Stand up to your bullies! – my dealings with irritability

I have a really big problem with people. Like massive! Like I’m all thumbs when it comes to people – that intricate, living piece of work. I also suffer from extreme irritability because of my ADHD – the one symptom that finally tipped my shrink off. But I try. It’s extremely tiresome. For a long time I shut up and kept it all in in fear I might explode – the occasions on which I could muster up the inner peace to talk it out with a “Workplace-bully” were very rare. I did this because I did explode once in a while – when I couldn’t keep it in. But my shrink, prescription drugs and lots of soul-searching, ADHD-literature reading and blog-chatting with fellow ADHDers has made me take amazing strides lately I wouldn’t have believed possible a few months ago. A huge one was today.

I’ve had a new job for 3 weeks now, which is always very tough for someone who is irritable – everyone trying to tell you what is what, many people assuming you might be some kind of retard when it comes to small stuff and then assuming you’ve been there your whole life when it comes to big stuff… the works. At my new workplace, although no one will get loud, there is a MASSIVE lack of respect for co-workers: quickly mixing something on your work bench and leaving an uncleaned mess, taking stuff and not returning, using all the butter up and not replacing it… There is one colleague, though – and I’ll call him Lenny – who is worst than all others.

Lenny is an old-fashioned man who is used to have it his way because he’s about 60 at a workplace where the average age is 25. He’s used to play the age card among kids and claim to be important because of the extra-time he makes – like no one else makes extra-time. Lenny likes to bring his old cartons to weigh stuff on our scale and wordlessly toss the cartons into [b]our[/b] pile of carton for recycling, without even flattening the boxes, instead of disposing of them himself. Lenny also insisted on telling me yesterday, when I was getting rid of our carton – our boxes neatly flattened and folded and his in original shape – that I’m supposed to flatten the cartons (insert ORly owl here). Lenny likes to come in our room and, while turned my back to pick up a shovel of sugar, wordlessly toss my container from the scale and put his own carton for weighing there. Lenny likes to come into our room and, when I turn my back to pick up something, spread his shit all over my work bench.

Lenny is an entitled asshole.

Today I had enough. When I left the room for a minute to pick something up and caught him mixing something my work bench, I called him on it: “No, Lenny. That’s my work bench and I need it, go work someplace else, plenty of tables around” (2 empty tables, to be exact, and several other surfaces suitable for what he was doing at the moment) and Lenny says “I’ll be done in a minute.”

I sighed. The nerve! “Lenny, I don’t need my bench in a minute I need it right now. I don’t care, I’m squeezing in, so scooch!” I picked up my trays and started carefully squeezing them between my setup and Lenny “Get away! I said I’ll be done in a minute!”. Jesus, seriously?

Since I didn’t want to fall in the ridicule of being brushed off of my workplace, I decided to start pulling jokes. I started playfully squeezing more and more and leaning into him – people who don’t like to be touched usually get the drill and move away, but although he only had one small item on his hands, he was still taking up all of my space and refusing to move or see the flaw in his behaviour. It was unnerving.

Since he had replied in a very snippy fashion, I moved away from him and walked around him to face him and told him “This is some nerve coming from you, Lenny! There are plenty of tables around here and you have to take my bench. This is not right! I don’t go to your workplace and get in your way!”. Ridiculously, as if anyone would believe it, he replied “Well, you can.” Well, I told him “No, that’s just not how it works. …….. Lenny, I’m gonna take your bowl away pretty soon.” and still that entitled asshole wouldn’t budge. So, instead of being agressive and snapping the bowl from under his hands – which I could, standing where I was – I resorted once again to playfulness, grabbed his bowl with both hands, and very gently as not to disrupt his work, I started slowly pulling his bowl “Lenny, enooooough, I need my bench…” big mistake. Oh, did he snap big time. He almost shouted at me to stop, not pester him, how rude of me, etc. I was flabbergasted. Really, I was. I didn’t even feel like smacking him, I was just so shocked at such an anti-social behaviour I had no words left in me.

But funny enough, he was either very upset or he really did finish his work and grumpily moved away from my work bench. I was, by then, feeling very jittery and shaky from the conflict, but I took a deep breath and started working. Lenny, however, would not let it go. He still had to use a machine in the other end of the room, and he mauled at me from there the whole time. Mostly stuff along the lines of me being rude, and the nerve on me to disrupt his work and that I needed to respect him. I replied from where I was “The same goes to you, mister!” that only agitated him more. I realized he wanted to have the last word and whenever he angrily mumbled I had to respect him, I said “right back at ya!” – I will not have someone this disrespectful get away with such comments about me – and he got even more rude and said “You just shut up! You be quiet right now! The nerve, trying to take my bowl away from me while I’m working…”. I said he was the one still talking and, after musing on giving in to my mean streak to provoke him unendlessly and deciding against it, I forced myself to let him have the last word.

But he wouldn’t stop. I realized he didn’t want the last word, he wanted the last 100 words. He kept on ranting and ranting to himself, and first I kept quiet, but eventually it became so tiresome I said “You’re the one still talking, I’ve been quiet for a while now.”. When I heard im again ranting about how disrespectful I was and he wouldn’t stand for it and he’d go to the boss if I didn’t show any manners, I suddenly snapped.

Truth be told, I would’ve LOVED to go to the boss. Because first of all, I can’t imagine the boss would take drastic measures and secondly, even if I got fired, I don’t want to work with disrespectful people who will get away with anything. But I did realize I had ruffled feathers up with no intention. I dropped what I was doing, and calmly walked to him.

That’s when I saw the man was red like a tomato. I could swear even his eyes and hair had turned red. He refused to look at me. Not in an arrogant way, but in a furious and beaten down way, like he couldn’t believe anyone had dared stand up to him. Because you see, no one does. He’s like a big child. People all around me will let people like him be disrespectful and will shrug it off with an “old dogs don’t learn new tricks”. They enable this. And I simply refuse to play along. Not when it’s this bad.

Although he kept telling me to shut up and go away, I said “Lenny, I think I unintendely offended you, it is not what I was going for. I simply wanted to get to my work and decided to make a joke out of it, I was obviously unsuccessful at that…” – “You’re damn right you were!” but still no eye contact. I kept looking at him straight in the face and went on “I realize that now. I didn’t mean to offend you and I’m sorry. I need you to know that I meant no disrespect and will try my best that it doesn’t happen again in the future. (where the hell was all this coming from?! I kept surprising myself) I do need, however, that you try not to interfere with my work”.

The rest is kind of history. He was obviously still very upset and kept ranting at how disrespectful I was and how he’ll always take my table if he feels like he needs it. But after I told him my mind, I went back to my work, still jittery and obviously distracted, but I did my best and he eventually had to leave the room. He was flustered, but quite on his toes for a while (“this filth here on the microwave wasn’t me, ok?! Just so you know! Before anyone tries to pin it on me!”).

There was, you might surprised, a 3rd person present in the room the whole time – another colleague who I’m still not very fond of and who made no attempt to mitigate the situation or help in any way. She just came to me after a while and said “Boy, I think you really struck a nerve with Lenny….” I said I noticed it too, but I’m very particular about my workplace and I simply cannot have it when someone not only takes my space, they refuse to apologize or even admit a fault on their side. She added “I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if he’s in a bad mood when he needs to come in here…” I told her “I picked up on that already. But  I already apologized and explained what’s up. From here on, I’ll just stay polite and things normally work themselves out. And if not, it’s certainly not MY problem.”

It was a great achievement for me, keeping my cool in a situation like this and still confronting someone. I just felt it was too bad I had to have a similar situation with my sister later on, but this post is long enough as it is.

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ADDmitedly a rough couple of weeks – staying positive (longread)

Staying positive is hard. The hardest part for me is knowing that it’s not all up to me. A better part is knowing I’m getting help. I’ve been getting help from doctors even before I knew I have ADHD.

Just today I was lying in bed, remembering how awful it was just 2 years ago when it started. I got fired from my job as a statement from the new Operations Director because I was getting too chummy with the union’s committee at work. I had been living for two years in a country that felt like a big tub of water repelling little ol’ olive-oil drop that is me.

I remember how awful sleeping was, back then: I felt tired but I just lay in bed. You know how when you’re falling asleep, in your last moments of consciousness you feel your body getting heavier, sinking in and having that one last thought “This is it, I’m going … I’m delightfully sinking,weeeee…”; do you know that feeling as well as I do? Well, I didn’t have that feeling back then. I lay there, eyes closed, tired and yawning with my eyes closed. Yawning until my closed eyes stated getting teary from the exhaustion. Yawning. I didn’t fall asleep, I fell into unconsciousness. I know this because I know I was eventually not awake. I knew this because it was very violent when the alarm clock went off. When it went off, I woke up like something exploded. It was the only time when I knew what it was like feeling disoriented for a couple of seconds, panicking because I didn’t know where I was and what was going on.

The doctor helped. He got me to sleeping regularly in a short time. I moved away from Austria. I moved back to Germany where I felt welcome again. Like I can connect with people anywhere. It was hard making the change at first. Later, the meds helped. What helped the most, though, was not stopping. Because I didn’t stop, when I felt better, I found everything standing right where I left it – I didn’t have the overwhelming and positivity-cancelling feeling of having to pick up the slack.

Having a tendency for depression and anxiety – that was non-existent in my teens and explosive once I got to college – it’s long been one of my mottos: “keep doing stuff. Eventually, if you get to the point you’re happy, you have most of the work done already!” 

Back in April I got an old used bike from a co-worker. From trying to fix it alone to joining an internet Forum and meeting some nice helpful people, with all my ups and downs I ended up getting a 2nd hand bike on E-bay in end of July and, end of August, doing a Tour of about 45km (30 miles) with people I met on the forum. I felt like I was on my way to changing my life. I had also gotten a job offer I quite liked. From whining and complaining that I was lonely and bored during my phone calls with my best friend, I had something new to tell – ok, still feeling a bit lonely, but not bored. It felt like the things I’d been working hard on were finally paying off!

And then I went ahead, and right after the job interview, I crashed my bike. I crashed really hard. I finished my planned tour – crazy gal that I am – but at home, I realized that I needed a doctor. I still could muster enough courage to do a trial-day on my soon-to-be new workplace, but after that, the muscles started bitching and moaning that they were gonna clench up nice and tight to compensate for the fall. I got immobile. I tried my best to go for a walk one hour a day and try to go window shopping, not sit on my ass all day.

But I did sit longer than usual and combined with the new pill I had started a couple of months ago, my left leg cramped up first. Then it wouldn’t let go. Then the pain became unbearable and I couldn’t walk. I had had a DVT – a Deep Vein Thrombosis. I almost couldn’t believe it, because even though I’m obese, I’m not morbidly obese. I walk on a regular basis, I have very low cholesterol and it’s simply not a common thing at 33. It was the pill (that I started taking because of mind numbing pain when on my period) and the sitting. I’m going to be home a total of 6 weeks. I have to bandage and rebandage my left leg several times a day until my “tailor-made” compression stockings are done because I have to keep the leg compressed. The bandage makes it hard to walk normally.

I had to cancel my trip to my best friend: the plane ticket to go to her in France had been a gift from her, non-refundable and we had both looking forward to that trip for months now, mentioning it every week in our phone calls. Because of the DVT, my doc forbade it.

Hit another financial crisis: the little help I got from the state had to be renewed, and because I have a new job in two weeks, instead of saying I still get the money before I get the new job, they decided they can only decide it in December – after I have proven them that I still have a crappy job for two weeks and not so crappy job come mid-October. So after paying lots of medical bills (which are teeny tiny in Europe, but there was a lot of them and I don’t have much), I have no money to pay for my cell and my electricity, even after I asked family for money.

I have been a sobbing mess most days and though I have new ADHD meds, I think they’re working better, but I can’t even tell because well…. it’s an extraordinary situation right now. So it’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard because, although I kept moving, there is still some slack to pick up (the financial slack, that one wasn’t 100% my fault). It’s very hard because I realized, being single and having family and friends far away, that there is no one to help me on my day-to-day life. I’m not completely alone, but there just isn’t any kind of support in the type of mild sickness that almost knocks you off your feet but still leaves you some autonomy. And that sucks.

I had a bitter glimpse of what the future might be like for me despite my best efforts; a glimpse of how poor and inadequate even the best of my efforts are and it’s hard not to panick. It’s hard not to go bonkers. So I sometimes panick and sob. I think this is normal. I’m still thankful for some things.

I’m thankful for being the kind of person who can at least still truly enjoy some little things. In a while, I’m going to the supermarket on foot (can’t afford my bus ticket this week) to fetch a can of pineapples. Because I’m going to bake a one-person-version of a recipe from the french baking-book my best friend gave me for my birthday. And the sun is shining, so I’m gonna be listening to my music, strutting and smiling and happy for at least 5 minutes.

And 5 minutes in 24 hours isn’t much, but if it’s all I can get right now, I’ll gladly take it! Because that’s what staying positive is. It’s not ALWAYS being positive. It’s being able to acknowledge the good parts and marvel at them when they come unexpectedly; it’s being able not to poop all over it just because you feel like crawling in a corner and dying for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day.

Well, gross exaggeration on the crawling and dying part, but you catch my drift? ;)