I was once afraid of everyday office supplies, office desks, ergonomic office chairs, black laptops, and photocopying machines…with closed doors were torture tools. Seeing a filing cabinet was particularly painful. Wooden shelvings were essentially torment. Recycling bins for shredding confidential documents were haunting sirens. Stacks of printer paper made me hyperventilate. I would hesitate going into a carpeted office…walking as if the floor was lava.
So yes, I used to be incapacitated afraid of office furniture and supplies. I’m glad I can say “used to” – that’s progress. I still can’t make it through a job interview. My resume seems like an announcement of my unfortunate experiences. My brain responds to triggers more times than it doesn’t. But still “used to” is progress hard fought over 3 years. Thank you therapy.
Going back to work was a hard fail. So then I observed the small things, the little things, the everyday hurts…and tried to work on those – one thing at a time became less paralyzed.
- First, I got a solid wood brown writing desk – similar, but different from the one associated with my former office of doom. It’s heavy and costly to move, but a loved one observed that it’s perfect for me and I look like a Writer behind it. That started the healing process.
- Second, I got reacquainted with stationery…pens, pencils, paper, markers, erasers. I let my tears decorate whatever I was writing on, and when it was too much, I gave up and used my laptop – a grey small thing.
- Third, was the hardest because it’s so ubiquitous – Printer paper. My solution, there was a sale on a box of printer paper, and I bought it thinking it’s extremely different from the one used at my former office. It’s made from recycled material and is good for the environment. The box stayed in an ominous corner for months.
- Fourth, I have stacks of paper everywhere, and planned to organize and discard what was no longer needed. So I paid a lot for a new filing cabinet that was delivered in two very large boxes. Similar lateral design as the one in my former office, but different – it’s black. I’ve not been able to bring myself to sort through things so it’s still hidden away unassembled.
- Fifth, I bought a multi-function printer, copier, scanner because every interview I see in a Professional Writer’s home has one. It’s hard to find distinguishing features when it comes to printer copiers so it’s white but smaller than the one I saw for two years at my former workplace. That started the functional new career recovery process.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, along with Exposure Therapy is a powerful thing. I can be around every day things now without remembering for the most parts. So now I’m not AS afraid. Actively forgetting is now reserved for the bigger things. The overwhelming presence of trauma never fully goes away. I’ll have moments, frozen times, insignificant fleeting losses I can’t explain to those unaware around me. Sometimes, my friends see it and know…it’s not silly. They shield me from having to explain that paper clips and staplers can trigger an association that causes someone to cry.
My nightmares never fully go away. They’ve changed a bit though.
Since recovering the freedom of thought, I reminisce about the way it was before and I get really really angry. I would fantasize about revenge with violence – surrounded by flying paper in the aftermath with bullet size holes in the walls.
It’s always been my rage that scary. Racism makes my skin colour a threat, and it also makes me vulnerable and disempowered. How can I live through this torment being punished continuously for something I didn’t do? While their lives live on, reproducing the harm to others, weaponizing the every day things that become symbols for my madness.