That morning, I had travelled into the offices of a company I do a lot of work with, to film an interview. My role was to be a supporting one, offering advice and guidance to a less-experienced crew as they went about the shoot. I knew both members of the team, having been working with them now for several weeks, and wasn’t expecting any problems at all.
What was almost a physical shock, then, struck me when one of the members of the film crew began to raise his voice and use expletive-laden vocabulary to express his displeasure with my work. I was accused of being incompetent, rude, of demeaning this person, and of generally not knowing how to do my job. All liberally sprinkled with four letter words.
Throughout, this was in the presence of the interviewee, who had just arrived, the other film crew and staff from the company who’s offices we were working in that day.
So, what did I do? Well, I took a deep breath, remained calm, told the person that whatever issue they had this wasn’t the time or place to talk about it, and we got on with filming the interview. (Much credit is due here to one of the team from the office who stepped in to help, at just the right moment, and gave me a vital second to take a breath and think).
The interview, in the end, was a success, despite the issues at the start. However, there is no excuse, ever, for the kind of behaviour which took place in that room.
I know what it’s like to lose your temper. And I know what it’s like when that makes you do very, very stupid things; including when that happens in the workplace. I have come within a hair’s-breadth of losing jobs because of it, and have had to work extraordinarily hard to learn to control it.
All of that means that I can understand, I can empathise with the many possible reasons why what happened on Monday might have happened. But that doesn’t make it okay. I’ll say it again, there is no excuse.
There is a medical diagnosis called “Acute Stress Response”. It’s one of the things I was diagnosed with, the other being Depression, two years ago when I was profoundly unwell. One of the skills I have developed since then is spotting the signs that I am becoming stressed.
Quite apart from the real, physical impacts which stress has on the body, avoiding stress is a vital part of keeping my mental health in a safe place. I just can’t afford to be putting myself in situations where I’m exposing myself to unnecessary amounts of stress. It’s not good for me, and I’m not (yet) strong enough to deal with it.
So the last twenty-four hours have been hell. I tried to talk the incident out with a colleague straight after, but it was too soon. Then I attempted socialising on Monday evening by going out for a meal with my dad – thanks, dad, I must have been the most miserable company! I’ve talked it through with a trusted mentor, I’ve been kind to myself, with time relaxing in front of the TV and I’ve been out for a very, very long walk.
At long last, I think I’m beginning to bring my head back into a reasonable place. TomSka has a colour coded system for managing his own mental health, which I think is pretty awesome, and think I may just steal for myself. I’m probably a Code Yellow at the moment, which is a heck of a lot better than I was this time on Monday.
From experience, I know that to get back on a properly even keel from the way I feel now will likely take at least two weeks and probably double that. Not a couple of hours, or even a couple of days, but a couple of weeks, if not longer.
That’s the impact that one person’s thoughtless outburst has had. An incident which lasted no more than three minutes, but which could take me a month or more from which to recover,
As I child, at primary school, I vividly remember being taught to “treat other people the way I would expect them to treat me.” It may be over twenty years ago, but it’s a phrase which has stayed with me ever since and is something I do my best to live out every day.
I don’t claim to be perfect – far, far from it – but I can’t help thinking that if the person who verbally assaulted me on Monday had remembered that one little phrase, perhaps I would have been writing about something a lot more cheerful than this.