Do This Don't: Have an Epic F&#$ing Meltdown at Work!

Forget "crying at work," try totally losing your mind on your co-workers!
Publish date:
June 21, 2012
career, work, jobs

I'm not dead, I'm just dead inside.

So, last week was kind of stressful. Do not blankly ask me "Why?" in the manner of my boyfriend when I am having a panic attack or an AOL exec the day after we were informed my last site was folding. Google it, please, I'm weary.

I try not to bitch about my job too much, because it's so clearly a world's-tiniest-violin situation to those of you who have jobs where you have to wear a bra to work and rarely get complimented on the street by nice Internet strangers. And especially when the issue is commenter-or-press-related because honestly? I'm so lucky that anybody even gives a shit what I'm writing. Even vitriol is better than echoing, tumbleweed silence.

But keep calm and carry on only works if you're actually calm, and not a bubbling cauldron of repressed emotions barely contained by clenched jaw and shoulders. And look, I'm a cryer, but that's what bathroom stalls and doors are for. My office has seen a river of tears and naked boobies. Public meltdowns can be sexy (Bald Britney!), but they usually result in a lengthy hospital stay, and I have so much to do. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to just bead moccasins for awhile though? They should send you to rehab once you've been sober for awhile and can really enjoy it.

The point of all this is that last week I totally lost my shit twice in one day, the first time in the middle of a meeting that I stumbled out of dramatically before locking myself in a conference room and sobbing while Julie and Olivia brought me water and heated up my Amy's frozen lunch and the second time after that whole nutritionist-insurance debacle, when I blubbered things like "I'm just trying so hard..." at Corynne before collapsing on Jane's office couch in tears.

I feel like the whole thing went over really well!

I woke up with an emotional hangover the next day and wrote sheepish apology letters to both Corynne and Jane, but honestly, they both seemed pretty into it. Corynne doesn't like me saying that because she thinks it sounds like she takes sadistic pleasure in my tears, but what I mean is that they were both really supportive and seemed glad that I felt comfortable enough to break down in front of them.

Jane Pratt is honestly this sweet.

Freaking out was also a very effective way to let my boss and co-workers know that I am currently taking on more than I can handle. The next day, Corynne approached me with a list of ideas for how to make my job more manageable, and Jane and I had a heart-to-heart about areas where I can ease up and give myself a break. My therapist, whom I called mid-freakout, suggested I insulate myself from feedback I know might be upsetting to me, an edict I am going to do my best to observe.

I don't recommend sobbing as a career move for everyone -- I spent years in educational publishing, so I know from soul-sucking jobs where you're barely allowed to be a human. But my life philosophy is to never change my behavior unless I am in an intolerable amount of pain, so an epic bottoming-out was probably the only way I was ever going to draw some boundaries. And if, like me, your job is sort of your life, not being able to express authentic emotion of the leaking-out-the-eyes variety is going to make you sick. Plus, crying is a natural body function over which you have little control. It's like peeing from your eyes. I hope to never wet my pants at work, but if I did, I think the appropriate response would be concern.

There's nothing inherently wrong with crying and I don't think the fact that it's considered unprofessional is unrelated to the fact that women are more likely to do it. I've never had a job where people didn't occasionally express anger, so why is crying such a huge misstep?

I cry because I'm passionate about my work, because it matters to me. Pre-launch, Jane and I probably cried enough collectively to bathe a small monkey. And as long as I'm doing good work, I don't think it matters if I'm heaving like that time I got drunk at the Halloween Parade and curled up in the middle of the pavement for a leisurely sob session while dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

And if your main professional goals involve pulling ahead in some Machiavellian game of career chess, consider that tears can be just as scary in the right situation as a power suit. Manipulating with tears and vaginas is pretty much the first thing they teach you at lady school. (And, yes, I do recommend using your sex appeal at work if you want to. I got my first clips by sexing cute editors!)

Note: If your boss is not Jane Pratt, I cannot gaurantee that said boss will respond positively to your meltdown. But you'll probably feel better.