Letting People Down

I’ll admit I’m finding things difficult right now, what with stress, anxiety and a dash of depression throw in for good measure. And always there in the back of my mind, nagging at me like a hangnail, is the feeling that I’m letting people down.

Dwelling on it doesn’t help me: I know that. Whoever said doubts have to be rational? This one certainly isn’t, but that doesn’t stop me fretting about not going to work, about causing people who care to worry about me.

I keep thinking about the project work I was supposed to have finished weeks ago: I can’t stop beating myself up over failing to meet the targets I personally set for completing it. I made promises, and I’ve broken them.

Even when I take regular leave from work I start to feel insecure after a couple of days: I distress myself, imagining that I’ll get back there only to find I’ve been forgotten, no longer have a desk or a job. Now I have to contend with that “normal” low self-esteem insecurity being bolstered by having let down everybody I work with.

I’ve talked to friends a couple of times about how I’m feeling and tried to reassure them that I’m not going to come to any harm, to put their minds at ease. And though I’m trying to do that for them I can’t put my own mind to rest: I can’t hug myself, wipe away my tears and tell myself I will be all right. So I also feel I’m letting my friends down by not being my usual self. Nobody wants to be around such a miserable, self-pitying, tearful waste of space: I’d only bring them down so I’m mostly keeping to myself. Shutting myself away behind the shield of my laptop keyboard.

I think I need to break this cycle, so to that end I’m going to push myself to go out and spend time with people. Hopefully it will distract my mind from how I’m feeling. And that’s got to be a good thing.

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15 thoughts on “Letting People Down

  1. Rainbows. And kittens. And shiny new pennies. And stimmy songs.

    I don’t know what else to say. It just sucks. That feeling that you need to think about others’ feelings even when you’re trying to get help.

    All the best, Ben. I’ll be thinking of you. And if there’s anything I can do, even if it’s just not being annoyed or overly emotional or being OK with being around you because I’m not actually anywhere near you, then you know I’m here.

    • I suck at being selfish! 😀

      Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts: they mean a lot to me. Oh, and I love your phrase, “being OK with being around you because I’m not actually anywhere near you.” The thing is, I know what you mean by it. Did I say thank you yet? Thank you!!

  2. Yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it. At my previous work, I couldn’t stand to be a day ill or anything, because I wasn’t doing what I promised to do. And no-one knew how to do X, and now they couldn’t rely on me and and and…
    And then when my colleagues did manage without me, I felt as if apparently my work didn’t matter, I was really disappointed. There’s no winning, is there?

  3. And trying to get help, but ending up reassuring your friends… yeah. It reminds me of the paradox autisticook described in the comments on her “Asking for help” blog, in response to you.
    But it’s so difficult to be yourself because you want to be comforted, but at the same time being scared to push them away by being a “miserable, self-pitying, tearful waste of space”. And you know that if you’d say that to them they’d be “no, we don’t think that”, but you think it anyway.
    Urgh. This is exactly why I barely talk about things like this with other people than professionals. I just don’t believe people’d continue to be friends with me after that. Even if they already proved me wrong (cause I once did start blubbering about life sucking and actually just wanting to die, and they are still friends with me).
    “A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you just the same” 😉

    • “no, we don’t think that” — that’s what people have said to me, pretty much. And you are right: I do have friends who know all about me, and they still (somehow) love me. But then I know all about them and love them just the same too. So I should be able to accept it.

      I liked the way the doctor put it to me this morning: “If you didn’t care it wouldn’t matter to you. People who don’t care don’t feel like you do.”

  4. Hi Ben,
    Please do not beat yourself up about the work. I know that is easy for me to write and I know I do beat myself up to. But I think that we need to realise just how much the computing industry takes from us programmers. By definition we need to produce stuff that is new, so no wonder we get things wrong. I have got more things wrong in my career than I care to mention. But there is a bigger picture here….

    1: Don’t let the tech control you. WE are the human beings, we are not machines and I would not want to be one. We create. Creativity goes together with making mistakes. In my book you cannot have one without the other. So I would just congratulate yourself on your creativity!

    2: I tend to think of the whole tech endeavour as humanity developing. We have to develop our thinking. It is a training, and guess what? Training involves getting it wrong. Yes – we happen to be able to make a living and yet also help people do things they want to do with the apps we produce. But do not underestimate the energy drain that places on us. Please please look after yourself. It is not easy. And I guess you would not be doing it if it was? We do it for the challenge. But just what is the REAL challenge? I answer that by saying to develop my thinking perhaps? But then in order to develop myself, as opposed to the software, I will hit obstructions. Not a problem. Its ok. Really – Truly – It is.

    Oh yeah. Also when you say you made promises – don’t forget that most companies today are machines and will grind you down if you let them. You are really making promises to a machine that does not care. Yes I know there are people – but they will understand – believe me.

    I am forever getting ‘sanity’ checks off my colleagues. Yeah Yeah I know. I am past help 😉 . But when I get stuck like it sounds you are (which I hit earlier this week as well) I just cut back to the bigger picture. I am bigger than this job. I am bigger than my work career. THAT is what counts. And to me, your courage you show here in your posts outshines any of the obstacles you may hit at work.

    We are humans – warts and all – mistakes and all. And I want to be no different.

    You are ok as you are mate.
    Please do take care of yourself.
    All the best
    Charles

    • Thank you Charles. Unless I make a conscious effort I have a predilection to focus on the detail and forget that there is a bigger picture. (Yeah, it’s an autistic thing… takes effort to work around.) It’s a help to be reminded that sometimes I need to shift my focus.

      • For me it came to head once in a past job where – thanks to there being a complete idiot for a boss – I ended up in a shouting match. Every morning I would have to steel myself for 5 mins in the car park before walking in. This time it was all too much and I heard myself saying “The LAST thing I will be thinking about when I am dying is THIS project” A few days later I walked out. I don’t necessarily recommend this but it did cause me to think of the bigger picture, my family, the people I cared about. That is what I will remember when I look back at life I guess.

        Yeah. Big picture helps. But there will still be those dialogues inside my head when the mistakes happen where I am telling myself just how bad I am. I try not to believe them anymore – but that can be hard. The book “The Artists Way” says it is just the left brain rambling on telling you how duff you are and should have more control. Left brain is ok to serve, but not so good to be in charge too much. I try and strive for balance if I can.
        Take Care.

    • That’s a really good reminder!

      It’s hard for me sometimes because such a large part of my self-esteem and joy is wrapped up in doing my job right. People used to tell me that I was too invested in my work, that there are other things to enjoy. Now that I know I’m autistic, I can recognise that I am different and that work IS in fact very important for me. But I can also take a step back and see that because it’s not as important to others, they will not see my dedication. Because it’s different to them. So I won’t take their disregard personally anymore.

      • Yes, work is very important for me too. But we do need to find a balance, especially when a job is mostly for the money. And when you get unemployed, you better learn to sever the link between self-esteem and work quickly. (very difficult) But now I am starting work again, for an organisation that does great work, immediately the dedication pops up again. I think generally it’s a good thing.
        Charles does make a good point: it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind, especially when your company is a machine. Not everyone has the ‘luxury’ of actually liking their employer.

        Also about IT, definitely: programming and other IT-jobs rely on thinking outside the box, finding new ways of doing things, you’re bound to make mistakes. And not all employers (or customers) get that. But that’s also why it’s such a great challenge. Sigh. I miss it a bit.

        • I have a lot of respect for Charles — he’s a colleague of mine and as well as being a talented developer and writer he thinks very deeply about issues.

          Anyway, I think I’m getting better: I’d not thought about work for, oh, two or three hours now. I do think one of my problems is that I don’t think of the company as an entity; I think of individuals, so it really does feel like it’s letting particular people down rather than some faceless machine. I need to try to separate the two in my mind.

          • Seriously: it was months after I was fired before I started to not think about my job anymore (much). No matter how much I thought my boss was a jerk, who didn’t deserve my work anymore, I still felt like I was letting my colleagues down by having a burn-out.

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