I should have known I was going to have an episode. When I pulled into the parking lot, I shuddered at the swarm of people around me. Everyone driving in and finding a parking spot, hurrying through the cold toward the lobby and to their desks. I spent a moment bundled in my Jeep, watching them through the windshield with a feeling of dread.
It all seemed too loud, tempting me to close my door though I steeled myself and left it ajar. I didn't grow worried until email failed to distract me. Instead of getting lost in the work - in the ebb and flow of questions and answers, projects and approvals - it grated at my attention, leaving me feeling scattered and vulnerable.
It was therefore no surprise that a new boss's boss stuck me as nearly unbearable. Coping with major changes in atmosphere and operating mechanisms was horrifying - I couldn't make my brain accept it with any grace and visibly struggled against it. Despite numerous pep talks, I've been defensive and overly sensitive to any suggestions. And the hammering of discussions and complaints, heavy email traffic and constantly ringing phones is making it hard to breathe.
I took a walk yesterday morning, clipping the leash to Chienne and making our way outside in the snow. Realizing I left my boots at work - I'm regularly forgetting details of late - I wore little canvas shoes as I pranced through the snow. I smiled at them as we walked, their bright pink color and happy white dotted pattern seeming ridiculous and wonderful against the slushy snow and ice that coated the sidewalks.
Realizing I'm spending a good deal of time with my head bowed when I get overwhelmed, I wore them to work, pairing them with a pink sweater in a halfhearted attempt at being businesslike. I hoped I would glance down and smile at the silliness. It backfired, feeling like I was attempting to draw attention rather than being nearly desperate to avoid it. Unable to go barefoot, I made my way through meetings with shifting times and problems of high urgency.
At noon, after another criticism-laden meeting with my new leader and two more phone calls that created massive amounts of overhead, I trembled and rested my head on my arms for a moment. Breathing deeply, I tried to settle - to decide what to tackle first, how to reschedule certain meetings, a method of coping. Instead, I canceled everything and came home around noon.
I kept my eyes on my shoes as I hurried through the building, hoping I'd not see anyone during my escape. I did, of course, and several of them stopped me to talk, making my nerves crackle with pain. Once outside, I barely checked the need to run but jogged the last few steps to my car before hurling myself inside and driving away. I came home and read a book. Slept. Opened my laptop to deal with the urgent issues in a place where I felt more calm and safe.
As for today, there is a Major Meeting and I'll struggle into a suit and sensible black shoes and make my way off campus to our designated location. I will be calm and friendly. I will try - very, very hard - not to take suggestions as personal attacks. But I can't figure it out - my perception is so very skewed right now that, even recognizing I'm not right, I can't figure out what's real and problematic and what's in my head and fleeting. Given that I'm making myself ill with nerves as I postpone getting dressed for my day, I suppose it's time to stop thinking of reasonable excuses and ready myself for work.