Thursday, May 15, 2014

Finding a therapist is making me crazy.

My company is very thoughtful and provides mental health support as part of my layoff package (read "I lost my job but at least my demons are happy." if this is new to you). It's thoughtful and also ironic - "hey we're letting you go and making you really upset but we'll pay for you to see a shrink, good luck!"

The first step in the process is to call the 24/7 hotline. The first time I called the phone just rang. And rang. And rang some more.

I let the phone ring about 24 times and then hung up. It's really cruel to promise 24/7 assistance and not have call-forwarding....or musak....or a HUMAN BEING THAT ANSWERS THE PHONE.

A couple of cranky days later I tried again. This time a very nice woman picked up after 5 or 6 rings. She informed me that everything is confidential and won't be reported to my boss - yeah that's ok I'm not so worried about how I look at that job now. Then she asked some basic questions and made me all teary and choked up on the phone and I know she immediately put a big red flag on my file. But she also sent me a list of therapists that I could contact.

The second step of the process is to randomly call therapists. The list is really just a list - names, credentials, locations, phone numbers. It's like online dating without a profile.

So I called my first therapist and got her vmail. Ok that makes sense because she's probably working with someone right now. Her vmail message had a lot of information....and optional phone numbers to call if you felt like committing suicide.....which I considered as her message droned on and on....

Finally I get to the part where I can leave my message - of course the "to bypass this droning message press #" comes at the end of her message - and I don't actually know what to say. Do I start with "hi I'm crazy and was told to call you?" or "I don't think I'm normal but I might be can you help?"

So I stick to the basics and leave my name and number and a request to "find someone to talk with about some stuff." Excellent. I'm sure she'll know exactly what I need after hearing that.

Next I called a back-up therapist. If the mental health program sent me a list, I might as well shop around right?

So I call another therapist, get a much shorter and more upbeat message, leave my message which now sounds really breezy and happy now, and sit back and wait.

And wait....

And wait...

2 days later the droning therapist calls me back. When I answer the phone she just says "Hi this is Jane, you called me".... which causes me to think frantically who this could be because I call lots of people for lots of different reasons and I don't want to tip my hand. She gently nudges me with a "you wanted to talk about some therapy..." which turns my lightbulb on and sends my scurrying to the back bedroom so I don't have to talk in front of my family about all this (I'm crazy but not quite ready for that yet thank you).

She's just as monotone on the phone as on her voicemail message. I make a tentative appointment (tentative because I'm not sure I really like her but she's the only one to call me back) and then call the second therapist and leave a message.

And wait....

And wait....

You know, therapy would work a lot better if the therapist actually calls you back instead of leaving you hanging which really isn't a healthy feeling at all thank you.

By the end of the week I'd cancelled the tentative appointment with a "thank you but I've met someone else" voicemail - and dammit but I had to listen to her whole 5 minute vmail message because I couldn't remember which damn button to hit to bypass it.

And the second therapist still hadn't returned my call.

Which is making me insecure. Which is the opposite of what a therapist is supposed to do. Which makes me wonder why I am trying to be more open about myself when the therapy world feels so closed....and annoying.....and just downright crazy!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Oh crap I outed myself. Twice.

So I meant to sneak into the blogging world quietly. Stealthily. No one I knew would know what I was up to and I could be completely anonymous. I could blog about my life, fears, demons, in complete safety.

Pfft. That was short-lived.

Outing Take #1:
I created a Facebook page to promote this blog and post sarcastic memes. Facebook suggested that I ask my "Friends" to "like" the new page. So I selected a few from my list thinking I was soooo clever.

Immediately the responses came in - "Oh I didn't know that about you", which always makes me cringe because why is "you" in italics.

But I also got some "Hey I feel that too. Thanks for sharing" Which made me feel good and kinda like a super hero.

Outing Take #2:
I posted to another depression site about my new blog and it immediately Facebook announced it in my own news feed. Which meant I was out in the open to everyone of my "Friends". Which also meant my family....who may simply shrug and say "well duh", or may offer me meds with my wine next Thanksgiving.

So here I now am.

Totally exposed.


It's terrifying because I wasn't ready for certain people (aka my family) to know what I was up to. And now they do.

My demons are hovering in the background, waiting to see if this means it's time for them to party or to sulk in the closet.

So far they are sulking, but I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lost my job, but at least my demons are happy.

So my company went through  layoff recently and I was on the hit list. I work in marketing so it makes sense - companies always trim marketing when profits go down. And I was the last one hired on my team, so "last in, first out" applies. So I'm footloose and fancy free again. At least my demons are happy.

My demons really like it when I'm not running full throttle. They like to nibble at my self-esteem - "you're terrible at your weren't worth fighting for....". They like to impose on my private time - "come on, you know you should just take a nap, what else do you have to do?". And they really love to laugh at me - "oh you don't really want to 'clean the house/do crafting/practice the piano/do anything at all', it's so much easier to just become inert and let us whisper at you all day".


Those are my worst moments. I feel an incredible amount of guilt that I let the demons get to me and ruin my job performance.

But in my better moments I realize that while the reasons I was let go might have been performance-driven, they might also have just been pure economics.

And at my best moments I acknowledge that my company is being very generous and they are basically paying me to get my head together and make a fresh start.

I try to stay with my best moments. My demons start to sulk and go back into the closet, grumbling and rattling their nails. I've been job hunting, working on some big projects around the house, making to-do lists to keep me focused. Trying to do anything but get lured to my bed for "a quick nap".

It doesn't make my demons happy when I do this, but it does make me happy.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Half empty, half full, still incomplete.

The other day I realized that everyone makes such a big deal about whether their glass is half empty or half full. It's used all the time to describe boyfriends, marriages, friends. How neat and clean it is to assign your BFF into the half full category, so her never-ending optimism is easily explained. How much simpler is it to write off that boyfriend for always seeing the glass as half empty. 

I started wondering about myself - was I a half empty person or a half full person. Which "half" was I embracing?.

And then I realized that really, I was just "half". It didn't matter if it was the full half or the empty half that I was looking at. I only had half. And the important thing was not how much of it I was worrying about, but what it was that I was worrying about.

Half a dream.

Half a relationship.

Half a life.

I'd been living with half-started projects, half-completed ideas, half-hearted attempts.

So it's time to look things bluntly in the face and decide not whether I'm empty or full, but what am I going to complete. How am I going to finish life. Which glasses can I fill to overflowing because I've lived life so well.

And frankly, which glasses I should just leave unfinished, because they're pissy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wait what month is it? Oh, and what day is it?

So this past year I cycled up and down 3 times. And each time I didn't really notice until it was too late. I would suddenly be behind at work, with an inbox of unanswered emails from two weeks ago and a feeling that I'd been asleep at the wheel. 

You would think that at this point in my life I would have clued in to the fact that something was terribly wrong with me. After all, I'd been diagnosed as depressive back in 2001 and been on medication since then. Everything should have been ok. But no....

The most recent time I cycled was in Jan/Feb. And by mid-Feb I found myself in a small room with a frustrated boss who wanted me to succeed. She wanted me to tell her what I needed to be successful. How could she help me be successful. And why were we having this discussion again.

After that meeting I started to put some pieces together. I'd gone off my meds - again - and had been on auto-pilot. I'd been sitting in my cube, staring at my computer, locked inside my head. I'd stopped doing things I loved - again - and my art supplies and piano were covered in dust and piles of paperwork. I was exhausted by 5:00 and "stretching out on the bed" after work only to wake up at 7:00 or even 8:00 to a hungry but resigned family.

When I cycle, decision-making becomes really painful. I come to a full stop and can't make simple choices let alone the complex decisions my job demands. So small tasks get left undone because "I can't think I'll do that later", emails get left unread because "I'm tired I'll read that later". And before I know it, days or even weeks have passed in a unproductive haze. 

Then comes the wake-up call.

Usually the wake-up call is a missed deadline with an unhappy employee who has escalated up the chain trying to find out where their stuff is and why they aren't getting any answers. Then the stress and anxiety kick in and I jump into over-drive, staying up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, desperately going through my email, tracking down work, identifying missing assignments and begging vendors to rush work through so I can land on time. Or close to on time. Nothing motivates me like panic.

After that mid-Feb meeting, I realized that I had gone through this cycle of ok-depression-panic-ok way more than I'd realized. That I'd given up taking my meds which had only fueled the problem.

I felt backed into a corner by demons that I thought had been controlled. And now the demons might be costing me my job.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Even my search words are depressing

So to set up my first post I had to enter "labels" - nifty search words that people would use to Google me on the internet.

And my search words are incredibly depressing.

<depression, living with depression, bi-polar, bi polar, by polar manic depression, depressing, manic>

So I apologize in advance for making you depressed just to find my blog. I could have used search words like "sunshine" and "puppies" but that might have deceived people. Can you imagine some poor suburban mom looking for pictures of puppies and ending up here instead? Complete freak out!

Search words can be incredibly complicated, and also really really redundant. You have to think like a searcher and figure out every possible thing they might type that will bring them to your blog. You also have to account for bad punctuation and iffy spelling - hence "bi-polar" and "bi polar" and "by polar" because you never know, someone might be thinking they are "by polar" because they like cold weather and take ice baths in addition to feeling kinda blue followed by really really happy.

As you can probably tell by my glib tone and sarcastic swing tone, I am having a good day. There is a puppy and a baby in the sunshine right outside the window of the Starbucks I'm sitting at while I type this and sip my mocha. People are helping moms with strollers get in and out of the doors, the local guy in his wheelchair is making the rounds of the tables saying "hi" to everyone and making small talk. I feel like I'm in a commercial actually....

The past two weeks I've made a habit of coming to the 'bucks for coffee after dropping my daughter off at school. This is a guarantee that I won't go right home and climb into bed until it's time to pick her up. My husband worries about this so he likes to see me online - the internet is a wonderful thing. I'm terrified of sleeping away my life day by day so fear is driving me to the sit, drink a mocha, and stay in contact with the world.

Fear is a great motivator as it turns out. Maybe I should add "fear" to my search words....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finding Fearless - or, "finding the fearless blog I hid in the bottom of the underwear drawer."

Below is a post I wrote almost a year ago. I never posted it because after I wrote it I was horrified at how I sounded, embarrassed by what I was feeling and not ready to come out of the closet about my life.

Since last May there have been some significant ups and downs in my life. I've cycled down and back up 2 more times since May 2013 - once in Oct 2013 and again in Feb of 2014. I am looking back now and realizing what these cycles mean, and what they've cost me.

So, what to do. This blog has been nagging me for months, tickling the edges of my thoughts whenever I start to reflect on my depression demon. I can curl right back up in a ball and hide this blog away again. Or I can tear off the bandaid, post it, and stride forward.

I'm opting for tearing off the bandaid. I hope you stride with me this year.

"It's Mother's Day, and I'm numb.

Today is supposed to be about adoring families showering appreciation and love on that one person in the house that keeps it all running. And in the midst of this frantic rush to appreciate, to buy the right gift, get the right card, find the perfect show of love, I'm sitting in a calm like the eye of the storm. Waiting to feel something, anything.

I'm not normally like this but I've been off my meds for a while and it's starting to show. I'm disconnected. I've pulled back from everything around me, more audience than actor. I am feeling the world through cloth. Muffled, dull, inert. And I can't really care enough to change that.

My parents and inlaws don't notice anything really - to them I'm just calm, maybe distracted. Maybe I've had just one too many little sips of champagne. My husband thinks I'm ok, a little tired maybe, perhaps mildly amused that he totally forgot the national mom-day until Friday afternoon. I hope my daughter doesn't see anything wrong with me at all.

But these are the things I see wrong with me:

I'm afraid because
I'm 46
I weigh 60lbs more than I should
I don't have a career - I've recently returned to work and am starting over
I need daily medication to make it through the day

Somewhere in my memories there is a different person, who was not afraid. Who simply had an idea and acted on it. Who didn't have to drag herself through the day because she didn't have the energy to care. Someone who was fearless.

So on the Mother's Day I'm making a mother's pledge to myself. To get back on my meds. To lose the dead weight both physical and mental. To find my fearless."