Eventually, though, minor mistakes turned into huge ones. That following week, I was on my own trying to put together a return of expensive suits. I didn’t understand how different this order was from our standard purchases, and I was in the office doing it all on my own for the first time.
I had never processed something like it before and didn’t understand the paperwork involved. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. Everything the designers didn’t want was there and accounted for. The only thing that was a mess was the paperwork, which I didn’t do, because I didn’t know I needed to, nor did I know how to.
So when my boss came in with limited time, she was less than pleased. For an hour and a half, I was there, just me and my boss, while she reiterated how bad the situation was. The paperwork was also not done correctly when it came in. Which meant the possibility that we didn’t receive everything, and we would be held responsible for the cost of them if that were true. The more I tried to explain, the more I was accidentally talking over her, the more excuses it seemed I was making, and the worse I looked.
It was humiliating. Yes, there is no way I would have known I needed to do those things because I had never done them before. Was it a learning experience? Yes obviously. However, I was disappointed in my own lack of initiative. Not because my boss humiliated me or was disappointed in me but because I humiliated and disappointed myself.
It ended up getting worked out! But, the feeling of failure and humiliation started looming in the back of my mind. I started seeing all the places I was dropping the ball all over the place. I began to create a narrative in my head that I routinely let my boss and coworkers down, and they felt the same way. I was full-on paranoid, struggling to separate reality from the false narrative I had running in my mind. My anxiety and mental health had reached a very dangerous swing in a different direction.
In reality, the only real issue was that I was creating problems that weren’t there. I continued making really humiliating mistakes. I was worried I was actually going to get fired. I let my anxiety talk me into second-guessing what I was doing.
I’m still working on climbing out of the mental health hole I’ve gotten myself into. Convincing myself, I am not my mistakes. But also taking accountability for them, so they don’t happen again. And please don’t remind me it’s a “learning experience.” Because I already know, and I lose it on you for how condescending it always ends up sounding.
As I explained what was happening to a friend of mine, who works in early childhood development. She informed me that the truth is a “chaotic brain” is, in fact, NOT a learning brain. We can NOT retain new information in panic mode. And psychologists have learned that when we feel in danger or stressed, it’s no longer “fight or flight.” Instead, it’s “fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.” And when I am anxious, I freeze. And if you’ve read my previous posts, my brain literally stops in its tracks, and I have to fight harder for reasoning skills.
This is where I’ve been mentally idling at these last three months. The root of the problem isn’t that I’m new. It’s that I haven’t been in a mindset to focus, communicate, or really pay attention. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to find ways to do better and figure it out. And cliche quotes and sayings aren’t going to do the work for me.
I’ve been feeling uncomfortable because of it all. My heart feels almost exactly how it did when “Jack Daniels” broke up with me. Showing me that at that time, it was more than just heartbreak. It was the uncomfortableness that comes with growth. With leveling up. It’s happening again, and the truth is there is no way around struggles like that. Your only option is through.
The idea that you did it, you’re past it, it’s over. Starts to grind at me because it’s never really over. Yes, I learned some things, and I survived. It feels like people expect growth and challenges to be this one-time thing. You get over the treacherous dark mountain and forever get to stay in a lovely sunny valley forever. And it’s just not how it works, especially for people like me who have ongoing mental health struggles. It is only a matter of time before it comes back or something triggers it. Or a new challenge inevitably comes along. You are never really ‘cured.’ You get better at processing both the past and the present.
But in the end, I did get through that project. That TV show invited me back to next season because of my positive attitude and openness to learning while I was obviously struggling. That is a win, not enough to disregard the mentally hard time I went through, but it’s really the one thing I have going for me right now, my positive attitude. So, as a result, I find myself doing occasional additional work on another tv-show as a set PA. And every day I’m there, I am absolutely a deer caught in headlights.
I am torn between giving myself the grace I am learning and knowing that impressions mean a lot when you need to network in any field, and if I just can’t keep up… that isn’t a good sign. I find myself a little lost and having to rely on faith that I’m going in the right direction. Because at the end of the day, I might not enjoy what I’m doing because I’m physically and mentally struggling, but whether this is a long-term career path for me or not, I find myself wanting to stick with it long enough to get better at it.
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