Category Archives: Depression

Attempting to Refuse to Give A Fuck Except the Only One(s) Worth Giving

“I don’t understand this depression thing. You have a job, you have a husband, why are you depressed?” my mother asked, following up five minutes later by asking me if I’m ever going to get a job she can “explain to her friends” because “that would be nice.”

Over dinner, my sister, seven years my junior, was reminded by my mother how in high school she couldn’t write long papers like I could (she had a learning disability) and, yet again, I cringed as my sister was compared to me knowing full well what that does to her own psyche. Luckily she’s a strong chica, but she went through serious depression as well and deals with a mile-high pile of her own shit on a daily basis. We both do in our own ways.

Time is flying by so quickly. I’m coming up on my six month wedding anniversary. I’m 33. 30-fucking-three. Ovulation calculators remind me that if I get pregnant this spring my child will be born when I’m 34. I’m fully an adult now but I still flinch when my mother or father criticizes the choices I make and things I do. I try hard to not be as self absorbed as they are. I think daily of the ways I will not be like them when I have children of my own. I imagine how to be a little less myself when I’m a mother, how to hide the real me.

I never thought I would change, but I think in some ways I have. I’m still the same old miserable-at-life mess that I’ve always been. I can waste time like it was trash itself. I still am passionate about what’s right and justice and empathy and honesty. But as an adult, I care less about proving myself and more about adding value to society. I still hope one day the value I add will be recognized, and while I’ve given up  long ago on being famous it was only in the last few years when I no longer coveted fame as the be-all-end-all goal in life. I began to develop a newfound appreciation of my anonymity, realizing I found happiness in the moments when I walked down the street alone in new cities where I knew no one and didn’t have to worry about running into a person who wanted to strike up a conversation.

Fiscally I no longer crave wealth in the way I once did. It’s not that I ever wanted to be extremely wealthy, I just wanted to be in the upper middle class with the ability to afford my shopping binges at discount designer outlets and Sephora.com, plus regular excursions to new cities and places around the world, and a home with a nice bathroom with a giant tub and beautiful gourmet kitchen to cook in and perhaps a backyard pool or community one where I could socialize with actual friends. But now I’m over that dream as well, to an extent. It would be nice to have a house, sure, but I don’t need one to be happy. It may even reduce my happiness because I find other than anonymity what keeps me content is freedom. I like to have the husband thing committed so I don’t feel totally lost, but I prefer freedom to being trapped in my life, especially in my area of residence. When life is a big blur the only thing separating one time period from another is when I’ve moved from one apartment to the next. This is how I tell time.

Lately, especially with what’s going on in the world of politics, I feel inspired to do more about fixing the world. I’m not sure exactly how, but I like to tell stories and I like to create and I like to help people, so there’s got to be something I can do professionally where I can pay the bills, put away a modest amount of savings AND give back to society. I’ve considered returning to journalism because I feel like I didn’t give it enough of a chance in my career — I was too young and afraid and didn’t understand the world enough to provide any useful commentary on much of anything. Unfortunately, pay in journalism is so low and to start over would be practically impossible if I could even find an opportunity. Typically that would require moving to a middle-of-nowhere market and as a married person that requires convincing my spouse to move as well… which won’t happen. But the thought is there.

When I have kids – if I can have kids – I know I need to settle down a bit and really pick a career that will consistently pay the bills. Maybe my current world is ok I just need to learn how to be more on top of things. Or I do something different. I don’t know. I will have to move if I want to try something new. Hubby is open to moving, though partial to particular regions where it always rains. I prefer the sun. I really don’t want to move anyway. But I will if I have to.

Life goes by so quickly. And when you step back and look back on all the crazy in the world your little piece of it doesn’t matter at all. Look at who we elected President. We elected a sociopath to the White House. Who knows what will happen in the next four years. Maybe my stocks will increase in value short term, maybe the entire market will crash. Who knows. I am a bit worried, but more so just tired of worrying. If I lose all my money, so what? It is scary, but it probably won’t all be gone. If it’s all gone, then there are bigger problems. I’m more concerned about civil war and nuclear holocausts and climate change and injustices and lack of access to education. I’m more concerned about other people than I am myself. I guess that’s what I mean about being a changed person. I’m tired of caring about myself. I want to care about other people… whether that be my children or the children of the world. I’m so tired and beaten down from working a job where the rewards are solely financial. I need a break and a breather to feel value on a deeper level. I’m still scared shitless but I’m also starting to break free of all my fears. Starting…  is a start. Not letting my mother’s nagging get to me is a start. Not allowing that voice in my head that tells me I suck at everything when I clearly only suck at “this one thing I’m doing that I happen to be getting paid for right now aka my job.” No accepting that I am a failure on all levels, that I must be either GREAT and AMAZING and a WINNER or a total loser.

I really don’t want the rest of my life to be this. There has to be something more.

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.

 

 

When you can’t tell anyone how you’re feeling…

Adolescent angst is annoying but also somehow cute. We’re all nostalgic for those days when life was filled with drama and every little thing was “the end of the world.” Then, adulthood comes along and life gets harder but we’re supposed to be happy all time time unless things are real shit… I mean, like cancer shit. Otherwise, as long as we have a stable job and can afford basic cost of living we shouldn’t be sad. There are so many reasons to NOT be sad. Yet, when we are sad, what should we do about it? Who should we tell? What should we do with the dark thoughts in our minds?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because of my cousin’s suicide attempt. As I’ve written about a bit in the last few weeks, it brought me back to my own quasi attempt in high school taking six tylenol and then realizing it was a bad idea and stopping myself from taking more. I never really wanted to die. I just wanted to not be so alone in my sadness. I wanted to be allowed to be scared and confused and maybe I wanted attention but more than anything I wanted to feel not so alone. Continue reading

Imposter Syndrome vs. Not Being Good Enough vs. Figuring Shit Out

Most days, I feel lost and hopeless. In between those days, there are moments where I get into Csikszentmihalyi-esque “flow” and I see, through all the mess of the dark-thorned forest, a clearing at the end of the tunnel – a life where I can be GOOD at my job on a consistent basis, get paid well for it, and afford a decent life in one of the most expensive places to live in the world.

I write this from one of my favorite gourmet supermarkets. Walking down the carefully-organized aisles filled with perfectly stacked imports and local delicacies, I acknowledge that this is a life I have to fight for, tooth and nail, mostly on my own. With my husband going back to school for teaching he’ll be in the $45k-$50k salary range starting out, so it’s up to me to make the life I want – to be able to afford a house in the Bay Area (or a nice enough rental in a safe neighborhood) for my future family to live in. Some days, in between the gloom and doom of telling myself I’m on the verge of getting fired and that my boss hates me, I think – damn it, maybe I actually know what I’m doing. Maybe I deserve my salary (or at least, I deserve it as much as the next person would have asked for it) – and I CAN DO THIS. Continue reading

Can I Go To Canada with a DUI?

In 2011 when I got a DUI, I was in one of my darkest depressions and made the absolute worst mistake of my life. As I look back on that time in my life, I realize that I was not in a good state, and I was making bad choices such as getting behind the wheel that night. As a self-proclaimed “good girl” through high school and even college, I was shocked to end up in the back of a cop car because I let myself make such a horrible choice.

Over the years, it’s been interesting to see that my posts on my DUI are still the #1 top traffic source for my blog. That’s not why I’m writing this, it’s just that before my DUI I admittedly looked down on people who drove over the limit and figured that “they” deserved whatever punishment “they” got. And then “they” was me. And I learned very quickly how harsh the laws are and how the punishment continues to pop up and haunt you no matter how much you want to get away from that one moment. Continue reading

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Post Wedding Depression: Yes, It’s Real

Weddings are beautiful and ridiculous and a waste of money and worth every penny spent. Over the last year I obsessed about the details of my nuptials, but like many girls who grew up on Barbies and Sweet Valley Twins, I had been planning my wedding day in the back of my mind since I was a flower girl at the age of four.

My friend, who also got married this year, made a great point to me about her non-planning wedding planning – if she cared about any one detail too much then she’d be looking for that to go right and noticing if it went wrong, and would be disappointed on her wedding day which is supposed to be the happiest day of her life… so she decided to just let it be.

I, on the other hand, spent what equated to pretty much a full-time job interviewing photographers, musicians, venues, florists, makeup artists, et al. I didn’t hire a planner because I knew I’d drive them crazy and still end up doing all the planning myself. Continue reading

Finding My Motivation: ADHD, Anxiety, Depression and Sustainable Productivity

There are times in my life when I’m hyper-productive and hyper-focused, as they call it in ADHD speak. I stay up all night and re-build my entire blog or write 10 blog posts to fill the next month of my publishing calendar. I love focusing so intensely on something for a short period of time that the output appears greater than the number of hours I put into the project.

I’ve never been good at doing what I’m supposed to do. It started when I was a little girl. My father says I was “rebellious.” I always had a thing against authority figures. Maybe that’s because my father would hit me with a belt when I didn’t comply. Legal discipline, not child abuse, but still messes up one’s sense of self. I still remember him calling me angrily down to his bedroom where he would, in a typical weekday evening, rip out his leather belt and with a flaming hot anger in his eyes whip me for not cleaning my room. In therapy last week I realized I was about 3 to 7 years old at the time this happened, and it happened fairly frequently. I never cleaned my room. To this day, it’s a mess. Continue reading

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The High Cost of Mental Illness

Mental Illness is a touchy subject –  unlike, say, cancer or diabetes, it isn’t something that can be diagnosed via blood tests or biopsies. And everyone suffers some amount of anxiety and depression at different times in their lives. I’ve struggled with my own mental illness for years, both being tortured by its overwhelming nature, and, often in the same day, telling myself that I’m overreacting and totally fine.

Mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year. When I’m lost in a web of anxiety, I know I’m not being a good employee. This reminder of my failure as an employee spins me into a deep cycle of depression and worthlessness which quickly spirals out of control. I get so mad at myself because I simultaneously feel like the greatest impostor of all time and know I can do a better job that what I do right now, but the sadness of being an obvious fraud gets in the way of productivity. Eventually, my boss catches on, and I move on. I put so much of my personal worth on my job, I really don’t have much else in my life outside of my job and my husband. My career is everything. Maybe that’s the problem. Continue reading

It’s a Man’s World

Isn’t it ironic that as I sit here at a city Starbucks pondering my gender than  the context of my recurring professional setbacks I noticed that “It’s a Man’s World” was playing on the speaker system? Well, it is. Here I am, for the thousand billionth time, at a point of failure. I’ve done a lot of good work, but it’s never enough. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. But it still feels like there is something more than just making mistakes that gets me where I seem to always end up.

My office has public calendars and I wasn’t calendar stalking but happened upon an interview occurring with someone who clearly is in the running for either my new boss or my replacement (I can’t figure out which.) That someone is an old dude. Maybe he’s great. His resume certainly is impressive. Maybe he is what the company needs. But I also see an unfortunate trend in my life – I accept roles where no one can succeed and then when it finally is possible for someone to come and be successful (and the role is more desirable) I get replaced with someone who is a lot more charismatic and better at faking being good at things or maybe is actually good at things – I am not sure if it matters. What matters is I can’t fake it. I’m honest to a fault and then some. It doesn’t fly in business. Well, it flies me out of every single job I have.

I’m learning a lot. I’m the kind of person who likes to really understand what I’m doing before I do it. I enjoy systems thinking and understanding the architecture of a broader infrastructure and envisioning ways to fix what isn’t working. I’m not so good at actually getting things done – which is enough of a reason for a company to kick me out – though when I am being productive I’m probably much more productive than most other people might be. I’m a poster child for ADHD though now a woman and no one in real life has the patience to put up with my occasional bouts of extreme productivity paired with stilted outputs due to anxiety, depression and distractedness, in no particular order.

I’ve been writing a lot about gender biases and I do wonder if bits and pieces of my situation happen to be caused by my being female versus male. It’s a catch 22 and all – am I doing bad work because I’m anxious caused by the way I’m treated due to my gender or am I treated the way I am because I’m anxious and doing bad work in a way that’s embarrassingly and stereotypically “female,” whatever that means. The ADHD is real and it doesn’t help. At best I’m seen as a creative savant who is hopeless when it comes to maintaining usefulness in business. At worst I’m characterized as a hot mess that can’t even motivate herself to be lukewarm.

What’s even harder is being in management. I really do enjoy managing employees from the sense of coaching them and helping them grow however I can. It’s just the day-to-day smalltalk that is so draining. I think back to bosses who would always put on a smile and ask how things are going even if they didn’t really care because that’s just how they knew how to be great managers – and although some of them faked it better than others, it worked. I find myself struggling to so much as say hi and bye to my team each day. I know it’s so dumb – as I can envision myself with a big smile asking them about their weekend plans, but then whenever I try I end up feeling so drained just by the effort to come across personal without being too personal. Friendly, but not a friend. Boss-like, but also cool boss, but also someone who has her shit together, despite clearly not having her shit together.

The long and short of it is that I can keep doing this to myself over and over again… for, oh, I don’t know how long… or I need to find a completely different path. I know I’ve said this before a zillion times but now I actually believe it. I mean, I went from making $90k six years ago to nearly $200k today and that’s helpful in terms of my bank account but only feels like an accomplishment in deceit. A good friend of mine – now long-time colleague – has suggested that I take a job that doesn’t pay quite so much in order to provide a little less stress – and less having my bosses constantly calculating if my ROI is worth my cost and then being so passive aggressive about earlier negotiations.

I’ve been rather aggressive when it comes to negotiating because as a woman all we’re told is that we get paid less and we should ask for more. Ok, I did it… and I still have no idea if a man of my “level” would have asked for even more or less, but I felt good about pushing and I had two offers at this rate (actually the other one was for even more) which made me feel justified in accepting one of them. However, getting a salary offer and having that salary not haunt you for the entirety of your tenure with a company – especially if that company is a small business and your boss knows that every dollar spent limits his changes of success and wealth – is probably worth more than $10k or even $20k more a year after tax.

There are two paths here that are the easiest, and then many others which will be much harder and more scary. I stay on the path I’m on, and with my newly-gained experience try my best to stay in this role as long as possible and then when I need to (which may unfortunately be sooner than later) I interview like crazy and try to convince someone that I’m great and negotiate strongly again and walk away with a similar salary and another six months of attempting to do my best without that actually being anywhere near good enough. OR – I find a job that’s maybe lower level by a bit – maybe at a bigger company (though it’s really hard to get hired at a bigger company when you mostly have smaller company experience) and take a salary of anywhere from $120k-$140k (which isn’t bad by any means but it’s a massive pay cut) and then just see if I can maintain that job.

Or I just take another path entirely. Open my own small business. Go back to school for design. Return to my earlier profession as a journalist. Write a novel. Or a yawn-inducing memoir. Learn about shooting film. Move to the middle of nowhere and take college art classes until I’m credentialed to teach. Make a living selling crafts on Etsy. “Come out” as the author of this blog and make a name for myself as this depressed, anxious 30-something who is so remarkably spoiled that despite her disability the only response she gets from the universe is a series of eye rolls and “woe is you’s.”

It’s just at this point where I am at my wit’s end. I can’t even talk to my fiancé about this anymore because he doesn’t like hearing about how I’m failing over and over again. I don’t blame him. He also doesn’t work in business, so he can’t really relate. And he knows a lot of it is my depression and a lot of it is me being lazy but I swear that due to this constant ridiculous anxiety that just builds and builds and builds.

And it’s all fine and well to fall over on my face as many times as necessary to get through life / build a nest egg … but not if I have kids (which I want to do and have to do soon if I want my own.) And so I feel like I’m running straight for a brick wall that someone told me is made of styrofoam but we all know damn well it’s just made out of actual very fucking hard brick. I know I can’t keep running straight ahead, but the older I get, the faster my momentum, and the harder to slow down, the more impossible to stop and turn away from the inevitable outcome of shattering into a million pieces.

Thinking Towards the Future

Time is flying by and soon I’ll have tied the knot and be smack dab in the (hopefully) center years of my life. While my father drives me nuts every time he brings it up – it’s time to make some serious life decisions. I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be 33 next year which is absolutely insane but at least I’ll be married so that seems like a bit of an accomplishment. I really can’t delay much in having children if I’m going to have them – and I’ve definitely gotten to the point in life where I want to have a family. I’m trying to take it one day at a time but I can’t help but think about the future as a collective whole of holy shit.

Things are going fairly well at work – not perfectly, mind you, but at least I think I’ve found a job where I add a large amount of value via my natural abilities vs trying to be something I’m not. At this point I plan to stay in this opportunity at least until I have a kid and then I’ll figure out what’s next. That’s at least a year from now if not more. It’s a great place to be as I’m learning a lot and gaining the skills I need to move into more senior roles going forward. I’ve learned over my career that you can’t get caught up in the small things but instead must focus on the bigger picture of helping your company and specific contributions which you can talk about in your next job interview. I know there are gaps in my experience so while I focus on adding value in the areas where I am strongest I also try to improve in the areas where I know I’m weak. It’s a challenging process but in the long run it will only help as I eventually look towards what’s next in my career.

I still don’t know how it’s all going to work when I have children. Plenty of mothers work because they have to or because they want to – or both – and they do just fine. I think of my schedule right now and how absolutely exhausted I am from the standard office job and question how I’d ever be able to do this and be a mother. I come home after work and basically go to sleep immediately, or lounge in bed braindead until I pass out a few hours later. I certainly don’t have the energy to come home and take care of children.

That means if I want kids I can’t just pretend like this whole working mother thing is going to work out, at least in an office job scenario with a long commute. Even without a commute being in an office 8 hours a day drains me. If I had a job where I could be in different locations and work remotely I’d feel much better. Long term, I think that’s what I need to find. So I’m trying to build up the skill set and personal brand to be able to have that freedom later on. I have no idea if it will work out, but I’m going to try and hopefully somehow things will just happen and be ok.

I know the next 10 years ago going to go by in the blink of an eye. I’ll be writing very soon “holy crap I’m about to turn 43.” Where does the time go? I don’t know what I’m going to be like 10 years from now… you know, either a married women with no children and a hot, high-stress career — or married with three kids in tow, all under the age of 10, all who I love dearly yet who drive me batty at the same time. Who knows. It just has to happen. Life, that is. We can change a lot of things and we can control so much of our destiny but we can’t stop time. Every blog post I write I notice my hands are aging just a little bit more – the wrinkles in my knuckles more pronounced, the skin thinner and colder, showing through to blue veins which are getting ready to make an even grander appearance in the coming years.

For now – I’m trying to just feel – happy. It’s hard for me. It’s a foreign feeling. It’s as if I’ve been trained to not allow myself to feel joy because it’s a naive emotion. It is better to be sad or anxious or appreciative but never joyful. Never happy. I want so badly to allow myself at least a few moments of happiness amidst my upcoming wedding celebrations. I want to pause and reflect on the last 10 years of my life which led me to my husband-to-be, and how despite the ups and downs we made it work, and I love him more today than I ever have before. I want to be happy because for so long I was alone and thought I’d forever be alone and I have this one person who will no matter what be by my side to give me a hug and tell me everything is going to be ok. Now I know what people mean when they say they’re marrying their best friend. I need to allow myself to have joy, despite all the stress, all the frustration over the high cost of weddings, the failure to have perfect etiquette, the complaining relatives, the misspelling on invites, the transportation logistics and music playlist and food selections and dress that may or may not fit and inability to find comfortable attractive shoes. I hope more than anything on my wedding day I can allow myself to feel truly happy. Maybe just for a moment. But I need that. And, after all 32 years of my life, I think I deserve it.