Fight Stigma!

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as National Mental Illness Awareness Week.  Here we are 22 years later and it’s still not acceptable to call into work as a sick day due to depression or other mental illness.  What happens if you tell your employer that you suffer from mental illness?  If you’re like me, you will lose your job.  Wait, that’s illegal!  Not if you work for a small company.  Check the fine print before you accept a job offer.

Some statistics for you to chew on…

Anxiety: 18% of the adult U.S. population, 23% of these cases are considered severe.  Women are 60% more likely to suffer from anxiety than men during their lifetime. (This includes Agoraphobia, GAD, OCD, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Social and other phobias)

Bipolar:  2.6% of the adult U.S. population, nearly 83% of them are considered severe cases.

Major Depressive Disorder: At any given time, this affects about 7% of the population, but when looking at lifetime prevalence, this increases to 16.5%.  Women are 70% more likely to suffer depression than men, and when looking at age groups, young and middle aged adults are most likely to be sufferers as compared to those over the age of 60.

Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.6% of the U.S. adult population.

Schizophrenia: 1.1% of the U.S. adult population.

I have selected to give you statistics for only a few of the major mental health issues.  Many more statistics can be found on the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/index.shtml

While these numbers may seem small, these illnesses affect millions of people.  Millions of individuals with families, jobs, and responsibilities that can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with while suffering from an illness.  For some people, illnesses are comorbid (occurring together) but this doesn’t make the numbers less formidable.  For example, anxiety and depression often go together, which makes coping extremely difficult.

Although Mental Illness Awareness week is at a close, I hope you will keep in mind some of these statistics.  For those of you who are sufferers, you are not alone.  For those of you who are friends or family of someone with a mental health disorder, we appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.  For those of you who are neither… please join us in the battle against stigma.  Together we can make the world a kinder place.

 

© 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.

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The Conference

Three busy days. There were supposed to be four, but I had to leave early in order to go to a job interview across the country. I got the student housing rate for the conference and I had a roommate for two of the nights. It was weird, but OK. She said something wrong in her talk, but I didn’t correct her. Not my place, actually. That and she came back after I had already gone to bed.

I did run into Dr. Bastard. All he did was nod and say hello. No scene, no conversation, nothing. Oh well, what was I expecting? I had no idea. He got what he wanted (me out of his lab) and I had my own business to attend to. At least he wasn’t nosy or nasty. Just cheerful as if he had met any other colleague, except he didn’t stop to talk my ear off like he would have with someone else.

But you know, when I saw him, I kept trying to think of what my therapist said, “He’s a pathetic man.” And I just kept thinking about that. There was one point, during one of the receptions, I could see him across the room and I’m pretty sure he could see me, that I developed some of that old fear. But then I was talking and laughing with a group of our peers. He might have just been jealous. I did avoid going back for some of the good food just so I wouldn’t have to go to near him. Cowardly of me, I know. But I think when we are faced with our abusers we tend to retreat into the shadows, hoping not to be seen, rather than to confront them. I had no intention of confronting Dr. B, but I do wish I hadn’t been so fearful as to avoid looking at some of the posters just because they were near by. Time will heal this wound too.

I did run into and talk to one of the other people from my former workplace. He’s someone who wants to be a nice guy but has some complicated mental issues. I don’t know exactly what his problems are, but I was told that he has periods when he is “off his meds” and can be extremely difficult -more than usual- to deal with. He has issues with touching (so he and I did not get along at first) and he has some attitude issues sometimes. He doesn’t respect female bosses, he told me that himself. He’s really smart and despite all his eccentricities, I really respect him as a scientist. I had sent him an email to that effect before he retired and I “left” but I didn’t know if he got it. So when I saw him, I told him again. I wanted him to know that I respected him. I don’t know why I felt that was so important, but it was to me. He thanked me, and then tried to change the subject, because I think he is uncomfortable with compliments.

I gave out five copies of my resume and several copies of my card. (Make your own business cards.) I did two interviews (with the same company) and talked to a couple of others. (It is a VERY small conference.) I didn’t get the chance to enjoy the conference part of it as much as I would like to have, but I went there for job searching and networking so I accomplished my goal.

Overall, it wasn’t a negative experience. And I am thankful for that. Maybe next time I won’t be too afraid to go over and view the posters that he is hovering around. Or better yet, maybe he won’t be there next time I get to go to it. I’m sure there will be a next time, just who knows when. 🙂

As an aside… no amount of ADD medicine can help you pay attention through a boring or incomprehensible talk!

© 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.

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.

On the Other Hand

Thank you all for the support and well wishes! I made it through the process pretty well with the least amount of PTSD yet. Either this facility is just better or it really helped that I told them in advance that I suffer from past medical trauma. The panic level was much lower and I was able to keep it under control. Had some problems but no worse than my last MRI. Close your eyes and think of some thing else. (Common advice for brides until the 1960s. 😉 – ok that be some of my husband’s sense of humor rubbing off – he gave me the title for this post. )

This nerve block on my arm is doing wonders for the pain but I can’t move my fingers. I can move my thumb just a bit but only in one direction. (Don’t worry, it’s not stuck there. It falls back to neutral.) But I expect the pain to start coming through the block soon – actually it’s already started.

I’m signing off now. I expect I’ll be lurking more than posting , but who knows? I’ve never had Percocet before. It’s supposed to be stronger than Lortab. 😉

New Surgery Date

I moved up my surgery date to Nov 3rd. I re-arranged my schedule and I have friends coming to sit with me on the 4th & 5th while DH is working. I am terrified but as a friend pointed out to me maybe it is like a band-aid: you can peel it back slowly or you can rip it off. she suggested that maybe I should just rip it off quickly and get it over with. So this is what I decided to do. Rip!

Believe it or not, the evil nurse was actually nice to me when I called to reschedule. Which is good because I was dreading talking to her. But she seemed actually happy that I moved it. Go fig. Maybe I was helping her fill her scheduling quota.

Now I’ve used this surgery as an excuse to buy an iPad. Bad financial decision, good emotional decision. I’m using it to write this blog and I think it might make it possible to blog while I’m injured. Especially since I seem to be able to type one handed on it. Although I wouldn’t expect any great works of literature from me in the near future. 😉

Well, that’s my update for now. Please keep me in your thoughts on Nov 3rd.

Thank you!