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A painful unmasking...

I've had two 9-5 jobs, but I don't think the first one really "counted" because I was working for my family, and they accepted me for me. But the first time I stepped out of the nest and tried a 9-5 with strangers, boy was I in for a wakeup call. For the first year I could basically stay a hermit. I didn't socialize and it was OK. I was low man on the totem pole. Then in a jarring turn of events I was promoted to something way more social. A veritable hornet's nest of employees. Suddenly my mask was being questioned every day. I was relentlessly the butt of jokes in a ring of tormentors. My sexuality was questioned because I was single, not dating, and did not come across as overly feminine. This was extremely painful.

Then as though it had been building for months a release valve was triggered to go off as my coworkers played the cruelest prank yet. I had my first full blown meltdown at work. My mask was ripped off. I was no longer politely smiling with the joke. I couldn't speak. My face turned bright red, and I felt enormous rage. Instead of screaming in pain, I ran from the group with tears streaming down my cheeks trying to find solace in a quiet place. One of the employees followed me and all I could do was express my anger at what had happened stream of consciousness. It seemed like only seconds passed and I forced myself to stop crying. I HAD TO RETURN TO MY DESK AND FACE THE GROUP, I thought. So back I went and instead of spewing rage I spewed smiling non-sense for 5 minutes. It was pressured rapid-fire speech that didn't make sense. My coworkers tried not to laugh. I was in another place and time.
The next days, weeks and months the jokes stopped but the tension was always there, and I was treated as less than sane. The longer I stayed in the job the more my mental health spiraled.

Today I recognize that I need a different environment. One with fewer hours. One with windows and fresh air instead of grey cubicles. One where bullying isn't tolerated. One where I can be myself. I thank God that I have that now.

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midlifeiris
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