A View from the BottombyCromagnonman©
This is another of my different looks at life. You may not agree with what I've written and there are probably plenty of nits for you to pick, but it is a piece of romantic fiction and, unlike my previous posting 'A Chance Encounter' where the romance was short-lived and probably one-sided, in this one it is implied until right at the end.
I lay here searching for a reason to get out of bed, it was a sunny day and the birds were chirping outside my window, no that won't do it for me because it was pissing down with rain outside my window and the smart birds were sheltering somewhere safe and warm. Work, no that won't do it for me, I did have a job to go to but there was nothing to excite me there, in fact work was the cause of my troubles. A year ago I would have bounded out of my comfortable bed after kissing my warm wife good morning, headed for the shower while she prepared breakfast for me, kissed her good-bye and headed for the job that I loved almost as much as her. That was twelve months ago, nine months ago I was interviewed for a promotion that I was sure of getting, only to lose out to that arse kissing bastard James (call me James) Saunders.
The smirk on his face when the boss announced the result was almost too much to bear, but then the bastard decided to rub salt into the wounds by hitting on Heather, my former beautiful, warm wife and now the two of them are living together, a fact that he never ceases to rub my nose in. "Heather and I went to the theatre last night to see Hamlet and we got invited back stage to meet the cast for drinks." He announced yesterday loud enough that I had no option but to hear him. Slimy Bastard
Depression is like being at the bottom of a deep well. It's cold and wet and miserable down there, but you can see the top inviting you to climb up and out of it, so you set off. At first it's difficult, the walls are slime covered and there are few hand-holds, but you persevere. It's hard work, finding a solid purchase and pulling yourself up, finding a toe-hold so that you can reach up for the next hand-hold. Slowly, millimetre by agonising millimetre you climb until, finally you are within reach of the top, you feel the warmth of the sun on your face and reach up with both hands to pull yourself up and out of this depression, and that's when that bastard James, slimy turd, Saunders stomps on your fingers and you find yourself back where you started from. It's cold and lonely, and wet, and miserable down here, and getting the motivation to begin the climb back up is getting harder and harder.
I remembered that I wasn't actually going to work this morning, I have an appointment with yet another useless fucking Psychologist. This will be the third that work has sent me to speak to in an effort to get me functional again. This one will also be my last, if this one can't help me I've been told I will be fired. The first one gave up on me after three sessions because he was unable to motivate me. The second one was near enough to fucking useless. I always thought that Psychologists were supposed to recognise non-verbal cues and react to them. This useless prick put his hand on my knee and said to me, "Yes I know where you're coming from." This without a doubt the most cringe-making of the 'programmed responses' that are taught to psych students. Up until then he'd given no indication of understanding where I was coming from, where I was at, or where I was going to, he was merely parroting the words that he'd been taught in Psych 1, that were supposed to show just how empathic he was. The glare that I gave him should have been enough, but no. The intake of breath should have been enough, but no. It wasn't until I grabbed his hand and took it off my knee that he realised that I was uncomfortable with its presence on my person.
From that moment on I refused to co-operate with him and he gave up. Now I was going to see number of three of this 'three strikes and you're out' scenario.
I got out of bed without even bothering to pull the bed clothes up, had a shower and shave before dressing and heading for the kitchen. Breakfast took around the same time that it took for the kettle to boil and me to pour water over the instant coffee and chuck some milk in. I brushed my teeth, put on my jacket and left the house that I used to share with the beautiful Heather, climbed into my long overdue for a service car and coaxed its reluctant motor into life.
It took a while to find the Psych's office, the shit heap doesn't have Sat Nav or anything like that, so I had to rely on the street directory that was five years old. I managed to find it on time and walked through the door and up to the reception counter. The Receptionist looked up as the door closed behind me, and then looked at the appointment pad on the desk in front of her. "You must be Mr Street." I nodded confirmation. "Come with me." I went with her down a passage to a room. She held the door open for me and followed me inside. "Sit down." She indicated a comfortable chair at a coffee table. Closing the door behind us she sat down in the other chair. "I'm Stephanie Browning, your new Psychologist."
I was speechless, don't ask me why, I know women are Psychologists, and by all accounts very good ones, but I never expected one this young and good looking, not that I'm complaining mind you.
"I've read you case notes from your previous two Psychologists, you don't think much of us, do you?"
"You could say that, the last one, honestly, if he'd left his hand on my knee a second longer I would have shoved his teeth so far down his throat that he would have to stick his toothbrush up his arse to clean them."
"I gathered that you weren't happy with him. I promise not to put my hand on your knee or say anything stupid like, 'I know where you're coming from'."
"Did he actually write that on my file?"
"No, but I know him and he doesn't have the imagination to come up with anything that he hasn't been taught."
"And you don't agree with what's being taught, is that it?"
"Only some of it, much of it is worthwhile, but there are things that make my skin crawl when I hear them, and that is one of them. Clinical modelling doesn't always relate to reality."
"I gather from that you didn't always see eye to eye with your Lecturers."
"No, and I was consistently marked down on my assignments, but I got through and here I am. And here you are, and the last thing that I'm going to ask is that you 'tell me a bit about yourself'. Another useless question from the hand-book. I presume that you've gone over in your head a thousand times what triggered your present condition, if you'd like to share that with me we have a starting point, the rest of your life story you can keep to yourself, unless you think that it is relevant to now."
This was someone that I could like, and that got me looking at her and what I saw interested me. She would have been a few years younger than me and was neatly, but not expensively dressed, wore little if any make-up, and her hair appeared devoid of chemical manipulation, in other words the colour appeared natural. My memory of following her down the passageway was still fresh in my mind and did nothing to dissuade me that she was a very decorative Receptionist and not a Psychologist. Looks can be deceiving.
"I guess that the starting point for me was when I missed out on a promotion to a 'brown nose', someone who spent more time sucking up to the boss than actually working. This was a blow to my self-confidence, not a major blow, but enough to start me doubting myself. Then this wonderful person goes behind my back and hits on my wife. She now lives with him, something that he continually rubs my nose in."
"I can see how that would piss you off."
'Piss me off'? This is definitely not Psych-speak. "Are you sure that you're a Psychologist? I would bet major body parts that I would not find 'Piss off' in the index or even the glossary of terms of any Psych text book."
"Just as you'd never find a silver spoon in my mouth, very much a working class girl I am, I believe in calling a spade a fucking shovel."
My third look at her revealed a new facet to her; her finger nails were short, oh they had nail polish on them, but they were not talons like Heather wore, and I bet if I scraped under them I'd find some dirt. "From what I've seen of you so far I would never pick you for a Psychologist, you don't look the part, your don't act the part, and you certainly don't speak the part."
"Do you always try to compartmentalise people?"
"Only when they don't seem to fit into the stereotype, whatever made you take up Psychology?"
"If you keep asking the questions I'll get the feeling that you'll bill me at the end of our time together."
"Touché, I'll stop asking questions now, shall I?"
"Good, so the world as you not it came crashing down around your ears and you haven't been able to climb out of the hole it left you in. Are you having trouble sleeping?"
"Sleeping, what's that?"
"Are you taking anything to help you?"
"No, I don't believe in those sorts of drugs, I hear that they're very addictive and hard to kick."
"They're pretty much a last resort think as far as I'm concerned. Have you tried anything?"
"I've tried reading until I get sleepy, the problem with that is when I reach the point of going to sleep the book hits the floor and wakes me up"
"There's something that you could try, it worked for me. I want you to make yourself a hot milk drink, I add a spoonful of a mixture of honey and malt extract, drink that and go to bed. The other thing I do is to turn on my IPod and listen to soothing music, I put mine on sleep mode so that it turns itself off after forty-five minutes, and I can't remember the last time I heard it click off. I think you'll find getting a good night's sleep will help your outlook on life."
"You sound like you're speaking from experience."
"You could say that, I've been there and done that. I thought that I was coping on two hours sleep a night, but I wasn't and it took a major jolt to get me to realise that. That was what led me to my solution. It may work for you. And one more thing, drinking alcohol to try to get to sleep is just plain stupid, The quantity needed for temporary oblivion will leave you with a massive hangover the next morning, (Tell me something I don't already know) and smaller quantities will leave you dehydrated and needing a drink of water badly enough in the early hours to wake you up."
"That's well and good, but what I need to get over this is to either find another job, which I don't really want to do because it used to be a good job, or to find some way that I didn't have to put up with the constant rubbing of my nose in it by 'Slimy Bastard'."
"What sort of things does he do?"
I told her the one about 'Hamlet', she wrote something on the pad she had on her knees. "Last month, now that he's my boss, he had to do a performance appraisal on me. Not to put too fine a point on it, the whole report was negative and what made it worse was that everything he wrote was partly true."
"What do you mean?"
"Taken in the context of the actual situation is was so very wrong, but then he didn't write it in that context, so what he wrote was correct but the context was wrong. I refused to sign it. I was called into the big boss's office to explain why I refused to sign. I didn't want to say that it never happened the way that it was presented so I told him that for that appraisal to have any validity, the incidents would have been discussed with me by my Supervisor and be accompanied by the result of that discussion. If I had rectified the situation then a positive mention should have been included on the report. Similarly, if I had made no attempt to rectify the situation, a negative mention should have been in the report. The fact that this was the first that I knew of these incidents invalidates the whole report. That is why I refused to sign."
"Good for you. You highlighted the fact that he did not follow appraisal report writing protocol. What happened next? "
"That was when I was referred to my first Psych, because he convinced the boss that the reason he hadn't discussed these problems with me before the report because he thought that it would make me angry and adversely affect my work performance, and that I needed some assistance in behavioural modification. He was asked to arrange for me to see a Psychologist. I got the impression that they were friends."
"What makes you say that?"
"It was his approach to the first session, he seemed to have been working on the supposition that I was a total nut case, and while I might have been on first name terms with the carpet beetles, I refused to go along with his questions that were designed to reinforce that supposition. I didn't play ball so he gave up. I think that he used the word 'recalcitrant'." She looked at my file and circled a word. For once in a long time I was beginning to see that life wasn't all doom and gloom, that there was a light at the end of my particular tunnel.
"I don't blame you for feeling depressed and the only way that you can drag yourself out of that depression is to come to the realisation that, while the actions of others can impact negatively on you, you have the power to overcome that negativity. It is up to you to channel that power. Now, who is the person that has the most negative impact, is it 'Slimy Bastard'?"
"Okay, what can you tell me about him and how he operates?"
"When he first started with the company, he went out of the way to ingratiate himself with the bosses, whenever we went for drinks after work he was in first to buy their drinks for them, he found out when their birthdays were and sent them cards separate from the card that we all signed, the same went for Christmas. He volunteered to take on additional work but didn't do it himself, he delegated the work to others, but took full credit for the outcome."
"Didn't the others complain?"
"He told them that, as he was the nominal team leader he would get the kudos from the bosses, but he and they knew that they were all a part of a team and that it was shared kudos."
"He's clever, I'll give him that. Apart from the performance appraisal, has he done anything else to impact on your performance?"
"Only the usual, he is highly critical of every minor mistake and does not give credit for anything done correctly, I have even thought of giving him a magnifying glass whenever I have to give him completed work."
"That would not be a good idea. What about his self-confidence, how does that stand up to criticism?"
"Well, he wasn't happy about my refusal to sign the performance appraisal because that, for a short time, impacted negatively on him. Once he found the excuse he was okay, but he didn't let me forget that I stood up to him."
"So, if something happened that would undermine his self-confidence, what do you think will happen to him?"
"I don't know. He'd probably lose the plot."
"That gives me an idea. It isn't entirely ethical, but that's not a problem that can't be overcome. What I want you to do is, when you get back to work, I want you to behave as if you are on top of the world, can you do that?"
"It might be a stretch, but yes, I think I can pull it off. What do you have in mind?"
"We, you and I, are going to play mind games with him. After you get back to work you will get a phone call from me, when you answer the phone you are to mention my name so that the people around you know that it's me on the line. I will invite you to dinner tonight. Now I want you to follow my lead and when you hang up, you are to smile broadly and write the time and place on a pad or something. When you go for afternoon tea make sure that the message is easily read by the right people, and that means him."
"We aren't really going to dinner are we?"
""You are but I'm not. You will be meeting my sister, she looks close enough to me to fool the casual onlooker, and you will have at least one. If it's not 'Slimy Bastard' himself it will be someone that he's hired to follow you. Now Miriam will be very friendly but not too friendly, she will smile a lot and touch your hand when she speaks to you and laugh convincingly at your feeble jokes." She caught the look on my face when she said that. "At the end of the meal she will invite you back to her place. Don't get any ideas because we share and I'll be there. Going on what you've told me, he will waste no time in going to your boss and our Ethical Standards Board with the accusation that we are having a relationship that will invalidate any report that I write on you."
"Why are you taking this chance?"
"Because I've dealt with people like him in the past, and the only way to get at them is to work on their self-confidence, once that is shot they collapse in a screaming heap. Complaining to the boss is near enough to useless, getting him to shoot himself in the foot is the only way."
"Back to my last question, why are you taking this chance?"
"Because Adrian, you are a good man who is in the middle of a fucking awful situation, and I'm helping you to get out of it. Please don't read any more to this than that, at the moment."
I got to work just after eleven and immediately everyone spotted the changes in me, I was smiling for one. "Hi guys, what a great day." The look on his face changed in an instant, when I walked through the door he was smiling, fully expecting me to be little changed, but as soon as he saw my smiling face and heard my greeting he lost his smile.
I got stuck straight into the backlog of work that was waiting for me and whisked through it in nothing flat. When lunch time came I turned to Jane at the next desk. "Jane, do you have any plans for lunch?"
"I thought that you and I could have lunch together, what do you say?"
"I say okay." She had a puzzled look on her face that turned into a smile. We both got up from our desks and left. "I haven't seen you this happy for ages, what's happened to change you?"
"Oh, it's the new Psychologist that I saw this morning, she was good, really good, I like her."
"Apart from liking her, she must have done something to bring about this change."
"She got me thinking about my situation and I realised that the only person who could change that is me, and to do that I have to start thinking positively. That's what I've decided to do."
"So I'm part of your therapy, is that it?"
"No. Well not entirely no, but we have always got on reasonably well, you seemed to care that I wasn't feeling a hundred percent, although there wasn't much that you or anyone else could have done about that, but you never looked down on me because of it, so in honour of that I thought that I'd invite you to lunch, I don't know what I would have done if you'd said no."
"I wouldn't have said that. I do care about you, you've gotten a raw deal and I can see how that has affected you, and you're right, I didn't know what I could do to help you, if anything."
It was just two workmates having lunch together, two workmates that liked each other, but there was nothing more to it than that. No sooner had we got back to work than 'Slimy Bastard' called Jane into the meeting room. "What's going on with him? Did he say anything to you about his visit to the Psych this morning?"
"No, we just talked about work things, but something must have happened, he seems rather taken with her."
"Yes, his new Psych is a woman, he said that he liked her and, while he said nothing more than that, I think that there might be something more to it than that."
When she sat down at her desk I looked at her. "Yes?"
He had asked exactly what we had discussed and she had answered exactly as we had discussed. The seeds have been sown.