When I hear those words, a slew of anxious thoughts swirl around my brain and it can physically feel like I got the wind knocked out of me.
Your thoughts immediately turn worst case scenario. This can apply to any variation in any setting, of course.
I remember, a few months after starting my current job, I was asked to meet with two of my bosses, the original co-founders of the company. Part of the reason I was freaked out was that I don’t generally report directly to either of them. I have two people that are usually in between, the project manager and technical director, depending on what specifically I’m working on. So, naturally, I was convinced I was going to be fired. But I couldn’t figure out why.
My work was good and I always received great feedback (I still do, almost two years later, even though most of the time I don’t feel I deserve it). My first thought was that maybe I’d been doing things wrong that I was unaware of.
The most “logical” thing that came to mind had to do with the fact I was often needing to leave early because I was literally falling asleep at my desk every day. (Which btw, is completely not normal for me, ever and it stressed me out that it was happening because I couldn’t explain it.)
I see these conversations play out over and over and hopelessness creeps in as I prepare for the worst.
The worst part was, I was told about this meeting around 10am, but the meeting was not going to be until 9am the next day. That gave me about 23 hours to think of every possible thing I could be getting fired for. It was also going to be at the Tim Horton’s down the street because our office (which we’ve since moved out of and are going to be moving again in the next year) was ridiculously small and there was nowhere to really have a private conversation.
Many people may write this phrase off as a simple heads up to a future conversation, but as someone with anxiety, it feels like a death sentence.
To be honest, it’s easier to be told we need to talk immediately before the “talking” is to happen. Don’t give my anxiety time to stew and come up with ridiculous scenarios that are never going to happen.
Turns out, that my only “logical” explanation for the meeting is exactly what they wanted to talk to me about. Except they weren’t going to fire me for it. They were concerned about me. They wanted to make sure that I was okay and figure out if I needed a schedule change or something to make things easier for me. They were more concerned about me than how my issues were effecting the company.
In situations like this, being transparent is important. When I have an idea of what the situation is, it helps ease any anxiety.
I felt an immediate sense of relief that I wasn’t being fired, coupled with “holy shit these guys actually legitimately care about my well-being” and I burst into tears. I was glad I’d gotten there before them and chosen a table where I could sit facing away from most other customers, but if you’re familiar with the common Timmy’s store design, you know that also meant I was facing directly out a window to the parking lot, and even though I was beside the door, the foot path to the door required passing almost all the customers and the counter where all the staff was. So, not the most comfortable place to be having an anxiety attack and crying, especially in front of my employers.
It was a few months later when I finally made the connection that my antidepressants were causing my extreme, chronic state of exhaustion and sleepiness. My doctor and I made some adjustments that seems to help a lot (for a few more months before my brain and body decided to go a different way, but I’m not going to get into that story right now) and I was finally able to get through an entire week without dozing off at my desk.