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Panicking - please advise - apologies, long

(60 Posts)
BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 14:58:03

I've namechanged for this. Am a longtime lurker but only have a few posts, still I don't want to out myself.

This is terrible. Last summer I had an affair with someone I'd known for about 8 years. He was then my boss, and previously had been in a position of trust in relation to me. I had very strong feelings for him, which I am working on resolving in individual counselling and in relationship counselling with my husband. The affair ended when OM told his wife, and I then told my husband. I am aware and remorseful of the damage that has been caused to innocent people, and have been terribly damaged myself by all of this.

We have not been in any contact since then. The nature of my work means that I can do it remotely, and so I have not set foot in the workplace (which is in another town) since the summer. He is no longer technically my boss, since he removed himself from the project and installed someone else in his stead.

Today I received an email from the funders of my project, with plans for the annual conference in the workplace of OM. OM's company are hosting the conference, and I am expected to attend to present my work, progress, research to date etc. This has prompted a massive panic attack - dry mouth, hyperventilating, pounding heart. I simply cannot bear to go to the conference - I don't want to see OM and be ignored/cut dead, and for my own sake I can't go and have any sort of conversation with him. After it all ended I went through a pretty bad period of self-harm and restricted eating, largely prompted by situations where OM would be mentioned to me by other people, and I really don't want to go back to that place. More than anything, I don't want to undermine the rebuilding that my DH and I have been doing by having a flood of old feelings come back when I haven't resolved it all yet.

WTF do I do?? Should I pull a sickie at the last minute? Claim to be double-booked? I'm pretty sure that some of the funders know about the affair (neither OM or I have told them, but let's just say that the line of work the funders deal in would make it in their interests to be aware of such things. Sorry, that sounds ridiculously cloak-and-dagger and drip-feeding, but I really can't say any more than that), which makes the whole thing even more difficult.

I'm so worried and frantic about this, am shaking and teary as I am writing. The email I got was a follow-up to a 'save the date' email which apparently had been sent round before, but I didn't get that one for some reason.

Please, please, please someone give me some advice on how to handle this.

Claim to be double-booked. THat way you can send a colleague or junior along to present your work so that the work stuff is unaffected.

Best of luck.

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 15:02:54

I'm the only one working on the project, so there literally is no-one else but me.

Lovingfreedom Fri 22-Feb-13 15:04:12

Be professional...attend the conference, present your work, concentrate on fulfilling a professional role rather than having an affair with someone on work time. I think your funders and employers are interested in the results of your research, not in your love life. Maybe see the GP to get some treatment for your anxiety, which sounds a bit out of hand.

Do you know any of the funders well enough to have a confidential conversation with?

Can you ask them is it possible, due to the personal circumstances (keep it brief and unemotional!) to have someone else go in your stead (is there someone else who can fill in?)

Or is it possible that the OM might withdraw from the conference - after all, he was in a position of responsibility when he had the affair with you, would he act in a responsible manner re this conference?

Don't, whatever you do, pull a sickie. You will look much better professionally if you tell them you can't make it and offer a substitute. Would it damage your career significantly to do this, or would it be OK?

Twitterqueen Fri 22-Feb-13 15:06:56

Oh my goodness - such stress. Not sure what to advise I'm afraid, I can only offer lots of warm support for you.

I think you have to be brave and tough it out. You are clearly a professional and good at your job, and you have to maintain that professionalism. You would not forgive yourself if you wimped out and I don't think it would help you at all in resolving outstanding issues.

Not sure why you each told your partners? Were you going to live together? Did the affair end badly? Doesn't really matter I guess, I'm just interested in why you feel such terrible pain to the extent of self-harming.

If you still have feelings for this man you need to acknowledge it - if only to yourself. Only when you are honest with yourself can be honest with others and choose either to move on or not.

The truth is never as terrible as we think it's going to be. We cope, we learn, we move on. Hold your head up high and just tell yourself each day "Right now, I'm doing the best that I can."

Oh I see you have no one to fill in. How long is it till the conference - could you bring someone up to date in the interim?

Can you book a few extra sessions of counselling asap and try and work through the issues the conference is bringing up - is there enough time to get you to a place in your head where you could handle the conference?

Zaphiro Fri 22-Feb-13 15:08:31

I'd fake an important double-booking that you can't get out of, like a minor operation or something. Keep control of the situation and yourself - you don't sound ready for it.

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 15:17:44

Thank you to everyone for replying.

LovingFreedom I am seeing my GP for anxiety, am taking medication and have been through a course of CBT which has helped a lot. And the individual counselling I am having has also calmed me down. If you think this is bad, you should have seen me a few months ago! (hollow laugh)

OnTheBottom No, I don't know any of them well enough to have that sort of conversation. I don't think OM will withdraw - he is head of the department that are hosting the conference, so he is effectively the main host. Ironically it was at this same conference last year that the affair began, which makes it all even more difficult.

Twitterqueen Yes, there were plans to leave our marriages - that was why he told his wife and children and I told my husband; in the end I guess he couldn't bear to, hence he finally ended it with me. I still have very strong feelings for him, mingled in with all sorts of hurt and pain, and that is what I am working on putting aside and rebuilding my relationship with my husband. OM obviously is in a much more senior position than me - 19 years more senior - and is a person of some power and influence in my sector. If he wanted to, he could easily destroy my career. I promised him when he was agonising over what to do etc that I would never make his life unliveable, I would never contact him out of turn, and I would never show up in his workplace or anywhere I knew he would me.

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 15:21:26

Zaphiro - that's a good idea. My heart literally leapt when I read that. I had thought of a family wedding, but seeing as the conf is during the week that wouldn't have worked. I suppose I could always imply some sort of gynae op that my mostly male funders will be too embarrassed to quiz me on!

Yeah OnTheBottom, I suspect a few extra counselling sessions would be good. I actually saw my counsellor this morning, and we have just decided to move to fortnightly sessions instead of weekly ones. Ironically, part of what we discussed today was how it felt to me like all the pouring my heart out about OM and my DH was simply a prelude to getting to the more important stuff about me as a person and how to think about feeling invested in my life again.

Guitargirl Fri 22-Feb-13 15:28:14

Think how good it will feel once it's over and you have done a good job.

Do whatever you need to do to excel at that conference. Do NOT let this ruin your career. Either do the job you are paid to do or resign.

Do you see him working from home as he can't face going into the office?

Zaphiro Fri 22-Feb-13 15:30:28

Gynae appointment is a good idea! Don't feel pressured into doing something you're not ready for. This isn't going to make or break your career and anyway, your mental health is more important.

Feckssake Fri 22-Feb-13 15:39:50

I don't envy you. But you have been trying to build a future, and maybe it's time to put all that constructive talk you've had with the Councillor to good use? This is an important conference for you, and shouldn't let your past affair get in the way of your professional development. Do you think he will as squeamish about attending? It's likely he will feel uncomfortable too, but he will see the value for his career in attending. You need to park your emotions and see that too.

I would tell your husband about your anxiety (although probably not all of the reasoning) and scour the list of attendees before you go, so you can plan to have long conversations with other colleagues. This is your job and your career - he is a past mistake. Take the decision not punish yourself any longer.

TippiShagpile Fri 22-Feb-13 15:42:55

It sounds like you have to go.

Have you told your dh about the conference? If so, how does he feel about it?

Do you need to stay overnight or can you come straight home? If you have to stay overnight then I would suggest you ask dh to come with you and book a nice hotel nearby.

I agree with the other poster who recommended a visit to your GP to give you some coping strategies.

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 15:46:32

Guitargirl I suspect that even if I go to this conference and present my research well (which I know I can do, that is not the issue), everything else around that will be unspeakably difficult. FWIW, I am doing the job I am paid to do - it is to do this research and present a series of written reports to the funders. I am doing that. The conference is in addition to that, but I suppose the funders could interpret it as necessary to effectively edisseminating the research amongst interested parties etc etc.

I know that OM is not working from home because he can't face going into the office. And that makes me feel even more pathetic. Thankfully I am starting a new job in the summer, and wrapping up the end of the research by Christmas, so I am clinging onto the idea of a fresh start then.

I've just started panicking worrying that my gynae excuse could easily be checked and disproven. Cue more catastrophising. I wonder would it be better to book a research trip abroad somewhere for that week. But then the date the booking was made would be after the email about the conference. FFS, I am so pathetic.

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 15:50:36

I've literally just found out about this this afternoon, so haven't told my husband yet. It's over three days and is a 3 hour journey away, so would require 3 overnight stays - there is a conference hotel and all that is booked for me. There is a dinner put on every evening as well, it's a fairly full-on event. I don't think my husband would want to set foot in the place where the conference is on, there's no way he would want to see the OM either.

I've just noticed that the email I got listed a schedule, and I am down as giving a 1 hour presentation. Fuck.

TippiShagpile Fri 22-Feb-13 15:53:43

Can't you just attend on the day that you're giving your presentation?

Actually, scrap that. It's clear from the tone of your posts that you can't go. You need to think of a decent excuse and get it sorted now. This isn't going to get any better for you by the sounds of it.

CheeseStrawWars Fri 22-Feb-13 15:54:38

I think it sounds too soon for you to do this. You could ask your GP to provide a note saying that due to your anxiety it would adversely affect you at this point in time if you were required to do public speaking at the event? You say they want you to "present my work, progress, research to date" - can you present that info in another format - perhaps as a brochure or a DVD/video which can be shown on a screen? This may help:
office.microsoft.com/en-gb/powerpoint-help/turn-your-presentation-into-a-video-HA010336763.aspx

Zaphiro Fri 22-Feb-13 16:05:35

OP, don't feel pressured into doing something you don't want - and can't, by the sound of your posts - to do. This isn't compulsory, you are not going to get fired if you don't go, and your stability is of paramount importance. Talk with your husband and think of a good excuse to give as to why you won't be attending, and then don't give it a second thought. Your recovery is what's important here.

shadesofwhite Fri 22-Feb-13 16:22:31

Poor you OP, don't have sound advice but I'm sending ummumsnetty hugs your way. I hope you find a solution to all this. brew

BlackBlackBlack Fri 22-Feb-13 16:34:19

Thank you most sincerely to everyone for kindness and suggestions. Tearing up again. I don't deserve any of it.

I don't want to share anything to do with my mental health/anxiety with anybody in a work setting. It would get around, and I just don't want that circulating.

The virtual presentation idea CheeseStrawWars is a good one, much better than just sending along a paper for circulation. I wish I could confide in my new 'boss' on the project, but I don't know him that well at all - have only met him a handful of times - whereas he is a close colleague of OM. I have a meeting with the new 'boss' in a couple of weeks' time, so I'll have to have my excuse ready by then.

Waferthinmint Fri 22-Feb-13 16:42:42

Surely your 'excuse' is actually a genuine one - you are not well at the moment and sufferi g from anxiety and cannot attend. Note from doc will suffice.
Otherwise do the job but be brutally honest with your husband

meditrina Fri 22-Feb-13 16:57:32

Go for the minimum time to present your work and do the necessary networking.

Then start looking for a new job. Think of the present post as one of the casualties of the affair and cut away from it.

Please be aware that if you are obsessing about OM, you are unlikely to be mending your marriage - how much focus are you putting on healing DH?

i think you need to consider your DH's feelings in all this too. if i were him, i would be struggling with you staying away for 3 nights in close proximity to the OM that you were preparing to leave him for.
I'd get a line from dr, and your work will have to accept it.

You're in a very tough position Black, no doubt about it. Your DH is not going to be at all comfortable about you going to this conference, and you're going to have a meltdown by the sound of it.

It seems to me that you've looked at all reasonable outs - feign a gynae appt, family wedding, GP's note, double booked, send a junior and nothing is going to cut it. You are left with 2 choices: do the presentation or resign from your job.

Option 1: doing the presentation. On the plus side, once you've done it, and spent the minimum time possible in the hotel, you'll be relieved and probably feeling a little proud that you've faced up to your greatest nightmare. On the down side, you're going to have to reassure your DH, AND live through the whole experience.

Option 2: Resign. On the plus side, you don't have to reassure DH and you don't have to do this awful presentation and suffer all the stress that goes with it. On the down side: you're out of a job, may not get a good reference, OM might slag you off in your industry, you might suffer financial hardship. And you might, just might, feel a little pissed off that you have walked away from a job because of this.

Many years ago I had to face up to some people who didn't like me, didn't trust me and were going to be demanding and unpleasant when I had to see them next (at a scheduled meeting). You might not be surprised to hear they were inlaws. I was very vulnerable, for a number of reasons, and had also like you, started individual counseling. My counsellor prepared me by asking me to imagine the absolute worst thing that could realistically happen in the meeting - from how they would enter the room, to words they would use, body language everything - I had to describe the lot (through a lot of tears, and with wobbly voice sad ) . Then she made me talk through my possible responses to all the things I described. I can't tell you how much it helped me. Yes the meeting was awful, but I was actually able to do it.

I'm not telling you this to say everyone has awful things to go through, but to suggest this as something you could ask your counsellor about, and see if he/she could help prepare you for this presentation if you don't want to/can't/won't resign. Have a think about it. You've found the strength to go through this last year and go through some difficult and challenging times with your DH as you move forward. To me, you sound like you're fundamentally a good person who made a decision that cost her dear. Don't let this beat you down. I think you can do it.

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