I promised an update on various aspects of my life and I’ve done ones on my health and mental health so far. This is an update on my work situation.
In 2005 I uprooted my life after becoming a victim of crime. I ditched my home and business and ran away interstate as a reaction to developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when five youths broke into my house, stole my spare car keys, then terrorized me for a couple of hours before stealing my car and trashing it. I moved interstate to get away from them when only two of the five were taken off the streets and I kept running into the other three. I tried to cope but every time I saw them I’d be overcome by either fear or anger and, in the end, I just had to get away. I ended up going into debt to get out of town and I spent some time couch surfing and developed a gambling addiction that left me even deeper in debt. I managed to get a job in spite of my mental health issues and that allowed me to get my own place.
The job was a God send – literally!
The bosses supported me in every way. They were so good to me they actually helped me recover from some of the lingering issues caused by childhood trauma as well as the PTSD. With their support I was able to get treatment for PTSD, anxiety, and depression and my life stopped lurching from crisis to crisis. The job paid well and was not too hard to do so life took an easy, safe, peaceful turn for me.
I started out there as a crisis counsellor on the telephone help lines and moved up to being a supervisor of the crisis counsellors on the same help lines. It was a great place to work and I settled in for the long haul. There were better paid jobs but penalty rates for working shift work hours meant I earned full time money without working full time hours. I really thought I’d be there until I retired.
I had my cake and I was eating it too for the first time in my life. Good money, easy work, plenty of time off and wonderful bosses.
Then the beaurocrats moved in. Management ceased being made up of people with a counselling background and became number crunchers and call centre managers.
They ended up deciding to roll two jobs into one and make all the previous job holders compete with each other, and anyone else who wanted to apply from in or outside the organization, for half the number of jobs. We were given the options of either accepting a redundancy, applying for one of the new roles, or going back to being counsellors on the help lines. If we applied for one of the new jobs, or a counselling role, and didn’t get it we could not change our mind and accept the redundancy.
I struggle with a fear of rejection so I went into crisis mode at the thought of having to apply for my job.
I read the position description of the new job and I didn’t like it at all.
My old role was as a support for counsellors. I sat beside them during tough calls and provided support and suggestions on how manage the call as it was in progress. I called police or ambulance and initiated welfare checks to save the lives of people who called after taking action to harm themselves and I sat with the counsellor after their calls to help them process anything that came up for them during tough calls.
The role management was crossing that with was that of team leader. The team leaders role was to manage the overall performance of the counsellors. They conducted annual performance reviews, addressed performance issues like calls that went on too long or staff not getting to work on time, and they addressed any complaints about the counsellor that were made by callers or other staff members.
I knew if I was a counsellor and my manager was performing both those roles I would never call on them for help during or after a difficult call for fear of being judged on my weaknesses when it came time for the performance review.
It seemed like the two roles had conflicting goals and the position description read like all management wanted was for me to be a call centre manager. There seemed to be no interest in providing the counsellors with support any more.
The new role also had different hours. If I got the job I would be expected to work four ten hour shifts per week instead of the three 8 hour shifts a week I was used to working. I wasn’t sure I could cope with so many extra hours and, most of all, I didn’t believe I could do the job well because of the conflict between the two roles.
I prayed, of course, and I came to the conclusion I would have to take the redundancy because I did not think I could do the new role when I disagreed with it so much. I hoped the redundancy would give me enough money to make a deposit on a home of my own but that was not to be.
I applied for a few jobs after taking the redundancy but things didn’t work out.
First I tried my hand at being the go between for custody ordered access visits. The parent with custody gives the child or children to you and you take the child or children somewhere else and give them to the other parent for their visitation rights so the parents don’t have to have any contact with each other. I thought I could use my skills as a psychologist to influence warring parents to put their children first in this job.
I only lasted a few months.
I met a gorgeous little baby boy who accepted me with a big smile the first time he met me. He was such a sweetie but, every time I went to give him to his dad, he froze up. He transformed instantly from a normal, squirming, smiling, happy, relaxed infant to a wooden doll with no expression and no movement the second he spotted his father. I knew something was wrong and it wasn’t caused by his mother working to turn him against his father. This was all dad’s doing because the only person he reacted this way to was dad and he was too young to be influenced by anything his mum could do or say to turn him off his father.
Twice a week I would meet his mum outside a children’s play venue and she would hand the baby to me and leave. I would wait until she was out of sight then take the baby inside the venue where his father would be waiting. I would hand the baby to his father and stay with them for the hour long visit then I would take the baby from dad, carry him outside, hand him over to mum and wait until she was out of sight then give dad the OK to leave the play venue.
At first the baby came into my arms happily and willingly but each visit saw him grow increasingly more reluctant to come to me when it was time to go to dad. He remained happy to come to me when it was time to go back to mum but I could see where it was headed. It was painfully clear this child was, eventually, going to start crying at the sight of me!
Every time I had to hand him to his father he resisted and clung to me and I started feeling like a traitor. In real life I would NEVER force a child to go to someone they did not want to go to unless that someone was a doctor or nurse or other professional and it was necessary for the child’s well being.
At first I thought baby would adjust. I vowed to make sure nothing bad happened during these visits and I expected him to come to enjoy them. It would just be play time with dad. All attention would be on baby and whatever dad did to make baby react to him this way in the first place would never happen again – not while I was present. The child was so young I fully expected him to forget whatever had made him feel this way about dad and, eventually, come to feel safe during these visits.
I watched dad like a hawk. I trusted baby. If baby’s physical behaviour suggested dad was a bad man I believed him and I watched dad closely for the whole time of the visit. I monitored his tone of voice and how he interacted with baby. I looked for subtle cruelties like holding baby too tightly or pinching him when he thought nobody was looking. I watched him change baby and checked dad’s behaviour through the eyes of someone who has been abused and knows how cunning and subtle an abuser can be. Did dad touch baby inappropriately while changing him? Were there any clues in his current behaviour that might explain why baby turns into a still, emotionless, wooden doll in dad’s presence?
I found nothing.
Dad was definitely more concerned about his rights as a father than the child himself but I couldn’t fault his behaviour or see any reason at all for baby’s reaction to him but baby continued to act like he was afraid of dad. He did not get used to the visits. He froze up and endured them. He did not come out of his wooden doll act until I took him and started walking away from dad to give him back to mum.
On my last week mum tried to hand baby to me but baby fought harder than he had ever done before to avoid me and my heart sank. When he started crying as we headed into the venue my eyes got moist. When he saw dad walking towards us and he froze, cut off all sound mid sob, and stiffened into wooden doll pose my heart broke. When he clung to me like his life was in danger and resisted all efforts by his dad to take him I felt like I was abusing him myself by forcing him to go to his dad.
At that moment I knew I had made a terrible mistake. This was not the job for me! I gave notice on my way home from that visit.
My next job was better in one way and worse in another.
I went back to counselling people face to face. It was a struggle adjusting to the new procedures as computers have taken over appointment books, folders, and filing cabinets and notes are all done in online software now but I got the hang of it and I loved seeing people in person again.
Then, almost three months after I started, my employer told me she was no longer going to have employees and she was going to begin paying me as a contractor after the current pay cycle ended in two days time.
It felt like a bait and switch con job.
She wanted to hire me as a contractor at the initial interview but I said no. I told her that I had looked into becoming a contractor and discovered if you become a contractor so you can work for someone else you risk being fined over 10 thousand dollars so I was not willing to become a contractor. She said she was happy to hire me provided I could sign up to provide services through Medicare which I did.
Now, at the end of the three month trial period, she was ending my role as an employee and making me into a contractor whether I liked it or not. She told me she would need my ABN (Australian Business Number – something all businesses must have for tax purposes) by the end of the week.
This was two days before the end of the pay cycle. She was going to make me into a contractor at the end of the pay cycle. I had clients booked months in advance because she had given me no hints that she was going to do this. Any clients I saw after the next two days I would be seeing as a contractor.
I immediately gave notice.
She tried to bluff and bulldoze me. She said I had to give at least two weeks notice so I could keep all the appointments people already had with me but she was not willing to keep me on staff while I worked out that notice. If I worked two weeks notice I’d be working them as a contractor and I would have to get an ABN to do that or I’d be breaking the law.
I said nothing and she walked away smiling. I went home and studied our contract. She had a clause in it that allowed her to do what she had done – end my employment with just two day’s notice. The good news was she had worded it to allow me to do the same.
I went to work the next day and her smile of victory disappeared when I told her our contract only required me to give her two days notice and I was giving her that notice effective immediately.
She had two last tricks up her sleeve.
- Emotional blackmail. She said she was sure my clients would be upset to hear I was deserting them without letting them know, personally, that I was leaving.
- Professional pride. She said it would be highly unprofessional of me to leave without writing end of contact reports for all the doctors who had referred clients to me.
I had two days to see clients who were already booked for those two days, write reports for every client I had ever seen in the past three months, as well as tell them all, in person or over the phone, that I was leaving and offer them a chance to book appointments with someone else.
I don’t do emotional blackmail but I do have professional pride. I worked far more hours than I was paid for during those last two days. I called, or saw, every one of my clients and told them I was leaving either in person or via a voicemail message. I wrote exit reports for every client and emailed them off to all the doctors too. I worked at least fifteen unpaid hours to ensure I left that job with nothing for her to complain about. Apart from not having got her own way.
I felt tricked and used but, no matter who you are, there are people who will try to trick or use you and that’s nobodies fault but theirs so I shook it off and moved on.
I almost got a job working from home but I needed a land phone line and my provider said they had removed land lines while installing NBN and could not restore them.
I almost got a job working with refugees but they found a heart murmur when we did the physical and that resulted in a bunch of other tests. The heart murmur turned out to be nothing to worry about but it all slowed things up and my need to start working before the redundancy money was gone was getting stronger and more urgent.
While the heart tests and immunizations were happening a woman who used to be my supervisor contacted me and said she heard I was looking for work. She wanted me to apply for the job I have now. It’s the exact same job I had before the redundancy but it’s with a different company and the pay is lower. I applied for the job and got it.
It’s been a couple of years since I accepted the redundancy and a year since I got the job I have now and I have settled in. It’s like being home but the redundancy money continues to dwindle as the pay isn’t quite enough to cover my expenses.
I’ve been looking at the idea of becoming a contractor after all for one or two days a week but someone was just promoted at work and that means her two shifts a fortnight will be vacant. If I can pick them up that would cover me so I’m thinking of doing that too. I’ve consulted with God and I think he wants me to get my business number and professional indemnity insurance so I will have the option of accepting contract work but I’m not sure.
My relationship with God is still strong but, like most of my relationships, I’m not good at keeping in touch. I wake up, I go to work (or back to bed on the days I’m not working), I come home, I go to bed. Second verse, same as the first, I’m on repeat. I’m always tired. Too tired to go anywhere or do anything and even too tired to pray usually.
As often as I can remember to I will pray my cleansing prayer before going to sleep but I’m usually asleep seconds after praying so there’s not much time to hear from God before falling asleep these days and that’s when I used to commune with Him the most.
Oh well. I have to presume God is here in this stage of my life too and He will lead me to where He wants me. My prayer to Him is, was, and will always be; “Make me into the person you created me to be Lord!”
I know that is His will as well as mine so He is sure to grant the request. He has already helped me change so much about myself and my life. I have no doubt He will keep helping me.