Category Archives: Mental Illness

The Big Deal About Small Talk

Shortly after landing on the other side of a college diploma, I realized the vital ingredient in success had little to do with a piece of paper and much more to do with how you could hold your pop culture stats on your tongue and liquor in your belly at the same time. They don’t teach you that in school.

These days, I often find myself at conferences with high-powered execs in business suits, with their slicked back hair and hearty laughs, holding martinis and conversing with each other about the latest (insert popular sports team name here) game or even something nerdier yet still detail-oriented. I’ve come to the conclusion that my biggest obstacle in the way of success is my inability to engage in what they call “small talk.” And yes, it’s a big deal. A really big deal.

If I’m spending time with someone who enjoys talking, I fall back on what I learned as a journalist — look interested and keep asking questions. But when it comes to talking to people — whether it be professionals or in a social setting, I can’t think of anything to say. I go through the same boring questionnaire about where they grew up, where I grew up, and yes, central New Jersey does exist, and no, everyone does not look like Snookie and The Situation there. Then I run into a wall.

In social situations, especially if alcohol is involved, I often find myself cracking a joke or twenty at the expense of myself. People seem to like my self deprecating humor, I like to think of it as charming, but it has no place in a professional networking environment. So — I have nothing to say, only questions to ask. I don’t think I’m all that interesting.

Being in marketing means making those connections by engaging in small talk, by gaining trust, respect. And if there were a college degree in networking I would never have passed. I am such an introvert, with social anxiety to boot. This is why I wonder if I can ever succeed in this industry — even if I were able to get on top of things the whole introversion piece of the puzzle will hold me back. I’m forever awkward. And even when the best connections are available to be made, I manage to misplace them in the unspoken chaos of insecurity.

Bipolar II — Handling the Swings, Finding the Balance

For years I wondered what was wrong with me… especially when I got so down in the dumps, as I’d be crying non stop and contemplating something between suicide and running away, and then a few days later, or weeks later, life would be wonderful, I’d have this sense of unstoppable calm, and so my life would go…

Only a few years ago did someone finally suggest that I might have Bipolar disorder. No, not Bipolar I, which means extreme mood swings all the way to mania when you’re off your rocker. No, this was Bipolar II, which included swings of depression and hypomania, but without the extreme mania.

For a while, I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve been diagnosed with just about every disorder in the book, so why would this one be right? Then — every time I felt myself on one end or the other of my mood spectrum, I had to accept it. This explained a heck of a lot. This explained how some months I excelled in my jobs and other months I couldn’t get myself out of bed, and I’d ultimately lose my job. Continue reading

Personality Types: What’s INTP Got to Do With It?

Apparently a bunch of top personal finance bloggers over at Yakezie had a blog carnival of sorts discussing their Jungian personality types.

Since I’m a Myers Briggs addict, I figured it was as good a time as any to retake the test and see what my results would be. I tend to swing back and forth between INTP and INFP depending on my bipolar phase… hypomanic and I’m INTP, depressed and I’m INFP.

So, today I tested INTP.
I think that’s accurate, at least for now.

Introverted: 67%
Intuitive: 38%
Thinking: 12%
Perceiving: 56%

INTPs are known as “The Architects”

Bolded are the pieces of the description that really speak to me… and also, in a large part, explain much of my frustration in the various career paths I’ve pursued thus far…

Architects need not be thought of as only interested in drawing blueprints for buildings or roads or bridges. They are the master designers of all kinds of theoretical systems, including school curricula, corporate strategies, and new technologies. For Architects, the world exists primarily to be analyzed, understood, explained – and re-designed.

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The Cycle of Addiction, Binging, and Quest for Control

I believe that most, if not all of our psychological disorders stem from the need to be in control, and the reality that control – even when felt certainly – is an illusion. You can be Albert Einstein or Britney Spears, and in the end still end up six feet under, eaten by worms, and eventually dissolved into a thousand nanoscale bits spread across the universe.

Of course, on a day to day basis, control is more about feeling an ownership of time instead of time owning you. It’s about accomplishments large and small. It’s about praise and pride. Success has never felt like control to me, however. Success is the scariest feat of all… because once you succeed, the expectations are higher the next time you try, and you have a lot further to fall.

This leads to my admittance that — my name is Joy and I’m a — addiction-aholic. That is, there are a lot of things I do that i wish I didn’t do that I haven’t been able to stop myself from doing, or things I should do that I can’t force myself to do as often as I should. That is unhealthy, and something I’d like to solve in any way possible.

Luckily, I never ended up addicted to drugs or alcohol, but my addictions range the gamut. Shopping. Eating. Avoiding. Procrastinating. I’m addicted to binging because it makes me feel in control, if just for a moment. It lets me say — fuck you world, I’ll never be thin, so I might as well just eat and eat because it feels good… because I can do it, because no one can stop me from eating this entire box of Oreos until it’s gone — because the only person I’m hurting is myself, and it feels good to stuff my face, to empty one column of cookies from their slots and the next, to hide in my room and finish as quickly as possible to be done with it.

I used to be the same way with shopping — go to the mall, or the bargain store — and buy things I didn’t need because THAT gave me the same sense of control. It made me feel good. It was a rush… of something I could do for myself, on my own, with no one else knowing. I was in charge and in control as much as I had given up on any real control.

Do I have an eating disorder? A shopping disorder? Yes, and yes. I am an addict. And I need to stop the cycle of self abuse. But, like any other addict, I love it. Why? Is it that I feel I deserve the abuse? Yes, probably. Growing up my parents taught me to second guess myself, to not trust myself, that I was always wrong and other people were always right. Spending money, eating junk food, wasting time watching tv instead of being productive or even reading a book… forgetting how to concentrate… and finding a wild talent for daydreaming between binges, was my life. Continue reading

Not Even Money Can Buy My Happiness

Let me go on record by saying that I have no right to be depressed. There are thousands who have lost their houses or lives in Japan, civil wars killing people daily in Libya, the Ivory Coast, and around the world. Meanwhile, I have a job with pay that comfortably puts me in the upper middle class. I’m healthier than most, and all-in-all leading a good life.

But I still feel empty. My problem is largely cognitive. It is feeling both that I am completely out of control of my life, that time is flying by too fast, and too slow, and that I have no purpose, no place I’m headed towards, just lots of time to waste until I get older and eventually die.

Ok, so if that’s the way I think, no wonder I’m depressed. I really want to change my thoughts — to be grateful for all I have, the priceless moments, unexpected, that make it worth living another day. This is not to say I’m suicidal — I’m not. I’m just wondering how to take my life from watching the days go by to making the days matter.

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Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.

Who would I be today if I stayed on Ritalin since I was 8?

After being prescribed Adderall IR yesterday and subsequently taking a rather high dose in order to understand my brain chemistry and the effects on the weekend, I’ve been up and then down on one prolonged ride. In seeking more information, I’ve read countless stories of people with ADD who say how they’ve been on Ritalin or Adderall since they were very young… 6, 7, 8… and I think to myself, wow, that could be me. And although I have a sinking feeling that I might have made permanent honor roll with the help of the medicine, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be a little lost… to appreciate exactly why I’ve chosen to alter my brain chemistry now as an adult, instead of not knowing who I am sans medication as a child.

I don’t know how I have no recollection of the days… months(?) when I was on Ritalin as a kid. I was in 5th grade… I do recall the black and yellow pill, and how the nurse would open it up and put it in apple sauce for me to eat in the middle of the day. I liked the apple sauce, though the medicine texture was gross. I have no memory whatsoever of a chance in my ability to focus on the drug. Which is strange given how sensitive I am to meds, and the clear change I felt about 10 minutes after taking just 10mg of Adderall this morning. It  must have done something to me back then as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t turn me into an all star student, and I ended up stopping because it wasn’t helping… or maybe the dosage was never high enough, or I didn’t take it on a regular basis… I don’t recall.

But who would I be today had it worked? Who would I be if in 5th grade some pill worked like magic in saving me from my distractions and daydreaming? Maybe I would have ended up excelling in math and science, spent less time in art, instead dreaming of becoming a doctor or engineer… I’d have vivid memories of my life, as opposed to a film missing so many scenes.

And I’d also… never know who I am as an individual apart from the drugs. It’s sad that there are a lot of kids… and adults out there who had their parents keep them on the meds through the years. I’m excited to move on to this new phase of my life which will be medicated, just to see the person I become. I’m still very grateful to have had the chance to be the person that I’ve been… despite how messed up she is when she’s on her own.

Can’t Sleep Tonight

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve lost my job, which may be why I’m starting to slip into a state of freaked out / depression over the entire situation. It’s not that I’m depressed over losing the position, more so I’m terrified of how long it will take me to find something new. My experience is just so all over the map, with tasks completed that offer no means of quantifying the results.

So I’ve been spending the last 3 hours sending out cover letters and resumes to positions that seem remotely interesting. I’m not at the point yet where I’ll just apply for anything, though soon that point will come. And even then there’s plenty reason to believe I won’t get interviews or hired.
Worst case scenerio, I guess, is I have 6 months unemployment then live cheaply and use my emergency fund to last the rest of 2010 / 2011, all while applying for grad school and hopefully getting in with loans to support me through the coming two years. After that, maybe the job market will look up, or maybe I’ll actually be qualified for a job I want to do.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to freak out about this lacking a job situation.

Bipolar Study Update

As many of you know, I’ve been accepted into a study for Bipolar II depression medication at a local university hospital. The study provides me with 4 months of free medication, tracking of my condition, and a side benefit of $25 grocery store gift cards every time I go in for an appointment (once a week for the first 6 weeks then every other week for the remainder of the study.)

The study is designed to find out if lithium, zoloft, or the combination of both is best for Bipolar II depression. Since I’m obviously depressed (I’m still not certain I’m bipolar, but whatever, the meds are for depression anyway. I’m either ultra rapid cycling bipolar or just depressed with random extremely excited and elevated moods throughout my life.)

Lots of people have expressed concern that I won’t ever know what I’m on, since they can’t tell me what I was on until after the entire study is completed years from now. If the drugs work, then it sucks that I can’t know what I was on. If they don’t work, then it also kind of sucks because I don’t know what not to try in the future.

But the benefits of participating, I feel, far outweigh the negatives. Having ADD, I struggle to take pills on a regular basis. The structure that comes with participating in this study is really helpful. I was given this massive pillbox that where each day of the week and each time of day has a separate box for the pills I am supposed to take. I also have to track my moods on a daily basis, which is really good to do, especially when I’m on medication to see if it’s working.

I started last night taking one blue pill, which is either 300mg of Lithium or a placebo. I take that twice a day. I didn’t feel a lot of side effects last night, just some dry mouth that could have been from not drinking enough water.

This month I took one blue pill and one white pill, which is either 25mg of Zoloft or a placebo. I could be on both zoloft and lithium or just one of them, but I’m definitely on something right now. And I definitely am having some side effects. But I can’t tell which drug they are caused by…

Still, I’m having issues with dry mouth. I am extremely thirsty. I don’t drink a lot of water normally and I’ve already gone through almost two cups of it and I’m still very dehydrated. My mood, overall, is calmer than normal. But that might be due to half the staff at my office being out today, and looking forward to a 3 day weekend.

I’m curious what will happen when they up my dosage later in the study. SSRI’s and lithium aren’t supposed to really help your mood right away so either I’m really susceptible to the placebo effect or my brain chemistry is just very sensitive. I don’t have any other side effects yet that I can tell.

Have you been on either of these medications before? What were your side effects?

Get Your Free Drugs Here: Bipolar II Study

Well, I’m one appointment closer to getting free drugs to treat my Bipolar II depression. I qualified for a study at a local hospital where I’ll be given either Zoloft, Lithium or Both (I’ll be getting something, but I won’t know which combo) and went today to get blood work for the final check before they give me the meds. Assuming everything comes back normal (and after I take an EKG next week) I’ll be given the medication and set up to track my moods for the coming 16 weeks.

My psychiatrist gave me a prescription for Celexa but I’m holding off on buying that until I do this study. I think I’ll learn about myself and my mental state by carefully tracking my interaction with medication, especially since I won’t really know what meds I’m on.

In addition to getting free meds, I also get a $25 grocery store gift certificate every time I go in for an appointment (I’ll be going every week for the first six weeks of the study, then every other week for the remainder of the study). It’s not a bad deal… I can basically pay for my groceries for a month and get free meds. I do have to let them poke me with needles more often than I’d like and accept that I might be on a medication that may not be perfect for me, but with any mental health med you have to experiment to find the right medication and dosage. Plus, without knowing what I’m on I’ll avoid the placebo effect. I’m looking forward to seeing if these meds alter the way I think and feel in the coming months.