Category Archives: Anxiety

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

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.

2mi3ugy

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

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.

 

 

20151201WhatIsAutism-844-2

When It All Adds Up: Am I Autistic?

In the course of my mental health history, I’ve been diagnosed with, in no particular order, major depression, bipolar II, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD and, as I aged out of hyperactivity, Adult ADD. Yet my current therapist first to allude to the suspicion that I may be “on the spectrum,” so to speak. At first, I thought she was nuts. Well, I generally think she’s nuts because unlike my other therapists who have been more traditional talk therapists who don’t give direct advice, she’s more of a crossover psychologist and coach. And, maybe she actually sees something that others have missed. Or maybe she’s just crazy. Continue reading

Babies on the Brain – Preparing for My (“Our”) Future

The majority of my friends are popping out their first children or well on their way to their second child by now. My Facebook feed, filled with folks I went to school with, mostly lesser educated yet clearly happy people, showcases families now of three or four kids. At nearly 33, I remain childless. I don’t FEEL old, yet it terms of childbearing years I’m getting up there. If I can get pregnant easily (which is unlikely) then I would have my first child before 35 – which is fine. However, I don’t want my second child to feel rushed as I know how much work having one child is, and I want time to enjoy being a mother of one before rushing on to try for my second.

Although I’ve thought a lot about the logistics of getting pregnant and childbirth before, the reality of the situation has never felt quite so pressing. Now that I’ve checked the marriage box there really is nothing holding me back from getting pregnant – except maybe an overdue international honeymoon which I was unable to take after the wedding for a variety of reasons (call me silly to put off getting pregnant until a honeymoon but I’d like to be able to enjoy this trip as much as possible and not feel sick on it, and I’d like to try regional cuisine including wine/sake depending on where we end up going.) But – I’m also at the point where I’m sincerely concerned about my ability to get pregnant and although I keep telling myself life will go on should I not be able to actually procreate, I feel like everyday we don’t try is another day I might eventually regret.

Before you say I’m being ridiculous, let me remind you at the ripe young age of 15 my gynecologist told me that my irregular periods were not to be of concern (and did not mention PCOS) but that as long as I have my kids before 30 I’ll be fine. That comments haunts me to this day. I am terrified that because I didn’t heed her advice, I’ll blame myself when we are stuck in cycles of IVF, I’m taking dozens of unpaid leave days from work and ultimately losing my job because I’m massively depressed over all of the emotional drama that goes along with infertility treatments and getting used to failures and picking back up and trying again and watching our bank accounts drain at what amounts to playing fertility roulette.

Mr. HECC is the type that doesn’t worry about the future. Generally, this is a good thing. He lives in the moment and I admire that. He doesn’t really have plans and while he wants kids he isn’t getting himself into a tizzy over how hard it might be for us to make them. He figures we’ll deal with it when it’s time to deal with it and if we can’t have any then we might adopt. I’m not sure about adoption (I have very mixed feelings about it and that’s something I won’t think about until I really have to) – but in the mean time I feel like this is pretty important and there are so many things that effect my ability to get pregnant and be pregnant and have children that require proper planning for a what may amount to a non-occurance and in this case I think I’m in the right to be a bit concerned about what this future of ours looks like which may or may not include offspring.

Work isn’t exactly stable right now. My company has no written maternity leave policy and because they have under 50 people they have no legal requirements to provide time off. Basically, how they treat maternity leave would depend on how much they want to keep me around. They can’t fire me if I get pregnant, but they certainly can make it not the easiest to stay. And, honestly, with the amount of responsibility I have I can’t say I’d be the best employee with such distractions. I’d never admit that to my employer, as that might set all of women back hundreds of years, but it’s kind of an unspoken truth – especially in the case for someone like myself with very clear mental illness who has already proven herself incapable of handling personal stressors and maintaining quality, consistent work at all times. The thing is – I WANT to have a few good years of focusing on work with no distractions. Even if I am uncertain of my career, I do like doing good work. I have been so distracted with the wedding (which was just a frivolous, inconsequential life event beyond actually getting married) that I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when I’m rushing off to IVF treatments (should they be needed) and waiting to see if one of them happen to take. Even just trying to get pregnant the good old fashioned way can be extremely stressful – as can be the potential of miscarriage, which is, according to some reports, 30% to 50% more likely in women with PCOS.

The amount of emotional stress that will go into getting and staying pregnant with my condition is above and beyond the normal challenges faced by pregnant women who work. Two of my good friends had horrible first trimesters where they were constantly nauseous and sick, and if such illness struck me I honestly don’t know what I’d do with having to work and not having time off to take. I’m already in a not-so-great situation in my current company where my company isn’t sold on my value, but if I leave and go to another company it would be even harder to ask for time off should I need it to deal with infertility treatments or standard morning sickness. Larger companies are probably better overall in handling the challenges that come with getting pregnant (in most startups I’ve worked for the majority of employees are men and the women in the company are typically younger / not of childbearing age. Executives are rarely female and if they are they are often childfree by choice. My last company was the exception with one highly-valued exec who was pregnant and had a child – and she barely took any time off to do so.) I dislike that at this point in my career not only am I trying to sort out my career but I also really do need to think about how this will effect my ability to have a child and remain gainfully employed. As I’ve noted many times before, I make more than double what my husband makes, so I really can’t stop working. I don’t want to stop working either – but I am worried about the sheer biological and emotional challenges which I cannot avoid once I start trying to get pregnant.

As is, I have about 15 PTO days per year (no “sick” days) – which is actually really good for a US company – and I’ve used nearly all of the ones I’ve accumulated so far on getting married. If I do take the extended honeymoon I’ve dreamed of since forever (Mr. HECC and I have never traveled internationally together in our 10+ years of dating), then I’ll wipe out the remainder of my PTO once I have enough to actually leave for two weeks. It will take seven months with absolutely no days off (no sick days, no vacation) to collect enough time off to actually take a two week vacation. Unfortunately I’m taking a day this July for a funeral so that means my accrual of days starts in August. That means it won’t be until March that I can take the time off to travel for a real honeymoon (well I can maybe negotiate some unpaid days earlier but I’d prefer not to lose income – the amount it costs me to miss a day of work isn’t worth it.) Meanwhile, I have friend’s weddings which require travel and I’d like to take some PTO for them this fall, but I can’t because I want to save up for the trip…

The bigger problem is that once I do take a honeymoon I’ll be left with zero PTO days just when it’s important for me to start immediately trying to have a child. It’s an easy conversation to tell your (male) boss you are pregnant, but highly uncomfortable to discuss how you are trying and have PCOS and need to go see multiple doctors and you don’t know exactly what the process is going to look like or how long it will take or if you can get pregnant but you are going to try really hard and you need some time to go to the doctor and you don’t know how much and you just used up all your PTO on your vacation but besides the fact you want to stay at your job and keep your job you also need your health benefits so you HAVE to stay at your job…

And as this is all so soon, I feel like I should be thinking about it and planning. It’s not just typical HECC anxiety/neuroticism, it is my life, my career, my income, my stability, and my future. I can just wait and deal with it as it comes, but I see exactly how this plays out and it isn’t pretty.

My current plan is to stay at my job at least until December and then maybe take a few weeks unpaid between starting a new job, ideally at a larger company that has a maternity leave policy and that supports pregnant mothers. I don’t know if I can get a job at one of these companies, but at this point in my life that is probably the most important benefit I can seek out (other than good health insurance.) If I was thriving in the startup world I’d fight harder to stay, but my successes are few and far between, and I think life is point me towards some kind of change. Mr. HECC may go back to school for teaching in a year, and with that I hope he’ll have a stable (albeit low-paid) job which enables him to maintain a level of happiness and take care of our “who knows if they will ever happen” children while I continue to do whatever it is I end up doing professionally. While I don’t see how we can afford to stay living in this area, his plan is to have his mother live on the same property we do and help with the down payment (my thoughts on that are for another post at another time.) In any case, life is complicated as always. I am happy to be married, but thought I’d be a bit more stable in other aspects of life by now. It will certainly be an interesting ride over the next few years of adulthood. I think the only thing I know is that I want kids, so I somehow need to manage a life around making that happen… even if financially it isn’t the smartest and logistically it isn’t the easiest.

 

The Vicious Cycle of My Adult Professional Life

One of my longtime readers Taylor Lee left a comment that said what most people in my life tell me over and over again —

Not to be harsh, but I feel like you cycle through the same issues over and over again regarding work, depression, family anxiety, etc.

My advice is to break the cycle by choosing the path you haven’t taken before:
(1) Get a job at a bigger company. I think this will help solve a LOT of the problems you’ve been having with start-up life. Preferably some place near to where you live so your awful commute gets shortened.
(2) Figure out what triggers your anxiety/depression and what you can do to mitigate it. Whether it’s diet, exercise, more sleep, medication, therapy (I think you might benefit from CBT), your #1 goal should be getting your mental health on track.

I want to address both of these suggestions as they are good ones, but also aren’t necessarily solutions to the problem.

  1. Get a job at a bigger company. Is startup life the problem? Maybe. In my 10 or so years in the workforce, only six months were spent in a company larger than 100 employees. In the six months I spent in that larger company I witnessed so much inefficiency and bad middle management getting away with practically murder, I promised myself I would never go back to a large company. In between then and now I have applied for roles at larger companies – knowing that one poorly run large company does not make them all bad – but my experience in startups means my job prospects in larger companies are moot. Larger companies tend to look for someone with very specific experience in one area, whereas startups value that I’m a bit of a jill of all trades.
    I just honestly haven’t had any luck with even getting interviews at larger companies – whereas startups see me as the perfect fit (at least on paper.) I did get one job offer from a 300 person startup – which maybe would have been better – but in this case I did not feel I had the experience needed to lead the team I was going to be given and the stress would have been even worse. I also received a job offer for a poor-performing smaller public company that made business software which reminded me why I disliked larger companies in the first place – people pretended to be passionate about their products but you could tell they were just completely burnt out because they didn’t care. I checked a few months later and most of the people I interviewed had left the company (given its poor performing stock it may not have been by choice.)

    This would likely be different at a consumer-focused public company, but I’m far too unqualified for these roles to land so much as an interview. Believe me, I’ve tried. I can keep trying and maybe eventually something will stick. It isn’t even the money anymore (big companies would pay significantly less since I’d be in lower level roles with less responsibility) – it’s just the reality that no one will hire me at a larger company – at least one I’d actually want to work at.

  2. Figure out what triggers my anxiety/depression. Well, I’ve figured this out, and there’s a lot of things…
    1. Doing a job where I’m supposed to know what I’m doing on day one and there is no room to be developed or to get better at what I’m doing before I’m judged and thrown to the curb (ok, this is a startup thing.)
    2. Being responsible for too many things at once without clear definitions of what those things are (i.e. unlimited number of things I can do, and not knowing whether to focus on the few things I know how to do well, or spend time on the things that I know will add a lot of value that I don’t know how to  do well, so I spend too much time on them and get extremely anxious over them versus being product)
    3. Having to be social on a daily basis with the same people. This pretty much will be an issue in any office environment. As I’ve noted before I’m an ENFP with massive social anxiety, so over time a “work from home” job would also be draining… I need human contact. But having to be the person who makes that contact on a regular is anxiety causing. I often think it would be much better to be an engineer because it’s a given that you’ll be socially awkward and that makes it easier.
    4. Work hours. I am not a morning person. My ideal situation would be working 11am to 7pm. Well, now I work about 8am to 7pm. If I work for a bigger company it’s unlikely my hours would get any better – right now I theoretically take an 8:30 train and get in at 10. If I worked at a big company job closer to home I likely would have to be in at 9, so the commute would be shorter but the time to wake up would be the same. I might get home earlier, which would be nice, but doesn’t help matters as I want to be able to sleep in and work later if possible. I guess if I get to leave at 5 everyday, if that exists in big companies, then maybe getting to work at 9 would be fine. But even bigger companies require long hours.
    5. Work location. If I could work two days from home that would be hugely helpful. That way I could get a few days of social interaction but also have time to just focus on getting my work done. I think this would be the ideal situation.
    6. Money. Whether I’m paid too much or too little when working for a business I’m always anxious about money. I’m anxious about it for many reasons. One, it’s ridiculously expensive to live where I live and my soon-to-be husband does not make enough to cover what we need to live a comfortable life here. I estimate that to afford a comfortable family life in the Bay Area you need to make at least $300k as a couple and even that is tight. So if I make $200k and he makes somewhere close to $100k, we might be ok. He’s at more like $60k right now and I’m a bit under $200, but we’re getting closer. I’ve saved a lot right now which is great but I’m now at the age where I’m about to have kids (if my body allows me to) and the numbers don’t add up if I take a lower paying job. Can we live on less money? Of course we can. A two bedroom apartment here will set us back $36k a year. Beyond that we can cut costs on food and clothes and entertainment. Lots of people survive on less. But I don’t want to. I want to have a comfortable middle class life. I want to buy a house or at least have an apartment in a safe area that feels like a home and not a temporary residence. I could go and make $140k and that’s still a great salary — and maybe that’s fine. Together we’d make $200k and we should be able to live on that. But will a $140k job really be that much less stressful than a $200k job? It might be. But then if I want to actually get back to $200k+ salary I’ll just have to move into more stressful positions and I’ll end up back where I started, only at that point I’ll be so deeply handcuffed to the lifestyle and supporting a family that I won’t be able to just pick up and leave or check myself into a mental institution.
    7. Lack of completion. I really like jobs which are projects that have a beginning, middle and end to them. Without a sense of completion, I am extremely stressed out. And those projects must be substantial enough that my boss and peers see that there was significant effort put forth to do this thing and it was done and we all agree it was done well. I need that in my life to feel ok.
    8. Not being trusted/respected to do what I was hired to do. I guess this is a double-edged sword… either the person who hires me doesn’t trust me and then I am constantly feeling judged or the person trusts me a lot and then I eventually cannot do the things they trust me to do and then they get very upset at me… but they were delusional in the first place to think I’d be able to solve all of these problems. But not being trusted is worse. But then I don’t exactly earn trust given that I tend to over commit to things and deserve that lack of trust. It’s just when I start out not being trusted, it’s a deep hole to dig out of… and so much of the trust stems from the ability to pretend like you have your shit together and everything is fine. And I’m the exact opposite of that where I am just too honest and will tell you when something is an issue and explain why. And this is going to be a problem in bigger companies even more than it is in smaller ones. In bigger companies it’s less about 1:1 relationships and more about politics, which is a game I can’t and don’t play.

What can I do to improve my mental health? Sleep? Diet? Exercise? Therapy?

All of the above.

I know when I sleep I feel better and less depressed/anxious. But I don’t sleep enough. I go to sleep at 1am and wake up at 6am and still end up late for work because I’m too anxious to move despite doing work in bed.

Eating healthy helps a lot. As does exercise. But when I exercise at 6am I lose out on sleep so I think it kind of offsets its productivity.

Therapy… I have a love-hate relationship with therapy. I’ve been to so many therapists I know that it’s a huge time and money suck with no successful outcome. It’s sanity maintenance which has value in and of itself, but not for how much it costs. Yes, I make a lot of money and yes, I can afford to spend it on therapy ($700-$1000 a month for 4 sessions) but then I end up anxious over the value of those sessions. It’s so expensive and this year I decided to put my money into personal training ($600/month) – my physical vs my mental health – because I’ve spent so much on therapy to date and where has it gotten me?

I’m not on any antidepressants and maybe I should be, but I know that sleep and diet and exercise all can help me be a lot less stressed and sad all the time. Drugs don’t change my work situation.

So… do I need to address these issues and make a significant change to my life soon? Yes. How? I don’t know. I’m spending all my money on my wedding right now – which is stupid but it is what it is – and then I’ll have time to figure out what to do with my life.

An old boss of mine from my journalism days offered to review a freelance pitch from me if I had any ideas – so I just sent one off and I haven’t felt this engaged and motivated about a potential paid project in a long time. I have no idea if they’ll accept my pitch but I’d love to get back into non-business journalism where I’m writing about issues that actually help people and represent those who do not have a loud enough voice to be heard. But I can’t make a living doing that, so it’s only a fun side project for now – but pitching the story this morning was rewarding in and of itself.