Monthly Archives: July 2012

Home Again Home Again

I am out sick today, which bothers me. I have only been working at this job for a week and a day, so there is something in society that dictates that I should not yet be sick. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of things… and my body gets sick whenever it darn well pleases.

I felt extremely ill all day yesterday and managed to leave work early to make it to the doctor. I expected to get handed some antibiotics for whatever potential infection I had and be done with it. Instead I was rushed to get an emergency CT scan because the doctor feared I had appendicitis.

The funny thing about this situation is that when I was younger I was constantly convinced, time and again, that I had appendicitis. To the point where I would go to the hospital, incurring large amounts of debt. I guess that is what you’d call a hypochondriac, but it amused me yesterday that the one time I walk into a doctor’s office ruling out appendicitis, that’s the one time it was my doctor’s initial fear.

Several hours later, I found out it wasn’t my appendix that burst but a cyst I had… or at least, that is what they concluded based on the data from the scan. It is no wonder I felt so wretched yesterday and could barely make it up the stairs.

So today I am staying home, despite actually feeling much better than yesterday. Just groggy and slow and tired, really, but less pain. The pain I’m having today comes from the comfort of being home all day, waking up and following the morning routine I’d had for months before starting this job last week. The comfort and relief I feel just sitting on the floor at the computer really overshadows the exhaustion, stress, and bitterness that has began to creep in around working again and I am more conflicted than ever.

I have also been having trouble getting information on medical benefits before making my final decision for which plan to sign up for. HR seems confused by my outright questions regarding the mental health portion of coverage, and they seem somewhat nervous about proceeding with the answers. That is something I am going to write a bit more about later on though.

Anyway, being forced to step back a little bit is hard. I’m seeing things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, for better or worse. I’ve had trouble in the past with wishing terrible things would happen to me so I would be excused from work, and as I sat under the CT scanner, veins injected with dye, I found myself hoping, even just a little bit, that I had appendicitis so I could have a get-out-of-work-free card.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about that particular feeling and motivation and more than ever I can see how it looks from the eyes of an innocent bystander. Crazy, for lack of a better word. Masochistic. Selfish. But somehow, and I don’t know why, there are times where the idea of working and the stress of it all seems much more intimidating than any physical pain I could endure otherwise.

Mentally, I can’t hold up under intense physical pain for long. But I can hold up much longer under physical pain than I can stress or emotional turmoil.

Oh no, I’ve just let slip my kryptonite…

whoops.

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A Bit More Than I Bargained For

I’ve been getting an overwhelming amount of inquiries about how my first week at the new job went, without any time prior to this to respond.

So far, things have been alright. I like the company and the people I work with. The work itself is actually much simpler than what I’ve experienced in previous jobs… for better or worse.

I’m still trying to get used to the realm of office politics, and though my general sentiment is not to get involved, I’ve definitely found myself walking into pockets of tension every so often this week. I made it as clear as possible to my boss halfway through the week that it is very important to me that everyone is on the same page (at least about my job) to help trying to avoid that tension, so I will just have to wait and see how things go moving forward.

Adjusting to working 40 hours a week is something I definitely expected to have some trouble with, but it wasn’t until day two that I realized that (if you include the commute) I am actually spending 60 hours per week away from home. That number is significantly more difficult to deal with, and the week consisted mostly of waking up, spending an hour getting ready for work, leaving for 13 hours, arriving home to eat and relax for one hour, and collapsing in exhaustion.

I’m really trying to figure out what I can do differently for the commute that will make it shorter, because those 40 hours (minus the commute) seem like a walk in the park in comparison.

My anxiety and panic peaked in the middle of the week when my bus was stuck in traffic in a tunnel (due to an accident) for about 45 minutes. Usually the claustrophobia of being trapped in a bus full of bodies is overwhelming enough (knowing I cannot step off the thing whenever I want, the policy is that they can only let you out at a bus stop), but being trapped in a tunnel full of cars on top of that and being completely unable to escape was overwhelming. I cried behind my sunglasses for the two hours it took to get home, and for the full hour I was awake after getting there. Once the crying started, I couldn’t convince it to stop, and I quickly found myself on the verge of giving up on this job.

Thankfully work was a bit better the next day, and I had a therapy appointment after work. By the time I made it to the appointment, though, the exhaustion and feelings of being completely overwhelmed had caught up with me again. I sat in the appointment and shrugged and cried, unable to form any words with the brain that had been wrung dry for the last few days. My therapist told me to set a date for myself of when I can review how I feel about the job and if it is realistic for me, and that helped a bit. I only cried one hour, instead of three.

By thursday my overwhelmed feelings were swapped out for exhausted delirium. Tiredness that goes beyond tired into the realm of funny, where nothing makes any sense. Hypomania began coming up through the cracks despite the weight of it all, and by the time I got home I was shuffling around merrily with completely unwarranted energy.

Over the weekend I’ve just laid low, sleeping, trying to get some of that energy back.

Since I haven’t had time to do the things I would normally do at home, a list has been growing for this weekend. It is long and a little ugly, but after crossing 5 things off Saturday I feel a little better.

In conclusion, I don’t know what is going to happen with this job, but I want to give it an honest try to see if I can adjust to it. The funny thing is that I know I am going to have these little episodes whether I like it or not, because I have them no matter what kind of situation I’m in. If I could feel like shit while sitting around or feel like shit and get paid for it, I may as well get paid… and see where it goes.

The format of this blog is going to have to change a little bit, and I am hoping to post more often than not. My aim is 3 updates a week, but that will largely be effected by, well, everything else. Stay tuned! I’ve at least been awarded a whole gamut of new topics with this change, and there are a few things I’m really excited to write about coming up!

A blurb about day one

I attempted to post something at 5:30 yesterday morning, but I guess the internet gods rejected it. 

I don’t have much time this morning, but here is a quick update of how things went on my first day at the new job:

I spent about 13 hours total at work and commuting. I am hoping this number can be improved upon, because by the time I got home it was all I could do to eat and climb in bed to fall asleep and do it all again today. 

I’m finding that I am much more resilient to stress and information overload than I have been in the past, and there was only one time yesterday where I felt entirely overwhelmed…. that was right around lunch time, when I was running on fumes and seriously needed a break. 

The people are friendly, the environment is pretty casual, and what I would consider the biggest plus so far is that my boss doesn’t seem to care when I take doctor’s appointments, or how soon in advance I need to schedule them. This will alleviate a lot of the stress I have about work, because having to talk with a supervisor each time I needed to see the psychiatrist or therapist previously usually left me feeling pressured not to seek medical help, and I was given a lot of grief for it. 

Moods seem stable so far, which is a bit like a miracle!

I am hoping that once I get more of a routine, I can figure out a system for updating the blog a bit better, so this week may be slightly sporadic -which I apologize for. 

Until then… thanks!

The Batman Massacre; Mental Illness?

I’ve tried, for the last few hours (since waking up) to write something, but my morning has been engulfed by report after report on the tv.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the shooting that occurred overnight in Colorado at the midnight showing of the latest Batman film. If you haven’t, turn on the television -I know it is being talked about here on (literally) every channel.

As I’ve watched the reactions from folks I know in Colorado, people on facebook, twitter, and the like I have began feeling overwhelmed with the anger and sadness that spans the country.

All I seem to be able to think about, though, is what must have been going through the head of the young man that did this.

Could mental illness be a factor here?

I mean, there have already been reports by witnesses that said he claimed he was the Joker, which is exactly the sort of delusional claim I would expect from someone who would commit a crime like this.

And this is what tends to upset me, because I know that doesn’t change what he did, but I think it should change the way we look at it.

I also know that many people who begin having problems with mental health are terrified to seek help because of the way mental illness is perceived in our country. If that was the case here, and that fear is what created an avalanche of issues that triggered this event, I think we all have something to regret.

I know this is all speculation at this point, but this is straight where my thoughts have gone.

I think each and every one of us has a responsibility to seek help if we become emotionally overwhelmed or notice changes in our mental health.

In the long run, that one step may save the lives of ourselves or others.

The Money Game

I am someone who is relatively good at not having anything. I guess you’d call that resourceful, but I have always considered it just being very good at depriving myself of the things I want.

When it comes to bipolar disorder, money can play a big role in people’s episodes. Any time I’ve been asked, though, if I have problems with excessive spending, the answer has simply been no. 

have excessively spent myself into a point where the next day I return to each store and return everything I bought, but spending has never been an issue of total ridiculousness for me. I attribute some of that to the crippling anxiety I get when thinking about or dealing with money.

But really, the anxiety only is a problem when it comes to spending money or not having enough of it to stave off hate-mail and rude phone calls.

At the same time, I would be lying if I said the whirlwind activity of the last week hasn’t flung me into something of a euphoric hypomanic state… nothing dangerous, but a calm (err, excitedly calm), positive place where anxiety can’t get a good grasp on me. It is here I have rediscovered the concept of shopping, something fueled by the fact that there are many things I need to prepare myself for my new job and the promise of the money to pay for it all.

In this place, spending has become quite easy.

It is the same feeling I get when I come out of the wilderness of camping for 10 days and find myself face to face with running water or a flushing toilet. Bewilderment, awe, and gratefulness. It isn’t that I couldn’t live without these things, in fact… I was doing quite fine without them! But the notion of having them after not having had them brings an element of luxury to what most could consider the mundane.

Likewise, I found myself standing in the middle of the store yesterday looking at a $4 bottle of face lotion and the clouds parted and I suddenly realized, “by jove, I could buy this and wrestle my poor dry face into submission!”

Very quickly, face lotion has become something of a holy grail, and by attaining it I can not only lotion my face, but feel comforted with a luxury that I have been without for a couple years.

But this is where the slope becomes slippery, and I can easily see face lotion turning into buying the entire store and face lotion. The hypomania keeping the anxiety at bay has opened a very rare window into the world of the consumer, and it is something that normally I would only be able to reach a hand through, grab something, and bring it back to the other side. This week, though, as the promise of considerable funds was made, that window becomes a door that would be very easy to walk through and live inside.

The values I have are important to me, and sometimes I get very nervous that having more or spending too much would obliterate them. I am certain face lotion will not destroy my ethics, but how long will it take for that awe and gratitude to wear off and for face lotion to become mundane and commonplace? And what then?

If I remove my hang-ups around spending money, can I still be the most grateful version of myself?

Anxiety May Make You Age Faster

This morning I found an article over at International Science Times suggesting that anxiety makes us age faster.

Apparently a recent research study has been conducted linking shorter portions of a certain piece of a chromosome called a telomere to higher levels of stress. In the case of this study, the stress was based off of people with phobic types of fears (being terrified of being in large crowds, enclosed spaces, etc).

People with more phobic fear had shorter telomeres, and generally shorter telomeres are linked to an increased risk of early death.

Of course, there are also several other possibilities that could be reached about the data, so the end result is that greater anxiety and stress may increase aging. What we don’t know, though, is which came first… the short telomere or the stress, so it is possible shorter telomeres put people at greater risk of developing anxiety and not the other way around.

In  conclusion, there isn’t exactly a conclusion, but premature aging from stress and anxiety is definitely linked to shorter telomeres, in one way or another.

Anyway, the first thing this study made me think of was my mother, which absolutely conflicts these results for me. I believe stress probably contributes to premature aging, but despite whatever anxiety she’s had to deal with, my mom has always looked young and premature aging has definitely not appeared to be a problem for her. Maybe she is an exception to the rule, but I hope I managed to snag that gene.

For the full article, check out “Anxiety Makes You Age Faster” over at International Science Times.

A New Beginning

Well, it has happened. Unexpected, but true. I am finding myself very quickly gainfully employed as an associate technical designer.

This change is, well, paramount in a lot of ways, and at this point I can only really speculate about how this will change things. The notion of my boyfriend and I suddenly having twice the income we were living on before is something of a baffling thought, and I think in the last week we’ve both spent all the money in the world twice over in our heads. Our dreams are well within the realm of noble, though, centered around ideas of a working motor vehicle, or a vacation for the first time in several years, or the idea of no longer being dependent periodically on food stamps, or actually being able to visit his family for Christmas.

Things we’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had any way of doing them.

Another big change will be the re-introduction of insurance into my life. The company I’ve been hired on with boasts one of the best benefit packages in the state, so I will have access to medical benefits after only 30 days.

I am hoping that this will mean a better investment in my mental health. The possibility of trying medications that were out of my price range previously, seeing a therapist (since mine is leaving anyway) that is beyond the student level, and a series of paid sick days all contribute to what I am hoping will allow me to navigate the working world a little bit better than the last time around.

I am also a week or so away from when I was planning on starting that bipolar trial medication research study, but after being hired into a full time position I no longer consider the study an option. At this point, maintaining a relatively stable mood for the time being is essential and I am really concerned that getting pumped full of experimental drugs (though potentially helpful) could produce an effect similar to what I have seen with the last several medications I’ve tried. That effect (if you’re just joining us) would be pain, adverse mood reactions, and a very unstable Sarah.

I can just imagine, two weeks in, and I turn into the incredible hulk.

Lately, my goal has been to ride the waves that come to me, and practice an emergency evacuation if completely necessary. Avoiding a storm on the horizon seems smarter, at this point, than riding into it. At least until I have some kind of work sea-legs.

The other thing that I know will be a big adjustment is time. Maintaining a fairly regular mood with bipolar disorder means maintaing a regular sleep schedule, so the last year or so I have been planning my life around that. Now that 40 hours out of each week are going to be spent working, that means a lot less room for error, and a lot less relaxing time.

It never ceases to amaze me how life can take you in a direction and then suddenly pull you in a whole new one… I’m still trying to absorb, I think, the gravity of what this means, and any time it gets too big I am stepping back, trying to remind myself that I need to take things one day at a time, and I can deal with it when it gets here.