Daily Archives: April 25, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

The end came quietly this morning in a meeting with my managers, both of whom were genuinely unhappy about having to “release me from my trial service”, as it was so delicately put. It was the nicest firing I’ve ever experienced, and while being unemployed again is scary, my primary emotion is relief.

It’s not like I didn’t know this was coming. I figured it would be today or Monday at the latest, and I was ready for it…..which made it possible to sit through the exit interview with my dignity and professionalism intact. In fact, my managers remarked about how much they and my co-workers liked me, as well as appreciating the fact that I took criticism with grace. (I know—was that really me they were talking about?) And judging by “Ken’s” strong grip and lingering handshake at the end, I believe that they actually were sorry to see me go.

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, I have literally a smorgasbord of opportunities in front of me. For the first time in two decades, I’m open to just about anything but floor nursing, telephone solicitation, and prostitution. I could go back to school and become a medical coder. I could try to get a job at Costco or Home Depot. I could work as a patient registrar at the hospital. I’d like to make the kind of money I’m used to, but that’s probably not going to happen, and at this point I’d even take a minimum-wage job if it means not having an hour’s drive and fighting eighteen-wheelers to and from work five days a week.

What I will do is go to Vocational Rehab next Monday and restart my case; get my hair cut and colored; file for unemployment benefits. I’ll relax this weekend and then hit the pavement, or at least the Internet, in search of a new job. I’ll do some networking and see if any of my friends know of openings I might apply for.

What I will NOT do is feel sorry for myself. Nope, not one bit. I gave this thing every chance and tried to make it work, and it was simply a poor fit. It happens. I put myself out there, and it takes some pretty good stuff to get as far as I did. I knew I was taking a gamble by accepting the position, knowing that I might get tripped up by this rotten disease I have or by issues with learning and memory, and the latter was what got me. I don’t regret trying it for a minute. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m not a failure.

This is what I want everyone to remind me of when the inevitable crash comes and I start talking crap about myself. Thanks in advance.

 

 


I Don’t Shatter Anymore




Once upon a time, I might have thought I was fragile, like a delicate, antique porcelain vase with cracks running through its sides, balanced precariously on the edge of a side table.  Throw in a couple of crazy eight year old boys whooping it up, running circles around the vase, threating to send it crashing to the ground.  How about someone filling the vase with water and jamming it full of flowers, the water and stems pushing against the cracks, pressure building and building from that pretty innocuous bouquet. 
That was me, ready to crash and implode at the slightest bump, the smallest bit of pressure.  And I did, often.  My Bipolar Disorder and Anorexia and drinking were so out of control that everything seemed overwhelming, and I was in and out of the psych hospital, a person unrecognizable to myself, more than twenty times in five years.  Possessed by the furies, if you want to be mythic about it.  In fact, things were so horrifically, desperately, unfathomably out of control, and I was so inexplicably beyond reach of conventional help, that a friend who was an ex-priest elicited the help of a priest and they actually performed an exorcism on me while I was in the psych ward, bible, holy water, rosary beads and all! 

That’s how bad it was: I mean, who has an exorcism?  What tongues was I speaking in?  How fast was my head spinning?  Certainly I don’t believe I was actually possessed by The Devil.  But I do believe I wasn’t myself for those long, insane years.  I was possessed by this crazy other self that now feels so foreign to me—a self that was so intent on self-destruction in any and every way possible.  Now, much of that seems like an incomprehensible, distant, fuzzy dream—which may be the result of all the prescription drugs I’ve take over the course of all these years, or the Electric Shock Treatments I was given which erased much of my memory of those years. 
But it is difficult for me to see myself as the woman who was strapped down in an isolation room with her arms all cut up; or the woman in the hospital medicated to the point of drooling in an attempt to quell her mania; or the woman who had her bathroom locked in the hospital because no one would trust her not to throw up her food.  That seems like another woman, not me.  A woman I can feel compassion for, but a woman who scares me because that can’t have been me—really?

But of course that was me.  I don’t need to remind myself of that—I have scars crosshatched on my arms to prove it.  And here’s the thing: while my past scares the shit out of me it also serves as a warning to me about what could happen again if I become complacent in my recovery.  But my past, too, is a testament to my strength.  I am not fragile.
I am learning to override fragility and its attendant fears and reach for strength and its courage when I watch my son ride his bike.  For the past two years my husband and I have been trying to teach my son to ride his bike—but my son refused, terrified of falling, of speed, of imagining whatever biking demons he dreamed.  Finally, in a firm, concerted effort and force of will, we taught Alexander over the course of a few days last month, and Alexander fell in immediate love with biking, and now insists on biking whenever possible on a nearby trail.  Of course, his skills are still shaky but his courage is insane!  He loves to go fast and bike while standing up.  My instinct is to yell at him to “Slow down!” and “Watch out!” and “Be Careful!” to be the harpy, the killjoy.  And yet, he’s wearing his helmet (something I never had as a kid), and he’s on a paved trail (no cars), so he’s moderately safe—and he’s not fragile!  He’s a kid seizing happiness and feeling courageous and strong.  And I have to let him go.

Watching Alexander, I know having come through my years of possession intact, and in fact, stronger for it, having survived myself, I know that I can survive anything that this life might throw at me.  I don’t shatter.  Not in any way that can’t be put back together again. 

         

Relationships

Relationships are a difficult thing to navigate, especially when you suffer from depression.  If you are one of the fortunate people that has found perhaps a handful of people that understand your pain, your mood swings, and your sadness, consider yourself extremely lucky.  I have spent most of my adult life terrified I was pushing people away, so I over compensated.  When I was feeling healthy, I was too giving, offered too much of my time, and sometimes even my finances. 

 

Eventually, if I hit a bad patch or wasn’t able to be there for those people as I had been, they considered me too much of a burden, or selfish and no longer wanted to be friends.  In the 20+ years that I have known of my illness, I have one friend who has always stuck by me.  Unfortunately for me, she lives in another state.  She has a very fulfilling life with a beautiful family, and I will admit I don’t think to contact her during the dark times, because I know she will be so busy, and I don’t want to feel resentment at having been “rejected” in a sense. 

 

So, I lean on my husband….perhaps too much.  I am very grateful to have found him.  I never have to worry that he won’t be there or won’t understand.  However, I still long for that bond with a girlfriend that I can chat with about anything, when things are bad or good.  None of these relationships ever work out.  I have lost 2 in the last 2 weeks.  Perhaps because I have been walked on, used, and treated like garbage, I am too defensive and too ready to confront the behaviors that bother me.  I don’t know, but the one thing I understand that in all of these failed relationships, whether they be with friends or family, I am the common denominator. 

 

That is a heavy load to carry.  The day you realize that is a difficult one.  I struggle to convince myself that I am a decent person, I am just misunderstood.  Yet, how can all of these people, most who don’t even know each other suddenly decide that I am no longer worth the effort.  I don’t want to believe that I have to change.  It’s too overwhelming when you factor in the burden that I already deal with daily. 

 

The hardest part about all of this is that I just don’t trust anyone anymore.  I have always struggled with self-esteem, and if anyone paid me a compliment, I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah right”.  Well, it seems as if the eye roll is back when it pertains to someone telling me that they care and are “there for me”. 

It’s a hard lesson to learn that the only person that is ever truly there for you is YOU.  Especially as you get older and the people you love begin to pass away, move away, or just become too busy to maintain a strong bond.


 

The biggest irony in all of this is that people either love me or they hate me.  There’s never any gray area.  There have been times when I know that I have deserved to be told off.  I can own that, but I also know that there are times when I have NOT deserved it, and I struggle with my resentment over those instances.  I think for now, I won’t be concerned about popularity or creating friendships.  I think I will guard what is left of my heart, and love the people that truly matter and somehow find a way to love myself. 

Bring Change 2 Mind: End the Stigma

I’ve written before about Bring Change 2 Mind, but recently I’ve been writing each week about organizations which are mental health allies and decided it’s time to revisit them. Bring Change to Mind is an anti-stigma organization that was co-founded by Glenn Close in 2009. Her inspiration was her sister, Jessie, who has bipolar disorder […]

The post Bring Change 2 Mind: End the Stigma appeared first on Depression and Bipolar Disorder:.

Landing On My Feet

As discouraged as I am about my job these days, I realized something yesterday as I was trying to find my way back home after getting lost in Fungus Corners, Oregon for the third time this week: I have once again achieved a relative state of normality.

This is no small feat in the face of circumstances that would ordinarily bring on a freak-out of epic proportions. Everything is in a state of flux—I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be employed, or what we’ll do if/when we lose our health insurance, or even what kind of job I should look for—but I’m much mellower than usual, believing that God and/or the universe has a better idea and I just need to trust that I’ll be taken care of.

It hit me as I was headed west on an unknown road when I should have been going east on the freeway. One of my biggest fears is driving alone and getting lost, which almost always causes me to panic and drive around in circles; but yesterday I was amusing myself by singing silly ditties that I made up for the occasion, and eventually I found my way back to the main highway. By the time I got home, I was grinning from ear to ear even though I’d had the work day from Hell, because I was so proud of myself for facing down my demons and NOT losing my shit out there in the middle of nowhere.

I was also proud of myself for sitting through another round of criticism from my trainer over my performance of the day’s duties without feeling the urge to weep until I puked. I was unhappy about it, to be sure, but I knew it was coming and I was able to remain professional throughout. And again it struck me: I was behaving like a normal person.

This period of relative serenity has been brought to you by the makers of Zyprexa. I’m so glad Dr. A left me on it, even though I’m still not thrilled that it takes TWO antipsychotics and five meds overall to control my symptoms. But I have been calm through things that bother the hell out of me most of the time, and better yet, I recognize and appreciate it. This must be what it’s like for people who aren’t bipolar; I mean, everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad jobs—it’s how we react to those things that’s different. Normal folk get upset and talk to somebody; bipolars freak out and think life as they know it is over.

I know better than that. None of the unhappy feelings I’m experiencing have the slightest thing to do with my illness. Not now. And this isn’t even a matter of using the term “situational” as an excuse not to call my doctor and get my symptoms treated, because these aren’t symptoms. They are nothing more than a perfectly understandable reaction to events beyond my control. Of COURSE I’m apprehensive about losing my job, even though I suck at it and am not enjoying it at all; the job market isn’t all that great for people in my age bracket, and I have no idea what I’m going to do next because returning to clinical nursing is not an option.

But somehow, I have faith that I’ll land on my feet, because that is what I do.