Regular readers may recall that I got the news some 7 (?) weeks ago that my contract wasn't being renewed. It seems hard in a way to believe that so much time has passed, and Monday is my official last day of work. One of the things that makes this hard to believe is that I actually haven't been back to work since the 21st of March.
That day, I headed out of the office planning on enjoying my UK break, catching up with Rick, and then fully expecting to head back in again on Tuesday 27th. On the way out of the office, a colleague stopped me and said that he had been asking around to see if anyone else in our organisation would be willing to hire me on temporary research contracts to translate or build up their websites or anything and that basically the feedback he got from everyone was "Who's Gwan?" He told me that I was too quiet and I didn't make enough of an effort to put myself out there and consequently that, although the team I had been working with for the last 2 years had faith in me and knew what I was capable of, to everyone else in the building, I basically didn't exist. This was hard to hear - as are most unpleasant home truths - and I left in tears, although at this stage I had no thought that I would not be returning.
On that Tuesday, I emailed my work and told them I'd take another day's holiday, choosing instead to have a leisurely start to the day before seeing Rick off on his train at about lunchtime. It had been hard to go back to work that first Monday after I received the letter telling me about my contract, but somehow when I woke up on the 28th, it was even harder. I think I'd had the UK trip and Rick's visit to look forward to, and I woke up suddenly feeling like there was nothing left to look forward to any more, no ray of sunshine on the horizon. No-one at work had replied to my email from the day before, and I irrationally felt "no-one cares whether I'm there or not" and, contrary to my usual responsible behaviour, I just didn't go to work, I didn't email, I didn't answer the phone when they called. I crumbled. I went to the doctor for the first of many times over the past 5 weeks, picked up the first of the series of sick notes I've had and retreated into a morass of depression and inactivity.
Each time my week-long sick leave was drawing to a close, I contemplated going back to work with panic, imagining myself walking back in to the - pity? incomprehension? unanswerable questions? - of my colleagues, and I couldn't face it. Nor could I imagine getting through an entire day without what has become a routine afternoon nap. In fact, for the first few days of taking the anti-anxiety medication prescribed to me, I felt like I could barely keep my eyes open for a few hours consecutively, or spit out a coherent sentence in French. I went looking once for the Pôle Emploi, where you have to sign up for unemployment, but after about half an hour out and about, I was too tired and gave up and took the bus home to go back to bed.
Since then, between those many doctor's visits, I've been trying to get back to normal functioning, but it's difficult planning for the future when it seems too hard sometimes to get up and go to the supermarket, let alone research and apply for jobs or contemplate moving cities or countries. I feel guilty about walking out of work and never going back - I wonder who cleaned up my messy desk or whether they all think I just shrugged my shoulders and thought "you're not renewing my contract? Fuck it." I wonder what effect that might have when I need a reference for my next job. I wonder what the next month will bring, now that I am officially unemployed and I need to start dealing with getting unemployment and worrying about how to pay the rent. But mostly, I'm just trying to put one foot in front of the other, to keep getting up in the morning, to not go under.