Roughly 3 months ago, I got pulled out of a mandatory internship.
I was on internship with this company that will not be stated, so let's call it company M. My job at company M was mainly as a composer and arranger for kids songs.
I had been offered this internship a full semester before interviews even began, and I turned them down because even though it was one of the maybe 2% of the companies that hires composers, it was children's music. It wasn't for me. So I turned them down.
Towards the end of that semester, my lecturer brought up the company again, this time offering the opportunity to the rest of my classmates who were hoping to chance a good internship placement.
As that was roughly 5 months since I had turned down the offer, I had been given the chance to think about it again. In fact, the boss of company M had even asked for me again.
Apparently, what had happened was that my lecturers felt that this would be a great opportunity for me. It was a composing job, it was a small company, and even BETTER still, the boss had told them that he COMPLETELY understood my situation and was prepared to take me in.
I decided to give it a go. I prepared two arrangements of kids songs and I went down for an interview. And just an hour after the interview, I got the news that they accepted me. I was happy. It was a wonderful feeling to think that you're being accepted by people who will understand you and can care for your needs.
The first month went alright. Then things started happening. My bosses son fell ill and landed in the hospital. My bosses were not in the office for about 2 weeks, only popping in occasionally just to make sure the place hadn't burned down. And then they had a business trip.
Many people like me rely on interaction to feel at ease and do our jobs. It was especially tough for me during that time as when they weren't there, I completely lost all memory of their presence. When they started coming into the office regularly again, they were as good as complete strangers.
I started getting stressed. I frequently called up my lecturers to talk, and they in turn gave my boss calls to let them know how I was doing.
Then, it went downhill quick. My boss invited me for a coffee to talk about how things were going. Being the honest person I am, I told him that I didn't exactly know what I was doing but I hoped that I was headed in the right direction anyway. I also told him my strategy of slowing down my output as previously, I had been churning out songs but at a poor quality. I needed to slow down to put out work that is good. He asked me a few questions, all around the topic of whether I was happy in the company. To which I replied that I was fine. Then he asked if I wanted to continue in the internship. So I gave an honest answer and told him that I'm doing the best I can now, and it's not exactly like I had a choice because all students have to complete an internship to graduate. And then he asked me a few more questions but I replied them with silence as I didn't know what was going on. It felt like he had something against me.
Later in the afternoon on that day itself, I met with my counsellor during my lunch break and filled her in. We spoke for a while before I headed back up to the office. Truthfully, I was in stress. But I was still holding on and trying my best. After all, I just got a feedback that my work was improving!
Coincidentally, right after i went back to the office, my lecturer told me that he would be coming down at roughly 3pm that afternoon and would like to speak to me. Instinctively, I knew it was about the chat that I had with my boss in the morning.
So I went down to the cafe he was at and he was with my counsellor who actually made her way back to be with us. My lecturer was confused because my boss had complained that I was being very uncooperative and disobedient towards him, and those two words were words that all my lecturers would never ever pair with me as even if I appeared uncooperative, I would be still trying my best.
He further added that the chat that I had with my boss in the morning was the "before firing" chat.
So no wonder why it felt like he had something against me.
I was quick to fill in my lecturer that anything I might have done wrong was unintentional and that if my boss had a problem with me, he should take it up with ME so that we could work through it together like professionals do. I also told my lecturer that I too was confused at I was improving at work. I had also reduced the number of meltdowns I had from once a week to once a month.
He told me that it was fine, but if I was going to say no to doing anything to use that bomb ONCE.
He decided to leave it at that as it seemed that we didn't see much of a big situation here apart from the unhappiness of my boss, but he did tell me to continue trying hard.
The next week went by rather fine, and then suddenly, my boss called me into his office and announced that he wanted me to participate in a few videos because there was a shortage of manpower.
I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. At that moment I knew that that would be the end of it. I decided to drop the bomb.
I had acted in videos for school projects before, but this was different. It wasn't school. I just couldn't do it. I told my lecturers that, and they relayed that information to my boss. The next day, he wasn't in. He called me up at the office and again pestered me to be in the videos. I bit my tongue and very nicely and politely apologised and told him that I couldn't do it. Then he began talking again about it. I was fed up. Frustrated. I was angry. My anxiety immediately shot up and I blanked out shouting through the phone "NO! I CAN'T DO IT!" Before I slammed the phone down and blindly ran out of the office and broke down.
I admit, that was probably not the best way to react, but I couldn't control myself. It was too much for me to handle. I called all my lecturers and told them that I wanted to be pulled out. I would go through the rest of the day but I demanded to be pulled out.
My boss came into the office later that day, and my classmate, who was on intern with me, and I went to pass our logbooks to him for signing.
Towards the end of the day, roughly 4:45pm at that time, he called us in to his office and handed us our logbooks again. My classmate's was fine. Apparently mine was not detailed enough. This I didn't understand because I specifically wrote whatever my lecturer told me to write. But I decided to drop the matter for that time.
Then he wanted to talk to me about what happened over the phone earlier that day, and I started hyperventilating, trying not to cry. And believe it or not, he actually tried to force me not to cry.
We talked it out, and he said to think about it again over the weekend and then come back on Tuesday to work (that Monday was a public holiday).
I was in such stress over the weekend, my mental state quickly deteriorated. I became depressed, suicidal, and I started hallucinating. My physical state deteriorated too. I came down with a horrible cold that actually prevented me from returning to work on Tuesday.
When I went to the office on Wednesday, I waited for my boss to come in. I knew I needed to talk to him.
I started the conversation by apologising to him for slamming the phone on him the other day, although making sure to mention that it was not intentional and that I was only apologising because I understand that it was wrong.
Then I mentioned the situation at hand. I couldn't participate in the video. Straight away, he started nagging. He insisted that he could not treat me specially as that would not be fair to the other employees, to which I quickly corrected him, telling him that I do not expect to be treated differently in any way, but I want my needs to be met and they clearly aren't. I kept him quiet about that by saying "you may treat everyone in the office the same now, but imagine if you had an office full of people like me, surely you won't be treating all of them the way you treat your employees now!"
Then he started defending himself saying that he has a special needs sister and she does just fine with him. That put me off completely and, while I had to hide a growl, I politely told him that I would appreciate it if he didn't compare me and his sister. To which he blatantly replied, "I'm not comparing."
I was disgusted by then, and to make it worse he kept talking, mentioning that he's not going to listen to my lecturers on whatever they say because he believes he can help me. Even more disgusted. He may have had a life experience with a loved one with special needs, but he has had only 2 months of knowing me, while my lecturers had 2 years!
I let him know that I was at the end of my rope. I had a limit and I had already pushed myself to twice that limit. I needed to slow down, and yet, he replied, "don't you want to go further?"
Could he have been more disgusting?
We eventually came to a compromise, I would shoot the video instead.
But I was done. Seeing his true colours, I don't think I would want to risk further psychological abuse. I told my lecturers again that I wanted out. I needed out.
And out I got. But that was not the end. I heard later from my lecturers that my boss had told them that for 4 times, I disappeared from the office for half a day. The truth is that I never left for more than an hour. He also told them that I kept using Asperger's as an excuse to not do tasks. The truth is that the video incident was the only time I pulled out the Autism card. That card is sacred. I try not to use it.
Furthermore, for the next month or so, the hallucinations continued. I kept hearing voices. It made me even more fearful of the dark than I already am. I started showering with music on. It came to a point when I was scared that I was turning schizophrenic.
I met one of my lecturers about a week after the incident. Apparently, another reason why I was pulled out was because I mentioned that I was suicidal. And my boss did not want to take responsibility for anything that may happen. Of course! Put me in this horrific state of mind and then get rid of me to escape responsibility. I don't think I've ever known such a disgusting and dishonest person in my life!
I have to repeat the internship semester, meaning that I would not graduate with my classmates but instead the batch after us. And before I go for the next internship, I would have to go through therapy to better prepare me for the next internship.
That in itself was really stupid to me. Yes, therapy might have helped, but if it was the boss who had a problem, why "fix" me? I gave my lecturers a scenario of "if you are a very good chef, but you open your restaurant in a run down alley, no one will come to your restaurant". So surely even if I go through therapy, something must be done to prepare the bosses too!
I was and still am very angry about all this.
And it all started with him assuring my lecturers that he completely understood my situation and was prepared to help me.