The Cost of Mental Health

I’ve written a post on the costs of mental health on A Canvas of the Minds WordPress blog, which is a multi-author blog about mental illness. I can’t figure out how to reblog the post here, so you’ll just have to go over there to read it. Sorry about that, but there are lots of other really cool posts for you to check out while you are there. 🙂

The Cost of Mental Health.

Enjoy!

-MM

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Applications

I hate filling out applications. It becomes so disheartening. They always ask: What was your reason for leaving?  I got fired, OK?  It’s more than that, my therapist even said so, but that’s the short answer.  I was let go.  That sounds so much better than I was fired.  At least when you are let go you get unemployment.  And believe me, unemployment helps.

Let me recap my experiences for you:

I lost one because of my bipolar.  I was dumb enough to tell them about my Multiple Sclerosis and bipolar diagnoses.  The company was in the process of downsizing anyway and they couldn’t count on me to be in the office with my medical issues. I sued them unsuccessfully.  This is why I will never tell another employer about my bipolar.

I lost my academic position because of sexual discrimination.  I had always suspected it was an administrative decision, but one of my former students came across a memo from the dean to the chair stating that they were impressed with my progress as a teacher.  This was less than six months (including summer) before I was berated by my department chair for poor student evaluations.  I also learned from another student that my evaluations were not as bad as stated because he had seen them.  He also found out that the chair had the good ones removed and shredded.  Can you believe this?  I considered suing the university for sexual discrimination but decided against it.  After all I was going on to a $100+k job – it wasn’t worth my time and effort.  Everyone knew that I deserved to have my contract renewed – except the people who had the power to make such decisions.  Part of me berates myself for losing that job even though I didn’t do anything wrong.  I stood up for myself, my students, and what I thought was right.  I rubbed the wrong feathers the wrong way.  I don’t regret what I did there.  But as a friend of mine put it, if you rise above the rest, someone is likely to chop your head off.

I really blame myself for this last job.  I couldn’t handle the people, the pressure, the work.  I was out of my element and I hated what I was doing.  All my mental illnesses began to implode as I worked with the narcissist and his henchman.  I lost grip on reality and I lost my grip on myself.  The harder I tried to hold on, the more my illnesses bled through, mixing into the pot of bad blood between my coworkers and myself.  My PTSD skyrocketed.  I started having nightmares several times a week.  I was afraid to go to work.  When I was there, I couldn’t concentrate.  Something would happen and I would be out working off my temper or crying in a friend’s office.  I wasn’t effective.  I couldn’t be effective.  Add to all that my injuries and several work-related relapses, they determined I was no longer fit for duty.  I hadn’t been fit for duty for a while.  I should have been out on mental health leave a year earlier.  Maybe none of this would have happened then.  My wrist wouldn’t have been injured and maybe my right arm would have been fixed sooner.  I don’t know if either will ever be 100%.  I gave too much of my soul to this job for the sake of a lucrative paycheck and a little prestige.

Now I’m filling out applications again.  And faced with the question: What was your reason for leaving?  You can’t write: sexual discrimination. You can’t write: forced out for medical reasons. So sugar-coat it and call it contract not renewed, received other offer, company downsizing. What else can I write? I wasn’t needed, I wasn’t wanted anymore. End of story. But that’s difficult to handle, even when your therapist says, “it wasn’t your fault.” Because yes, some of it is my fault. It’s my fault for not trying harder. It’s my fault for letting people get under my skin. It’s my fault for being dumb enough to share personal information. Information is a weapon. This is why I write anonymously.

 

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chapter Read and Lesson Learned

The title of this post was actually snagged from a line in the Barenaked Ladies song, “Who Needs Sleep?”  It’s just one line, but a very powerful line that takes on a different context in the song than how I am using it.  For me, this marks the end of my dalliance with a high-paying job.

It’s been a week since I last wrote.  I couldn’t bring myself to write about work and unemployment last week.  Things were still too raw.  At times, I am still stumped about the whole thing.  I feel like I should be more angry or sad than I am.  I simply feel resigned to my fate.  Mix in a little terror and self-deprecation when I think of my situation and the lack of funds that will be coming in.  Basically, I’ve been spoiled while out on medical leave.  Sure I had a lot of healing to do, but I didn’t worry about not being able to pay my bills.

Chapter Read refers to an ending, the ending of my employment.  Part of me is dying to work, to earn money, to be useful.  Another part of me never wants to work again.  Mostly, I just don’t know what I want to do with my life.  It was pointed out to me once that my resume looks like someone who spends a lot of time running away from things.  Is that true?  I am an expert in one specific field, a high-paying field, if you can get the work.  If the job isn’t taken over by a bachelor’s degree technician.  How could they possibly know what I know?  Probably fairly easily. (Or am I being self-deprecating again?) I’ve been overeducated and probably forgotten more than I ever knew in the first place.  You hire a PhD to run the lab, to take care of the helium tanks, track the standards and chemicals… yuck.  All the things I hate about working in a lab.  But all my experience puts me in a lab with a (hopefully high-paying) yet utterly boring job containing droplets of excitement when you happen to work in collaboration on something that is patentable or publishable.  That is, if your work isn’t being questioned or stolen.  What’s the point of being good at something if everyone thinks you suck?  Or thinks your opinion is worthless?  Or questions your conclusions?  Maybe I am better off with this chapter closed, but what will the next one bring?

Lesson Learned refers to what I’ve learned from this job.  Money is awesome but it’s not everything.  Right now, I am unemployed with limited funds, thus once again, I must take what I can find, be it industry or academia.  What I learned from this job is that after the original “honeymoon phase” where I am learning and being challenged, this job is downright boring.  And when I get bored, I get lazy or I watch how others work, and some part of my brain thinks it’s OK to do X or not do Y if other people are doing X or not doing Y.

For example, I watched as lazy Dr. B (short for Dr. Bastard) get away with everything.  He swears he has something in his personnel file that says he shalt not be fired.  Who knows? Maybe he does.  He must have done something valuable for the company at some point because they let him get away with all sorts of things that no one else can.  He would stroll in at 10am. He would leave at 6pm.  (Core hours are 9am-3pm.)  Sure we are salaried and have flex time, but you were expected to be on site for 8.5 hrs a day, excluding lunch. He would ramble all day long to anyone who would listen – not getting an ounce of work done.  He brags about how great he is and how the company has wronged him.  His stories are 20 years old, yet he tells them like it happened yesterday.  He brags about how he got his revenge on people by getting them fired.  (And now I am one of them.)  He is mean to people who report to him or work with him if they don’t do exactly as he wants.  He is insulting to anyone he doesn’t like.  He is bigoted and reeks of harassment.  But the company thinks he is some sort of god in the field and that they can’t part with him.  Not everyone does, but enough people to keep him around.  Some people see him for what he truly is:  a narcissistic ass who is not always right (scientifically) even though he is trying to BS you into thinking that he is.

My other lesson learned is that I need to admit when I need help.  I needed to have this surgery a year earlier.  I needed mental health help a year earlier.  I went through hell because I didn’t seek the help I needed.  I thought I could control my bipolar, my OCD, my PTSD all through sheer willpower.  It’s taking me 5 prescription drugs a day to control all that and still I have to contend with symptoms from my mental health problems.  I need to have a psychiatrist.  I need to have a therapist.  I need healthcare coverage.  I am jealous of people who can get away without coverage or who just need the bare minimum or people who only have to take two or three pills a day.  I have in total 11 prescription medications per day and I am barely into my forties.  I have to learn to admit that sometimes I need help.  I am too damn stubborn for my own good.

So where do I go from here?  Without my six figure income, how do I live?  How do I get to travel?  Take my photographs?  Do the things I enjoy?  How did I ever survive on $40k/year?  For starters, I didn’t have a 4 bedroom home with a formal dining room.  I didn’t get to travel.  I didn’t have an iPhone, an iPad and an iMac.  I didn’t eat out that much.  I thought a little bit more about what I spent money on.  I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on steel swords for renaissance costumes.  We didn’t have an Xbox or a Wii or a flat screen TV.  I certainly didn’t have this many pairs of shoes.  We never remodeled the house and I didn’t have nearly  the wardrobe I have now.  (Some of which I no longer fit into – thank you meds.)  Still, I am at a loss.  I don’t know where to go from here.  My mortgage is too high.  I have too much junk.  This house is turning into a money pit.

Some days I am good – I can handle the stress, focus on the tasks ahead, and move forward.  But always in the back in of my mind is: Where are you going?  You aren’t going anywhere.  You spin your wheels wandering from job to job.  Sometimes making money, sometimes not.  Always banging your head on some wall.  Always allowing your illness(es) to encroach on your life.  Mania or depression coloring your view, affecting your productivity. Like a hamster on a wheel, I am forced into running through these cycles, never getting anywhere.  I never get a productive hypomania like other people do.  I’m either constantly distracted, fidgety, talkative and flighty, or touchy, angry, and easily set-off.  My depressions are laden with anxiety, sadness, and a lack of energy and focus.  How the hell did I get through school???

Well, there’s my emotional core dump.  (For now.)  Where do I go from here?  That is the biggest question on my mind.  Everything else is details.


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Failure?

I feel like this blog is a failure.  I originally intended it to be someplace where people could read the internal day-to-day struggles of being a professional dealing with bipolar disorder.  Instead, I’ve been on medical leave and dealt with so much medical stuff over the past 10 months that this blog has almost nothing at all to do with career oriented matters.  Now, if things don’t start moving very soon, it will be about being bipolar and unemployed.

Is this blog really a failure?  I’ve got all these awards that say otherwise.  Or does it just mean that its deviated from its intention?

Am I a failure?  This is a different question, one I ask myself frequently.  I have all this education – 10 years post high school – and I’ve forgotten 90% of it.  I’m good at what I do, but I’m not the best or even nearly the best.  I put myself above average: maybe B+ range.  My student evaluations were not great either.  There were reasons for that too.  One other teacher who taught the same classes as I was a very easy teacher: 27/30 students got an A in his classes.  So why would students want to take mine?  I had pretty much bell-curved grades and everyone got what they earned. But if they passed my class, they had learned something.  Not true in his class. I lost my teaching job through no fault of my own. I was good for that school, all the teachers knew it, but administration couldn’t see it.  It’s very difficult to get respect from anyone (administration, colleagues, students) as a female science professor.  This has been statistically proven, although I’ve long since lost the reference.  Maybe I’m just trying to justify my situation, but there are facts to back it.

My first job loss was directly related to euphoric bipolar mania, and this one was in part due to bipolar dysphoric mania/hypomania.  My therapists tell me not to look at it that way – each job has been a particular set of circumstances and I should not blame myself for job loss.  But aren’t they paid to tell me that?  Would I still be employed if I wasn’t bipolar? Not at the first company – they went out of business.  Maybe not at teaching either, because my bipolar cycles were not that bad throughout that time period.  (I had some mild depression and one manic period during the summer of ’06.) Thus, it didn’t impact my work like it has at other times.

But this job… it started with my OCD.  I didn’t help people enough because I didn’t feel comfortable with the safety situation in the lab.  By all the rules and regulations, it was “safe”.  But I wasn’t comfortable, so I would gradually try to avoid it – it escalated and I was washing my hands constantly.  I had this belief that I couldn’t leave a water bottle sitting on my desk because someone would put something in it so I would fail a drug test or outright poison me.  Seriously, my cupboards were full of partially empty bottled waters. I’ve had this irrational belief for a long time. Is this a psychotic break?

Anyway, I pissed off the narcissist by taking advice from someone else, but he never forgives or forgets. When I’m gone, he will probably brag about how he got me fired.  When my dysphoric mania hit I became a difficult person to work with.  The narcissist triggered all my PTSD buttons and I was afraid to go into work. I would go and cry in people’s offices.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I couldn’t do my work.  I had nightmares about work 2-4 times a week. I should have sought help then.  Every time I complained to management I was unknowingly committing self-sabotage. I was breaking, but I thought: I can control this.  I can keep it together.  No one needs to know I am bipolar.

I should have been taken off of work much sooner – not for my arms but for my mind.  Before the structure fractured and I tried to patch myself with willpower duct tape.  Before things got out of hand and I got hurt again – physically and emotionally.  I’m basically a nice person and I generally work well with others, but it got so that every conversation, every rumor, flung shards of insult in my direction, slicing and fraying nerves as they flew.

Now, look where I am 10 months later: fixed physically and mentally, up for the challenge of dealing with anything, even the narcissist. Up for the challenge of anything but unemployment.  And that’s the demon I must face now. The argument that twists in my mind is: am I a failure?

 

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Manic Monday

I can’t say it’s a “Manic Monday” because I am neither manic nor is it Monday.  You might be wondering why I chose to go by Manic Monday.  Well, there is a story behind the phrase, but the blog name and my pen name are the same because basically I was rather stumped by the whole setup process in WordPress.  (Go ahead, laugh, it’s OK.)  Having bungled it from the beginning, and after making a few friends in the neighborhood, it didn’t seem like I should put forth the effort to change anything at this stage.  Besides, I’m not sure I can come up with a more creative name anyway.

On to the story behind the name… you may recognize “Manic Monday” because it’s a song by The Bangles.  A song from my teenage years – so you can estimate my age now.  They were never a favorite but I did like The Bangles.  (I was more of a Duran Duran girl at the time.)  However, when my obession with this song started about a year ago I actually was manic.  I didn’t recognize it for a long time – until after my new neurologist point it out.  That’s when I started writing this blog.

Things at work had been pretty rough for about a year.  It’s difficult when your supervisor is a narcissistic bully.  I went through a lot of depression, abuse PTSD and just general instability.  My health was rapidly going downhill with symptoms that still can’t be explained but had me convinced that I would be in a wheelchair within a few years.  The symptoms suddenly subsided sometime in April or May and I hope they stay that way.  But in January 2011, my previous neurologist prescribed me Cymbalta for the neuropathy pain.  A red flag should have gone up but didn’t.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cymbalta, it is a strong anti-depressant that is also used to treat neuropathy.  I took the minimum dose for about two weeks.  It didn’t help with the neuropathy so I quit.  I don’t know if this is what started my mania, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had an impact.  I don’t know when my mania actually started.  I was so worried about losing feeling in my legs that any mental health signs were lost.  For all I know, the mania and Cymbalta might not be related. I was only taking Lamictal for my bipolar so I had nothing to prevent mania. All I know is that by the time I met my psychiatrist in July I was coming down off of a manic high.  Not a euphoric mania either – I think that’s why I didn’t recognize it.

Wow, I really got off topic here.  What I was aiming for was not a bio but rather why I like this song now.  It’s because I hated going to work. And our manager started cracking down on people coming in late – well, except for the narcissist – he’s always the exception to every rule.  So you can imagine these lyrics…

But I can’t be late
‘Cause then I guess I just won’t get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made

I never make my bed.

Got to be to work by nine
And if I had an air-o-plane
I still couldn’t make it on time
‘Cause it takes me so long
Just to figure out what I’m gonna wear

It takes me forever to get ready in the morning.  I can’t figure out what to wear, and even when I decide the night before, something goes wrong and I have to start over.  It takes me about an hour and a half – longer if I wear makeup or eat.

As time went on and every day seemed like a “Monday” I started thinking of this song every time the alarm clock went off.  Eventually, I made a ringtone for my alarm.  I don’t know if I will still feel like every day is a “Manic Monday” once I go back to work.  We’ll find out in about a month.


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is always melancholy for me. It’s the arbitrary end of the year, which can be a mixed blessing. More importantly, it’s the anniversary of my car accident – 24 years ago tonight. Sometimes it feels like yesterday.

The facts are simple: we exited the Brooklyn Bridge, the exit ramp is sharp and short, and we slipped on a patch of ice. The car slid and we ran head-first into the concrete bridge footing. The emotional memory is far more complex. I had gone to NYC to spend New Year’s with my boyfriend. Being young, in college, and possibly a little hypomanic, this seemed like a good idea at the time. So did the idea of hopping into a SUV with four boys to see the ball come down in Times Square. “Bad weather” doesn’t mean much to a teenager. Life is a cruel teacher.

I don’t remember everything. They thought I might have hit my head. My two front teeth were never found. But I remember the last few moments before impact. They say that in situations like this that your life flashes before your eyes. Bullshit. Time slows down. Your brain registers every nanosecond. And you think really stupid things. One minute you are laughing and talking, the next your brain is calculating. See bridge footing. Check. Impact imminent. Check. Bridge footing getting closer. Check. Am I supposed to relax my muscles or brace for impact? Time’s up.

My next conscious memory is of the paramedics ripping the door open. Strong arms beneath my armpits dragging me across the frozen grass.  I couldn’t feel anything. Shock can be a blessing.  I recall watching my legs bounce along the grass.  My left leg was on the opposite side of my right.  Something didn’t add up, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. I was cold. So cold. They kept asking me how to contact my parents. I recited my brother’s phone number over and over again. Really, I just wanted them to leave me alone and stop asking questions they already knew the answers to. There was a nice lady paramedic who held my hand and talked to me. I don’t remember what she said. I just remember she was nice, I was cold, and I was really sick of repeating my brother’s phone number. I didn’t even like him that much.

Next memory: the ambulance.  Shock started to wear off.  My nerve endings came back to life.  I felt every bump the streets of New York had to offer. I yelled. I cursed.  I asked the driver if he could find anymore fucking potholes to run over. The sound of emergency sirens blazed trails of emotional memory in my brain. Mercifully, the trip finally ended.  They ripped open the back of the ambulance. As the pulled me out, the driver said to me, “Happy New Year.”

The rest of the evening is a blur. (I posted some of this in Donation.) Someone shoved a clipboard under my nose and asked me to sign. It didn’t look like my signature. Was that important?  I was in and out of consciousness. I swore. A lot. Where does it hurt? Fucking everywhere.  Later, it didn’t hurt anywhere.  I couldn’t feel anything below my neck.  That’s when I screamed.

Meanwhile, my parents got a call from the nice paramedic lady.  Five words a parent never wants to hear: “You should go to her.”

I woke up strapped to a board.  One of the most terrifying moments I’ve ever experienced.  You can’t even move your fingers. They couldn’t operate on my leg until the neurologist came to drill holes in my skull for the halo traction. A nurse fed me ice chips while we waited for surgery.  A priest stood by my side all night, ready to give me last rites should I need them.  When my parents arrived, they told them to be prepared.  I only had a 40% chance of surviving surgery and I would never walk again.

Good thing no one ever told me the odds or I might have given up. I don’t know if I would have or not. I am a stubborn S.O.B. And I was hell bent and determined to go back to college.  Eight months and one cane later, I was back in school full time.

Eleven years later, I had my Ph.D.

I never take the easy route.  But you wouldn’t be reading this if I had.

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Under the Knife

I get my elbow reattached in the morning.  I’m not sure there is enough Klonopin for me to deal with this. There are a million things going on in my head, but I don’t feel manic.  I do feel anxious.  VERY anxious.  I called the pre-op department today because I had forgotten to tell them about my Lyrica and I mentioned that have severe PTSD from a past medical trauma.  (For a brief description see Donation: One Slightly Used Gallbladder.)  She asked what the trauma was from and I said a car accident that nearly killed me. I told her how I get very upset and start shaking and my blood pressure goes up, etc.  Then she asked what time I was due to be at the center and I said 7:30am.  She said not to worry, I would be the first one on the schedule and they would get me set up with an IV and a sedative.  I forgot to ask if my husband can come back and keep me company while I wait for the surgeon and anesthesiologist to make their rounds.

I’m already trembling, how will I survive the hour long drive down there?  And I certainly hope they give me something to keep the pain at bay for the long drive home.  (I’m assuming that I will get a script but it will take time to fill and I still have to get home.)  I’ve prepped a pillow for the car ride and a spare bottle of old Lortab in case they won’t give me a parting dose for the ride.  I have backups upon backups and still I don’t feel safe. I worry about the procedure, I worry about the recovery, I worry about everything.  Worrying doesn’t do any good, I know, but how do I stop it?

Today I was really busy with therapist & doctors appointments and the like.  I just settled down to write this about an hour ago.  Just to update on other things – worker’s comp appointment wasn’t as bad as I feared.  He is sending me to a hand specialist to check but it seems that I have inflammation in the wrist joint that will probably go away over time.  Maybe.  We’ll see.  Oh and I was able to get a copy of my job description from my nurse case manager.  I’ve never had one before.  It’s interesting to note that my job description (as a professional with a PhD) is the same description as the technician’s job.  Remind me again why I went to college for 10 years???

Thank you all for the good thoughts for tomorrow.  I’ll post when I can.