Tag Archives: anxiety

$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through insurance at all I’d be adding one more pre-existing condition to my repertoire, meaning that once Obamacare is repealed and if I ever want to consult again for a living I won’t be able to get insurance.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.

 

 

Trying to Figure This All Out

My husband wants me to focus on the present. He’s right. I need to stop worrying about the future. I need to stop spinning on the same concerns and focus on now. Maybe then I’d find happiness or at least contentment. And I’d get things done.

I’ve been having panic attacks lately about the cost of life and my inability to maintain my career. We want to have children soon – I’m turning 33 in a month – yet I feel so horribly unprepared. Yes, I have $400k in the bank when most people who have kids are still in debt, but that just doesn’t feel like enough. What I need is a job that I can see myself in 30 years from now while also being able to be the mother I want to be. I don’t see that in my current job. I have no idea what I can do that makes enough money to support the life I want. Continue reading

The Cost of Teen Depression: Affording Mental Illness

Mental Illness, like any other chronic condition, is expensive to treat. Over the years I’ve spent who knows how much on therapy and help, not even counting lost wages due to being let go from jobs over my depression and anxiety getting the best of me. For the first time, I find myself in the situation advising a family member whose daughter is struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. High School is tough. I want her to survive it.

I don’t want to go into too many details on the rare chance that someone finds my blog who knows my family and who this is. But, I wanted to write this post because I think it’s an important topic, and helping depressed teens get the appropriate treatment is sometimes cost prohibitive. Whether or not she will actually go through with her plans to kill herself is a moot point, she’s very depressed and is in a dark place. Due to writing a letter to a school counselor she ended up in a 72 hour hold and then her parents opted to send her to a residential program for teens with mental illness – but that only lasts 10 days and then they have to figure out – what’s next? 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

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

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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

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.

Waking Up from The American Dream

Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.

Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.

If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.

I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?

I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.

People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)

I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)

What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.