It started around 10am, an hour into the second meeting of the day. The first meeting hadn’t been much to with me, just a company catch-up that we do once a month. The second, the marketing meeting, was where I was expected to be especially attentive.
We have a lot of projects on the go at the moment. Half of my work day is devoted to prodding one supplier or another, trying to get information out of people so that I can get down to the part of my job that I’m good at: writing excellent content.
Our main receptionist cut her hours back to two days a few weeks ago, so on Mondays and Wednesdays I juggle between drafting articles, updating the company website, monitoring social media, attending to the live chat widget on the website, and answering the phone. I hate phones. I swear the work phone has it in for me, it’s like it picks the time where I am at my most stretched and rings continuously.
Never with quick things I can pass on to someone else, no. It’s trickier conversations that require more than my stressed-out brain can manage, or people who insist on remaining on hold even though I’ve explained that the person they want to speak to isn’t in the office and I am genuinely unable to put them through.
I really, really hate phones. If I could disable the calls function on my mobile, I would. I never hear things properly, I forget pieces of information as the conversation continues, I’m terrible at identifying people by their voices (people who don’t say who they are on the phone are the worst)… and I’m so caught up trying to manage all of this incoming information that my ability to respond like a human being takes a nosedive.
So here I am, Wednesday morning. I don’t hate meetings, but usually they don’t last more than an hour. I didn’t notice at first.
It was like someone was gradually turning the world up around me. The contrast between the light on the board room table and the shadows on the floor intensified, voices around me cut into my ears with an almost physical slap to the brain. Things that were not loud and bright before were gradually becoming intolerably so.
My notes became more and more disjointed, edges of the black ink I was writing with haloed in bright lime green and magenta, like when your TV is on the fritz. My shoulders tensed, that tight feeling seeping into every bone and muscle, the more I tried to concentrate on the content of the meeting the more I could feel it slipping away.
I leaned forward on the table, rested my elbows on it and my hands either side of my face so I could subtly half-block my ears to muffle the sound coming in. By the time the meeting ended, each word and noise was like a gunshot. I wanted to close my eyes, but I had to stay focused and present.
Even then, I didn’t realise the full extent of the situation until the meeting ended. I stood, and almost fell straight over my knees were shaking so much. I can’t quite describe how it felt. Electric? Like my very skin was vibrating. I could feel the seams in my dress (which I usually quite like wearing) and they felt like razors against my flesh. I felt like I was about to be sick.
After the meeting I grabbed my cardigan and headed down to the break room. Wrapping the cardigan (soft acrylic, not wool. Wool is too itchy most of the time) as tight around myself as I could, I sat against the wall in the dark and let myself breathe. It was quiet, and in a few minutes I had at least stopped shaking and feeling sick.
The world remained a bit too loud and a bit too bright for the rest of the day. As I write this, I’m in my bedroom with sunglasses on. My polar fleece pyjamas (I’m a stylish lady) feel like sandpaper even though they’re the softest and comfiest things I own. Stacking the dishwasher was a unique kind of torture–I hate the sound of dishes and cutlery against each other at the best of times.
Hearing that piercing ‘clink’ just gives me–I don’t know. I can’t explain. It’s painful. Like nails on a blackboard, but worse. It doesn’t just hurt my ears, it triggers a physical discomfort. Like someone’s punched me in the throat and stuck knitting needles in my ears.
So that’s been my day. I got a lot done in spite of it, and I’m proud of my choice to step away and gather myself when I did. I had to do the same when I got home, only for longer, being so incredibly sensitive to everything all day has wiped me out.
Hopefully tomorrow, with some rest and a good breakfast in the morning, will be better. I’ll have some support on the phones at least!