Manna in the Desert

There’s a name for it — bait and switch.

An employer hires an individual for a desirable position and then puts the individual in a less desirable position without their consent. I learned about this the hard way — through experience.

Four months ago I accepted a position that appealed to me enormously. I would be working for people a friend admired. I would be working with professionals who did first class work. Best of all, I could focus on what I enjoy and do well — write.

While the job wasn’t quite what I had anticipated, it was good. I appreciated the people I worked with and got enough positive feedback to make going to work satisfying. If it didn’t challenge me quite as much as my all time favorite job — working for Dana at the Capital Journal — it also didn’t bore me as much as wading through invoices with more than 3,000 separate items listed or stress me as much as telemarketing. I was content.

Then, two weeks ago, in a staff meeting, I learned I would no longer be doing the job for which I was hired. I learned I was expected to do a job for which I am temperamentally unsuited, one which would require me to work in an office by myself on top of what would have been — for me — a stressful daily commute.

I left the office that day and cried. I sat in my truck — not even bothering to drive home — and cried. I couldn’t do the job to which I had been assigned and I had no idea what I would do.

Depression is a demon that has plagued me for years, since Mom died, in fact. In my early 20s, I attempted suicide and ended up in the hospital. In my 30s, I was on antidepressants under a psychiatrist’s supervision. However, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on drugs, so I learned to use cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques to manage the depression.

For the most part, I’ve been successful. I have gone through a couple rough spots since then — in the late 90s, when I couldn’t get out of bed for days on end and didn’t eat anything other than chocolate or cheese curls if I bothered to eat at all, and again in 2006 when I suffered a devastating series of losses right on top of one another. However, for the most part, I think I have managed my life in such a way as to prevent debilitating bouts of depression.

That involves knowing my triggers and knowing what I need to remain healthy. I need adequate sleep. I need time to be creative. I need to avoid alcoholic beverages. I need to be involved in faith-based activities. I need to avoid unnecessary daily stress. I need to be around other people — especially in the work place where I spend most of my waking hours. These — and a few other things — are all non-negotiable when it comes to maintaining my mental health.

And so, I was faced with a decision. I needed to decide whether I would sacrifice my mental health to draw a paycheck, or whether I would act to preserve my mental health. Staying in the position for which I was hired, I was told, was not an option.

I did the only thing that actually works for me in those situations. I put it in God’s hands. Too often in the past, I have weighed the pros and cons, done what seemed logical — even though there was a knot in the pit of my stomach — and lived to regret it. I am learning I need to weigh the pros and cons, but I also need to listen for the whisper that is either psychosis or the voice of God attempting to guide me.

In this situation, I would imagine trying the new job, giving it my best, and would end up physically ill. (That reminds me, I’m out of ibuprofen.) Then, I would explore the radical idea of just saying, “no,” of being unemployed if necessary to protect my mental health, and I would hear a whisper like the wind in the trees that said, “Trust me.”

I questioned this. What if it was just wishful thinking? What if I just wanted that to be the answer?

I sent an email to my prayer warriors, letting them know the situation, and asking them to pray for me. My plan was to continue praying about this for several days and then to make a decision. However, the timing was taken out of my hands.

When forced to make a decision, I opted to trust the intuition that said protecting my mental health had to be of paramount importance. If I didn’t, I would probably end up unemployed anyhow because my job neither offered health insurance (which made the meds affordable in the past) nor paid a salary which would have enabled me to purchase them out of pocket. At that point, I would not only have been unemployed, I would also have been unemployable.

What now? I’ve decided to appropriate the story of the Exodus. After being led out of Egypt, the Israelites had no choice but to rely on God, and he cared for them by sending them manna in the desert. Similarly, I have no choice but to rely on God, and to allow him to care for me one day at a time.

Something tells me, this will be an awesome adventure.

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