Mental

I used to scoff at people who mentioned taking off from work for a mental health day. If you’ve never heard of such an idea, you wouldn’t be alone. The premise is you take a day off from work for mental health. I’ll be honest, I always figured it was just an easy way to get out of work. There are plenty of people out there who think like I used to. And that’s if they even get paid sick time. Sadly, it isn’t always a guarantee.

After almost 15 years in my job, I can tell you there are days when taking a mental health day is a necessity. I have a new found respect for the idea of mental health, especially when it comes to vital services. I deal with an expected level of drama and raw emotions in my line of work. Luckily, I tend to be a very resilient person in that regard. [1]I often consider it an unexpected side effect from my childhood. Courtesy of my step mother and years of mental abuse. However, over time the onslaught of such emotions builds up even on the most resilient person. If you don’t find constructive ways to maintain your own sanity it can lead to severe problems. I’ve seen it in my profession several times and it is a very real thing. I no longer scoff at the idea and have learned to respect the need for a mental health day. I know for myself there are days where I’m just not in a frame of mind to function in a helpful way. It falls under a sick day but from the perspective of mental health. On said days, I know if I go to work I’m going to get fired, or worse, potentially bring harm to others thru neglect or indifference.

I’ve learned the hard way ignoring it does not make the angst/frustration go away. If anything, it gets worse. You can become hyper-sensitive to even minor stresses and become agitated as a norm. You can also become desensitized to traumatic events. You aren’t weak or slacking-off for occasionally needing a day to clear your head and refocus. For myself, I often try to do something fun and relaxing. Believe it or not, blogging always seems to calm me down.

I no longer feel guilty about taking said days off. While I don’t take or need them often, I try to recognize when I do and take advantage of it. My sanity is better for it.

References

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1 I often consider it an unexpected side effect from my childhood. Courtesy of my step mother and years of mental abuse.

Axiom

I used to have a scrolling marque on my blog that ran thru a list of my favorite quotes and phrases. Some were my own and others were ones I always found inspirational. I randomly discontinued it in my never ending tinkering with my blog themes. One of my favorite phrases is "what you think of me is really none of my business." It has become one of my daily axioms. I mention it because I often say many of said phrases in conversation.

Just such a conversation came up recently. I had chance as part of one of my training assignments to interact with a couple coworkers whom I’m not overly close to. I know them well enough but we just aren’t besties at work. We rarely spend much time talking beyond specific work duties. Anyway, through our conversations one coworker caught me saying my phrase above and really latched onto it. She found it to be very "deep", as she put it, and felt like it was a great mechanism to learn by. This led to more talks and how the struggles in my own life led me to the phrase. We shared several life stories and connected in a way we never had before. It very uplifting.

It is also why I never close myself off from such random chance moments. Beyond being Southern [1]being friendly to strangers is in our blood , I’ve always felt simple human interaction is the key to most of our societal woes. It is much harder to objectify and marginalize someone when you know them personally. You can’t just disassociate yourself from them and act as if it doesn’t affect you. Anyway, I digress. My coworker really liked the phrase and hopefully she applies it in her own life in constructive ways. It came up in such a way regarding one of her own views and I think hearing it really made her feel good.

On a side note, it was also a great reminder of how far I’ve come as a person. I probably harp too much on my personal growth but I’m damn proud of it. I used to be a mess! lolol Back then, I’d never have thought anyone would value my advice or opinions. I didn’t value them so how could others? I’ve discussed here several times how finding my inner confidence [2]the realization was quite the epiphany for me at the time changed me in so many small ways. I forget those changes can and do have ripple effects. They radiate out from me and change forever how I interact with others. These are often subtle cues but it is so profoundly gratifying to still recognize it in myself.

And now, another very popular phrase I’m fond of, "Hope springs eternal….."

References

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1 being friendly to strangers is in our blood
2 the realization was quite the epiphany for me at the time

Work

There has been some major drama at work lately. While I was gone on the PHX trip, 3 of our union chapter officers resigned. There are only 5 positions. (I leave for a week and all hell breaks loose apparently. Oy!)

Frankly, the whole mess was completely counter-productive to our goals. It has already set us back on several ongoing critical negotiations w/management. While I won’t be fleshing out the details, the point is I got drafted to be the acting chief steward again. If you read with any frequency, you’ll remember I chose not to run in the last election. After 12 years, I needed a break. And the break has been nice. I show up to work with no cares. [1]I realize the irony in thinking just handling life/death calls is less stressful than my Union duties. I only have to be responsible for myself and I’ve loved it. But, we have to have a functioning chapter. If we don’t, we give up a lot. It is my hope that more folks will step up for the interim elections for the 3 positions vacated.

One of my continuing frustrations from within is the lack of support. Many employees think because they pay dues that absolves them from any involvement. WRONG! A union is only as strong as it’s members. Members that work together toward common goals are capable of changing just about anything. Sadly, it just isn’t that case in my department. There is a lot of infighting and conspiracies. It borders on high-school to be honest.

I think part of the problem is the chapter doesn’t communicate well to its members. We put out meeting notes from one of our monthly meetings from management but that is just a snapshot. There is so much more going on behind the scenes. The antics aside, it is human nature to fill in details with guesswork when we don’t understand. I get it. People need to know what is going on.

I’m left with the choice of stepping down again after the interim election in a couple months or stepping up for a bigger position. I have time to think it over. Part of me wants to go back to being just a member. No worries, no cares, just work and go home. I did my time and then some. It is somebody else’s turn. Then the other part of me sees the big picture and really wants to step up to see if I can really make a difference. I have no idea what I’m going to do. Maybe someone else strong will run and I won’t have to. Yeah yeah, that’s it. I’m totally sure that will happen.

References

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1 I realize the irony in thinking just handling life/death calls is less stressful than my Union duties.

Busy

I wasn’t joking when I said my training assignment kept me busy. The last 30 days have flown by. Tomorrow is my last day training for the records office. Next week I got back to my normal schedule and days off.

As mentioned, the work isn’t hard at all. However,  it is steady. The office runs very smoothly and thankfully so. If it didn’t, things would back up quickly.

My department is also in the process of signing up for shift schedules for the next 6 months. Since I don’t have exact start date for my permanent assignment, [1]It is a 5 year assignment I’m on the sign up. I already got bumped off my days off. Tangent/ Even after 14 years my schedule isn’t a guarantee. It is one of the more annoying parts of my type of work. It isn’t all bad. I got pushed from Fri/Sat/Sun off to Sat/Sun/Mon instead. I mention it only because Christmas falls on a Friday this year. You might remember we planned to head to Phoenix for the week between Xmas and NYE. We are still going but now I’ll have to work Xmas day. Not the end of the world at all. It is a little disappointing after my excitement at finally being able to get such a primo week off. I can still remember sign-ups where I got pushed completely off an entire shift. Seniority still has some perks. /tangent  The coworker before me on the assignment list is not part of the sign-up. While nothing has been announced, one can read between the lines that her assignment to records isn’t far off. I’m projecting I’ll be assigned sometime in the next 3 months. And if I do get moved before the holiday, I’ll still have xmas off! *fingers crossed*

Anyway, I’m all backed up on blogging. I had so many things I wanted to cover and didn’t. *grumble grumble* Time to catch up, I guess.

References

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1 It is a 5 year assignment

Record

I signed up for a new assignment at work and have been in training the last couple weeks. Basically, I’ll be reviewing, preparing, and sending out legal documents for my dept. [1]DA’s, public defenders, FOIA’s, etc The work itself is very tedious, and mostly administrative, but it keeps me very busy. Extracting and redacting the data is very time consuming. Big or high profile incidents have to be reviewed in every detail before it can be released. Different types of calls fall under different rules for what can and cannot be released. It also depends on who is requesting the data. You get the drift. I’m a third body in the office of two people. Even with my help there are days when the work can keep three of us busy all day.

My training is 30 days and then I go back to my regular job until a full slot opens up. Both of the current coworkers are on the supervisor list for promotion and one’s assignment ends in a few months anyway. I’m 2nd on the list so once the last person transitions out, it will be my turn.

The assignment lasts 5 years unless I just absolutely hate it. Most of our assignments only go 3 years; however, due to the degree of training and skill required this one is 5 years. Afterwards, I would rotate back to my normal duties.

Why am I doing this you ask? Well, I’ve always said,  ‘knowledge is power. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make good decisions.’ This assignment will make me better at my normal job as it will provide insights into how my work effects other departments. Knowing how the data get used later makes me better equipped to get information I might not otherwise worry about. It also gives me a break from the bombardment of negativity. Let’s face it, no one calls the police because they’re happy! Hehehe  I’m pretty good at shrugging it off but even the most resilient person succumbs eventually. This gives me a break from the madness of day to day critical calls.

It also gives me a little more flexibility with my schedule. It’s slightly easier to get last minute time off.  Said time doesn’t equate to overtime either. Obviously, I can’t stack all my time together as it would leave the other person overwhelmed.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to it. I have 2 weeks of training left.

References

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1 DA’s, public defenders, FOIA’s, etc

Walk

The city has been doing a big ‘wellness’ kick this years and as part of that, my dept was able to secure a treadmill that fits at a workstation.

At first thought, it sound a bit gimmicky but after seeing (and using) it in action, I’m sold on it. It is basically the tread part w/o the top. The control panel is attached by a wire which makes it incredibly mobile. It only goes up to 2mph for safety reasons. [1]It doesn’t sound like much but walking at that speed and typing does take a little adjustment. lol It sticks out far enough to be seen but not too far so that people are tripping over it.

I scoffed at the idea at first. I am happy to be wrong. Not only does it appear to be a success so far, but I even find myself using it. On a 10-hour shift, I tend not to get a lot of walking in. I will sometimes walk for lunch but I don’t always feel like shlepping all over the area. Having an option to walk and work is definitely nice.

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1 It doesn’t sound like much but walking at that speed and typing does take a little adjustment. lol

VA

VA is our code for vacation time on the books. For the first time in 14 years (as of April), I am eligible to take the week between xmas and NYE off! And by eligible, I mean I have enough seniority to grab the slot before it gets snapped up. I’m not sure why but I’m overly tickled by that. hehehe​ I feel like I have "made it" so to speak.

I’m changing schedules in March for our bi-annual sign up. Now that Shawn has weekends off, I get to go back to a weekend slot and slightly later hours. Both options are nicer for me. The down side is I’m officially on ‘swing shift’ again which always tends to have more internal drama. I’m not quite sure why.

Having Fri/Sat/Sun’s off will be nice again though. I am looking forward to it.

Schedule

I recently switched to a slightly later schedule at work. It is amazing what a two hour difference makes. hehehe For you long time readers (if there are any left), you’ll remember how much I just loooooove day shifts.

Having worked swing shift for roughly 12 years, I made the jump to an earlier shift for the previous project I was on. It wasn’t as early as our normal day-shift so it was bearable. It was also very flexible. [1]It gave me a huge advantage for travel when The Pup and were still courting. After finishing the project I opted to go to our normal day-shift, which is 0700-1500. That means getting up roughly 0530 to 0550 to get the Cooper fed/walked and then off to work. Since The Pup has almost identical hours, it made sense. And as much as I grumbled, it was an easy sacrifice to make.

Sadly, I just couldn’t keep up with the hours. I’d come home tired pretty much every day. Motivating myself to do the gym or anything beyond sofa lounging was always a challenge. I am just not a early morning person by nature. It’s not so much the getting up as getting to bed that is the problem. And unlike a lot of folks, I simply do not function well on a lack of sleep.

The later shift is also 10 hours instead of 8, which is another reason I was reticent to switch. The 2 hours later/2 hours longer makes for a 4-hour chunk out of our ‘home time’ during the week. It doesn’t seem like much but trying to sync gym schedules or even dinner is a bit of a chore. The upside is I get an extra day off every week. The Pup has already commented on how much more energized I am when I come home. lol

Ironically, his schedule has become more fluid so between both our schedule changes, we still see each other plenty enough during the week. Call me silly but I still rush home every day to see him. We end up lounging or playing video games but the desire to be with him is still very very strong.

 

References

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1 It gave me a huge advantage for travel when The Pup and were still courting.

801

Eight Oh One‘ is our local PD code for suicide. Today is the unfortunate anniversary of a coworker/friend’s death by suicide 9 years ago. She shot herself in a moment of sadness and her light was forever extinquished. Her death was especially painful for me. We weren’t besties but we were friends and I always considered her a kindred spirit. And in moments alone, she would often open up a little more to me and share in that connection. Our connection stemmed in part due to similar struggles in life. We both experienced a harsh and abusive childhood because we had the audacity to be born gay. Having already survived my own brush with suicide, it was a big blow to hear of her death. I knew what she must have been going thru internally and lamented that she didn’t reach out to me. Of course, no one knew how bad she felt. She was very stoic and kept it all hidden.

People often think of suicides as cowardly or selfish. That is simply not true. That is just a projection of our own pain over the loss. When you reach that awful stage there is no thought of self. [1]And I hope you haven’t and/or never do  There is no reason. There is no right or wrong. There is no thought of those who will miss you after you are gone. All of it is stripped away, layer by layer, until nothing is left but an all-encompassing blinding pain. A singular thought remains….escape!  Sadly, suicide is often the only mechanism that seems to offer a solution at that moment. But, I am here to tell you you can escape it without resorting to death. I am living proof.

Anyway, I decided to take her badge to work and remind everyone of her anniversary. On a side note, LGBT folks are 4-6 times more likely to commit suicide before the age of 25. [2]The statistics vary from org to org but this is the rough average.  In my line of work, suicides are also higher due to the stress and constant raw emotions that we process day after day. After decades of exposure, it can really wear you down. So, I wanted to reach out to my coworkers in the hopes that if they should ever be in such a dark place, they should also feel comfortable reaching out to me or anyone in their life for help. We all talked about fond memories of her and how she impacted us.

As for my coworker, where ever you are my dear, I hope you are in a better place. I hope you escaped the misery and pain. I hope that those around you can experience your light and love and be better for it.

References

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1 And I hope you haven’t and/or never do
2 The statistics vary from org to org but this is the rough average.

Care

Sort of related to my last post, I’ve been looking toward the future. It’s funny, as a kid, I never imagined old age. I guess that is to be expected in your youth. I mean who really thinks of retirement in their 20’s?  Most of my 20’s were pretty rough so probably even more so for me. And while I’m far from ancient, I am at an age where one certainly begin to thinks of the future. I’m nowhere near retirement but the idea of such a thing no longer seems foreign.

Being in civil service and unionized does come with some benefits. I’m fortunate to get good health and life insurance. I’m ‘vested’ [1]I’ve worked the required number of years to qualify for a pension so when I do finally retire, I’ll have a paycheck for the rest of my life. This comes on top of social security (if it still exists by then). It is comforting to know I won’t have to worry too much when I retire. Granted, I won’t be living the high life, but I also won’t be eating out of cat tins. Growing up very poor I usually avoided the thought of what retirement would be like. If I’m being truthful, in my 20’s when I did think of retirement I figured I’d just off myself when I got old so I wouldn’t be a burden. Yes, I know how awful that sounds now but youth isn’t always about being smart. For you long time readers, you know my first 25 years weren’t so rosy.

Anyway, as I look to the future I worry for The Pup. God forbid anything should happen to me, but since I am older I want to make sure he is taken care of in the event of my death. Granted, he isn’t one who needs to be ‘taken care’ of but you get my point. It has always been my nature to take care of those I love so this is just an extension of that. It gives me great comfort to know he’ll be ok in the event something does happen to me. Of course, when we do get married he’ll be eligible to get my pension just like a straight couple would. (There are profound benefits for the LGBT community finally acheiving equality under the law, this being just one.) 

I guess going from having nothing as a kid to my current status, it gives me a strong sense of pride and accomplishment.

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1 I’ve worked the required number of years to qualify for a pension