Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Strategies and alternatives for coping with fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and other chronic illnesses

Bipolar Rage: Am I the Only One?

Posted by wendyburnett on March 15, 2010

I had one of those horrible days today (actually, it seems to be a bit of a pattern lately.) I’m normally pretty calm at home, but shortly after I walk into work I’m furious, and I stay that way until well after I leave.

I work in the deli at a grocery store, which probably isn’t the best kind of job for someone who’s bipolar. It’s extremely stressful when it’s busy, but I don’t have much choice if I want to eat. The real issue for me is that we’re expected to wait on customers; price, rotate, and stock product; mark down anything that’s approaching expiration; pull, scan, and throw away expired product; make deli trays for special orders; cut and package block cheeses; slice meat for the department that makes the custom subs; help customers find things, answer the phone, and keep everything clean. (Oh, you have to drop everything and update the temperature log every 4 hours, too. )

We NEED two people working during the busy times, one to slice and wait on customers, and one to work on everything else; but they never schedule more than one person. It is absolutely impossible for one person to keep up with everything they expect you to do. Most nights, I walk in and have customers waiting before I even have time to put on my hairnet and apron and wash my hands. Then I spend the entire time I’m there waiting on customers and trying to get things re-wrapped and back in the cooler before they sit out too long. At one point tonight, I had 20 pieces of meat and cheese sitting on the counter. The customers were coming so close together that I MIGHT have time to wrap and put away one piece before the next person came up and made me unwrap two more. (But don’t even THINK about trying to stop in between customers and wrap everything before you wait on the next person. Not unless you want the customer to file a complaint with your manager or call the 800 number.)

Believe it or not, that’s not what upsets me. I ENJOY waiting on the customers; chatting, helping them find things, and making suggestions if they aren’t really sure what they want. The problem is, the whole time I’m waiting on customers, I’m freaking out about all the other things I’m supposed to be doing. It doesn’t matter if I spend five solid hours standing in front of the slicer waiting on customers; if I leave and haven’t done all the other stuff, I get bitched at for not getting it done; and if I stay until I finish it all, I get bitched at for going over my scheduled time.

It gets even worse when the folks who make the subs run low on meat to make them with. I’ll have a line of customers demanding service, and someone from over there raising hell because I’m not slicing THEIR meat. No matter what I do, it’s not good enough. Every time I get a break in the stream of customers, I slice for the subs, but if I don’t bring a full container they complain. What am I supposed to do? I can’t make MY customers wait while I slice full containers for them, but I also can’t make their customers wait. I thought that slicing a little when I got a chance, so that they’d have enough to keep working while I tried to get a long enough break to do a full pan, was a good compromise. Obviously, I was wrong.

THERE’S ONLY ONE OF ME! I can only do one thing at a time, can only be in one place at the time, and no matter which I choose, someone is pissed off and I get bitched at.

It doesn’t matter how hard I try, it doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t get it all done. By the time I’ve been there 30 minutes, I’m SCREAMING inside my head. Screaming over and over, “LEAVE ME ALONE! LEAVE ME ALONE! I have things I have to get done, and I can’t DO them if it doesn’t stop long enough to walk away from the slicer.”

Inside, I’m screaming, I’m enraged by the constant stream of customers. Outside, to the customers, I’m calm. I’m friendly and helpful; chatting with them about husbands and children, local events, or food; pretending to be in a good mood. It’s a strange dichotomy, but I’ve had YEARS of training in suppressing my anger and hiding my pain. I can appear sweet and pleasant even when I’m raging inside, when I want to scream and cry and throw things, when all I want is to die because every movement is agony and I can’t do anything but push through it.

It was bad enough before; when I closed at 8 pm and had an hour to pull, weigh, scan and toss the out of date meat from the deli case; break down the slicers; sweep; restock the case; scrub the slicers; wipe down all the tables, the scales, and the top of the deli case; clean the glass; take the trash out; wash the dishes; and scrub the floor. (Oh, and lets not forget finishing the slicing for the four containers of meat I’m supposed to have ready for the subs the next morning.)

When I saw the new schedule, with an extra half-hour tacked on to the end of the day, I thought they’d finally decided to give me the time I needed to actually get all of that finished. Fat chance. Now, instead of closing at 8 and having an hour to do the cleaning; I have to stay open until 9, and only get a half-hour to clean. According to them, I’m supposed to start cleaning at 7:30 so that most of it is done by 9.

Yeah, RIGHT. I spent the time between 7:30 and 9:00 slicing meat for this morning and waiting on customers. I put the last piece of meat back in the case at 8:55, and the only thing I’d had time to do of the closing tasks was restocking the deli case. When I left at 9:30 I was short two containers of meat, had only pulled and weighed a few pieces of meat and cheese (and forget scanning, no time,) the glass hadn’t been cleaned, and there was a several inch deep puddle of water spreading out from the stopped up drain because I was already 5 minutes late clocking out. I guess there was a mess on the floor when they opened this morning, because when it flooded a bunch of stuff washed out of the drain.

I WANT to get it all done, I really do, but I decided last night that if they’re going to set me up to fail, fuck it. I’ll do what I have time to get done, and THEY can figure out what the hell to do about the rest of it.

I left there 12 hours ago, and the muscles in my neck and shoulders feel like steel bands. Every time I stop to think about it I notice I’m grinding my teeth; and my head feels like it’s going to explode because of the tension headache. I need to be sleeping, but I can’t. I hurt too much, I’m too tense, and if I lay down I’ll just stress out about all the shit I can’t get done and get even more angry.

Someone PLEASE just kill me now, before it gets any worse.

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8 Responses to “Bipolar Rage: Am I the Only One?”

  1. Annie said

    Ugh I felt this way throughout the entire 10 years I spent in “customer-service-esque” jobs. I managed to suppress so much anger that I am surprised I am not more messed up than I am.

    I still have a tendency to take out my anger on inanimate objects, which probably doesn’t help the fact that I’m unemployed now haha.

    • Yeah, I had the same problem last year when I was working at a fast food place. It’s not the customers, it’s the fact that the company expects more work out of one person than any 3 people could perform. The stress and frustration of not being able to keep up is HORRIBLE.

      I finally gave up punching walls and throwing things when I realized that it didn’t reduce the rage, it made it worse. I’m learning new methods of dealing with it, but they don’t work very well when you’re in a situation where the rage is constantly triggered by the stress and frustration.

  2. All I can say is that I’m thinking of you. Which is of utterly no service at all. Except that I am frustrated and outraged for you – and for everyone who puts up with constant crap to pay a few bills. My last contractor job was in an environment that was incredibly stressful. I had two masters with very different agendas. No win, but you keep trying, and you feel the stress in every part of your body as you bite your tongue and take deep breaths. Then go home and can’t move.

    I wish I could do something, Wendy. Something.

    • Sugar, just knowing someone cares is HUGE.

      Everyone else that works in the deli deals with the same shit, but instead of offering support and understanding, they bitch and tell me I’m doing it WRONG. The most frequent thing I get is, “you have to do the other stuff in between customers.” Excuse me, from the time folks start getting off work til the time I close, there is NO “in between customers” available. I finish with one customer, and before I finish re-wrapping and putting away what I just sliced for them, the next one is already there.

      This is going to sound strange, especially to those who fight migraines, but today was a really good day. I got up with a migraine that was so bad I was throwing up. I took one of my last 3 “anti-puke” pills and a pain pill I bummed from someone else, and went back to bed. When it was time to get hubby off to work, I made his sandwich with my eyes shut because it hurt so bad. Called in sick, took more stuff, and went back to sleep. (Hubby turned off the tv when he left, and I left the bird covered, so it was nice and quiet, and I had the sleep mask on, so the light wasn’t bothering me either.) I finally woke back up around 7ish; still in pain, but easier, and not nauseous any more, so I let the bird out. I’ve spent a little time on the puter, but other than that, I have done NOTHING today. I’m sitting here with the tv still off, and the only light is coming from the computer screens and one candle. It’s so peaceful; the bird is chirping quietly, and the only other thing I hear is the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.

      I need to do this for myself more often, when I’m NOT sick. I never realized before how overstimulating it is to have the tv constantly running in the background, and always having lights on, or how soothing dim lighting and quiet can be. I still have a headache, but it’s down to a manageable level, and I have 2 more hours until hubby gets home and the noise starts again.

      We live in one room, so it’s not like I can go into another room and shut the door. I have earplugs and headphones, but I can still hear the TV (hubby’s spent a lot of his life working around airplanes, which has damaged his hearing, so for him to hear the tv, it has to be loud enough to penetrate through anything I play in the headphones at a level low enough to be soothing.)

  3. A hairnet and an apron, hunh? I’m really having trouble visualizing that.

    Anyway, best advice I can give is work your scheduled hours and the heck with the rest of it. You can only do what you can do. When you’re out of there, you’re out of there: Don’t let ’em rent space in your head! And keep a weather eye out for another job: This one obviously is not ever going to get any better!

    Not that either piece of advice helps. I too have had miserable jobs and felt just as miserable no matter what attitudinal stance I tried to adopt.

    P.S. I would love to see follow-up comments dumped into my e-mail box, but if I check the little box below, I’ll have to confirm a subscription. It’s small annoyance, but it is an annoyance, nevertheless. Can we fix that?

    • ROFL – maybe I’ll bring them home and get hubby or one of the roommates to take a pic for you.

      I totally agree that they’re only getting what they pay for from now on. (I made that decision the minute I walked in Sunday and discovered that they’d lengthened the time I’m open and reduced my cleaning time.) From now on, if I have customers right up til closing, they get what I have time to do. No more staying late to finish up, and no more worrying about what didn’t get done after I get home. Now if I can just control the anger so that I don’t lose it at work, I’ll be doing well.

      As for another job, I’m definitely keeping an eye out, for both of us, and in the meantime I’m trying to build up some writing income from some of the “content mills.” What I really want to do is take some herbalism and aromatherapy classes and write about how to use them to help deal with chronic illnesses. I’ve found the online courses I want, now it’s just a matter of scraping up the money for them (and I say that like it’s the EASY part – lol.)

      I’ll check with wordpress help and see if there’s a way to get the comments without having to subscribe to anything else.

  4. Kendra said

    Booklets are creative special people. We feel deeper, cry harder, laugh more, and create from our open heart. You need to get out of working in that nasty deli. Your life has meaning and value and I can tell just from reading your posts that you are a natural born writer. You gotta follow your heart and your talents. That deli job has gotta go. The headaches are gonna get worse and may lead to much worse health problems if you ignore your true calling. I can feel so much when I read your posts. I can tell you are smart and you can write really well. You gotta go after what you enjoy with the same dedication you’ve been giving to that slave job and your life will do a 360.

  5. Kendra said

    I meant to say Bipolars and my iPhone typed in booklets. Sorry for the typo

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