Workshop Hell

Photo by Justin S. Campbell via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My husband and I both started attending employment counseling last week. After the first appointment, we came away with very different schedules. My counselor had me fully booked for workshops and appointments every day this week and into the next. Meanwhile, my husband was scheduled for only two workshops and one one-on-one appointment with a networking expert.

I had even been honest with the counselor about how overwhelmed I get and told her I can only handle part-time work (if that). She must not have understood what I was getting at. She would not have over-scheduled me if she had.

The workshops have proven to be pretty much useless. I already know how to write a resume. My problems are far more complex than that. What they’re teaching is so basic I think you’d have to be a complete idiot to get much out of it. I’m not saying I learned nothing though. I learned a couple of sneaky, unethical tricks to get my resume seen by potential employers. That’s the kind of stuff they’re teaching people.

There were really only two things I hoped to get out of all this, which have already proven to be complete busts:

  1. I was hoping to get help identifying a new career path that is a better fit for me than office admin. The only thing that’s come out of this in that regard is the advice to “find a way” to make money using my writing skills. No shit. Easier said than done.
  2. I was hoping there would be some kind of government funding for retraining, but my counselor told me on day one that there is nothing like that available.


I have ended up extremely overwhelmed and stressed by something that is proving to be of no value or benefit whatsoever. The problem is that I don’t know how to get out of it. It goes against everything in me to just not show up, so I know I need to cancel, but I don’t know how to. I will feel like I need to offer some excuse, but I don’t have one. And I don’t want to piss anyone off in a small town like this. In fact, my counselor even goes to my former church, which I intend to start attending again. If I bail out of all this without a good reason it’s going to be really hard to face her socially.

So I’ve continued to go.

My state of overwhelm finally came to a head today in a workshop on “Finding the Hidden Job Market.” This was the most useless workshop yet. It was basically hours of the instructor saying, “You have to socialize and talk to people to get a job in this town,” in a variety of different ways. I was already well aware of this. There’s no new way anyone can say it to make it any easier for me in practicality. So I was sitting there, feeling physically worn out from the week’s schedule, feeling tired from days of having gotten up earlier than my body can cope with, and with a blinding headache from the fluorescent lights. I was trying to look at the printouts I’d been given and the letters and words just started swimming on the page in pools of bright light, blending together, indistinguishable.

And then things took a bad turn, socially. She was talking about how if you’re new in town, employers are going to love that you’ve moved here, because…. she paused… she then looked at me and for some reason decided to single me out. “Do you and your husband have kids?” she asked me.

“No,” I said.

“But of course you will in the future.” Not a question. A statement.

“No,” I snapped, too loudly. “I’m already 43; if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably not going to.”

The room went silent for an awkward moment while everyone stared at me. Or at least I felt like everyone was staring at me. My face started to burn. I had overshared. Typical.

Then she, apparently unfazed, went on to say something… now I will probably not quote this accurately, word for word, because my head was in such a whirl that I’m not sure exactly what she said… but it was something to the effect that if we had kids, we would be seen as more valuable to the community, because our kids would be going to school here and would be involved in things and would be seen as the future of the community.

So, wait. What? She’s telling me I have to procreate to be valuable to the community? That employers would be happy my husband and I have moved here if we had kids? Was she implying they’d be more likely to employ us if we were parents and could contribute to the future population of the town? Is that how people think?! I hope I misunderstood what she was getting at because that is fucked.

I remained silent during this little lecture.

Not long after that, she had each person do a role-playing exercise with her. We were supposed to pretend that she was a potential employer and we were introducing ourselves for the purpose of networking. As she went around the room, getting closer to me, I felt this tightness rise higher and higher up my body. I started wracking my brain trying to think of something to say when she got to me, but my head was in such a fog by that point that I was a complete blank. I could not string a coherent thought together. When I realized that, I started trying to weigh my options for escape. But again, my brain wasn’t really working. My first instinct was to run from the room. But that would attract so much attention. I hate attracting attention. And there was actually someone in a chair blocking the path from my seat to the door. I would have to ask them to move to get out. So that was out of the question.

That was as far as I had gotten in my thought process when she finally came to me. She stuck out her hand and said, in her role as potential employer, “Nice to meet you. What can I do for you today?”

I blurted out, “I’m so sorry, I cannot pull it together to do this right now. I have a blinding headache and am not okay. I don’t want to be difficult but I just can’t.”

“Oh yes, you’re so difficult,” she said jokingly. Then she made some comment about how you shouldn’t be approaching employers if you’re having a bad day anyway and moved on to the next person. Funnily enough, and perhaps fortunately for me, two other people declined after me. One guy said it takes him all day to think of something to say and he can’t handle being put on the spot like that. A fellow Aspie, maybe? I could certainly relate.

As I sat there, I was feeling so awful, physically and emotionally, that I started having — okay, don’t be alarmed here; I’m not suicidal — mental images pop into my head of me shooting myself. I wasn’t actively thinking about suicide, or wanting to do it, or planning it. I don’t even know how to use a gun. It was just these images, unbidden. I used to get them a lot when I was young, but it’s been a very long time since the last time it happened. In fact, it was here, in this town, where I used to have them a lot.

When I got home, I fell asleep for a couple of hours and when I woke up, I didn’t know what day it was. I thought I was waking up the next morning. It took a few minutes to gain my bearings.

I really don’t want to go back to that place. Am I a terrible person if I don’t?


Deep Dark January

Zurich 02
Photo of Zurich by Dominik via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I hate January. Every January I get deeply tired and melancholic. For Christmas I bought myself a full-spectrum, sunlight-simulating lamp, thinking it might help, but so far it’s having little effect. In fact, I usually feel the need for a nap right after I’ve used it. I’m like a cat who wants to sleep in a sunbeam.

I have been a night owl for my entire life and it feels more natural for me to sleep during the day than at night anyway. I have such trouble sleeping that I could be mistaken for an insomniac, but the fact is, I have absolutely no trouble sleeping if I allow myself to do so during the day. It’s only when I won’t or can’t do that, like when I’m working, that I get really sleep deprived. I have tried to retrain myself, and my mother certainly tried to retrain me as a child, but to no avail. I feel awake in the dark and sleepy in the light. I have no idea why. Things have only gotten worse since I’ve moved two time zones east from where I grew up. I have never really adjusted to the time difference. I find it actually painful to wake up in the morning. My eyes always hurt for an hour or two, and I am clumsy and incompetent. This is one of the many ways that I just don’t quite fit into society and its norms.

But if it’s not the lack of light that makes me feel like this in January, I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s all in my head.

I also feel trapped inside by the cold. I am very sensitive to cold (especially when my thyroid gets out of whack, which it does from time to time), and I have asthma that flares up in cold weather. I have had embarrassing episodes in public where I’ve been gasping and wheezing and have had to use my rescue inhaler while concerned citizens gather around and look at me. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s attracting attention, and yet I seem to be ridiculously prone to it. Also, when I go out, all the winter outerwear I must have on makes me feel constricted almost to the point of panic at times. I especially hate having anything around my neck. I love the way scarves look, but I hate the way they feel. But then, I hate having my skin sting from the bitter cold, too.

It’s insane that I live in one of the coldest places in the world. With my issues, I should not be here, but when we came here it felt like our only option. My husband was out of work and despite his best efforts, this was the only door that opened for him.

This January, I have an additional factor adding to my low feeling. Someone I am very close to is in the midst of a major health scare. I don’t know if what I’m feeling is so much fear as it is an overwhelming bleak awareness of the inevitability of disease and death. (Yeah, I’m just a laugh a minute right now, aren’t I?) This person has already had a lot of pain in their life; the thought that they might now be facing a very painful end is just horrific. Things have finally settled down for this person in other aspects of life; can’t they just be allowed to have some peaceful, happy years now? Why must some people suffer so incredibly much?

And then comes the anxiety about my own response. I don’t respond the way people expect me to in these situations. I don’t show enough warmth or compassion, even though I feel it on the inside. I can come across very matter-of-fact, as if I don’t care, when on the inside I care so much I can hardly bear it.

Anyway, I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I get like this sometimes, going through weeks or even months at a time where I just feel like I don’t have anything to say. I go silent on Facebook at times like this too.

Lately I’ve just been staying home and reading books (I’m reading a Genevieve Lenard novel right now; the protagonist is an autistic, nonverbal communications expert who investigates art fraud, and I found these novels to be greatly enjoyable even before I seriously came to terms with the possibility that I am autistic myself) and watching travel videos on YouTube, wishing and imagining that I were someplace else. I’ve also just started an online speed-reading course, just for something to focus on. But being very communicative just feels beyond me right now.