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A Bizarre Meltdown
7 March 2013
It had started off with such promise!
As I recounted in my previous article — Last Day of Unemployment — exactly two weeks after seeing a job listing, I was at my first day of a new job, thus ending more than three years of unemployment. Against all odds I was chosen over more qualified candidates, even though I had never programmed in C++ in a work environment, which was the primary qualification they were looking for.
Add to that their relaxed work environment, a very decent salary, a short seven-minute commute to work, the freedom to come home each day for our Swiss main meal at noon with my family, and interesting and challenging work — it really seemed to be the "ideal" job. Because I had been praying and searching for a job for three years, and because such a wonderful opportunity had practically been handed to me on a silver plate, it was "obviously" God's will that I take this job. If the door was open, I was obligated to walk through it, right? Of course!
Or so I thought, but now I'm not so sure. The whole thing came crashing down in such a rapid, intense and bizarre fashion that it has left me stunned, shocked, scratching my head, and searching for answers. In this article I'm going to attempt to describe what happened, although it is almost beyond explanation. In the following articles, I'm going to explore in more depth some of the pondering I've been doing during the last week or two, and hopefully come to some conclusions about this unhappy episode and the lessons I can learn from it.
My previous article, in which I gave many details about how I got this new job, was pretty upbeat and positive. But I had held back sharing some of the more negative details, which turn out to be vital for trying to understand how things unravelled. In a nutshell, I would say that there was an astonishing and embarrassing disconnect between my "outer" reality and my "inner" reality. In such situations, I believe that most people find that their inner condition is the more "real" of the two.
On Valentine's Day, three weeks ago today, when I received the phone call telling me that I had been hired, I was not at all excited about this turn of events. I had absolutely no desire for this job, no interest in it, no vision for it, no excitement or joy about it. But I felt like a man is supposed to have a job, so I must take it even if I didn't want it. I was burdened with the unspoken but easily imagined expectations of my family to get off my butt and get back to earning a living ... to be a "man" ... to be "responsible."
But instead of positive thoughts and feelings about this job, what I felt inside was exactly the opposite. I felt like my doom had fallen, as if I had been sentenced to prison or some other horrible fate. My heart was filled with dread. My fate was sealed and I was condemned to a life of slavery! I felt like I had suddenly been dropped into the middle of some factual or fictional horror story — at the "mercy" of Nazis or orcs or some other oppressive being! Truly, my inner state WAS starting to seem like a horror story!
In addition to all these negative feelings, I also felt guilty and foolish for even having such thoughts and feelings, which were obviously out of touch with the reality of my situation. For in my "outer" reality, I was going to a nice job with a nice boss and nice colleagues — there was nothing horrible or dreadful about it at all. But in my "inner" reality I was most definitely in an "alternate reality" — I felt like I was being sent by God to a prison camp or worse! This humongous disconnect between my two realities was causing a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions in my inner person.
But since the provision of this job seemed almost "miraculous," the only conclusion I could draw was that God wanted me there, even though deep in my heart I didn't have a peace about it. There was no sense in my spirit of that "yes" or "amen" from the Holy Spirit which often confirms that we are on the right track. Feeling trapped and unable to back out, I decided to put a brave face on it and go with the flow of circumstances and try to make the best of it. Maybe things would all work out OK in the end if I just gave it a chance.
After two days at work I was SO stressed and oppressed and overwhelmed that first thing on the third day I went in to talk to the boss, with the determined intention to call it quits then and there. My being hired by them seemed a HUGE mistake, and I felt like I was TOTALLY in the wrong place, and the wrong person for the job. I had such little experience in C++ programming that I felt it would take me months to get up to speed and become productive — and all the while they would be paying me a nice salary just to learn. Just that right there was VERY stressful and hard to bear.
In addition, I had told my boss during my interview that one of the reasons things didn't work out at my previous job at The ElijahList was because near the end they had moved me from my own office into a common room with other employees, with lots of noise and distractions. I cannot program under such conditions; I need peace and quiet. Yet at my new job I had been put in the same exact environment. This was a deal killer, and was absolutely NOT going to work for me.
After explaining all this to my boss, he told me that he knew perfectly well that I was overwhelmed with C++ and that I wouldn't be "productive" for some months. And if that's how he wants to spend his money, it was exclusively HIS business and NONE of mine! He told me that he didn't hire me because I was the most qualified programmer, but because, judging from all of my Web sites, I also had some valuable design talent which he wanted. Gosh! He also moved me into an inventory storage room where I could work with a lot more peace and quiet. Double gosh!
Seeing that my boss had completely disarmed my objections with his kindness, understanding, generosity and accommodation to my needs, there was nothing left for me to do but move to my new desk location and get back to work! He very obviously wanted me as an employee, so I concluded that God must really want me there too. Even though it was a lot better in the new, quieter location, my emotions were still very traumatized, but somehow I finished out the week and looked forward to a peaceful weekend at home.
Friday evening I soon realized that I was so stressed about going back to work Monday morning that it was going to ruin my entire weekend ... IF I let it. So I reined-in my out-of-control thoughts and forced myself to think of and enjoy only the present moment. Each time a thought about the future would enter my mind, I was quick to banish it, and return my focus to the present. This allowed me to salvage my weekend and enjoy it the best I could, in spite of the inner turmoil I was still experiencing.
Then things took a turn for the worse on Sunday evening. I sat down with my wife, Catherine, on the small couch in our bedroom and cried a pile of kleenexes for nearly an hour. My inner person was overflowing with pain and sorrow and misery, even though my mind was fairly blank and I was not focusing specifically on my job situation. My tears seemed to be coming from a place deeper and more general than my current circumstances, although undoubtedly my current circumstances were the trigger releasing them.
I went to bed emotionally wiped-out, and woke early Monday morning in the same condition, with the horror of having to face another day, and another week, at work. It was hard, but I managed to straggle through another day. Continuing from the previous week, as each day at work went by I found myself under more and more stress, which was having definite physical effects on my body. My mind was very cloudy and confused so that I had a hard time concentrating. Rather than one bowel movement a day, I was having three or four, and by the end of my time there I had diarrhea. I was having trouble sleeping. By the second week, I wasn't feeling well in my stomach when eating breakfast, and I was afraid I might end up vomiting.
Monday evening was very similar to the previous evening, with a trash can full of soggy kleenexes, and my inner person feeling wrung like a wet rag. I struggled through Tuesday, wondering how much longer I could go on like this, and feeling like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. What made this even harder to bear is that there seemed no logical reason for me to be in such a state. Tuesday evening on the couch with Catherine resulted in a slightly smaller pile of kleenexes, but I seemed to be sliding deeper and deeper into a pit of despair.
While driving to work Wednesday morning, I was so distraught and depressed that I felt I could not perform my work duties with much competence. I decided that I should at least talk with my boss and let him know where things were at. After explaining everything, he asked if there was something specific about the job that was troubling me, or if it seemed more general. I replied that I didn't think the problem was with the job, in the "outer" reality, but that the problem was definitely with ME, in my "inner" reality. He remarked that it was obvious that I was having a major struggle with depression, and that I needed to get some help to overcome it. We mutually agreed that I was in no condition to continue with my job, so with that my employment there was officially terminated.
I felt so embarrassed to have to tell my boss about my disgraceful inner state; I felt like such a wimp and a total failure. There I was crying in his office and sounding like a lost little kid! But he was VERY nice and VERY understanding — I was really impressed with how he interacted with me. After our brief discussion, I packed all the things I had brought to work to make my time there more comfortable, and headed home from that job for the last time.
I was in such a state of deep trauma that I didn't start to feel better right away. It has taken me about a week to find my feet again and reach a place of relative emotional stability. I still feel horrible about what happened. It was so bizarre that it's just incomprehensible! Why did I have such a major emotional and mental meltdown? How can I avoid such a disgraceful collapse in the future? What are the lessons I am supposed to learn from having gone through all this?
I will be exploring these and other questions in future articles, beginning with Is Every Open Door Meant To Be Walked Through?
This article is 10th a series of articles on this Web site related to My Journey with Yeshua (Jesus) which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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