Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The One Where Chokmah Learns About Triggering

Monday, I had a good talk with Super Boss recapping what happened last Friday.  He was livid with the co-worker who suggested that I ignore policy and help the screaming employee. He was also incredibly upset that I felt so burdened and wrong when I have to cancel insurance coverage. He got it, but assured me that I am a good person and don't deserve the vitriol directed at me.  He also pointed out that if I am so upset and no one is around in our office, I could reach out to the company's EAP services.  So I did that Monday.

Here's the issue, I thought the whole "trigger" thing is for people who have PTSD and that the term has been co-opted by super sensitive teens who don't want to think upsetting thoughts.  The EAP counselor pointed out that it's more about how my body responds to something I perceive as similar to a past trauma. The adrenaline that surges through me on a call with a screaming employee, the shaking hands, tears, and sleep difficulties all come from the same place.  The memory of what follows after the screaming.  We also talked about ways to calm myself.  It was good.

Tuesday, my therapist helped me talk through strategies if someone unstable shows up for a drop in. Tuesday afternoon Super Boss and I called back screaming employee now that I had completed a reconciliation of his account. Super Boss and I tried to explain how the employee fell behind to his wife but she kept interrupting, screaming at us, and getting totally confused about numbers. So screaming employee tag teamed in to do more screaming, threatening of lawyers, and nasty needling saying how we must be so proud of ourselves. The weirdest thing happened. I felt calm but Super Boss, who is usually cool as a cucumber, snapped at the employee, was shaking, and flushed.  Remember how I had guessed he was a fellow survivor of some childhood badness? I think Super Boss was triggered. So, I went into Big Sister mode, leaned over and whispered, "This is where it helps to get angry." The call ended with Pissed Employee calling our department director who was home sick and Super Boss going back to his office.  I tried finishing up some work and I got three separate calls from Super Boss where he let himself get angry.  There you go guy - process your shit!

Today, only three of us were in the office; me, Super Boss, and Baby Analyst.  All three of us wept in my office by noon today.  Super Boss looked like he had been up all night stewing over pissed employee's situation.  Screaming employee's wife had been calling all over out department to try to get another answer.  We had to call her back and her story oddly changed this time around.  Our department director didn't want to reinstate the benefits but warned us that the company manager might overturn any of our decisions. I accepted it but thought it sucked.  So Super Boss asked me to check out if there are other cancelled benefit people in the same boat as screaming employee. Only two others so Super Boss asked me how I would feel if we reinstated benefits for all three. I hit the roof but for a split second and asked for the rationale. Super Boss came up with a flimsy one and this is when he started crying saying, "This sucks" over and over.  Into Big Sis mode, I wound up calling him kiddo and pointed out that this is our first month implementing this new policy. We called the director to make sure he'd okay it and we discussed with the Benefits enrollment department.  Amazingly, the department was so helpful and sympathetic! We got a better rationale thanks to them.  Talking through the next steps, I wound up blurting out to Super Boss that I was beaten for most of my life and told that I was a worthless piece of shit but staying calm in the face of screaming hostility I feel powerful and fully myself.

Super Boss reacted fine but I panicked.  Within five minutes, I regretted saying anything and apologized for the overshare. I also dismissed Super Boss and instructed him to go back to his office and work on anything else. So I sat in my office crying.  Baby Analyst stumbled in and got concerned. I explained the whole change in policy.  I also took a deep breath and asked her not to look at me differently but I am an abuse survivor. This job makes me feel smart, accomplished, and powerful but the screaming phone calls make me feel like the four year old being kicked and called a mother fucking bitch.  That I don't want to feel that ever again.  I looked up and Baby Analyst's face was soaked with tears.  I gave her a big hug and told her that it's okay and I joked that I broke her.

Super Boss and I in the afternoon called screaming employee's wife to give her the good news from my office.  I started dialing, my hands were shaking, and I felt the tears in my eyes. So I had to hang up and announced that I was upset.  It looked like Super Boss had been crying in his own office and he asked me why.  Crying, I explained that we found an exception for these three employees and it's not like I don't want to find an exception for the other 57 employees we terminated benefits for.  I got that feeling out, he agreed, I took a deep breath and declared, "Feelings are for the weak."  Called screaming employee's wife who was a complete asshole.

Now,  I have four days of no work.  Happy holidays y'all!

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