My annual review at work is coming up in three days. I’ve messed up, really bad. I feel like my life is about to be over. How do I get through this?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (39 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t even know where to begin. I feel sick to my stomach, and I have no one I can talk to about this. No one, not even my husband.
I guess I'll begin with who I am. I'm decently social and have lots of friends, but at heart I'm an introvert. I don't like to talk about my problems. I especially don't like to ask for help. I've thought about posting this question here for months... and I couldn't bring myself to do it, because doing so would mean admitting and facing my failure (and now I fear it's too late anyway). I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my work. When I can't do something perfectly, it causes me a lot of anxiety. I don't know exactly what it is. I suppose deep down, I feel that I'll be judged as stupid and incompetent. The worst is when I do my absolute best, and I still feel that it is not good enough. Then, no amount of hard work or trying will cover up my ineptitude. That's when I kind of shut down.
So that brings me to my job. It's my second year in this profession, and it's the kind of profession where time is literally money - I'm expected to bill a certain number of hours per month. The people who make it to this profession are usually very bright, capable people who thrive on high pressure and huge responsibility. I say usually, because I am not those things. I feel like I've flown under the radar to get here, that if the people at my firm knew who I really was, I would never have gotten this job in the first place. I put on a big smile at work, and I try my best to fit in, but I have never felt like I could ever really be "one of them." But I had to try. I didn't see any other option. Again, giving up would have been admitting failure.
At the beginning of my career, I was in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend (now husband). The plan had always been for him to move here with me. He speaks English fluently and I don't speak the language of his country at all, so we figured this would be best if we wanted to have a dual income family. After a lot of soul searching, he gave up everything he had in his home country. A great career, his family, his friends, he gave it all up to come here and be with me. I was over the moon. Understandably, his feelings were more mixed. He had a very hard time finding a job here, and after months of unemployment and homesickness, he became deeply depressed.
I had never felt so helpless and scared. The odds were stacked high against him finding a job here that would compare to the one he left behind. I knew that my love could not make up for him missing his family and friends. I tried so hard, but I couldn't make him happy. For a few months after he moved in with me, I was earning barely enough to support the two of us. I was already working long hours at my job to make sure I'd be offered a permanent position, but I didn't want to put any more strain on my boyfriend by asking him to help out around the apartment. My weekends were spent juggling errands and housework, keeping up with bills, and doing things my boyfriend enjoyed... anything to help him feel less unhappy. Time for myself largely fell by the wayside. All the things I loved to do, I either had no more time or no more money for.
Luckily, I was offered another contract and a raise. Things were more comfortable financially, but my boyfriend still had doubts about a future here with me. I felt like I had to be perfect for him. I didn't want to give him any more reasons to not want to be with me. I know it was irrational, and that I have no one to blame but myself for putting that pressure on me. Every few weeks or so, we'd have a breakdown with lots of tears, him saying that he was still not happy and feeling more hopeless about a future here with each passing day, and me begging him to give it just a little more time. I promised that if he decided to move back, I would go with him. He said he didn't want me to go with him, because he couldn't put me through what he was feeling.
I tried my best to leave all the emotional baggage at home, but it crept into my work. I wasn't sleeping well, and I was exhausted all the time. I felt like I had to be "on" at all times, at work and at home, and was starting to buckle under the strain. At work, all the different stresses compounded until I couldn't keep it all together anymore. The one thing that caused me the most stress at work was... billing my time. I always felt like I couldn't do the work fast enough, to a high enough standard. I would post my time in the system and then agonize over it. I would look at how long it took me to do something, and think it was too slow, so I would enter less time than it actually took me. Sometimes, things were so hectic, and billing was such a mentally exhausting thing for me, that I would neglect to record my time at all.
It got worse and worse. Or rather, the relief I got from putting off the task of billing time was so immense that I began putting it off for a day, then two days, then several days. And then weeks. Then that began to eat away at me too, and this anxiety only fed into the overall vicious cycle of stress and poor coping. Then, eventually, I stopped caring. Not-billing became my coping mechanism, and I rationalized it, thinking well, as long as I'm getting the work done, who cares if my time isn't being recorded? The answer should have been me. I should have cared, because I was screwing myself over. I desperately wanted out. I knew by then that I wasn't cut out for this kind of work, and that it was slowly but surely wrecking me. But I couldn't talk to anyone about it, least of all my boyfriend. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel even worse about being financially dependent on me.
My boyfriend finally found a job. It wasn't a great job, but it was enough to lift his spirits. He began talking about our future again. That was a relief. This is part I don't quite understand myself. Things got a lot better for us, a whole lot better. My boyfriend and I got engaged, and then married. Then he got a great job, finally. This should have taken a huge weight off my shoulders, and I suppose it did. My personal life has been very happy these days. But things at work kept going south. After all the turmoil in my relationship and the daily stress at work, I think I had simply burned out past the point of no return. And as I was finally able to acknowledge all the fears and feelings I had pushed down over those many months, I think something in my mind slipped. Instead of all the different stresses sliding off me as I dealt with them, it felt like they all started stacking up on me, each little thing multiplying in weight.
Shortly after the wedding, I began feeling seriously depressed. I'm still in the midst of it right now. I am familiar with the feeling, because it is something I have struggled with my whole life. Needless to say, the depression isn't helping me to cope or to process my feelings at all. I have a really hard time getting to sleep at night. My mind races, so I try to find ways to distract myself until exhaustion takes over. I have nightmares or stressful dreams almost every night, and it feels like an enormous task just to get out of bed to go to work each morning. I go to work, and I have difficulty concentrating. My job requires a lot of writing, and I feel like I have constant writer's block. I have trouble making decisions. The worst part is probably feeling like it's not worth it anymore. I would never actually end my life, I couldn't do that to my husband, or to my family (I forgot to mention, my father was also recently diagnosed with cancer), but I think about it all the time. It became a comfort to me to know that escape is possible.
So then, I didn't just stop billing my hours, I actually wasn't working enough hours anymore. I still sat behind my desk upwards of ten hours a day, and went in to work on the weekends, trying to force myself to get the work done, but so few of those hours were productive ones. And now, here I am, about to hit rock bottom. Looking back at what I've written, it all sounds so unbelievably stupid. And my review is in three days. I won't be getting my bonus, or a raise. I'm bracing myself for the worst possibility, being fired. If my boss asks me why they should let me keep my job, I would have nothing to say. I haven't even come close... not even close... to my billing target. I could have gotten help with my depression, anxiety, everything, and maybe I wouldn't be in this situation if I had, but it's too late now.
In a moment of weakness, I sort of let on to my husband that things might be bad, and he sees me crying, but he thinks I'm just overwhelmed with work and maybe need a weekend getaway. I told him recently that I'm afraid I'll be fired for not getting enough work done, and he chalked that up as ridiculous nonsense because I'm constantly working late and on the weekends. I'm terrified of what this will do to my marriage. I've let my husband down. We've struggled for so long, and now that we finally have a solid combined income and are able to make plans for our future, to do fun things together and actually enjoy life, I'm going to lose my job. I've ruined everything.
What now? What can I possibly do? How will I live this down? How will I find another job after being fired for such an egregious screw up? Please help me.