Discover more from Diary of Sisyphus
When the creature comes to visit
Sisyphus stops taking his pills, huffs WD-40 and has a manic episode!
My entire cubicle smells like WD-40.
My chair has been annoying the shit outta me for months. Last week, I finally snapped and spent half an hour searching the building for a blue and yellow can of oily miracle juice. I went to town on that fucking chair, dousing every nook, knob, hinge and cranny. 20 minutes later, my chair was squeak free. Unfortunately, so was most of the breathable air in my cramped, low-ventilation cubicle.
I’ve been lightheaded ever since. At first, I didn’t connect the dots. I thought the vertigo was a symptom of anti-depressant withdrawal. Then I spent a weekend NOT breathing in noxious fumes for 8 hours a day and magically felt better. When I came back to work on Monday, the vertigo returned. Fuck, I’m an idiot.
This whole situation is just a metaphor for my life.
10 o’clock rolled around and I poured myself another cup of coffee. I don’t normally drink coffee but I’ve been sleeping about two hours a night ever since I decided to get sober. I could spend a paragraph trying to describe insomnia to you but nothing will ever be as good as this Stanhope bit.
There’s nothing quite like the combination of sleep deprivation, WD-40 inhalation and coffee anxiety. My brain is split open and pulsating like an acid trip papaya.
Off to my right, two of the higher-ups in the company are engaged in a conversation about a new girl they’re hiring. I crank up my headphones and try to drown them out. I’m listening to a 51-minute YouTube video on the life and work of Albert Camus because I know how to party. The only thing I catch is, “She’ll do fine here as long as she doesn’t have feelings.” The group laughed.
Be a sociopath. Got it.
That’s a real problem at my work— employees leaving because they “don’t fit into the company culture.” Company culture is just a nice way of saying, “We’re gonna act like assholes and you just have to put up with it.” It’s an excuse to not work on themselves or have empathy, like a toxic ex who never takes responsibility for their actions.
“We’re just all about making money and hitting our macros, bro. If you don’t like it, you must be a liberal snowflake.”
They pay the bare minimum. They barely train you. No sick days. No PTO. No retirement. They don’t even offer direct deposit. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that they just don’t give a fuck about new employees. It’s the classic, old-school workplace dynamic. Rule by fear. Always keep your employees on the defensive. Only promote the people who are willing to sit there and have their cheap labor exploited for 50 hours a week. The rest of us are treated like expendable hour sponges.
I got in trouble for using the word “that” the other day and I almost walked out the front door. My company has these ancient style rules that prohibit what they deem to be excessive words— words like “just,” “like,” or “that.” Oh no, I just used all three! I hope nobody puts me in word jail.
Why don’t we arbitrarily ban other words, like “the” or “queef” while we’re at it? It’s just a bunch of uncreative old people trying to control everything because that’s all these old business types know how to do— control people arbitrarily.
“Be here at 9 a.m. sharp, don’t wear gym shoes and all time off must be approved by HR.”
They just love to exert their dominance.
What’s going to happen if you treat people like adults? Are you afraid they might actually enjoy their job?
I think it’s all by design. They create an intentionally hostile work environment to keep the turnover rate up because it’s a lot easier to manage people out the door than fire them and risk unemployment claims or lawsuits. Rather than helping their current employees develop into better ones, they’d rather throw a hundred 22-year-old cheap recent college graduates at the wall and see which one sticks.
They claim they care about quality but they don’t know the first thing about cultivating the proper environment for it. Creativity falls apart the more parameters you put on it. The more stress, deadlines and cups of coffee— the worse the output becomes. The muse isn’t stupid. She can tell when you’re using her for your own nefarious gains.
Staying locked into a writing flow for 8 hours straight is impossible, especially when you’re writing about fume hoods and arbor presses. This is why I elect to take my dog for an hour walk each day. As you might imagine, my bosses aren’t too happy about that. When I return to the office, I’m often met with glares and not-so-subtly-directed-at-me rants about how nobody wants to work 40 hours a week anymore.
One of the most prolific writers of the last century, Stephen King, swears by writing just 4-6 hours a day, taking plenty of breaks and going for walks. He writes like a gazillion books a year, but what does he know?
They don’t want you to have a healthy work-life balance. They want you to sit your ass in that chair and soak up another budget hour, making $20 while they bill the client $150. It’s a simple numbers game.
It’s productivity over quality, which explains why so many of their current websites read like a technical manual written by a guy on Sudafed.
It’s been a week since I’ve taken my meds. I stopped when I got sober. I stopped everything at once: booze, edibles, nicotine, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants— I’m tired of being dependent on chemicals in order to function. In retrospect, this may have been a bad idea.
This isn’t my first sobriety rodeo, I know the first two weeks are the worst when it comes to withdrawals. Once you get over that hump, your body and brain begin to reset and you’re able to regain some semblance of normalcy. My plan was to channel my nervous energy into reading books, running with my dog and punching the roof of my car.
Wait, why am I punching the roof of my car? Fuck!
On my way home, I started having a manic episode. Pure adrenaline shot from the base of my lizard brain and filled up my body like a balloon animal. In an instant, I morphed into a creature, a pissed-off chimpanzee, ready to rip off a woman’s face at the slightest provocation.
I started having these episodes last year, back when the stress of my previous job and the pain in my surgically repaired right hip had become too much to handle. It was a gradual slide into crazy, punctuated by these freak-outs. I’d have a good couple weeks and then boom— a massive mood swing would quickly spiral into screaming, catastrophizing and property damage. My old apartment looked like a goddamn war zone. I felt awful for Abby, who always had to pick up the pieces. The anger was never directed at her, but she was certainly in the splash zone. There’s no telling what will happen when the creature comes to visit.
I got home, brushed past my excited dog and headed straight for the bedroom.
“I’m having a manic episode,” I said. “I just need to lie down.”
“OK, I’m gonna take Butter for a run, let me know if you need anything,” she said.
Crisis is pretty routine for us at this point.
I flopped onto the bed and entered a strange, semi-conscious fugue state. This is all my fault, I thought. I stopped taking the pills. I drank coffee. I ranted all day in my head about my employer. They’re not even as bad as I’m making them out to be.
I feel all these things in my bones, but there’s a good chance that I’m just building a false narrative about my employer in my head. If I’m wrong, which I probably am, what does that say about me? That I’m projecting my negative self-image onto others? That I’m only picking up on signs of my pessimistic confirmation bias? That I’m stuck in a pattern of isolation, which breeds resentment, which breeds more isolation?
What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I torture myself with these insane narratives, these hypothetical arguments with people who probably don’t even know my name? What’s the fucking point? It’s just my lizard brain run amok. I’m choking in my own cloud of WD-40, so to speak.
In my effort to defend myself from invisible monsters, I create more of them. I can’t just be sad like my wife. I can’t just cry when someone’s mean to me. I have to get defensive and lash out, which inevitably just makes me look like a psycho, especially when nobody’s actively harassing me. Even so, my resentment has been building for months, waiting for somebody to light the fuse. Sometimes, all it takes is someone telling me not to use the word “that” in my copy and boom— inferno.
I had chances to stop or at least mitigate the effects of this spiral but I just let it happen. It’s almost like I wanted to go down this road today— like I’ve been pent up all week from being sober and the creature inside me needed to burst out. Without the booze and edibles, there’s nothing to keep it sedated. I’m all out of tranquilizer darts. All I can do now is hope and pray that I don’t do anything irredeemably stupid today.
I decided to lie there, head buried in a pillow, determined to not move or talk to anybody until the feeling passed.
I thought about my ancestors, most of whom either beat their kids or were alcoholics. Maybe it’s because they felt like this, too. Mental illness is largely genetic… maybe my undiagnosed bipolar ancestors had manic episodes just like this, came home, beat the shit out of their kids and then drank a half bottle of whiskey and passed out on the floor. A couple hundred generations of that and you get me— yippee!
I guess I’m an improvement, just like my dad was an improvement over his dad who would beat him with a hair brush. I’m sure that hairbrush was a far cry from whatever the fuck my great-grandpa did to him. I never met great grandpa, I’ve only heard him described as “a mean alcoholic.” I can only imagine what he had to go through as a child.
I’m trying to be the first generation who doesn’t take out his problems on other people. I still have a long way to go. I threw a vacuum down the stairs last year, but hey, we replaced it with a better vacuum. And hopefully, I’ll be replaced with a better version of myself— a child that can finally overcome the generational trauma of unchecked mental illness and substance abuse. One can only hope.
It might not seem like I’m working but I am. It’s just a different type of work. Instead of pouring over Google Analytics for 55 hours a week, I’m taking walks, writing and watching philosophy videos. I’m trying to figure out what the fuck’s wrong with me so I don’t pass on my problems to the next generation.
And I’ll probably still fuck them up, that’s the funny thing. My parents aren’t bad people. They tried their best, just like I’m trying my best. None of us are perfect, but we’re trying. I guess the moral of the story is: If you’re gonna fail, fail with the right intentions.
I awoke to the feeling of a plastic ball being jammed up against my face.
Abby walked in behind her.
“Why don’t you lay normal so you can go to bed?” she said.
“Wait, what time is it?”
Well, there goes that day, I guess.
I walked into the bathroom and took my pills.
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