For a while, what transpired in the aftermath of that night, left me feeling betrayed by some people that I thought I could trust, and feeling helpless. Like so many times in life before, I was told by those who had the power to stop what was going on, that there was nothing they were willing to do, that this was my problem, and that I was to blame. My pain was always my fault. It’s never the responsibility of the people who were inflicting it.

Kernel Panic

I sat there motionless, unable to speak.

I could have said something, anything, but I didn’t know what to say. It was the mental equivalent to getting the wind knocked out of me. Instead, I just sat there and focused all my attention at the water bottle sitting in front of me.

It was a dimly lit room, where I sat at the end of a long narrow conference room table, with the window behind me and the door at the opposite end of the room. To my left was my direct manager, who almost six years prior had been the one to call and offer me the job, but less than a month before this day had told me that she didn’t believe me. “Delete your account,” was her advice.

On my right was the human resources director, who’d been in that role the entire time I had worked there, and who had pleasantly reminded me shortly before the meeting, that “sometimes life is hard.” Towards the end of the table was the CEO, who’d just been hired from outside the firm at the end of the previous year.

“If you can’t handle working here, you have technical skills that you can take somewhere else.”

Those were the words from a man I barely knew, but up until that point seemed like he would have been a force for change in an organization that desperately needed it, words that left me hollowed-out inside. I like to think he didn’t mean it to be a cruel statement, but in that moment it sucked the life out of me.

Six years of service ignored, my state of mind, ignored.

The meeting on this Monday afternoon had started with an apology, from me. Hours before the start of the weekend, in a trance fueled by a dump of adrenaline, I’d called and left my manager a voicemail that I would come to regret, where I demanded that the company help me, but said the magic words that would suddenly make me a threat. Now, here we were three days later, sitting in silence.

Other words were said, but I don’t remember the details. I asked to leave the room, went into the stairwell of our building, and broke down. I stumbled out of the building and out to the van where my wife was had been waiting with our children in the car. The next time I’d ever set foot in that office would be the last time.

It was in the front seat that the rage escaped my body; I screamed and repeatedly punched the dashboard of the vehicle. My wife pulled the car out of the parking lost and drove me to my already scheduled doctor’s appointment.

My blood pressure baseline is generally 118/79; that afternoon, the reading was 130/92.