I had my meeting with my boss today about my mental health.  I think it went OK.  I think I struggled to express that I on some level at least I know my anxieties about perfectionism (and being fired, although I didn’t say that) are not rational, but they still persist because anxiety isn’t rational.  I think she couldn’t quite understand why I’m still worried about not being good enough at my job when she has said that she would tell me if there was an issue and, so far, she has not had to tell me that.  I do worry that these fears about being fired are in the process of turning into a full-blown anxiety disorder, the way my OCD (which is also an anxiety disorder) appeared almost from no where a few years back (I had had pure O thoughts before, but not obsessions and compulsions centred on Jewish dietary laws the way the OCD was).  I don’t think I’m at that stage yet, but I’m trying to monitor the situation and work out what to do before it gets to that stage.  Obviously these things are better to treat if nipped in the bud before they become major disorders.  I think there is some hope there.  Last year I was worried that I was becoming anxious about travelling on the London Underground at rush hour because of the lack of room, but I persisted in travelling then and those anxieties have subsided.  So I am hopeful that if I continue with my job, these anxieties about being fired will go away.  That’s also why I’m not asking to spend less time on the issue desk, which is the most anxiety-provoking part of my job and probably the part that I’m least good at, because I know that if I give in, things will get worse (plus it would really mess up the team rota and the workplace division of labour if I asked to get out of it).

The irony was that even during the meeting at which my boss was trying to reassure me that things were OK, I was worrying that I was upsetting her (by not being reassured and also by a misunderstanding about which phone line I was supposed to phone her on yesterday to say I was going to the doctor).  I find it very difficult to read people generally (borderline Asperger’s and it fuels the social anxiety), but I find my boss particularly hard to read.  Some of that may be a personality thing, some may be that she is my manager and probably deliberately keeps a bit of distance from the rest of the team.  I did come out of the meeting still feeling quite anxious and worried about being fired, and beating myself up because I could see that I was over-reacting enormously, but I didn’t know how to stop feeling like that.  I think I’ve become a lot better at reading my emotions in recent months, but it’s definitely hard to deal with the ones that I can see are irrational and harmful.  I guess my therapist would say not to “deal with them,” but to experience them and move on.

I feel a bit upset from all this.  At Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) over three months ago, I made three resolutions: to say the beginnings of the three most important prayers with greater kavannah (concentration, devotion); to study one Mishnah a day; and to work on my depression and social anxiety.  I have largely messed up the first one, the second one varies a lot depending on how depressed I am and whether I’m at work (I use being stuck on the train for the morning commute to force myself to do some study unless I’m incredibly depressed, whereas at home at the weekends or on holiday it is easier to convince myself I’m too depressed and short of time), but the third one, working on my depression and social anxiety, I haven’t even begun to deal with, not least because I couldn’t think of any SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals to break it down into.  And now it looks like I’m having to add more anxieties into the mix, although I guess you could argue that my fear of being fired is just an extreme social anxiety with some depressive low self-esteem mixed in, as it stems from not being able to read my boss and colleagues to gauge if I’m liked and trusted and fearing that I will mess up work-related social interactions in such a way as to jeopardise my job, whether interactions with library users (staff, students) or with library staff (particularly my boss).

As ever, I seem to be much better at articulating these fears here than I am in expressing them in person, whether to my boss or to my parents and also better at articulating them than in living with them and not letting them rule my life.

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2 thoughts on “On Not Being SMART

  1. I would say that you are working on your depression and social anxiety. Not having the end result you want and not doing specific tasks like setting SMART goals doesn’t take away from the fact that you are doing what you can within the limitations of how you’re feeling. Pushing yourself to continue with work is a form of exposure therapy. And to continue with the CBT theme, you’re already identifying irrational thoughts, so maybe the next step is starting to identify some evidence against them. Regardless of what steps you take, you deserve credit for the effort you’re putting in.

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  2. Thanks for this! I don’t really think of work as exposure therapy. I guess because it’s only gradually got harder and harder to do. I have mixed feelings about CBT, which worked for my OCD, but not for my depression (I tried it a couple of times with different therapists; my current therapy is more psychodynamic, but with elements of other approaches). I have noted recently that I’ve been labelling my thoughts with CBT labels (catastrophising, mind reading etc.). I find identifying evidence against them hard, though. That was where I always struggled with CBT for the depression. The thoughts seem so authentic, it’s hard to challenge them.

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