Category Archives: Anxiety

Financial Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to stay afloat–mentally–under stressors that appeared practically overnight. With the economy humming along somewhere through a very long bull market, it was clear the upward tick to the markets wouldn’t last forever. However, I don’t think anyone thought it would end so jarringly.

I sit here from my “shelter in place” apartment in one of the worst hit counties in California. My company went a little early in moving to WFH and I’ve been adjusting, but the last weeks have been a bit of a blur. On the Saturday before my company decided to move to a WFH policy, I felt I was coming down with something. I don’t think I had a fever, I just had mild aches, and my chest immediately felt impacted. I went to work on Monday (if I had a fever I definitely wouldn’t have) and waited for my company to make the call. It wasn’t far into the day Monday when whispers of the company going fully remote made their way around the office, then an email formalizing that we would no longer be coming into the office for the next few weeks.

My lungs tight and heavy managed to breathe a sigh of relief. All I wanted was to get home and keep my family safe. At the time my 76-year-old father-in-law who provides childcare was still coming to our house via the train. It made no sense. I feared for his health and safety. In those 24 hours our worlds changed. Grandpa no longer would take the train to provide childcare. But my husband and I would still continue working, albeit with both of us WFH, with no childcare.

Over the next days my lungs felt like they had a cool liquid pouring into them, a slight burning sensation, and I felt winded after walking or picking up around the house. With no fever, I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac, but I emailed my doctor and she said normally she’d have me come in to check out my symptoms (as they were concerning) but with coronavirus going around she couldn’t, so she’d just treat me for pneumonia–just in case that’s what I have. Coronavirus testing was out of the question since I hadn’t been to another country recently and had no known contact with another person who tested positive. I was put on a course of powerful antibiotics and provided an inhaler to help me breathe.

The next day, our entire region went on full lockdown.

Two weeks later, my lungs still hurt. I’m not sure if the antibiotics did anything. I’m not convinced I have coronavirus, but I’m also not convinced that I don’t. My husband had what appeared to be a bad stomach bug with a low fever the same week I first felt ill, and now coronavirus reports say that sometimes it starts with gasterontestinal issues. He too felt some tightening in his chest. Neither of us were coughing, though–so what we have could be pretty much anything. If it’s coronavirus, we’ll never know outside of suspicion. I know whatever is happening to my lungs, this cold fluid sensation and the tightness in the center of my chest, is new to me. Could it be crippling anxiety? Sure. But the cold fluid sensation is strange and I continue to have mild respiratory symptoms.

I think I’m ok. Physically I’m just trying to take it easy. Mentally, I’m a mess. I know way more than I ever wanted to know about pandemics and how they exponentially spread. I’ve spent countless hours trying to convince my boomer mother, stuck in her snowbird condo in Florida, to take this seriously–especially given she’s in an area with a lot of older people mixed with young tourists where things will likely get bad.

Then, there’s my portfolio. Down something like $200k, give or take, prob give quite a bit more in the coming weeks. I’m a buy-and-holder, and got my start in investing right before the 2008 downturn, so I believe in the power of investing when everything is going haywire and how the recovery is when wealth is made. Downturns are good for the market and give us a time to buy on sale. But this whole situation is unprecedented and things can get a lot worse than they are. It’s unlikely–given its fatality rate–that the economy will fail to recover once a vaccine is tested and brought to market. But I don’t know how the economy can handle everything shutting down for a while, especially if this goes on (or on and off and on again) for 18+ months.

I’m using this opportunity to rebalance my accounts, but not to sell for no reason. I’ve been doing some unrelated research regarding asset allocation including real estate, as well as what one should really have in cash for a home purchase. I’ll write another post about that eventually, but I’ve basically determined that 30% of my net worth should be held in real estate. I’m looking at 30% of my net worth including a downpayment, closing costs, and a conservative 12 month emergency fund. In order to afford a $1.7M house, we need $500k cash in the bank.

My CFP who I hired for a year (who is no longer my CFP) recommended putting my downpayment into municipal bond funds for the tax advantages over the low interest-paying savings accounts. Well, that plan went to shit in the last two weeks. Apparently muni bonds funds are usually super stable. But after I put $200k into them, they decided to become volatile in a way they haven’t been since 1987. So far I pulled out the $200k (down to $192k) and put it into a short term bond fund, to take the loss in the intermediate state muni. That hurt a bit. Will probably just move everything to cash soon. It seems like this will be the year to buy–that is, if I can keep my job!

On top of all of this I’m not questioning the timing of trying for my next child. Due to infertility issues (at least with my first kid) plus now my “advanced maternal age” of 36, I really don’t want to wait. I also really don’t want to be pregnant–with the weakened immune system that comes with that–in the middle of a global pandemic. If I do get pregnant, we also have to move, which isn’t horrible since I do think this will be the year to buy. But if we’re on a year-long shelter-in-place, I don’t know how we’d move. We couldn’t even look at houses–or rentals for that matter. I think we could manage a year with two kids in a one bedroom (we’d save a ton that way) but legally you’re not allowed more than 2 adults and one kid per one bedroom, so we’d be in a bad situation… if it gets to the point where I’m pregnant and we aren’t allowed to leave our homes except to get groceries and medical supplies.

My overall thoughts right now is:

  1. Make sure we have our downpayment fund (ideally $500k) secure in cash or cash equivalents by fall (we have about $363k right now if I sold the bonds, and if I needed to I could make up for the rest selling stocks, but I’d prefer to not have to do that.) Be ready to buy when no one else is buying.
  2. Try my best to keep my job. I’ve actually been making progress on my coaching plan and things seemed to be turning around. Then Corona hit and–who knows. I’d be on the chopping block if there were layoffs, probably. I’m hoping we don’t have layoffs coming, but I have to assume they are with the state of the world. If I assume they are, then buying a house sooner than later makes sense (kind of, I mean not having a job won’t be great after buying a house, but that’s why I’m making sure we have a 12 month emergency fund.)
  3. Just try to get pregnant and see what happens. Worst case, I’ll be giving birth while incubated with a shared ventilator wrapped around my head, with my husband waiting from home to hear if I’ve survived childbirth and coronavirus and if the baby is ok. Ok, that’s a pretty horrible worst case, but it’s a possible one. More likely if I were to get pregnant I’d get a different standard of care as the doctors would try to keep me out of the office as much as possible. Given my infertility situation, it’s still unlikely I’ll get pregnant naturally. I do worry about being able to get infertility treatment in the next year, especially if we need something beyond the medication-based treatment protocol we did to conceive baby #1… The good news is that I conceived baby #1 right after a 3 month in-between job break where I focused on my health, travel, and relaxing. This isn’t exactly the same scenerio–I’m working and stressed–but I think over time with this WFH situation, if I can manage to keep my job and be as productive as I know I can be WFH, I can really focus on making the most out of every hour in the day to eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and do the things that set my body up for the healthiest possible pregnancy.

Things sure are crazy for everyone these days. I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to figure out how to balance being a mom and working from home with no childcare and getting to that level of health I want–I ordered some new running shoes and plan to use them, while staying six feet away from the other residents of my neighborhood, to disconnect from the panic sensation that fills me daily and reconnect with the sounds of nature and the taste of spring air. I hope things go somewhat according to plan, but not counting on it.

 

 

 

 

The Things that Matter: American Workaholism and Being a Mom

It’s 5am and I am exhausted but can’t get back to sleep after my son woke up screaming for milk a few hours ago. He didn’t actually drink that much. My breasts are still engorged and I’m too tired/lazy to pump. I’m supposed to “wake up” for work in an hour, to make myself presentable for an 8am meeting. I’m not doing the best job of being presentable given I’m so exhausted and no amount of coffee will help.

But my exhaustion isn’t just due to being woken up in the middle of the night. It’s the hopeless exhaustion of now being in the midst of the roller coaster of life, with time both going too fast and too slow, and memories of long gone childhood reminding me that life wasn’t always like this–always so formulaic in its requirements for supporting basic sustainability of existence.

My fear to pay more in rent a month isn’t helping. My fear of running out of money, or, more so, of getting to the point where I have a nervous breakdown and do not go into work one day because I can no longer stand the majority of my waking hours being dedicated to trying to get people to buy a product that–very successfully–helps companies reduce their workforce (though that’s not its primary purpose, but like most tech for business these days, it’s one of its benefits.) Oh, it’s a great product and it’s exciting to be part of a company that’s growing and a team that is not in it to change the world despite also building products that reduce headcount (the idealism of startups was nice for a while, but it also feels good to be part of a team that doesn’t entirely live and breathe work 24/7.) But, at the end of the day, always the very long yet never long enough day, I sit in traffic on the freeway for 45 minutes with all the other commuters headed home and talk to my 6 month old son on the phone who is crying and anxious for mom (well, for mom’s chest anyway) and who doesn’t care that I’m sitting in traffic or that I have to go to work to make enough money to try to save so maybe one day we can buy a house and go on vacations and such.

The reality is that my situation is so much better than 99% of the world, maybe even 99.9% of the world, and I’m still, well, not happy. I don’t know if I have the capacity for sustained happiness, given it’s me we’re talking about, but I’d like to not constantly live in fear. I acknowledge that buying a house with monthly mortgage payments will heighten my anxiety immensely. If we can make it work to buy a property with my MIL and FIL, and keep our monthly payments closer to what we’re paying now (or at least what we’d pay in rent for a decent 3br/2ba apartment), then maybe that’s ok. But then there’s all the other issues that come up with home ownership. It’s terrifying.

But then I’m also sitting here, 35 going on 40, realizing that there is no “when” at this point in life. I’m past the stage of saving and waiting. It’s now or never. I have a kid. I have a job that is as stable as my work will probably ever be. I have a husband who may return to school to make even less than he does now, but at least he’ll get benefits in case I should lose said job. Why not just take the leap? Have some stability for once? I’d like to give that to my kid. He won’t remember his first year of life, but I’d prefer not to jump around from rental to rental throughout his life. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I grew up in one home from 0-17 and although moving once or twice in that timeframe is ok, moving every year or every other year is best to be avoided. I want to meet my neighbors, I want to feel like we’ve “made it” by having our own backyard, however small it is. Our own kitchen and bathroom and walls and tiny storage area so my bike doesn’t have to live in our living room.

I’m tired. I’m tired and unhealthy and I know my body is upset for it. I feel myself aging too fast. I’m not finding time to work out and my diet has gone to complete shit. There’s so much I want to improve, but for now, I’m barely getting by.

I do not want to lose my job.

I’m already feeling incredibly guilty for taking a small amount of additional time on disability for PPD, and am ashamed to face my colleagues when I return to work, especially knowing that I will be taking additional (legally-protected) leave in the next year to spend time with my kid. I hate, hate, have being THAT woman and would not blame my employer for figuring out the fastest way to show me the door.

I’m hoping that won’t happen. I don’t pray, but I’m praying that won’t happen. I just can see how they’re understanding how they can operate perfectly well without me, and they would rather replace me with someone else–or any mistake I make will be a quick reason to show me the door. I feel bad for becoming a mother and worse for not adjusting well to motherhood.

When I return to work, I really need to bring my A-game, from day one, through day a billion. I always try to do this, of course, but now I have to fight hard and strong to keep this job. I don’t deserve it, I am not good at it, and I have to try hard to do whatever it takes to be a good employee. I don’t know how to do this, because I’m socially awkward, unintelligent, and a complete fraud. But I’ll try. I’ll try and I’ll stop telling my husband I’m going to get fired because it makes him upset and he says I need to stop telling myself this because I self sabotage.

How can I keep this job? Like, really keep it. For at least three more years. Twelve more quarters. Thirty-six more months… 1095 more days…of amazing, irreplaceable-quality work.  Non stop. Full energy. Listening to my coworkers and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals. Helping my boss who already looks great look even better. Being a team player. Never asking for anything other than the opportunity to do what’s right for the team and company. Maybe, maybe I can keep this job those 1095 days.

It’s a whole new ballgame now, being a mom. I’m terrified. I feel very alone in this journey and need to figure out how to just make it work, on my own. I wish I was smarter… higher IQ… or at least better at faking it. I’m so scared right now. It’s like I’m hanging onto a cliff with one hand with hurricane force winds swirling around me and gravity times a thousand puling me down. I’m holding on for dear life. I want to somehow minimize my interaction with others… I’ve been far to personally invested in my work projects. I get too emotional. I care too much. That’s the problem. I need to care less and do more.

There has to be a way.

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?

 

 

Nothing Lasts Forever

My last boss (the one who fired me) — who joined the company after I was there for about a year and a few months — has apparently left after an even shorter tenure than the one I managed to maintain prior to getting the axe. I have no idea why she left — I can only guess, and I have plenty of guesses–but why she left doesn’t matter. The fact that she left less than a year after firing me means that clearly I wasn’t the problem. Or the only problem.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m trying very hard to view my job as just a job. I mean, it is. My job is to help my company make more money. And, if I do this, even indirectly, I likely can keep my job. We’re not curing cancer. So I try–incredibly, ridiculously hard–to care, but not care like that. Continue reading Nothing Lasts Forever

When to Start Planning for Baby and… How to Handle at Work?

With an embarrassing number of HPTs (home pregnancy tests) scattered about my bathroom, all with faint or not-so-faint double lines, this whole “I’m actually pregnant” thing is starting to feel more and more real. I’m still super early… which means miscarriage is quite possible, but the double lines now 16 days after my trigger shot means either I have a ridiculously slow metabolism or I’m at least somewhat pregnant.

For better or worse, my husband and I haven’t seriously considered life after having kids — because, with infertility and all the unknowns of if we could have kids, we didn’t want to get our hopes up. I mean, we discussed it a bit —

  • Can we manage to raise a child in our 1 bedroom rent controlled apartment until the kid is 2? Yes. Um. We think so. 
  • Will we raise our children with any specific religion? No. I’m Jewish and he’s Christian (both super non religious) but we love our holidays so we’ll each focus on the cultural traditions and not much else.  Father has agreed that kids will be “Jew-ish” by the nature of Jewish law (mom is Jewish, so are the kids.) But hubby isn’t giving up Christmas or Easter – I’ll just have to amp up the excitement I felt as a kid around Purim. 🙂

  • Will we send our kid to daycare? Well, we haven’t discussed this too much yet… his father lives nearby and we think he’ll be quite helpful in babysitting when asked as he’s retired and basically sits around all day (and he does like little kids, luckily.) Husband’s mother lives in a horrible mess of a house with cat droppings everywhere — while she can put together a super fun and creative holiday game for kids, we’ve agreed our future children will not be stepping foot in that house and that grandma is not allowed to watch them without us around / in the other room. My parents live far away, and my mom has made it clear that she thinks it’s so horrible how all of these parents these days are having so much help from their parents… so I’m not asking her for anything other than family pictures when we visit.

Ok, so… that leaves a zillion other things to figure out in eight months. I’m admittedly terrified. I’ll be almost 35 when I have my first kid now (assuming this bean sticks) and that’s as good of a time as any. But, really, how the fuck are we going to make this work?

Husband won’t discuss until my blood tests come back positive. I get it. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up either. But I’m freaking out here. In a good way. And also in a not so good way.

I just started my new job a month ago… which, yes, means I got pregnant (theoretically) basically the week I started working. This means I won’t be eligible for FLMA (unpaid 12 weeks off with guarantee to return to work) and who knows if my company will offer me their minimal maternity benefits given I’ll have to take leave so soon after starting. I’m mildly concerned, to say the least.

My company, from what I’ve read in the very limited literature on maternity benefits, says that they offer 4 weeks of paid time off. I’d love to save up vacation time to use but since the company offers “Unlimited Vacation Time” (my favorite bullshit new-age benefits policy that screws over employees), there is no way to save up time… other than not taking ANY vacation before I give birth (or, only a week before I am due?) and try to make the case that I am using vacation days. But how many can I take as part of this “unlimited” vacation policy? I’m planning to estimate based on the informal conversation I had with my boss before joining… ~15 days are acceptable to take off per year as part of this policy… so if I don’t take any for 9 months, that’s a little over 7 days of PTO I’m entitled to (yes, a whopping extra week of maternity leave, if they’ll agree to this.)

Now, the good thing about my job is that I could potentially do it from home at that point. There are people on my team who work remotely, and it seems to be an acceptable work setup for the company. It’s part of the reason I took the job. The actual work I’m responsible for can also mostly be done remotely (although I prefer face time with the team.) So, my current vision for how this plays out is that I have a very health to-term pregnancy, work until a few days before my due date, give birth on my due date or earlier, and then after the 4 weeks off (if my company gives that to me) I start working full time again but remotely.

That’s all nice and dandy in thought… but, is it really doable? I’m not a young mother at this point… since I’ll be nearly 35 while giving birth… and at this point with my infertility treatments I’m not ruling out a multiple birth. So many things could make this so much more complicated and what do I do?

I believe I do have disability benefits (short term) for 66% of my salary after the 4 weeks, for a few more weeks – maybe that covers some more time off. I’m not sure if I’m eligible for them after 9 months at the company… (at least I can prove I got pregnant AFTER starting and after my benefits would have kicked in.) I’d like to ask someone about this but… it’s not ideal to announce anything or ask HR anything until you’re 12 weeks along, so, perhaps I’ll wait.

I’m also concerned about first trimester “morning” sickness. I’ve already been nauseous on and off and it’s supposed to be too early to feel this way (though some boards say with multiples you can feel this earlier – uh oh.) I’m fairly sensitive to just about everything, so I’m unclear how I am going to keep this a secret even through my first trimester anyway.

The other good news, however, is that I’ve worked for my boss before, and he basically told me when I interviewed that if I want to have a family it would be good to think about joining this company (vs a smaller company like ones I typically end up in.) And he’s right — even though the benefits for maternity leave aren’t Google/Apple/Facebook/Netflix-level awesome, they’re better than the nonexistent maternity policies of most startups. They at least exist. Someone on my team is actually on maternity leave right now, so when she comes back I can ask her how she managed it.

I’m mostly worried about the first year of my kid’s life. I like working, but I’m so concerned I’ll just be too exhausted to think straight. We can’t afford to live on one income (especially not my husband’s income… his is about $65k and mine is $165k (plus potential of $50k-$100k bonus, etc. annually) so, I have to work. It’s the only way we have a shot of ever being able to afford to live in more than a 1 bedroom apartment. Assuming I can get half of my bonus each year ($215k), and he starts working as a teacher for ~$50k, then as a couple we’re making $265k and… that’s enough to live in a two bedroom condo in a reasonably nice area here, plus save for the kid’s college and such. I think I want to work, but I don’t like not having a choice… in case there are complications.

…I know plenty of women DO work shortly after having a kid… but it happens that my close friends who are married with young kids are either stay at home moms or work but work from home for themselves. I don’t want to miss my child’s first moments… I know it will all go by so fast.

Meanwhile, where on earth are we going to put a crib in this apartment? We have the space — our living room is rather large and so is our bedroom for a 1br… but, either we put a crib right next to our bed in between it and my husband’s desk / office… or, we put it in the living room. The living room doesn’t have air conditioning so that’s probably a horrible idea. Especially since the baby will be due in August.

Fortunately, I’ve hit that random goal of saving over $500k before getting pregnant – so I know there’s a cushion. But I don’t want to drain that unless I really have to. My goal is still to work full time and not take much time off to have my kid(s). But who knows what the future holds. I’d like to have a path to renting or owning a home with at least two bedrooms. I’d like to have a husband who is willing to talk about this stuff before I am officially pregnant… but as he’s going back to school this spring for teaching, and will be still taking classes and working when the baby is born… I don’t know how we’re going to do this. We’ll figure it out. But I’m really looking forward to when this blood test confirms that I’m indeed pregnant so perhaps we can start planning our future together.

Update on Life after hitting $500k and losing my job

My current psychologist is – interesting. She is unlike any psychologist I’ve had in the past and at this point I’m seeing her because she’s actually covered by my insurance at $25 a session and that’s not much more than the cost of a movie for pure entertainment value. I’ve only gone to three sessions with her thus far, but she is, in a very odd way, helping me work through my issues.

We are culturally very different – she’s an Indian who was a trained engineer, so she just approaches life quite differently. For instance, today when I shared that I was disciplined with a belt in my childhood, she mentioned that it’s normal for boys to be hit with a belt and not girls, and I stared at her and explained that I think that must be a cultural norm for Indians but not in the U.S…

Anyway, she has a very strange way of telling me how strong I am whenever I provide information about doing something in my life that isn’t wallowing in depression, and she always has her head slightly cocked to the side with a slight crazed gaze in her eyes, just a bit too intense in a room with high ceilings, bright white walls and two chairs. But I’m rolling with it… because I need help. Because I’m depressed and anxious and really unsure how to make life work.

I did have a pretty big breakthrough today – but she didn’t catch it or care. I said I had a drinking problem from 2001 to 2014. This is a pretty big deal as while I’ve admitted to drinking too much at parties and such before, I never fully admitted that I had an actual PROBLEM with alcohol, and for so long. This stemmed from her asking me the standard doctor question of “how many drinks do you have per week.” I answered, in my typical I don’t know how to answer that question fashion, that it’s either 0 or — too many on one night. I haven’t gotten that drunk in a while, not head spinning pass out drunk, so when I mentioned that I occasionally have one class of whiskey at night to go to sleep she seemed concerned (despite that this is much healthier than the once a week social binges that ultimately caused my DUI) — anyway, it felt good to say that I had a problem, to admit to this, and to really feel like I’ve distanced myself from this problem despite partaking in social drinking on occasion. Maybe I’ve just grown up. A little bit.

While I’ve grown up in some aspects of my life, I haven’t in others. I’m not sure what to do about this job situation, per the usual, but now that I’m back from my trip and looking at my bank account, I am tempted to jump into something with a consistent paycheck. I have one freelance project that may turn into something ongoing, but that’s still not enough to cover the cost of life – rent, food, health insurance, etc,  and having a child. There are recruiters reaching out to me about jobs in a position I’m qualified for on paper but don’t want to fill, and there are jobs I apply to that I don’t hear back from because I’m not qualified for them at all, at least on paper. It’s frustrating.

The best scenario would be that I build my freelance business quickly enough that it makes sense to be self employed for good, or at least long enough to gain experience in the areas where I actually want a full time job. But it’s also hard to turn down offers that pay $150k-$200k when I’m currently making $20k on unemployment and less than that if I start consulting, lose unemployment benefits, and it doesn’t work out. I can sell stock if needed, but I really don’t want to dig into my net worth if I don’t have to. I’m not in a financial crisis or anything, but the goal is to not cause one later in life when I’ve worked so hard to build a cushion.

I’m figuring I’ll have a full time job by October OR I’ll have 2-3 ongoing freelance clients that are happy with my work. Otherwise, I’m going to be in trouble. People tell me that I should just enjoy my time off but I have a hard time doing that.

Island Hopping in the Seto Sea and Trying to Find Peace

I haven’t traveled alone a lot thus far in my life. After my trip with a friend to Thailand half-a-decade ago I stayed on for a few more days, got food poisoning in Bangkok the morning of my flight to Singapore, managed to make it to my flight and wander around Singapore solo for a few days before traveling back to the States. That was a lonely excursion and it was only a few days solo, but I did enjoy seeing Singapore and it was easy-ish since everyone spoke English.

Japan has been different because English is definitely not common here. I knew Japanese would be the primary language, obviously, but I thought there’d be more English speakers. It’s actually quite strange how the country seems to be obsessed with American / English-speaking culture, yet few can speak the language. Case in point, in most hotels and spas, there is English jazz music playing… but no one understands what the singers are saying. Even many shops have their signs written in English… one wonders if the people who work in the shop have any idea what the sign says…

The good thing about Japan is that the train system is so easy to navigate. I heard this from friends who have been in the past but I didn’t really believe them. Japan has a crazy amount of train lines and for international visitors you can get a 7, 14 or 21 day “all you can eat” pass which (in my 14 day version) I’ve certainly been putting to good use. The pass doesn’t cover all the trains, but an app makes it easy to figure out which trains can be ridden between one destination and the next. There are local trains – which are subway style – and then there are long-distance trains which range from fast to super duper fast (the super duper duper fast trains are not included in the pass.) The train I’m on right now is going 170 MPH…

Most people on their first trip to Japan do the Tokyo-Kyoto loop, some adding in Hiroshima (which is south of Kyoto). My trip has been Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Hiroshima-Kyoto-Naoshima-Hakone (extra fee)-???-Tokyo. I considered heading down to the south island to visit Nagasaki and get out of the normal tourist loop, but am glad I didn’t because they’re having crazy rains down there right now and bad flooding… so this worked out much better.

I’m spending too much on this trip– I don’t even want to add it up at this point — but I also acknowledge that once I have kids (and, hopefully, another full-time job) I won’t be able to travel like this. Even with PTO, I would never relax and enjoy traveling if I had a job to go back to. It’s unfortunate but true – I can’t NOT think about my job. So – traveling when I don’t have a job is something I can’t take for granted at all, even if it sucks that I have to pay for health insurance and such being gainfully unemployed.

The trip was extra expensive because I – probably in bad judgement – decided to offer my sister a free trip to Japan as a belated college graduation gift (I had promised her I’d take her to hawaii if she graduated college, which then turned into Japan somehow). The trip in total is probably about $7000-$8000 not including “free” flights w/ points (I’ll do a final tally once it’s over)… with my husband’s portion around $2000 so I’ve spend $5k-ish total on the trip. Was it worth it? (Is it?)  Yes, definitely. There are a few over-spends where I see I could have saved cash but overall, for 24-day trip it’s not so bad. Without stays at a few fancy traditional-style inns (Ryokans) and spurges on dining (A5 Wagyu was worth it) I could have cut out $2k probably, but – YOLO. Right? I said it. YOLO.

Hubby and I are still planning on going on our ACTUAL honeymoon in September… to New Zealand… and I’m itching to also explore Australia while we’re in the down under parts… but I’m not sure I want to do another 3+ week trip. Husband definitely doesn’t, he maxes out his travel acceptance at two weeks… and since it’s our honeymoon, I think it would be nice for us to fly there and come back together. Bummed we can’t stop in Fiji but Zika is still prevalent there and on the off chance that I can actually get pregnant I shouldn’t be getting myself Zika (Mosquitos love me so I doubt there would be any way to avoid them.) Supposedly there is no Zika in Japan… if there is, well, my bumpy, itchy legs are not a good sign.

I’m glad I’m getting to travel extensively now, it is helping me scratch that itch so I don’t feel like I’m locked up and away at work for the entirety of my healthy years. Even now at 33 and out of shape I’ve definitely noticed my body does not travel as well as it used to — my feet have taken a beating unfortunately. We had been walking about a half marathon a day for the first two weeks of our trip (from sitting on my ass all day) so I pretty much f’d up my feet badly. The last few days traveling solo I’ve been able to listen to my body a bit more… when I need a break, I take a break. When I need to take a bus, I take a bus. When I need to stay at my hotel for the night because I can’t move, I do it. I’m feeling much better.

Part of this trip, I hoped, was to lose some weight. I am really ashamed that I managed to gain back all the weight I lost and then some. I was at 182 at my highest and then got down to 170 fairly easily, but the 30 pounds I lost took a lot of dedication and hard work over six months… then I got depressed, started binging like crazy and was up to 184, unsure of how I went from 140 to 150 to 165 to 170 to 184… but I did, and I felt awful. With this trip only being 3 weeks, I realistically can only lose 6-9 pounds at most. I don’t think I’ve lost much, but I’ll be quite happy if I get back to the states and I’m under 170 (I was about 175 when I left on my trip.) If I can get to ~169 from Japan, I have the next month including a weightloss bootcamp I’m going to for a week, where I want to lose another 8lbs, getting me closer to 160 by mid August. I’d love to be back at 150 for my honeymoon (I was briefly at 140 but my wedding weight was 150 and I think that was a good place to be) … so I’m targeting 150-160 for mid September. Going to probably have to go Keto for Aug/Sept to make that happen… but it will be worth it. And maybe, with doing that, I can actually get pregnant… which will save a good $50,000+ in IVF fees when that probably won’t work anyway.

With so much going on, it’s good to be alone for a bit and slow down. It would probably be helpful to unplug but for better or worse this country has really good wifi and I have a rental device that has me more connected than I’d be back in the states. I’ve tried to put my phone down for a bit… and take it all in. I love seeing new landscapes and architecture, getting lost down random alleyways (as long as I feel safe, which I always do in Japan), and just embrace being a nobody in this world. Yes, I know a few random people who live in Japan but odds of running into them are quite slim. I’m anonymous here even though everyone sees me, as no one looks at me, no one notices, no one cares. And in forever terms that would be awful but for a week or two it’s kind of nice. I don’t have to worry about what I look like (as long as I’m culturally presentable) — if my hair is frizzy or my stomach is bulging out because I’m not wearing Spanx… no one cares. Despite my mother complaining that my digitally-shared photos don’t include enough Japanese people in the background for her friends to believe I’m in Japan when she reshapes the pics (face palm), I have no pressures here, no annoying parental voice that linger in my head despite my long departed youth, no worries other than getting to my hotels on time, not getting my things stolen, and not running out of cash.

I know the real world will be back soon enough… and I HAVE to figure out a model of real world that works for me in perpetuity. It’s becoming more and more apparent that a career change is a necessity. It’s still hard to make the decision to leave a career that pays $150k-$250k annually for a job that may, especially to start, pay $60k-$100k and only see $150k in many, many years, if ever. But, I really want to have a family, I want to have time with my family, I want to be able to travel but I don’t need to travel luxuriously, and I’m almost ok with not being able to afford property and just to be a renter for the rest of my life. I’m trying so hard to take it one day at a time, and failing frequently, but getting closer to finding some sort calm admits the whirling storm of my ever-anxious mind.

$1700 and a Neuropsychological Screening Later…

I swear I’m not a mental health hypochondriac. Something is clearly wrong with me and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Although I initially sought to find an in-network therapist, my insurance results were filled with doctors that no longer were covered or didn’t serve adult populations. When I found Dr. W., I was getting pretty hopeless and further depressed. Dr. W. didn’t provide weekly therapy – he offered neuropsychological testing for the low price of $1700 and, since he was actually covered* by my insurance, I thought, what the heck, might as well see if this would help me identify what’s really going on so I can attack those issues head on.

It’s rather frustrating to go through a neuropsychological test and to be told that it’s impossible to know if insurance will cover it because that all depends on the results of the test. Usually these tests are used for children or young adults who are struggling in school, so a part of me felt like this was going to be a huge waste. However, I wanted answers, and insurance may pay for this exam – or it may not – or it may go towards my deductible. Who the hell knows. By going through insurance at all I’d be adding one more pre-existing condition to my repertoire, meaning that once Obamacare is repealed and if I ever want to consult again for a living I won’t be able to get insurance. However, since I already have pre-existing conditions on my medical health history it doesn’t really matter at this point. I’m screwed either way. Continue reading $1700 and a Neuropsychological Screening Later…

Spiraling Out of Control: Fighting Horrible Anxiety Through Long Winter Nights

Anxiety ebbs and flows through my life, causing varying levels of disruption to my productivity and potential for success. Unlike depression, which feels somehow more real and worthy of concern because I can feel my body shifting into a state of inability to move, anxiety is different and fuels a sense of shame. It is a horrible loop of self sabotage – lack of sleep makes anxiety worse and anxiety makes the ability to get a good night’s rest impossible. My heart is breaking for the life I want that keeps inching further and further from my grasp. It feels like I’m attempting to breathe in a room where the oxygen is slowly being sucked out and I’m expected to perform just the same as I suffocate.

This anxiety makes it impossible to focus. My mind literally cannot stay focused on one task requiring intellectual processing for longer than a few seconds. Clearly that is not acceptable when my career relies on me to produce quality work leveraging my brain. I keep thinking I’ll just take a few minute’s break and then get back to work and make progress, and then I find myself staring at the same blank sheet of paper unable to do anything. I am exhausted and want to walk out of my job and never look back, except I can’t because I need my job and if not this job I need job and no role will be better.

My doctors wouldn’t give me anti anxiety medication because I may be trying to get pregnant soon, which makes sense since it would be dangerous to an unborn child. So I don’t know what to do at this point. The depression fueled by anxiety is much scarier to me than the one that stems from my actual depression. Anxiety is an alien attacking me from the inside, and I as I attempt to hide my hand’s tremors I long to to grab a knife and cut it out.

I try to breathe, do exercises which for a second may ease my mind. I listen to music in attempt to calm myself. Other than watching a television show or closing my eyes and falling asleep (if possible) I cannot stop thinking in these horrible loops over and over and over again. I feel incredibly alone and ashamed. Why can’t I just stop?

The current political system in the U.S. makes it worse, certainly. I feel helpless as I watch our country being taken over by an evil, self-serving man who may lead us into world war or who knows what. I fear for the safety of people of color and anyone who thinks differently. I wonder how I will be able to raise children in a society where a man who throws temper tantrums on Twitter is president. How the one person who is supposed to represent stability and calm in a big scary world filled with evil humans is actually the scariest of them all. And I want to do something to help, but my role in this great big world is to wake up each morning and convince companies to buy software that will make them more efficient. I’m part of the problem. Perhaps I am the problem. One of them many.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow. I hope to get home safe, I don’t feel comfortable driving right now but I must to get back to my bed, only to repeat the journey again – to feel like everyone is watching me in my small desk in our open office, or that everyone is noticing that I left to attempt to get work done at a coffee shop down the street except my head is spinning so fast the only time I can get anything done is late at night when it’s quiet and calm. But I need sleep, so staying up late to work is not the best idea either.

Trade jobs are being lost to efficiency and automation. The jobs that exist now and will continue to exist are those which create redundancy between human work and machine work, or the roles which produce more efficiency from the machines. Maybe one day we’ll be in a world where we won’t have to work so much because robots do all the things that need to get done, but that doesn’t work in a  capitalistic society. As all the science fiction shows and books try to warn us, this is not going to come to a happy end.

Perhaps I should just shut up, take a few big breaths and keep my head down, and live my life and make the world more efficient and pose it all as a positive as more and more people lose their jobs or are called out for not being efficient enough, not being 150% productive in a society where 100% is no longer good enough.

I want to feel excited again. To feel like my work is contributing to something greater that is helping the world or at least entertaining those who feel this same sinking anxiety and horror at the state of things.

Instead, again I find myself drowning yet again. I don’t even see the surface anymore. It’s just dark and cold and I’m losing the energy to kick and force myself to the surface for a quick gasp of brisk air before plunging back into the darkness.