3. The Death of Joy

My temper had been getting worse day by day, even in the workplace. My colleagues who’d been working with me for years also noted it, and quietly told me that my temper was a little out of control. The advice they all gave when I switched jobs, was to watch my temper.

I felt justified at the time. The management had changed, and there were things which were spinning out of control. I didn’t agree with the way things were going, and I was angry quite a lot, with the management, with the direction the team was expected to take, and what I saw as a betrayal of our principles as a team. Things often came to a head when I was asked to do things which I felt were not ethically correct, and I often had to make a stand, sometimes more roughly than I should have.

At home, I found myself over-critical of my boys, and easily tired. I withdrew from many social engagements, especially those where I knew I would end up contending with others over differing viewpoints. My wife and I attributed this to my introverted character, but I struggled – really struggled – to express or even feel joy.

I think I forgot how to be happy. I’m still not sure how much of that was negativity, or how much of that was something else. Nonetheless, my moods were often low, and on hindsight, the doctors would call my persistent low mood dysthymia.

I changed jobs, and really thought that good things would happen this time. I would be working for a place that serves the common public, and this was a volunteer welfare organisation. I felt that my skills would be put to good use. I wasn’t wrong, but the people issues were worse. I felt betrayed by certain issues and treatment by some people in that organisation, and I limped in pain for two months or more. I was on the verge of quitting without a job. I cried once or twice during this period, as I couldn’t take what I felt amounted to abuse.

But I’m the sole breadwinner. I can’t quit without a job and provide for my family responsibly. So I hung on, until a new manager joined the company. Things improved, but my self confidence never returned. I felt always out of my depth, no matter how much I wanted to learn, how much I wanted to work hard to achieve the goals set for me, by myself and by my manager. That lack of self confidence crept into other areas, reinforced by the selective truths that I told myself – such as the fact that I wasn’t a good father, or as social as I should be.

It didn’t help that I kept hearing that I was not as good as I should be in the workplace, and this started to eclipse what I knew of myself, and what I knew of my skills and background.

My wife expressed surprise that depression didn’t hit during this period. I’m pretty open with her, which would make my eventual decision a shock even to her. But throughout this period, the tiredness never lifted, and the hopelessness never let go. It was like life would never improve. I questioned my faith in God, and I questioned why things had to be so difficult.

Don’t get me wrong. I was thankful for a lot of things in my life, but somehow, I was not able to bring myself to trust that God would have anything good planned for me where work was concerned.

I continued questioning and doubting even when an opening came, and the interviews proceeded smoothly. Nothing good could happen. No point for me to hope that it would.

So the stage was set. I didn’t know it then, of course. No one close to me expected that the crash would happen.

In fact, I thought I was past the worst of it. I wasn’t.

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