Four letter word

I trudged off to work with my busted up hands, hoping that people just wouldn’t say anything if they happened to notice. Icing them the night before had taken most of the swelling down but they didn’t look very good at all. I got my wish, no one brought it up.

The moment things started getting difficult for me at work I tried to live two very separate lives. I aimed to detach myself from all my personal problems when I was in the office and focus on the tasks at hand. Yet, when I would get home at night if there had been something at work that had irritated or frustrated me there was no opposing plan to let it go when I wasn’t at work.

When Megan and I were at home, work was becoming the most offensive four letter work that could be uttered. Yet, at the same time it seemed like all we had left to talk to each other about. It just wasn’t making either of us happy to discuss. Megan was struggling with her targets at work and I was definitely struggling to meet expectations.

I was convinced that I couldn’t do anything right. Even when I thought I’d done a good job that I was held to a level of accountability that just didn’t seem to exist for other people. I had been feeding the demons that whisper thoughts like ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘it’s always you’ far too often over the previous months to react in the most rational of manners.

I didn’t want to talk to my manager about everything that was going on in my personal life, it was too personal. I didn’t know if I trusted her yet because she was the one pointing out my struggles, it all seemed very critical to me at the time. I hadn’t yet begun to see her as a friend, I thought she was a pleasant enough person, I just didn’t want to confide in her.

It began to dawn on me that I didn’t really have anyone to turn to in that moment, as great as my many friends were to hang out with or catch up with. The ones that I really felt I could trust were miles away and I didn’t want to burden them with my problems, the ones that were a little closer to home had either left the country for a while or were busy with their own lives.

If money were no object I probably would have spent a lot of time drunk in those days. It seems to be a good way to unwind and since I never drink alone hanging out with people over drinks gives you the opportunity to unload and have a moan, whether it’s about work, your love life or anything in general. That sort of socialising had been missing in my life for so long, I was really beginning to miss it.

I decided that I should make more of an effort to reconnect with my friends, after realising that Megan and I had been living in isolation for quite a long time it seemed like a good idea to make some time for everyone I’d pretty much pushed to one side for a while. I didn’t like that I had let that happen again, my friends didn’t hold it against me, so we made tentative plans to meet up in the near future.

I remember one really bad argument during the following weeks when I decided to storm out of the house. I ended up aimlessly walking around our neighbourhood in the middle of the night, which in hindsight is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. I grabbed my phone and tried to call a friend of mine back home to chat, it was stupid to think that anyone else would be awake so late.

It was the first time I had ever tried to reach out to anyone about what was going on between Megan and me. It was the tipping point that I needed, I needed help. I’d been refusing to ask for it for so long, not wanting to burden anyone with my problems or putting the blame elsewhere. In that moment I reached a point where I was finally ready to talk. All this time it was really ‘help’ that had been the four letter word.

During the rest of the week while I was at work I took the opportunity to open up to my boss. She was a very willing listener, she even seemed glad that I seemed to be getting a lot of this off my chest. Everyone had known something was very wrong for a long time. It made things easier all around, now that I was willing to admit everything that was putting stress on my life it was a lot easier to sort through it all and start putting things right.

My team leader was a great help, with her encouragement I started talking to our wellbeing team at work on a regular basis, working from home on Tuesday afternoons to have telephone consultations with a counsellor. It was something new for me, but it helped for me to talk to someone who didn’t know me, just a voice at the end of the phone, because that way my problems didn’t feel like a burden on someone else. They were paid to listen to me.

I was finally able to focus on the fact that the real issues for all my stress were coming from my relationship problems with Megan, our problems were taking up so much of my headspace that even when I thought I had put it on pause while I was at work I was instead just letting everything fester. I was wilfully ignoring everything at work and trying to coast by on auto-pilot, I was getting ready to put it all right. I just didn’t know what that might entail.

I became quite introspective over the next few weeks. Retreating into my own space, occasionally trying to talk to Megan about how my counselling sessions had been going and trying to get her to talk to someone about her problems. She wasn’t so keen on that idea, she’d make all the right noises but never follow through with any of it.

Megan stayed away more than usual, staying late at work to do overtime or go to the gym at her office. I didn’t really mind so much, I wanted time to reconnect with my friends and although Megan knew them all I didn’t know how much I wanted her to be a part of that, I needed something of my own to do to get some perspective.

It was only a few weeks later when I realised that it looked like nothing was going to change between us. I couldn’t keep going with things the way they were. I went for a long drive after work one day in Megan’s car and when I came home she hadn’t even noticed that I’d been gone, or seem to care where I had been. I guess that was the last straw.

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