Category Archives: therapy homework

Fine lines

There’s a fine line between long-needed solitude & escapist reading– and catatonic denial & avoidance.  I’ve been trying to avoid crossing over, engaging in little small ways with the world the last couple of days even as all of me wants to just curl up in a ball and do nothing for a very long time.  (Nothing defined by read nothing too emotionally challenging, eat, sleep, spend a little time in the garden, repeat…)  So I’ve made calls to the plumbers & HVAC contractors to enquire about furnace service, something my dad hasn’t gotten around to doing as yet.  And I put in my short term disability claim over the phone, though that made me short of breath & panicked at the idea of scrutiny.   I went out of the house to get groceries, even if it was just to the corner meat market, & today I didn’t buy junk food, even if I did space out & leave my wallet at home.  (Thank goodness they know me & would take my check, because of course I carry my checkbook.)

Tomorrow, I’ve got therapy first thing in the morning, and that will provide me with papers to fax in for my leave, and I will do that.   (Functioning!  See!) Continue reading

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La Lupa

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I am frequently asked if I have children– I don’t ask people why they ask me that question.  Is it because I am a woman of a certain age and it’s a “natural” assumption to believe that women over 25 should have children?  Is it because I’m not obviously a hyper-masculine bull-dyke and I wear Mary-Janes with quirky socks that coordinate with my clothes that are straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue?  Is it because my behavior codes as maternal, in my brusque & busybody kind of way?  Is it because I work in a “helping” job and am usually the one with the common sense and resources/information to untangle people’s messes for them?  How do these qualities come to be associated with maternal/”do you have kids?” rather than just “oh my God, you people are idiots, step aside and let me fix this,” which is sometimes what my inner narrator feels like a lot of the time?  I try not to let that uncharitable & condescending sentiment show outside my head if I can.  Is it just that we live in a society where asking about children is part of trying to get to know who someone is?  (Why is that?) Continue reading

Ask for it

If there’s something you want, something you need, ask for it.

You have to ask for it, because it’s the only way to make sure you’re going to get it.

Other people aren’t psychic, much less as attentive or empathetic as we’d like them to be.  You might mention it once, but what’s the off chance they’ll 1) remember and 2) care enough amidst the noise in their own heads to act on your expressed need or desire?

This bleak fact, that at the end of the day, we ourselves are the only ones who can make sure we get what we need, what will make us sane, healthy, happy, and that the people we care or love about, by DNA-roll-of-the-dice or by choice may not be able to deliver, even with prompting, is the hardest lesson of being a “grown-up,” and the one I struggle with all the time.

Asking for help, rather than expecting people to see I need it– asking for hugs, or giving them out so I can get one in return– repeating myself over and over about “no, I do not want to celebrate my birthday and it’s not a thing that’s going to happen,” and then carrying through rather than caving– expressing the need for solitude, or quiet, or to not be the one making decisions about anything from what’s for dinner to how some social activity ought/not to go– these are all exquisitely hard at times, especially when I do manage to say them clearly around the hesitations of not wanting to feel like I am actually as bossy/ bitchy/ a spoilsport/ just acting crazy again as other people might think I am for standing up for myself.  Other peoples’ reactions and criticisms are still really wounding.  I still get really paranoid around silence, and overanalyze what’s going on in that silent reaction.

Brene Brown writes in her books about shame versus guilt– that shame is silencing & paralyzing, but guilt isn’t.  I haven’t read enough of her books to have worked out my own processes to pinpoint all the things that make me shame-turtle, but the “you shouldn’t need help and it’s wrong to ask for it” message clearly got driven home at some point.  At some point, my incapacity to competently and intelligently handle a situation all on my own (even when, objectively, it’s more than any one person could handle), or my need for others to give me some positive emotional reinforcement got deeply entwined with my being a “bad” person if I had to ask for help.  If it was freely given, then maybe it was something I could consider accepting (although even then it was suspect, because I have known lots of people who were just manipulative in the end and that reinforced the “don’t ask” button in a different way).  In the meantime, I put on a brave face or a brusque face or just straight out lie.

And asking doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the help that you need.  You might get half-measures, or none, and have to still do it yourself, with the anti-climax of breached trust in your fellow humans.  (Hooray!?!  At least it tells you who not to waste your energy on? Framing shit as teachable moments just sucks.)  Sometimes, you’ll get help from unexpected quarters– and that’s good, in the end, but can be complex if you’ve been less than gracious to those folks beforehand, and so you’ve got to reevaluate your own shitty behavior.

I’m writing this on day one of my leave of absence, after precisely two hugs (freely given) and four and a half well-meant expressions of taking it easy or good luck or likewise from direct coworkers. I did get several more well-wishes from folks in my working group, and some unexpected help from that quarter, too– which means, again, that I have to examine the divide between my own self-perception and others’ willingness to help when asked not by me, but my boss. I am seriously questioning how long I will stay at my job once I return, having talked myself off the ledge of trying to quit while I’ll out– but the larger question of the cluelessless and/or disinterest of most of my coworkers and my need to look at what I can do to prevent future overexertion as well as to identify– what is it I like about the job, in case I do decide to look elsewhere, what I need to change in this workplace in me and in others for me to tolerate staying, and what conversations I need to have with colleagues & higher ups to see what would work.

Of course, there are other things to do.  Sleep.  Read.  Socialize.  Tackle the garden.  File for divorce.  Get my dad’s mortgage resettled.  Other family health & legal projects.  They will be good distractions and anxiety-reducers around the hard work of “how did I get here again,” and “how do I ask for what else I need to keep going?”

 

Doing something

In between meds means in between states.  I am tapering off the 100 mg topomax @ 50 mg and hoping to maintain that dose while getting the rash that developed @ 100 mg x 1 week to recede.  So far, it is receding, but slowly.  So is the initial mood lift and subsequent dip from going off the wellbutrin 100 mg cold turkey because of those pesky suicidal ideations.  Since I tapered back to 50 mg on the topomax, my anxiety dreams have slowed, and I feel about 40% less panicked/ nauseous/ enraged by situations at work, but I still am exhausted and prone to inner rage storms even if I’m less overtly weepy.

Monday, I started on 5 mg lexapro.  It takes up to 3 weeks to be effective, so we will see.  Today, though, I feel my “usual” hypomanic lift from starting an SSRI, which seems to indicate that the lexapro’s doing something.  If it’s not just a hypomanic “crash” from the topomax or the cessation of .5 mg doses of klonopin throughout the day to manage my panic and suicidality instead.  Either that, or the resurgence of spring sunlight this weekend, even with yesterday’s snow, and hence an up tick in my circadian rhythms.  Although I did sleep 10 hours last night.

Then again, that hypomanic productive mood I feel today, where my head feels stuffy, my chest and stomach feel hollow, and I can laugh at any joke as long as it’s mean might be the result of knowing that come Saturday, I have 3 weeks to figure it out and get some of the personal crap in my life out of the way so it looms less if/when I go back to work.

It will tease itself out, I hope.  If I do lots of things, surely something will work.

Not helpful

Today, I said no.  That was something I did right, because setting boundaries and holding them is something I have a huge problem with.  In addition, telling them no was the right thing to do because I wasn’t really competent to say yes, in the professional sense of giving answers to questions presented.

Today, I told someone at work who came to me for help that what they wanted (immigration and green card assistance for their wife, specifically, logging in to create an online account and then paying for things) was something that I wasn’t comfortable with, and that they needed to either do it themselves or use one of these (*insert montage of me googling & printing*) several immigration-specific resources outside the store who know all about this kind of thing.

And then I said no, again, and again, and again, because he was arguing with me about why I wouldn’t do it even when I said “I’m sorry, this isn’t something I’m trained to do, here are some places that have people who are, I could really mess something up and I am not going to do this for you.”  He was really unhappy with me, but I’m an HR manager– not a social worker– and one of the larger systemic problems at this store is kind of a nanny-state issue where people wander in to my office and ask me to wipe their noses for them.  The pushback when I refuse is really amazing.  Petulant, too.

(I also managed not to laugh in the face of the person who said– “Someone told me I have to file taxes?  Is that really true?”  When I assured him that indeed, he did have that obligation, and that he could in fact pay a sizeable fine if he did not, and that this was why, in fact, I had chased him to file new withholding certificates, he was in awe of the idea that he had, you know, duties as a citizen and an adult.  I think I was too baffled in the moment by “where does he think the money goes if not into returns?” to laugh, but still.  I am counting it as a thing I did right.)

 

My therapy homework this week is– every day– to write down something that I did right, at work or at home.

Just like when I was sitting in my therapist’s office and he said that to me, all kind intention and just brimming with empathy– this man is good in the essential sense of that word– I’m leaking and choked because I can’t hear it, can’t think it.

Medication changes and more severe than usual spring mood swing aside, I don’t get enough thanks or praise, and when I do get it, it’s often laden, conditioned.  “You’re the best,” because I did something so ridiculously, outrageously pampering of a grown-ass adult, just to get the work off both of our desks, even though it means it pushes the boundary back toward me though it’s not my job.  “It’s nice that you work late & weekends,” (because the other guy didn’t.)  These aren’t words that mean they see me– it only means that I exist as a contrast, an outline against some other condition/behavior/thing they want to avoid and make their life easier as a response.   And I feel like it’s insincere when I hear it most of the time, because people just want things from me that make their lives easier.  They don’t care about me except as a delivery vehicle.

I feel pretty invisible, most of the time– partly my role, partly my introversion, who knows what else– and when I’m visibly upset, most people don’t ask if I am okay or even let the pause be awkward before leaping in to the thing that they want– either because they’re oblivious, or selfish, or because there’s some perceived power dynamic and it’s better not to acknowledge that someone “above” you is having a shitty day in case they’ll get… what?  I don’t know.  I don’t understand the dynamic of it.  I guess it’s mostly that it’s my job to be the one to deal with people’s feelings and people can’t deal with the idea that I might have some of my own.

At work, too, there’s a power dynamic between “just” the admin and the sales teams.  It’s shitty. The sales leadership aren’t as well trained as they could be, and they’re allowed to get away with inconsistent & lacking behavior as long as the sales are on point, while the administrators run around mopping up after them.  It’s the same any place, but the rhetoric here is that it’s supposed to be different and the divide from reality is stark, isolating, and disenheartening in the extreme.  When you feel overworked, under-appreciated, overwhelmed with entitled stupid questions & never given a pause to train anyone in order to stop the stupid questions or any subset of of them, it’s– misery, pretty much, pure & simple, especially when you’re more or less suicidally depressed and no one seems to notice except your second assistant in a year and oh, yeah, guess what, she’s going to grad school so you’re going to have to start training somebody else by mid-summer.

There are smaller things that I did right this week.  I admitted that I made a mistake about something that won’t be the end of the world.  I helped someone qualify for housing benefits.  I helped someone with a leave of absence and explained how short term disability worked.  There is more.  I can’t recall any of it in the constant onslaught of shit I deal with, day in & day out.  Some of it’s firing people for stupid mistakes (the worst reason to fire someone, imho, at least be blatant about it), some of it’s wading through unqualified applications, some of it’s saying no for the 40th time and handing the person the explanatory form they’re too lazy too fill out themselves.

I can’t help feel, though, that the main thing I did right this week was admit that right now, I really do hate my job and I need to take some time off before I do something stupid like mess up something for someone or quit.  (Like, you know, last time.)  I don’t feel better about it, for managing to pull myself up short of my 2009 mistake and having admitted weakness, reached out for help, and asked for a leave of absence, without disclosing all the particulars of my diagnosis.  I still feel stupid and paranoid and crazy and like there will be a negative impact on my job when and if I return, and who knows.  Maybe there will be, but I suppose this all still buys me time.

I’m still really scared and anxious and depressed the moment I start thinking about it, in terms of– what will happen if I come back?  Do I want to?  What do I do while I’m off?  What if the med change doesn’t help?  I can’t fucking look for a new job in this state of mind.  (You know, the usual crazy morass of anxious over-thinking.)  I actually left early for the first time since I started work, after overreacting to something my two-weeks-brand-new boss said in– what I think were objectively understandable circumstances for context he didn’t have and didn’t bother to have before he set me off– and people are probably all gossiping about me at work by this point because I was clearly upset & in tears when I left and was shutting things down in my office.  I idly looked at things I might theoretically otherwise want to do as job search queries (after isolating the parts of my job I like the most) and started to panic because it’s not that I hate the company or the job, really, it’s that I can’t draw a breath without 5 people shoving into my office– so I went right back to time-wasting internet shit– but it’s one thing at a time, I guess.

Things I did right this week.  I didn’t stop showing up for work, because: crazy, and I went home early for a long weekend after a somewhat weepy but otherwise reasoned discussion.

I guess we’ll see how the rest plays out from here.

Therapy homework (1-b)

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I did a better job after a good, cathartic too-many-drinks with strangers gettin’ my drunk on & long, much-needed twelve hour sleep at listing some things that my dad has done right to be appreciative/positive/non-critical, or has done things that have made me uncomplicatedly happy since I moved in with him.   (Yeah, every four years or so I get four-drinks wasted.  I’m a cheap date.)

And now that I’m writing this I can think of two more:  buying me my DSLR and my smartphone, with which I took the above photo.