I remember being in my old kitchen and thinking, I really wish I had written down whatever I did to make this turn out the way that it had. Now that I use Instagram I have a record of the pictures, but the technique and ingredients are gone, leaving me with a memory of a meal I'm longing to recreate, probably because it was warm and sunny in that kitchen, and it tends to be cool and dark where I am now. The Southern sun shines through the far side of my place, but I lost the windows in my kitchen, and I really miss those. It's Friday. The girls are coming over, and I want to do something special for them, but have no idea what.

One thing that helped was getting back to fiction. I did some laundry, one day I want to be able to hang clothes outside again. I have an ironing board, but no iron, and this seems like a metaphor for my life. I read up on intimacy because this is an area where I have trouble, I found a helpful scale to measure where I am at, and I know that we are all continual works in progress, but I do feel as if I have made some strides. The other day a friend told me that she feels she can be honest with me, it was a compliment that I didn't appreciate at the time. The ability to tell an important truth in a gracious and loving manner, that's a gift. To be able to say what needs to be said at the right time to the right people or person, without making them feel bad, or acknowledging that their moods are their problem. I want to be more like that. The world of let's pretend, make believe has always appealed to me, there is a place for that, but reality can be viewed and lived as well.

Apparently that is my lesson for today. But if you could only see the things I do, maybe you would appreciate the escape I created for myself...



P.S. I really need a decent night's sleep.


P.P.S Now that I've had more time to reflect, I think I have more insight into why that woman is so upsetting to me. The last time she was in she was more helpful, offering to work with a customer who had just upgraded her phone. Before she left she told me that she would go over some things with me the next time she was in again. She didn't, and I really felt used after she left. Her job is to educate sales people like me, and she did talk to him about phones, but I didn't get any of that so not only did she fail me in that way, she prevented me from getting work I needed to do done. It reminded me of two times in my life; the first is when I worked for the original cougar. She loved me as a sales person, but she loved men as men, and I was not a man. She was heavy on praise and light on actual sales support and salary. I had to quit to get a compensation check out of her and it should have been for at least a hundred times what it was to be adequate.

The second time goes back to high school when girls would approach me on the third floor, make some superficial chit chat, or point blank ask if I was going downstairs. Then once we had descended the staircase in a safe pair, and I had started talking to whatever of my friends happened to be down there, she would start flirting with him, and cut me out of the conversation unless I left after I saw what was unfolding before me. I have no control over him, and if she wants to flirt with him, that's fine, but trying to use me to get to him is ultra shitty, not to mention very unprofessional. She might not even realize she's doing it, but cutting him out of the conversation by talking about topics that he had no interest or expertise in was rude too. A good conversationalist includes people to the extent that they need and want to be included. Eventually he went to go sit at a table, and I was glad he made that statement, but then it really felt like I was alone and at her mercies.

Women like that make me feel like they are offering me membership to some secret girl club that I probably wouldn't even want to be a member of if I really understood what it entailed. Some women just have this way about them that makes want to study them to try and figure out what makes me tick. While she was going on about the room that she uses as a closet, her handbags, her Michael Kors dress, I couldn't see what the point of it was. It felt like she had an agenda I didn't understand, and I really didn't get it as a flirting tactic if that's what she was about. It didn't totally come off that way, it was almost like she was talking just to talk, or maybe try and sell me essential oils, handbags, or vegan protein powders. Maybe she was just trying to find common ground with me and failing since she happened to hit on an area or two where I do have experience and enough expertise to slice through marketing campaigns to get to the actual quality of the underlying merchandise.

I felt duped, like she had danged a carrot in front of me, I had seen it for what it was, but since I didn't want to be rude to her, and felt years of social pressure that I had been schooled into thinking I owed someone else, it was like I had to make her happy, validated, womanly, and that was far more important than doing my own work related trainings that my boss had told me we could review the next time we worked together. The guy I was working with went all alpha male while she was there, and I really didn't get that either. There was a strange power struggle going on and I wanted no part of it. I felt trapped between them, like they were competing for a prize I couldn't see, and didn't understand. She's competitive in a strange way. Like she wants you on her team, but isn't ever going to give you the coaching and training you need. I despise those tactics, mostly because I can't ever seem to come out ahead in those types of relationships.

She has nothing for me, and I have nothing for her if she's going to withhold information I need and want. I can learn about products on my own. I don't need her. I feel like I do need the other people I work with, and that's hard for me too. I'll never be able to sell like some of the people I work with, but I have my own style, and maybe that's another thing that I didn't realize was bothering me. I felt like we were in this one upmanship contest that I didn't sign up for, she had a cute jacket on, she's probably half my age, her skin is great, but I am not envious of who she is, and I never want to make others feel like that. She monopolized my time, the conversation, and I felt like she drove a wedge between me and someone I normally respect and get along with well. We have had our differences, but we are also a good team because our minds and personalities are so different that there's often a balancing that takes place on the sales floor.

The interaction felt controlling. Like it was her show and she was calling the shots. I could feel myself getting defensive, and distressed, wishing she would leave so I could get my headspace back. Women like that should come with warning signs for me. I don't know how to get along with them, I needed space, and since I had been told to do the trainings, I felt trapped behind that computer. She doesn't understand boundaries. She must not be great at reading social cues unless she wanted to see how far she could push me. I came very close to completely losing my temper with her, and I feel bad about this, but I kind of took it out on the guy I was working with because he was in hall monitor mode and it felt like he thought he had to sit there and watch me to make sure I didn't somehow skip out on these trainings that I have already done before. 

I need some sort of a game plan to deal with people like this, I know I will see her again, last time I asked her for more information on the products and she gave me some, but not nearly enough. I got very spoiled working for my previous manager who gave us time to focus on education and product knowledge, but I also cared about wellness products way more than I care about technology. Most people don't use their phones to the extent that they could, and the people that do often come in armed with a level and depth of knowledge that I will never have, and I am completely fine with that. I was into it when I interviewed to work at the Apple store, they had a group meeting that I attended, and then I really got to see the products in action which was extremely helpful for me. The people I work with normally are extremely well educated, this is their passion, well, at least that's true for two of them, my boss is less into it than the other guys, but he's good at assembling teams and managing inventory which is also a critically important life skill few understand and revere.

Probably one of the biggest issues in my life is my pride. Whenever I feel as if I am being attacked, conversationally assaulted, emotionally, or otherwise manipulated, then my pride takes a beating, and it's one of the best ways to really get to me fast. I'm fine with looking stupid by asking basic questions, that's how you learn. But when people make me feel that I am stupid, that is an entirely different matter. Part of me felt like this woman was putting me through the hoops, and I'm like, go ahead, try and test my knowledge of herbals, botanicals, and nutrition because I can break down what things like sacha inchi, ashwaghanda, and moringa are allegedly doing for you inside of your body. I've said it before and it bears repeating, there is no such thing as a super food, and all that chocolate and green tea extract are just other sources of caffeine with a fancy label. 

I don't think she was intentionally trying to do anything, like I said previously, she probably doesn't even realize that she's doing it. This is my issue and I have to find a way to deal with it in a healthy and loving manner. I need some space, I need to watch out for signs that I am getting upset, and I need to find a way to defuse tense or uncomfortable situations before my emotions escalate and end up getting the better of me. It was a different kind of learning experience, apparently one I needed. No matter how I feel about it, people at work have things to teach me. I am constantly learning from them, and I'm actually proud of myself for sticking with it because there were so many times when I really wanted to quit. One thing I wish I would have done is been more up front about the deeper level of emotions I had when I first started. I really wanted to drive into a bridge, and it wasn't fair of me to withhold that from others. 

Rather than reaching out for help when I needed it, I tried to handle things on my own, and got very mired down fast. I had a new job, I was still processing what had happened at my previous job. Initially it seemed as if we were a great team at my new job, then we started getting to know each other a bit better, and I think we all made some mistakes, I know I did. Going forward I am going to release my anger and frustration. I'm going to go into work with a positive helpful attitude, I'm going to continue to have fun with the customers and other people at work because I have fought and searched for this for a long time. No matter how we may feel about each other personally, we are able to show up on the sales floor and that's where it counts to the company. I wish I had better ways to express my appreciation, I'm a verbal and written appreciator, they are action oriented, and I wonder if they really internalize what I say because I truly believe it, and in them.

I wonder if they think that I'm just saying it because they are under the illusion that I am a nice person, and to some extent that is true, this is where the honesty part comes into play. I am fundamentally a very honest person, and I do not say things that sound nice just to have something to say. There's a place that I think we can get to, and I don't know how to convey it to them, it's not even something I can explain here, but I can see it so clearly in my mind, I'm just not sure what we need to do to get there. Having a blend of people on a team means you can leverage their strengths and weaknesses. I once told my mom that my boss is the person who tells everyone there are thunderstorms in the forecast for the day of the field trip, the assistant manager is the person who is going to make sure everyone has their lunch and an umbrella, while I'm going to make sure that anyone who wants to dance in the downpour while searching for rainbows has that opportunity. Maybe they are the black and white, logical ink types, and I'm the emotional splash of color that sometimes goes outside their lines, I would be okay with that analogy if they are.



P.S. Sometimes I write too much, other times I have a lot to say...


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