The child within and customer service…

I think it’s fair to say that I will never be marked out as an even tempered angel. It’s something that I’ve been more than aware of all my life but have never really understood why. Certain situations trigger an outburst that, on reflection, is a stress reaction that is magnified and distorted thanks to that good old pal Bipolar Disorder. Whilst Bipolar Disorder is a factor in the way I handle things it is only a factor and it is not to blame. It makes life harder for me when I’m in particular situations but it’s not the reason I do questionable things.

When I’m in these particular situations I know that when the triggers are there I react in a way that makes me feel deeply unable to cope or control my reaction. I get angry, as much at myself as at the other person, and I’m sure I over-inflate the sense of injustice that I feel. That over-inflation ties in closely with the magnification powers that Bipolar Disorder has.

I had a conversation with a friend this week about how I come across in general at times. I have a monotone voice and a face that is not very expressive which apparently combines to make me appear rude. My voice and tone is curt to the point of perceived rudeness and that is certainly far from my intentions. In my head there are variations in my tone but in my reality there are few.

I receive DLA because of this as it puts me in potentially dangerous situations when I have episodes of Bipolar Disorder and I’m more likely to self harm. It is still difficult to accept that I’m considered a danger to myself. I don’t want to be that person, I want to be kind to myself and to other people.

For some reason the subject of my reaction to people who work on the frontline of customer service came up just lately while I was talking to a friend. I react and over react to bad service constantly. The irritation goes beyond the the not suffering fools gladly that is almost my trademark and I am rarely satisfied, especially when I’m on the end of a phone. Realising that it was all customer service related situations that cause this reaction in me was quite an eye opener and it was incredibly easy to work out where it all began and why I react the way I do. It’s a short story and one I hope can have a happy ending.

I come from a family where money was always an issue. Bills never got paid on time and we were always behind with the rates and the mortgage. The fact that my mother never went without evenings out or new clothes to wear when the rest of the family scratched around to manage gives you some indication about what the family dynamic was like. My dad and siblings often said that it was worth keeping mother happy because then the rest of the family was – or at least most of it. So while the bills were always late mother was well dressed and was always off doing something.

Though the responsibility for bills was with my parents they began to fob it off on me when I was 12. If the mortgage or rates were late I was sent down to the town hall to pay. I’m not sure what they thought a cashier would do to them if they turned up with a late payment but it terrified me that someone would challenge me, that we’d be evicted and it would all be my fault. It was the same with utility bills and it was hard on a child to be forced into that situation but my mother would constantly tell me that I liked doing it; I knew otherwise.

After the alleged success of me fronting out the people we owed money too I was made responsible for taking things back to shops when my mother was dissatisfied with them. I was a child and I handled situations as a child would. I wasn’t allowed to return home with failure painted across my face so I’d stand in shops and argue loudly, terrified of going back home without money or a replacement. I have never changed that way of doing things even though I’m not longer a child.

Therein lies my problem. I was forced in to dealing with an adult world when I was immature even for the child world. I was never taught to cope with things as an adult even when I became older as the stand and shout approach always worked. In those days there was no such thing as security in shops and they did what I wanted because it was quicker and easier than fronting it out. Today I still do things that way; I react in fear of unknown futures and imagined nasties.

It has to change and it’s not going to be easy when the bipolar disorder insists on getting in the way. I have to learn how adults do things and I have to learn soon. I’m going to apply my usual diligence and tenacity to the problem and if I fail it won’t be want of trying. It’s never too late to learn.

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