January 09, 2015

The Challenges of Employment

Today* I am at work and having a really rough time of it. I work full time (35 hours/week) plus I also do two freelance contracts on the side. I've had that arrangement since September and am frankly getting a little tired of it.

Today's issues aren't caused by that, however. I have a cold still, so I'm already tired and low on energy. I find myself very distracted. I'm cold (it's minus 28C with the windchill) and the combination of all this is giving me random panic attacks.

Back in my 20s, I would have said, "f-it!" and gone home (or just stayed home), but I'm toughing it out so I don't lose my job. I've lost/left many good jobs because of sensory or other issues.  I've learned that I'm no more useful if I stay home - by that I mean I wouldn't rest if I went there. So I might as well be here not resting than be there not resting.

I think a lot of us Autistics put a lot of pressure on ourselves to always do things right or correctly. Go big or go home! If I can't give 110% to the job, I would rather not do it. But I've learned to be more gentle on myself. I've come to realize many people don't put very much pride or effort into their everyday, so if I am "off my game" for one day, no one will actually care or notice.

I keep to myself on fragile days like these, knowing if I interact too much, I will come across as cranky (I am) and if really bad, may even regret an outburst. I exploded once here at work when in pain.

I have not eaten lunch, even though I am hungry. I am hypervigilant over the sensations in my stomach, since I am sick and scared something worse might happen. This is what happens when I am overwhelmed this way. I have managed to work through two panic attacks already and I will have to go home and go straight to bed, I think.

Not every day is like this at work, but I had more frequent panic attacks when younger and was frequently in and out of employment. The stats on Autistic adults working are around 12-16%, depending on the country. That makes me really lucky to have a job at all, and it doesn't surprise me.

If I didn't have my husband, I'm not sure how I would have survived my 20s. I needed someone to fall back on and support me when I couldn't cope.

I've been at my current workplace exactly two and a half years now - which is the longest I've been employed at any one place ever. (I had better success being self-employed, in terms of length of employment)

 It can be hard to slog through work everyday when there's already so much going on within your own head and how you experience the world. Not everyone can "tough it out" and that's not even desirable in the long run. My health is more important than money, but I have managed to get to a point in my life where I can be more gentle on myself and not try so hard to control all situations. I've become somewhat less rigid in my thinking.
There are days where I still feel I am stuck swimming upstream, but I don't have to make myself feel bad for those days. It's not my fault. All I can do is try to hang on and hope tomorrow is better. And it will be.

*Today is used loosely since I often schedule posts, so no need to comment and tell me to feel better when it's already most likely passed :) Not that I don't appreciate concern. 

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