I ignored the signs.
I nearly cried in meetings, felt rage, and couldn’t sleep. I still can’t sleep through the night as I write this post at 4:40 am. On Friday, January 28, I fell apart. When I booked it in the fall (it feels like a lifetime ago), the two weeks off were breathing space before the final push to the end of the academic year. I looked like I cleared the worse things to some people, but people who knew me were worried.
I worried too.
During my vacation, I booked a doctor’s appointment to not take any time off work and affect staffing. Like my vacation, it was supposed to be a way to gauge how I was doing, but it took on something more critical. Things began to take a dark turn, yes, that dark turn. When Valentine’s Day rolls around, it will be day 1 of my stress leave.
Am I worried about repercussions? I did for a little bit. Then I remembered Phyllis, my manager, who died of a stroke in 2014 and intended to retire in January 2015. She said yes, always dutiful to the organization and its rules. I remembered the same organization promised us counselling after dealing with a toxic coworker and failed to follow through. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time, wrote Maya Angelou. I ignored that too.
I worked through multiple crises, both personal, pandemic, and professional. I downplayed everything, believed the labels given to me, and tried to please, please, please. In a way, I envied the coworker who put on her coat and walked out. She neared retirement and seemed to have nothing to lose. I am not close to retirement, I thought. Then I remembered Phyllis. I broke down in tears in my doctor’s office and remembered life never follows a script. It simply goes.
And sometimes, you need to stop to keep going.