Posted in Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Learning to Breathe Again

I had a meltdown at work Friday, or almost did at any rate.  My body told me to go home before I think it would have happened.

We’d been running air conditioning all week and I have this thing where I can’t be too hot so I need it but if it’s running for too many days in a row, I get sort of fuzzy headed and can’t think.  This was the first cooler day, but being inside all the time, I didn’t really have the benefit of outside air yet, and beyond that I had had a work training where two men sat on opposite sides of me, completely ignoring the standard buffer I try to get around me and I also had to interact and stuff.

None of these things were big things, but suddenly everything was enormous.

Continue reading “Learning to Breathe Again”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Regret: Learning to Unmask

This is a bit rawer than I usually write, but it explores what I’m feeling and where I am now.

I am finally beginning to get back to the way I was before I ever entered that school.   I’m working around what used to be my home office and I am finally able to pick things up and am trying to figure out where they go. I have listed books for sale that represent my academic and professional life. I have thrown a lot of things away, and for a pack rat it’s very difficult to throw things away because I might need them in the future.  I think now that I see that my life will definitely be very different. I realize I no longer need to hold on to the clutter.

Continue reading “Regret: Learning to Unmask”

Posted in Burnout, Self-Care

Wiggling Past Worry: Autistic Resilience in Adversity

I’ve been told that being Autistic is kind of like having some anxiety and some depression at all times, but otherwise by itself it’s fine.

You’re anxious because of the constant stress to fit into this world not designed for us, and you’re depressed because this is just “normal” for you to be in a highly stressed state all of the time.

And the thing of it is, the anxiety and depression are connected to real, verifiable incidents.  We’re not making things up in our head about how the world treats us and how it hurts us to be out in public, even though we might want to be out of the house.  It is, objectively harder for us.

But, you know, we keep going.  This is status quo for us.  It’s never going to fully go away, and we learn how to mitigate the worst of it by changing our behaviors and/or medications, depending o the severity of symptoms and whether or not we are able to change our behaviors.

We generally have to work, for example, and work is a constant stressor, particularly when it takes places outside the house (as is the thought of interviewing and looking for work, etc.).

But you know what’s interesting about us?

Despite the constant anxiety and depression, we are freaking resilient people, especially if we have the right people around us, affirming us for what we are good at doing.

Continue reading “Wiggling Past Worry: Autistic Resilience in Adversity”

My Boss is Back

To tell you how it’s going at school, now that my boss is back, let me give you an analogy:

You’re in the midst of a divorce and you sit down to talk about assets.

In the conversation, your ex (who pitched you out; you were fanatically loyal) implies that he’s considering paternity testing on all of the children born of the marriage.

He goes on to gush about his shiny new family, and how he can’t wait to get started with that.  His life is going to be so much better when he’s rid of you and those inconvenient kids he had with you.

You sit there, realizing you’ve been duped for your entire marriage and wonder if you have the energy to fight for your kids and what they deserve.

So, yeah, it’s going fantastically.

Posted in Burnout, Catholic leadership

Less Than Nothing

When I took this job, it was unpleasant and awkward: Father had removed a person who was, objectively, bad at her job by all metrics.  She was a poor teacher, dressed like she was a child, herself, and played favorites and made friends with the staff.  The school was her playground.

Our students did not do well academically, and she was oblivious to this.

Religiously, we were abysmal, and she really didn’t care.

A year later, I’m in the same position she is: I have lost my job (and the entire school besides), but unlike her, I’ve done everything right.  People tell me that none of this is a reflection on myself or what I’ve done or not done.

But it’s the same story.

While emotionally, treating the former principal so poorly (he let her finish the year, but it was just dreadful) was not kind, it was logical.

Tossing me out like garbage when I didn’t do anything wrong is even less the right thing to do.

Here is a list of only some of the things I did, as principal, that had nothing to do with the principal job:

·         Safe Environment Coordinator

·         Website writer/designer

·         Marketing

·         Liaison to Spanish Ministry

·         Coordinate Fish Fry (A parish fundraiser, not per-se a school one)

·         Internet/Networking

·         Computer maintenance

·         Translator

·         Back up parish secretary

·         Rewrite and translate letters for Father (copywriting/editing)

·         Small-scale fundraising

·         Grant-writing

·         Coordinate facilities

·         Signage—Changing on outside

In short, I was the parish administrator, not just the school administrator.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m paid the least of any school principal in my Diocese, with no health insurance, no retirement…nothing.

I think there’s a lesson in all of this.

I was undervalued, underpaid, and overworked.  I thought, foolishly, that being good at my job (so good I was given responsibilities for the whole parish) would help ensure my continued presence at the parish even if the school were to close because these things would still have to go on as before.  Based on the chilly reception I got when he came back, I know that he is done with me.

I was last year’s flavor-of-the-month.  Next year will be religious education.  He has an idea that will revitalize the parish, he’s been told.  Just like improving the school was supposed to.  He’s planning to find a way to convince the person who set up our endowment, designed to pay for Catholic education for students in our neighborhood, that he should let him use this money to fund religious education, not Catholic school tuition.  This was not the purpose of the endowment, and there is literally no sense in what he is planning because it’s happening piece-meal, and haphazardly, and a generation or two too late.  The young people aren’t going to flock to us for this programming; at least one other parish in town is doing this already.

He has literally no clue that when you don’t allow time for changes to take hold, they will fail.  He killed the school before it had a chance to grow.  He’ll try this new thing and it’ll fail for two reasons: 1) he doesn’t have the staff to see it through, and 2) even if he did, he’ll be disappointed in how it’s not progressing fast enough, and he’ll change again.

And he’s grown territorial.  He’s decided to save this parish, he’s going to fight with the other three priests, to stake his claim, as they have, which has so far only resulted in continued bickering and in-fighting while people flee our parishes.

But this helps me to make a decision: whatever I decide to do, we will not remain in this parish and I am questioning whether I wish to continue in this Diocese, either.  You see, my Diocese has never really supported Catholic education, beyond lip service.  In other areas of the country, Bishops have taken strong leadership roles in guiding their parishes to successfully revitalize the important mission of Catholic education.

My bishop has mostly stifled it.

In the end, my problem is that I am trying to unlearn a rule that I have taken to heart too long: that my hard work for God and in bringing children to God would be rewarded.  I would be increasingly at peace.  But with this parish already given over to the Devil, to be his plaything, why would I think I could keep fighting this evil, especially when my boss decided to stop fighting it, too?

We didn’t drive the devil from this parish; we gave it to him.

And I am spent from the fight.

Posted in Burnout, Self-Care

Isolation

So, ’tis the time of year to prepare to make resolutions regarding what one will and will not do during Lent.

Lent is the 40-day time before Easter to purify ourselves and to get ready for Holy Week, which represents Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and resurrection.

The joke this year is it starts on a day dedicated to chocolate and candy (Valentine’s Day; St. Valentine would probably not be thrilled with what his day has become) and ends on April Fool’s Day (Easter).

To get ready, we generally give something up and/or make promises to do things better.  On Fridays, we don’t eat meat (in Catholic circles, that means broth and “things from the sea” including alligator are good, but poultry are not; our Orthodox friends get to have chicken and turkey) and on some days (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) we Catholic fast and abstain from meat.

Catholic fasting is a joke for Jewish and Muslim friends: we eat two “little meals” (together not totaling a meal) and a big meal.  We brush our teeth and drink water and everything.  We are lightweights on fasting.

It’s popular in Catholic circles to give up social media as a sacrifice during this time because somehow it’s destroying us all.

Under an argument that it wastes time, I guess I can see that.  There is a certain time waste associated with social media; the endless scrolling and hope to find something to “like” or with which to interact get tedious.

However, some people use social media to connect because they are unable to have such deep, rich, and varied interactions in their “real” lives.

In fact, for some of us, an in-person visit is insipid and pointless.  I’ll use the time to get to know your cats, dogs, and other pets.  Maybe I’ll talk to your grandmother or young children, but honestly, the “age appropriate,” human types bore me.

That in person visit is a waste of time for me.

And, in my own life, Facebook has become like that pointless visit in the living room; I mostly use it to scan through prayer requests from a group of women I’m in, and I pray for them and move on.  But I don’t develop anything meaningful there.  It’s mostly full of people I knew in my past, but haven’t bothered to keep up with.  Some of these people are parents of Autistics and like to post junk from Autism $peak$, so it helps me greatly to avoid them, particularly around April since they have ignored my repeated pleas to consider dumping the eugenicist organization as a source for news about Autism.

But Twitter is different.  Autism Twitter is fascinating; we meet up there and we chat and we defend each other against the attacks of people who don’t understand Autism.  It is there we meet up with the other big names of the Disability community and share information, all in reasonable-sized chunks of information.

And we can also look at kitties and puppies, too, if we want.

Continue reading “Isolation”

Posted in Burnout

Autistic Gratitude and the Workplace

I have a picture of a drawing one of my former mentors made.  It’s of a white candle, embellished with gold rings at the bottom and a cross on top.  It illustrates the words of Blessed Theresa Gerhardingher, founders of the sisters who sponsor my alma mater: “The candle consumes itself as it serves others by its shining.”

As principals, we were encouraged to not keep ourselves burning constantly, and take time to replenish ourselves so that we would not deplete our reserves.

It was impossible this year.  I worked almost every day, and all summer long planning and trying to bring plans to fruition.  My priest took two days off, half days Sunday and Tuesday, and a full day Monday.  He’s had true retreats and mini-vacations.  I was working weekends and every day, and if I was very lucky, I could work at home on the weekends.

Even Mass was working for me, as it was for him.

A candle’s wax burns, but if you let it cool off once in a while and grow firm again, it lasts longer.  Yes, it will eventually consume itself, as we should all do to serve others, but it should take a long time.  Protecting the candle helps a lot, since if the wax all drips off to the side, it’s not very useful when it firms up again.  Apparently you can add things like salt to candles, the internet tells me, and they’ll last longer.  I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it’s a nice thing to say, since care and feeding of the candle are important, I’d like to think.

My candle is gone, or near to it.  It’s like I didn’t even burn the candle at both ends; it’s like I tossed it into a bonfire and wondered why it melted so quickly.

I’ve been blogging for months about near burnout.  A funny thing about us Autistics is we’re so used to the world giving us shitty treatment even when they don’t realize they are (he kind of knew, but didn’t bother himself about helping me to find ways to take time off) that when someone appreciates us, we’ll do just about anything to please them and prove worthy of their support.

Until we wear out and can’t go any more.

Right now, as you can imagine, I’m hurting, with the closure of the school.  But what hurts the most is that, as usual, I’ll be out of work again soon, and that I’m not even worth wooing back for another position.  I’m a strong writer, bilingual, and actually understand the Church’s mission and teachings pretty well.  I’m an asset to church ministry.

Oh, I’ll also work dirt cheap because I’m so grateful someone will take a chance on me.  And I’ll work harder than most everyone else and do more, too.

And yet, I was not asked to consider even a demotion.

This desperation-in-the-workplace is obviously not sustainable, especially since few employers, not even church employers, are going to really look out for their employees, apparently.

I have a lot of strikes against me: 1) I’m fat, so I make a poor first impression, 2) I’m Autistic, so my first impression is going to also be, well, “weird,” and 3) I have so many degrees that employers think I won’t stick around anyway.  Any one of those things is difficult for employment purposes, but all three is a trifecta of obstacles.

Then add in that I’m fresh off a rather public failure.

All this, despite the fact that I did everything (or most everything) right.

I was so grateful to be asked to take this job even though it was impossible and I probably shouldn’t have been asked in the first place.  We should have closed last year, or (more properly) ten years ago.  But I was so grateful someone wanted me to lead and loved my ideas that I tried anyway.

I want to tell other Autistics not to do what I did, not to consume yourself so you’re left with nothing for yourself, but I don’t know that that is realistic.  We have to work harder to get and keep a job than most, so we’re going to be grateful and taken advantage of without people even specifically trying.

But what options do we have, really?