A pressing question

‘To press someone for an answer,’ has entered the English language as a phrase to suggest emotionally, or in a time-limited way, putting pressure on someone to give a response.

This is not the true sense of the phrase. In the past people were placed on their backs with a stone beneath them and a door or panel placed on top of them to which rocks were added. They were literally ‘pressed for an answer.’ Many died. A ‘pressing question’ was not a searching question asked by Jeremy Paxman of a politician but a question of life or death; answering or not answering.

When you are suffering from anxiety making a decision whether to remain in your job or leave feels like a pressing question in every sense of the phrase.

The chest feels tight and heavy as though pressed by heavy rocks. Adrenaline and cortisol pump through the veins making the heart pound even though the body and mind feels leaden. Rational thought is absent. Decisions take on the weight and size of unbearable rocks.

Will making a decision lighten the load? Will a decision ease the anxiety?

The irony is that when you are pressed by anxiety decision making is too much of a challenge. The pressing question remains pressing but unanswered and your back is bowed. Time will tell if you will break.

The black dog and dry bones

The black dog is on my back. His paws slung low over my shoulders as he drags me to the ground. My breath is ragged as my heart pounds. I can hear his words so clearly in my mind. He comes and whispers when I am alone. His words a dark corrosive poison, eating in to the strategies I try to maintain my balance, dissolving the ground under my feet. The poison eats in to my equilibrium. I am left a fallen, crumpled, tear stained mess on the floor beneath.

How did I get here?

How did this happen?

Most people see me as a strong, happy person. A leader.  A listener. A do-er.  Most of the time that is exactly what I am.

I have a stressful, pressured full time job.  I have children, who though older and largely independent, rely on me for food, clothing and most of all love, reassurance and guidance.  I have a loving husband and a great family and set of friends.

Most of the time I manage work with a few teeth grinding nights but a smile on my face.

So what has changed? How has the black dog been allowed to start devouring my self confidence, making me doubt that my loving family and friends need me and eating my belief in a future?

A series of little things.  Not getting a contract for my job through the business I have worked for in that role for 18 months. Being told in an email that there may not be enough money to pay my wage. I am not paid a salary commensurate with my role anyway to add insult to injury.  Being reprimanded when my ‘tone’ in an email, after being exasperated by not having a contract, wasn’t considered appropriate.  Little comments like, “Do you think you’d manage?” when considering going for an alternative job.

I have worked under duress all year. Despite not having a large team, unlike other similar sized businesses, I have brought them through detailed inspections successfully.   I have built great working relationships with external agencies as well as within the company. The work I have done has benefited the clients.

And yet, despite all this, I am not considered worthy of a contract. Not having a contract means I don’t have the authority I need to do my job effectively and efficiently.  It leaves the company vulnerable as my role is a statutory one.  It leaves me vulnerable as I travel a lot and my insurance will be negated if I am not who I think I am in the company.   I am not allowed to claim my travel costs as my role doesn’t exist. I am asked my HR is it a new or supply role?  Yet the boss says, “We value your work.” I know from the black dog words cannot always be taken at face value. They need to be considered, analysed and evaluated.  Words of praise ring hollow when they are not followed through with action to put a contract in place.

People can do stressful, pressured jobs when they stand on a firm grounding with support and understanding from those they work with. When trust is lost, the black dog feeds. He feeds on job satisfaction, he feeds on resilience and ultimately he feeds on hope.

I am now dry bones.  I need God’s Holy Spirit to breathe on them to build me back up and give me some direction, some hope in this life.  Do I stay and fight or walk away shaking the sand from my sandals in faith and expectation that another opportunity will present itself?