Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not a good time to be a lightning rod

Fresh rainwater, anyone?
I feel like I'm back in Seattle. It has been poring rain all day, and there was just a super loud clap of thunder. It set off car alarms. I thought the rats would freak out, but they seem fine. I guess I'm easier to startle then they are. See that blue bucket? It was empty yesterday, and it has been full of rainwater since noon. The actual sound of the rain is pleasant though. I find the sound of rain relaxing, which is good, because I'm dreading work tomorrow. I'm trying to concentrate on de-cluttering my apartment to keep my mind off it. I did some eBaying too. I'm slowly selling things off. It's a good, tangible way to get a feeling of accomplishment. I've included a donation to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) in all my sales as well. It's a good time for me to get more involved with RAINN. My weather station says it will be sunny tomorrow, so I better enjoy the rain while I can.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

With their nine inch nails and little fascist panties

Death from the Neil Gaiman "Sandman" comics.

On Tuesday, I had just found out what was being said about me at work, and I was outraged. The terror hit me the next day. I felt violated, as if these people had been in the room watching while I was raped. I woke up sick and out of my skin. I dragged myself to therapy that evening, but felt I had to hide my hair. I pulled it back into a ponytail and put on a black headband. I painted my nails black. I wanted to cover my body in black clothes and my head with black hair. Black feels safe for me. People can't see me in black. I know people notice me, especially if I'm wearing black head to toe, but they are seeing the black, not what's underneath. They can't see how vulnerable I feel. I started thinking about going back to work and wondered if I could do it, if I could see those people, knowing what they were saying. I just wanted to disappear. I thought of my brother, dropping out of the world, and understood. I wished I could just walk away from that job, from those people, and never have to see them again. Even more, I didn't want them to see me. It feels like when they talk about me, look at me, judge me they are taking pieces of me.They are acid rain, little drops burning my skin. Their words are leaches, attaching to my flesh and feeding on my blood. I cried a lot at therapy, as my feelings from high school washed through me. I was right there, that feeling of having a gaping, painful gash in my chest that everyone could see, and they just looked at me and talked about it as if I wasn't there, as if I wasn't a person hurting from this bloody wound. When I was in high school, I was a virgin but the talk about me was that I was a slut (with men), a lesbian, and a satan worshipper. The insults were not even connected to what was actually happening to me, even after it became common knowledge that I was in foster care because my parents were abusive. I wonder about why, when my blog talks about sexual, verbal, and physical abuse, dropping out of high school, living on the streets, being an antisocial punk rocker who is covered with tattoos, having PTSD and a brother who committed suicide, that the one thing they lit on was rape.

My therapist and I had two different interpretations of what it could mean to say that I have "bad mojo" and should be avoided because of being raped- either there was something wrong with me that meant the rape was something I deserved, in other words, I'm a slut and I was asking for it. The other explanation we came up with is that I was broken by the rape, damaged goods. Either way, it's the rape victim who has something wrong with her, not the rapist.The implication could include both. It's such a classic way to keep women in a box. When a rape charge goes public, the discussion is all about her sex life and how active she is, never how sexually active the accused rapist is. In some extreme cultures, raped women are forever disgraced, and sometimes murdered to restore the family's honor. Here in the U.S., we're so enlightened. We just call a raped woman a slut and a whore and treat her like a pariah. It's so easy to discredit a woman by associating her with sex (even though rape and sex are not the same thing), and with rape you can stab at an open wound, imply someone is a slut and corrupted, and color someone as a victim rather than a strong capable survivor. Even though the insults play on gender, it is not men against women at all. Women can be verbally just as cruel, if not worse, on other women than men are. Men usually have more influence, but women can make up for it in vitriol. It sounds like most of the people at work gossiping about my rape are women. Thanks sisters.

I slept all day Thursday and dropped 5 pounds. On Friday, I pulled my hair back and twisted it into a bun. I put a circle of black barrettes around my head. I wore black pants and a black trench coat, which I kept on until I left work. I tried to stay in my office. I felt a little like I was crawling out of my skin and a little numb. I had a hockey game that night. On the way there, I listened to Tori Amos (the post title is from Tori Amos' "Precious Things" from the album "Little Earthquakes") and The Ramones and cried a little. I was even afraid of being around my hockey friends. I felt different, and I didn't think anyone there would know how I was feeling and didn't think I could explain. It made me feel like I was on another plane of existence, and it was painful to be separated from my friends, but the thought of trying to let them into how I was feeling about myself was too much for me to do. I still wanted to curl up under a blanket and hide. I was looking forward to seeing my boyfriend that night but nervous that I would be nervous about being touched. In a sense, this is an opportunity for me to sit with some of my lingering discomfort with my body and the pain from social ostracization,that I've had for most of my life, and process it now that I am emotionally mature enough to deal with it. It hurts like hell, but I do have support I didn't have back then, and options. Hugs from my boyfriend felt good too. I'm moving through it, the only way to get past it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There are no words (except four letter ones).

Rats- kinder and more accepting than most people.
Today has been a perfect example of my struggles with writing. I've had a burning desire, no, need, to write almost all day, but I also kept trying to talk myself out of blogging when I got home. I had class from 6 to 9 pm, and now it's after 10 and  I'm tired, no, wiped out physically and emotionally (mostly emotionally) and just don't have the energy or time to write the manifesto this topic deserves. But f- it, my job is why I'm emotionally wiped out and dammit it won't keep me from writing. Actually, I need to write this to reiterate how important this blog is to me and how no one can keep me from expressing myself without shame.

I work on a floor that is all finance and accounting people. There are probably more finance and accounting groups on other floors than just mine, but there are lots of directors and a couple vice presidents on the floor. There is also a raging social hierarchy that would rival any high school. I don't say that lightly because there was certainly a brutal clique system in my small hometown high school. I had lunch today with someone who escaped the floor to another department. I told this person (don't want to give details for reasons that will become clear) about my job troubles, and they decided to be honest with me and tell me that they were told not to be friends with me and stay clear because I had been raped and I was "bad mojo". That wasn't all that was said about me. Seems someone found this blog and I and my experiences have been a topic of conversation on the floor. Seems that I was not imagining that some people were treating me differently than before, and were really avoiding me, and others were being friendly to my face and gossiping about me behind my back.

On the one hand, I'm not surprised. I attributed a lot of the whispers behind my back and people avoiding me in high school to it being a small town. It's not unusual that people in a small town are all up in your business. I guess more shocking, both to myself and many people I've described this to, is that adults, teachers and police and neighbors, would treat me like a leper rather than showing compassion to a child who is being put through hell. I've had plenty of experience with people who act like the bad things that have happened to me are somehow contagious, but it's still especially galling that a presumably mature adult would act like that. It was a little less inexplicable to be treated that way by other teenagers. I was in my 20's when my brother died, but maybe because that treatment was still fresh in my mind I was not completely taken by surprise when I was shunned after Jeff's suicide. I distinctly remember feeling like people didn't see me anymore, they saw suicide, and I myself was consumed by loss. Since then, I've earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, my CPA license, worked in accounting and audit for 13 years, turned 40 years old, and I'm still damaged goods, just as much as I was at 17.

After all I've been through, what the hell is wrong with people? Fuck this social contract that I will be allowed to live a "normal" life only if I'm a good little victim who keeps the secrets I know they don't want to hear. Fuck these people who think it's appropriate for me and the billions of people who share these experiences with me to live with guilt over things that other people did to us, to hide our emotions in the shadows, to live a double life, directing our pain in on ourselves to spare them the discomfort of feigning sympathy or even tolerance for someone with different experiences than them. I am 100% sure that there are other people on that floor who have been raped and/or sexually abused. At least I've learned to push the poison of humiliation and blame away for me. I've struggled, and I still struggle, but I won't let it destroy me or turn me into someone I'm not. At least I feel comfortable writing about it. Being able to express what this is like for me keeps me from drowning in it. This kind of pain can eat you alive until you don't know who you are or why you should keep living. I don't have to imagine what it's like to live with a secret that makes you hate yourself so much that you have to wall it up and everything you feel, everything you feel about everything in your life because you can't live with what happened to you and still function in the world. IT IS THE SHAME THAT DESTROYS YOU. It's not what happened to you. It's when you have to incorporate those hateful things into your precious soul because someone who didn't see you or care about you took their toxic crap out on you and these ignorant, selfish people try to force you to keep it inside you. How dare they sacrifice you like that, how dare they treat you like you don't matter.

Imagine if I was gay, or a recovering alcoholic, or sick with a disease, and the people I worked with were telling my co-workers to avoid me? Imagine if the Jewish people I work with not only couldn't talk about their religion at work, but couldn't practice their religion openly outside of work for fear someone they worked with would find out and they would be shunned. That's clearly discrimination. It's not like these kinds of games don't have consequences. One of the people who used to be friendly to me and now won't look me in the eyes is a director of a group that I was going to work on a project with that is very important to me and the company, and now she won't work with me. She won't return my calls, she won't tell me what's going on with the project or anything else, and she is complaining to my boss when I ask her for assistance or even cooperation on other projects. I know she gossips with my boss because he's told me about performance issues she had with someone who works for her. I don't think she should have shared that with him, but he certainly shouldn't have told me about it. I can just imagine that my boss, an ambitious people-pleaser, was so thrilled to be included in cool kid gossip that he thought nothing of turning on a loyal and hard-working employee if it got him brownie points. It's not enough that I'm good, no, great at my job, extremely qualified, committed, friendly, smart- no.  I don't deserve to acknowledge my life experiences, even outside of work, because people will know I've got "bad mojo". I shouldn't be myself, try to reach out to other survivors, share my story, try to do my part to reduce the stigma and burden we carry, and feel like I belong in the world because I've been raped.

Give me a fucking break.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Blogging From Hell

Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage.
It is so exciting that I can, and have enough energy to, start a new blog post right after publishing one. I love being able to write from anywhere, although editing is much easier from home. As a matter of fact, this is an advantageous development for my writing. I always had a hard time not editing while writing, which sucks (to be technical about it). It slows down my writing because I'm flipping back and forth between my writer and editor mindsets, and it can cause me to lose my train of thought or the flow of my writing. It's a bad habit.

I'm sitting in Project Management class right now. I started this program because my job has shifted from Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance to "special projects". One of the first things I learned is that I am NOT a project manager, even though I'm managing projects at work. This is because I have no authority, and a project manager need to be able to make decisions about the project and allocate resources. Otherwise you are a project coordinator. My job has become a living hell, and not just because I am no longer doing SOX work, which was the primary reason I took this job and moved down to Los Angeles almost five years ago. That's bad enough, to be torn from my passion in life (or in work, more accurately). Over the last year to year and a half my position in my department has been eroding. Although my level of stress has skyrocketed over that time, I did not become consciously aware until the week before Christmas. The short explanation for this is politics. Corporate politics is enough to ruin a job, besides that I'm not working in my field of expertise and it's not because I'm advancing in my career, I was publicly yelled at and humiliated by my boss, and my department has been overrun by ass-kissing (another technical term) which is valued over expertise. They would replace ass-kissing with phrases like "relationship building", "demonstrating leadership" and "doing it the right way" though. All that corporate talk annoyed the hell out of me in business school too. I'm starting to become bitter writing this, so I'll move on.

So what to do. The stress I'm under is nearly unbearable, definitely affecting my physical and mental health. I have migraines weekly, and take anti-anxiety pills every night to get to sleep. I'm on two anti-depressants and HELLO, I have PTSD. It's not an easy condition to live with under benign circumstances, even more so when you are being yelled at among other things. My boss and co-workers talking behind my back triggers memories of the neighbors talking amongst themselves about the abuse in my family, and the small town whispers when my brother committed suicide, and the manager of the restaurant I worked at telling everyone so that when I came back from the funeral I knew they were talking about it but they didn't say anything to me. Like most people, I hate finding out people are talking about me, so besides all my past stuff, it's just not fun for anyone to have their boss complaining about you with your co-workers. It makes me feel awfully uncomfortable around pretty much everyone, because I don't know who's talking about me and what they're saying. Plus, it strikes me as wildly unprofessional, especially for my boss. WILDLY unprofessional, inappropriate, trust-destroying, motivation-killing, the emotional equivalent of throwing your cute pet bunny off a cliff while laughing maniacally and then telling you straight-faced that you have no reason to be upset. Maybe not that bad, but the blowing apart of my perfect job has been heart-wrenching. I really thought this was my dream job, for almost 4 years. When I look back on the criteria I had when I decided to take this job (intending not to settle until I found my dream job), it was:

1. SOX work
2. A company that has strong support for SOX compliance and internal audits, consistent accounting practices, etc.
3. A supportive, non-psycho boss
4. Salary - I want to explain this one. In my last job, I was underpaid for my qualifications, experience, and the type of work. It seemed that my salary level had an impact on the level of respect I got as well. It seemed kind of dumb to go through all that schooling and work to get my CPA license and then take significantly less money than the average for my graduating class in business school, and I was sick of just scrapping by financially for the majority of my adult life. I wanted enough money to not have to worry about money. I wanted freedom from money.
5. Stability

I learned in the project management class I took in my MBA program to reassess projects midstream to determine if they will still give you the results you intended. That was one of the best life lessons I learned in school. You can apply that reassessment process to anything you're involved in or any life choices you've made to see if it's turning out the way you predicted. If not, you can tweak your plan or abort. It's not easy though. We tend to factor in what we've already put into the project. That can be money, but it can also be time, effort, expectations, hopes and dreams, sweat and tears, anything you put into your "project" that you can't get back. In project management they call these "sunk costs". Sunk costs are irrelevant for the purposes of valuing the effort going forward. They don't feel irrelevant, but you have to ignore the past to get a clear idea of the future.

A good example would be a house you bought as a fixer-upper. Say you put $5,000 into the house and increased the value by $7,000, so you're up $2,000. You have $5,000 more in improvements planned, but you find out the last $5,000 will only increase the value by $3,000. If you bought the house as an investment, you should just stop now while you're ahead. Right now the value is up $2,000 more than you spent, but if you continue you will have spent the same amount fixing up the house as you'll increase the house's value ($10,000), so you're basically back to where you were when you bought the house. Even worse, what if you bought the house, started renovations, nothing is going as planned, and after spending $5,000 the value of the house has only increased $2,000, and after you put the last $5,000 you're only getting another $3,000 in value back. Abort! Right now you've lost $3,000, and if you keep going you'll lose $5,000. But it's hard for people to walk away from something they've put time, money, and effort into, even if it's not paying them back the way they planned. You want to finish what you started even if you know it's not worth it. Sometimes the expectations are the hardest thing to let go off.

I thought of relationships when I learned about sunk costs. How many people stay in relationships because they've been there so long and been through so much and they think that's a reason to stay? Or stay because the relationship used to be good, and they hope it will get better again. Not that I'm making fun of anyone, I've done it lots of times. Hell, I wanted my dad's approval long after I knew it wasn't going to happen. Letting go is a lot harder to achieve emotionally than it is to decide to do rationally. But I like having this logical, objective framework for assessing situations. Sometimes it's easier to get over the disappointment and other emotions of something not going the way you thought or falling apart if the logical, analytical part of your brain has figured out the right way to go and it is just waiting for the emotions to follow. The decision to walk away from something that's not working is a lot easier for me if I can put aside what happened in the past and just focus on the future, especially if it used to be good and it went to hell. Trying to figure out why something went to hell just confuses everything, and feeling bitter over how much of myself I put into this failed effort is painful and mostly pointless.

So back to my work situation. It no longer meets the criteria I had when I took the job (not SOX, don't have a supportive non-psycho boss, not stable because I really think I could get pushed out i.e. fired, and not in that, "Oh my god I'm going to get fired!" kind of way). Plus my criteria has evolved over the years, for instance, I want to be treated with respect and appreciated and recognized for my work. I don't want my job to make me sick or unhealthy, physically or mentally. I don't want to be so wiped out by my job that I don't have the energy to do other things I care about (like blogging). I want to respect my boss and co-workers, and want to work with them. I want to like my job. High on my list is to feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. SOX work feels worthwhile to me because I was working on internal controls that could prevent or detect financial misstatement or fraud. I was an internal control. I was contributing to the proper functioning of financial markets by lessening the possibility of my company lying or misrepresenting the financials and other information used by investors. I was a crusader for truth and justice in our (overly) capitalistic society in which corporate malfeasance can cost people their retirement savings and jobs, hurt the U.S. and the global economy, even cost people their lives in some extreme instances (suicide). What am I now? A corporate drone. A suck-up (at least I'm being pressured to be a suck-up, which I suck at). I'm a peon. I'm doing nothing to fight the good fight against corporate misbehavior. I have no control.

(We're talking about quality management in class, and I just accidentally posted before I was done. This violates my quality objectives!)

You might have guessed I take my job seriously. I don't want to spend my time doing work I don't believe in, with people I don't believe in. There is so much that is messed up in the world, and I want to feel that I'm at least doing something to make the world a tiny bit better. I also want my job to contribute to my life. I want to learn from my job. I want to feel good about what I do. My confidence and sense of self and competency should be enhanced by my job. I shouldn't feel beaten down. I've invested a lot in my career, paid my dues, worked my way up, and it really burns me to be in this situation. My boss actually suggested I think about quitting. I've been totally loyal and worked hard and made him look good. Now I'm doing what I'm trying not to- complaining about what I put into this in the past. I'm hopped up on anti-anxiety medicine (at home) and it is so hard not to feel completely betrayed. I am not a peon! I am not a corporate drone. This job is not meeting my needs, and not just because my boss is not a nice person. That's as far as I can go without violating my "no bad-mouthing" policy. (I hate it when people complain about me behind my back, so I'm trying not to do it myself. Another one of those things that is a lot easier to say you won't do than to actually not do.)

On the up side, my boyfriend has been amazing through my crisis of faith. He's got my back, not like my boss or that Jesse guy. I know he'll be there for me and help me no matter what. He's that kind of person. I guess this is one of those situations where one area of my life is super happy while another one is crashing and burning. Ah, the wheel of fortune. The ecstasy and the agony. I'm really tired and I want to watch "New Girl". I said I'd talk about the money, but that's enough for a whole other post, so stay tuned for Part II:

"Money often costs too much." - Ralph Waldo Emerson