The Very Scary Task today had different people angry with me, or in my direction. Trying to help Person 1, I inadvertently annoyed Person 2. Sometimes I find it difficult to know what to do. I’m glad this is only a small part of my job, as it’s not really very suitable for someone on the autism spectrum with social anxiety and low self-esteem. By 10.00am, I was pretty much ready to crawl back into bed and cry, but couldn’t. I didn’t have anyone to vent to either, as Dad was davening (praying), Mum was on her way to work, E was asleep (stupid time difference) and I didn’t want to tell J that in trying to appease Person 1, I had annoyed Person 2, and still failed to get an answer that would mollify 1. Then the call to Person 1 that I was dreading went fine, to my surprise.

I did eventually get it all sorted just after lunch, but even that was not the end of my anxiety which manifested as more of an OCD-type anxiety, doubting whether I had organised the VST properly and making me want to phone everyone back and re-confirm what is supposed to happen tomorrow. I didn’t do that, as it would annoy everyone and I giving in to anxiety just fuels the self-doubting, but I felt anxious much of the day. I went for a walk hoping that would help, but I just catastrophised more.

I told J before he went away that I can’t work tomorrow as I have another commitment (therapy, although I did not say that). It’s just as well I do, as I could not do this job for three days running. I would be an anxious mess. I do worry a bit about what kind of job I can do, as so many seem impossible for autistic reasons: too much interpersonal interaction, workplace too noisy, needs too much multitasking or switching tasks. I miss social cues and then anxiety kicks in and I annoy people by looking for reassurance or not knowing when to leave them alone. There aren’t really reasonable adjustments I can ask for regarding not accidentally annoying other people in the workplace.

I’m not the kind of person who is good with numbers or computers, to pick the most stereotypical autistic jobs. At least this job is mostly OK. Even doing the Very Scary Task in the office isn’t so bad, as J is around to advise or take over if I get stuck. But doing it without him, from home, is too draining, and I couldn’t handle a third week of it. Also, I would like the chance to start some kind of career where I can earn realistic amounts of money to live on, but that doesn’t seem likely working part-time with limited capabilities.

I know that I need to be less dependent on other people for my self-esteem needs, but no one has ever told me how to do that. It’s not like I have an “Need of Esteem of Others for Self-Esteem” dial that I can set to “Low.” I’m not good taking the at initiative either. Neither of these things are good in the workplace, or in general.

****

I did the one hour of work I set aside from yesterday, as I thought the VST would take an hour or so today. Then I did an hour of work in advance for Thursday, so I won’t have to force myself through a six hour day when I may already be exhausted from this week (the advantage of working from home).

Other than work and a walk, I cooked dinner, drafted my devar Torah and did a little extra Torah study, but really I spent the day wrestling with anxiety and just trying to function. I guess it’s good that I managed all that with such high anxiety levels. The title of this post refers to the Sparks song The Existential Threat which came to mind today. I’d pick a verse, but almost all of them seem relevant (it’s a good song about anxiety). It’s good that I don’t often lose days to mental illness like this any more, but it is frightening when it suddenly reappears. It reminds me how thin the ice I’m skating on sometimes feels.

On the plus side, when I went for a walk, I was catastrophising, but it struck me that there are four people who will stick by me no matter what (E, my parents and my sister), plus my rabbi mentor who gives me more time than I really deserve. I feel this makes me luckier than a lot of people.

***

This will probably sound weird, but I feel more afraid of other people than God. By this I mean that I trust God to understand why I do the things I do, and how powerless I feel over my life sometimes, and that whatever He puts me through is in that context, but I worry that other people will not understand and will do I-don’t-know-what in response. I would much rather face God on Judgement Day than a jury of my peers. This is why I worry so much about doing things wrong at work, the fear that I would never be able to convince anyone that I acted in good faith and to the best of my abilities.

6 thoughts on “The Existential Threat

  1. I think it’s wonderful that you have that group who will stick by you no matter what. There are probably others too that you don’t realize. I’m also glad that you’re handling the job as well as you can. I would hate what you’re doing–working at home on the phone dealing with angry/upset people. Yikes. Give yourself credit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is good I have those people.

      Work seems a bit more in proportion today, and I’ll be glad to get back to the office to have a clearer boundary between home and work, and to have J around for support.

      Like

  2. Chances are you will do some things wrong at work, as that’s human, and some people won’t understand, because most people aren’t very good at understanding. But on the scale of importance, I’m guessing God is way up there, as are those people that stick by you no matter what, but maybe the importance of randos (to borrow a Paula term) you have to deal with at work isn’t commensurate with the level of worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope this doesn’t come across as insensitive or offensive – that is certainly not my intent. I appreciate that autism presents its own unique challenges with respect to work/career, and I don’t mean to dismiss that. But you should know that in general, jobs have a certain amount of things that suck or tasks that people hugely dislike or may even be totally unsuitable for. In my own job, I have to do tasks that I’m dreadful at/totally unsuitable for (tasks that require attention to detail – not at all a talent; working with people far more successful than me – not something I mentally cope with well at all) but there are other aspects of the job that fit well-enough. You seem to have a supportive boss who is confident that you can take on other tasks, confident enough that he left you to do this task while he was on holiday. That’s huge! Sure, some of these tasks seem not a good fit for you. But I wonder if you’re comparing yourself to a perfect fit job that doesn’t really exist. Again, I hope I didn’t offend.

    I trust G-d (and I consider my belief is a choice, not an inevitable conclusion based on the evidence; I accept the possibility that G-d might not even exist, yet I still trust G-d) more than I trust other people at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not offensive! Yes, I probably am comparing to a non-existent perfect job, on some level, although I think the last two days were exceptionally stressful, for reasons that were largely outside my control (i.e. people outside our organisation messed up in ways that we were unable to do anything about). I feel a lot calmer today, and overall it is a reasonable-fit job, especially considering where I am right now in terms of not being able to work anything like full time and wanting to have a workplace that feels reasonably safe and supportive.

      Liked by 1 person

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