You’re going to tell me it’s not a phobia. You’re going to tell me it’s an anxiety. And then I’m going to ask you, “how the fuck would you know? Are you inside my head?” And as a followup question, what the fuck is the real difference? Phobia “is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities,” says Wikipedia Anxiety “is the expectation of future threat,” says the same Wikipedia. I face the expectation of the shitty outcome, AND the persistent fear of the immediate situation. It doesn’t matter how you slice shit, it’s still shit whether you make coins or julienne fries, or dice it into cubes. I can’t win. I’m fucked, and not in a good way.
Here’s an appropriate place to strategically insert my own profane expression: Jeremiah’s Lamentations!
I fail to see a significant difference between a Phobia and an Anxiety Disorder, “a prolonged feeling of anxiety.” When I think about the circumstance, the “situation,” I experience real fear. I’m afraid (how funny is that?) it’s just fear. It’s a straight up phobia, because in my head I know it’s not just avoidance, it’s irrational, so fuck all you armchair psychiatrists and your oversimplification attempts. Just because it’s not in the DSM-IV doesn’t mean it’s not real. I can have a phobia but “endure it” with “marked distress.” And I do. And I have done it. This is my own personal reflection on job searching, terror, and Bipolar Disorder, experienced by me as cyclothymia cycling over periods of 3 to 6 months.
With cyclothymia, I can interview when I feel “normal,” whatever that is. How do you interview when you’re sad and don’t want to get out of bed, or when you’re too hyper to sit still and all you want to do is go somewhere, anywhere but work? But the whole process is demeaning and degrading to me. In the past I’ve interviewed on the up-swings. Bought my house on an upswing. I was happy, relatively. I was trusting. The high lasted for a while, and then reality crashed the party and I realized what I had stepped in was the same shit, but they had covered it up with some perfume, for a short time I’ll call the “honeymoon” phase. I can’t imagine not being on some kind of permanent disability if my mood were less predictable or faster-shifting. I know it’s coming, I’m going to be (or maybe I already am) depressed and tired and broken and sick of it, and raging. With a “fuck everything” on my tongue, I’ll drag my exhausted, profoundly introverted ass out of bed and get to work and survive, and you’d better stay the fuck out of my way and leave me alone. And then for a short while I won’t pay attention but I’ll be relatively normal. And then for a short time I’ll be either excitable, happy, even sociable on rare occasions, or raging. I get anger at both extremes, I guess that’s either weird or perfectly normal. At work, things work great and I ignore that I’m here. Or things don’t work great and I’m frustrated and angry. Or things work fine and I’m depressed and angry. Or things work or don’t work and it doesn’t matter because I’m in my happy place getting shit done whether I feel a purpose or not. It’s a wonder I can work at all. All I want to do is stay in bed and eat fried chicken or steak and drink heavily (which for me doesn’t take much), or get out of bed, clean the house and go fishing or do the house chores (shut up!).
If I have an “irrational” fear of spiders, it doesn’t mean I can’t also have anxiety that one might bite me in the future, and it also doesn’t mean I can’t “endure the situation or object, with marked distress” long enough to smash the little bastard when I understand no one is coming to smash it for me. In the same way, if I have an “irrational” fear of handing my life over to a perfect stranger, in the form of my Curriculum Vitae (that’s fancy talk for “resume”), and an irrational fear that they will reject me, or lie to me, or undervalue me, it doesn’t mean I can’t “endure the situation or object with marked distress,” long enough to muck my way through the interview process, desiring an employment situation wherein I might break even in life, when I understand that the fear of being bankrupt, having no food or toilet paper, and “living in a van down by the river,” is just a wee bit stronger than the earlier fears. And it doesn’t mean I can’t also have anxiety that one might, metaphorically, bite me- reject me, lie to me, or undervalue me, in the immediate future.
I’ve got experience with interview phobia. That shit is real. It feels almost as terrifying to me as going to the dentist, and that is called odontophobia. I go to the dentist and everything is exposed. “Did you floss? Did you brush? How are your gums? Do you have cavities? Oh, there’s a crack where your filling is going to fall out. We’re going to have to cause you pains twice: once for the repair work and once for the bill. We’re going to pull those teeth, and then pull everything out of your wallet.” I’ve got experience with being rejected. I’ve got experience getting fired. I’ve got experience being lied to. And I’ve got a LOT of experience being undervalued for my work and for my contributions to the success of any given company I’ve worked for. If I hadn’t, I’d be financially secure by now. I go to the interview and everything is exposed: What did you learn from your prior experiences? What kind of person are you? All the while, I swear I can palpably feel the fuckers in the HR departments scrutinizing my resume and saying, to themselves, “How cheaply can we get this guy to work for us? He’d do a hell of a job and he hasn’t had a lot of experience earning lots of money, so he’ll probably take the job for lower pay than the last schmuck we interviewed.” And once they decide that, I can’t win. And they’re right. Because I don’t know the industry standards, and because I try to be a trusting person, and because anything you offer me is going to be better than the shit pay I earn right now, I’ll take it. But what I need, according to my wife, who knows what’s happening, is to earn double my current wage, or be on salary for triple. But I’m not working in my own field, and I don’t have what they consider relevant experience, so I have to take whatever shit they offer if I want the job.
And then there are those psychotic psychological profiling questions, random shit like “if you were a vegetable, what kind would you be and why?
I’d be a fucking garlic plant. Even the green part on top smells (great to me, but sadly) offputting to lots of people. It hides underground, feeling safe, growing well enough, disguised as ordinary grass, living a nice compartmentalized life with everything relatively under control, sometimes it even blossoms and makes pretty flowers. And then some ass hole rips you out of the ground, exposes everything from root to green, tears your safe paper coverings off, slices, dices, minces, and throws in a pan with some olive oil to sautee, not as the main ingredient but as a complimentary flavor, so it doesn’t cost very much. People like to have me around, but not to take very good care of me in exchange for my contributions to the dish. It would be nicer to be a bean bush or a tomato plant. Or even a carrot. Carrots and tomatoes are versatile, can be served as a dish standing on their own merit, or can work as part of a recipe, in short they work well independently or as a part of a team. But garlic. You can do a lot of stuff with it, you know you’d miss it if it wasn’t around, but not everybody likes that, especially not in great quantities.
If my wife says I’m irrational, I’m fucking irrational. She says, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Go for it. Take it. She walks confidently into the interview, smartly answers the questions, and lands an “entry level job” that pays more than I earn after 8 years in mine. I walk into a job interview, answer as honestly as I think they can handle, and then the worst thing happens. I get the job, but they’ve promised me some kind of pay arrangement of advancement after I’m already here 3 months and don’t want to go back out on the street, and then I find out it’s all a fucking lie. There’s no promotion after 3 months, there’s no additional pay, there’s no hope for promotion from within. They keep putting assholes, who don’t know shit, over me, paying them twice what they pay me to watch me do what I do. I’ve been doing the job already, and then the big shot big shits tell me how to do it and it’s no better than my way of doing it, in fact it’s worse, and harder, in an effort to make their own job easier. I’m carrying the supervisor, in some cases training the fucking supervisor, and I hate it.
You’d be phobic too. I have an “irrational” fear of repeating the same mistakes, landing in the same kind of job they call entry level but it’s really managerial, and not being able to escape. Then comes the “irrational” depression. Why bother trying to get out? It’s pointless to try because it’ll be the same, or worse, than the job you already have, so fuck it. I’ll just stay here in my safe hole, disguised among the (gr)asses, hiding my compartmentalized roots and hoping for the best. By which I mean a windfall so I don’t have to keep doing this shit until I’m 95.
I’m buying a lottery ticket tonight. And if I win, I’m going to be pickled garlic for a short season, you know what I mean. I had a friend who once told me that in order to quit a job you have to have enough money to tell anyone your job matters to, “Fuck you.” I’m dying to do an exit interview where I tell those bastards exactly, truthfully, how I feel, and it doesn’t matter and can’t hurt me, because I have enough money to tell them all, verbally and nonverbally, as my back is turned and I’m headed out the exit for the last time, “Fuck you!”
The preachers are divided on the issue. Some say we deserve to be happy and feel successful, and others say nothing is promised this side of eternity. Some say the lottery is gambling and gambling is a sin and we have no business wasting our money on that and instead I should put my cash into the preacher’s offering plate. Others say God controls the outcome of the draw and takes care of our needs, just not our wants all the time. I want to believe God controls it. I know He wants us to be content whether paupers or princes. But I’ve been a pauper a long time, and it sucks. I can still dream. I have a dream of being able to have my bills paid on time, every time. I have a dream where I don’t have to eat cheap food just because it’s all I can afford. I like ramen, but I also like ribeye, and God knows which one I prefer. I have a dream I can do what I want, write my books, help other people financially instead of holding my hat in my hands and taking whatever shit they’re giving, whether working or not.
I hope to God my next lottery ticket is the solitary winner. I’d still be garlic, I’d still want to stay hidden, but I wouldn’t have to worry about the weird animals, the farmers, the lawn mower, or the chef. Or the fucking HR departments. Corporate America is a shit hole. Even some churches have adopted a corporation model and that turns them into shit holes too. It’s because they’re run by deacons from corporations, and pastors with smarmy fake-ass smiles, both thriving on shoveling corporate shit at people. I’d love to win the lottery and have enough to actually help people and not just pat them on the hand, promise to pray for them, ask for more money, and go back home to my $500,000 house in my $40,000 car to dine on a $30.00 steak. I can picture a relatively simple life, with a big garden in the back yard and a pond down the road to fish.
If you won, how would you live? I can’t imagine living very differently, I just daydream that things would be easier because I could answer all the shit that falls apart, and answer all the bill collectors, promptly, and help people who needed it. And go fishing, when I have the energy to get out of bed. And stay home and in bed and tell anyone who thinks I should get out of bed “fuck you” when I don’t.
That would be one socially acceptable way of avoiding “marked distress and significant interference with social or occupational activities,” which I feel most of the time. But I need “Fuck-You Money” to get away with it.