Tag Archives: depression

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Childhood Neglect or Frugality?

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to his cousin’s birthday party. He loves watching healthy families in action. While I knew his childhood wasn’t filled with much expense, I never truely understood just how his mother’s frugality led to him being neglected a child. But then he flat out said that he’d prefer his childhood to mine anyday, and I questioned how neglected he was, and where a parent crosses the line of being frugal too far.

This comes after my spending yesterday reading blogs about early retirement, like Early Retirement Extreme, and all about extreme frugality. After managing to get through Bloomingdales and make a return without shopping, I felt good about resisting consumerism (specificially, shiny things for sale.) I kept thinking about how awful stores are, especially trends and making you want to buy things that look new and stylish. So when I talked to my boyfriend last night, it just felt like such a contrast, and I understood why he’s not lured by shopping malls the same way I am.

Was my boyfriend neglected as a child? I know a lot of people grow up without money and their parents make due, but that’s not quite what his situation was. His mother has always worked, but she refuses to spend money beyond her thrift store splurges. She never left her parents house, and that is where my boyfriend grew up. The house itself is in a very nice area and the family owns a lot of land for this part of California. However, the place is a wreck. His Grandparents are hoarders of the Depression era, and often when I visit the house it seems like they live in a movie. They keep stale bread in the otherwise unusable oven, gather empty soup cans, collect broken bikes, etc.

His mother, who never married his father, lived with her parents, so my boyfriend lived with her parents (and still does, though now he at least has a separate one-room structure out back). He never had his own bedroom, in fact he slept on the floor on a mat with his mother until he was 12 or 13, as he recalls, and then eventually moved into the living room, where he slept on the couch.

As far as food and clothes go, he ate very poorly — bread and toast, most often, and occasionally fast food. His clothes were all from thrift stores, which that alone is fine, but they were not nice, which made him more of an outcast at school. Also, as an only child, he grew up like this with no one else to talk to. His dad lived nearby in an apartment when he was young, but then moved away. His parents still get along (hey, that’s better than my still-married parents who hate each other). His dad is a whole other frugal story which I’ll get to one day, but now I’m just wondering if my boyfriend was neglected as a child, or if his family is just — extreme frugal.

His mom has saved up a lot of money over the years. I don’t know how much, but it’s enough to put my boyfriend through college and grad school, and likely buy a home outright when her parents pass and the current house needs to be sold and split up among their children.

On one hand, I think it’s pretty awesome that she could save so much through the years. She takes vacations on occasion to National Parks and goes camping, she doesn’t do anything consumer except shop for groceries at discount grocers. She has saved plenty of money for retirement and then some. She hasn’t worked the best paying job, but she had a decent job that she’s held on to for years. She’s miserable, depressed, hates living with her crazy parents, hates her job, but that’s just what she does. She can’t deal with change, so that’s the way it is.

Apparently one day a long time ago the neighbors called the cops on the family for child neglect. They saw the Grandmother picking food out of a trash can at the park or something and thought she was going to feed it to the child of the house. So the cops came and looked around. I’m surprised they didn’t find evidence of neglect. My bf spoke to them and eventually they went away.

So now my boyfriend has grown up with a very, very different idea of money than me. It’s good… in that I like dating someone who doesn’t value money as the be all end all of happiness. On the other hand, that was MY life growing up. It’s hard to just switch to extreme frugality. Luckily for me, my boyfriend understands that its important to spend on some things — healthy food, decent clothes, occasional vacations, etc. I couldn’t be with someone any more frugal than that.

It just makes me sad to think of how neglected he was as a child. He was definitely an “accident” and it seems like he was treated as such growing up. Now he’s got a slew of mental issues — very unique ones — involving socialization and relationships. No shit. I love him to death. Sometimes it drives me nuts how abnormal he is but I couldn’t be with anyone normal, so I think we’re a great match for each other.

I just wish for him that he’ll get his act together and apply to grad school and get out of that house. He’s 27 now, and he still lives at home. That’s fairly normal for this area, but when you’re in an environment like that, I think it’s just unhealthy. He still has to go in the main cluttered house for the kitchen, the bathroom, etc. But maybe I’m just spoiled and have no idea what it’s like to live when it’s bad. He has electricity (though he’s not allowed to use it much) and running water and he eats when he wants. At least he has that.

Group Therapy: Cost Effective, but is it Helpful?

As my loyal readers and those who peek at this blog on any given occasion know, I suffer from anxiety, depression and ADHD. That’s not to say my life is miserable, but I’ve gotten myself into one of those ruts and decided to seek help. Due to refusing to go through insurance for mental health therapy (until a healthcare bill passes that does not allow denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions), I have to be careful about my monthly costs to get help. Because it’s all out of pocket. (*since I have a high-deductible HSA account the only real benefit of going through my insurance company would be to have the fee go towards my deductible. Group therapy isn’t covered anyway, and mental health therapy for non serious conditions (ie ADHD, anxiety, minor depression) isn’t covered much either.)

There’s one doctor who is supposedly an expert in ADHD who, located nearby my work, charges $700 for the initial consultation. What? I know I live in a wealthy area but come on. That’s absurd. I found a career counselor and therapist who offered a free consultation. She normally charges over $200 per hour but has package rates. Ultimately, though, I decided I need to see a psychiatrist first to find out if I need to be medicated. I kind of feel emotionally out of control. And while I had going the pill route, at this point I’m willing to try anything. The psychiatrist cost $280 for one appointment. A short, 20 minute follow-up appointment will be $150. She prescribed me Celexa (which I still need to get and find out how much that will cost me.)

But I know weekly or biweekly therapy would help greatly. And given my current state, weekly therapy would be best. I shopped around and tried to figure out the most cost-efficient option. That led me to group therapy. While the rates were $75 per session, I was quoted $50 per session to get started, with her hope that I’d also seek out individual therapy twice a month.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “Group Therapy Offers Savings in Numbers.”

After two sessions of “process-based” group so far, I’m attempting to weigh the pros and cons of this treatment…

Pros:

– more affordable than individual therapy. $50 – $75 per 1 1/2 session.
– can afford to meet weekly, and its sometimes nice to just have that safe space that often.
– the value of your therapy doesn’t depend soley on your therapist
– you get to find out what other people think about you and your actions
– other people are counting on you to show up so you go even if you don’t feel like it
– you’re required to pay for every session in a month even if you don’t go, so you make an effort to go to every session.

Cons:
– even though the session is 1 1/2 hours long, it goes fast, and often isn’t about you
– you’re required to pay for every session even if you have to go out of town or get sick
– the benefit of the therapy depends on the dynamic of the group
– most people in group are also seeing individual therapists, it’s hard when you’re not
– the therapist has an odd role in trying to ask everyone how they’re feeling at the moment, but holding back on actual counseling (that’s for the individual sessions, which cost a lot more per person, after all.)
– while people are supposed to agree to at least 12 weeks when they sign up, people come and go. I can already tell the true value of the group comes from one that has been going a long time with the same people. Granted, bringing in someone new every once in a while and dealing with people leaving (abandonment) is theraputically good. However, too much of that and all you talk about is how you feel about people leaving and joining.

Have you ever had group therapy? What was your experience like?

INTP and Depression

I’ve been rather depressed lately. Whether or not I’m clinically depressed, I don’t know. Unless someone has been abused or has obvious genetic-caused psychosis, I don’t really believe in mental disorders.

That said, I’m yet again on a downward spiral. I’m bored at work, yet feel stuck because there’s no where to go. I’m only bored because I have no power or control over anything. And because people don’t like me, don’t trust me, and don’t want to hear me.

Ultimately, this all ties to money. This is the first year I’m making a good salary in my life. In one year I’ve managed to make over $60k. That’s incredible. What would be more incredible would be being able to maintain that. And it’s just not likely.

Some of you commented on my last post about career that you’d rather have a career you don’t feel personally attached to, so you could just focus on enjoying your life outside of work. I guess I just can’t live that way. I can’t detach myself from anything I do. Either I care too much or I don’t care at all.

I took the Myers Briggs test again. I used to be an INFP but the older I get the more INTP I become. I was 70% “T” when I took the test today. Everything about INTP’s speaks to me, as do the careers mentioned for the type… architect, scientist, engineer. Yet that isn’t what I was, academically, trained to do. I don’t see how I can go from where I am to where I might be happy.

Sure it’s possible. But it will cost A LOT. And is it worth it? Will that really make me happy? I’d only know after going into massive debt on my quest. And that may make me even more depressed than I am now.

I’m going to see a career counselor this month. On my 26th birthday. As a gift to myself. Maybe she will help me find a direction. Clarity. I spoke with another career counselor for a free consultation on the phone and she basically told me… a few decades ago women didn’t have any choice. So you are doing fine. You just have a lot of choices now. Don’t worry so much.

I can’t help but worry. I see dollars and cents in my future. Savings that could be. Not that my desired careers wouldn’t be lucrative, but getting there just seems impossible.

That said, I’m not sure how much longer I can stay where I am, doing what I do, feeling so helpless. The salary may be great, but I can’t hide it when I’m miserable. I’m so so so lucky to have a job right now with the unemployment rate at double digits, but I still feel so… empty. I don’t think I’m gaining any skills at this job that are transferrable, I’m at a dead end. Any other job with the same title requires me to be more extroverted than I am, and I’ll never be an extrovert. I just don’t know what to do.

Feeling a Little Overwhelmed

My life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. It’s been on the up lately, which, is really good. But every so often I slip into a down, and it’s tough to keep myself on that much-needed upward trend.

When I’m most successful, I always make mistakes. Now, I guess in some respect mistakes are natural. No one is perfect. But I’m talking about stupid mistakes. I can solve the hardest problem and mess up the easy stuff. Maybe it’s my ADD. Maybe I’ll just never be good with the details.

And that is what depresses me so much. I can work my ass off, I can really, really care, and still, in the end, it probably looks like I’ve been lazy or didn’t care at all. Which is extremely frustrating.

When there is all this news about job losses around the world, and esp. in the US, I feel so fortunate to have my job, yet at the same time totally terrified about losing it, or worse, having my bosses be bitter for employing me when I’m causing more trouble than I’m worth.

I don’t mean for this to be a bitch fest, but truth be told I’m feeling depressed right now and I can’t kick the feeling. I’m happier than I’ve ever been thus far in my life and I’m still stuck in a wee bit of self hatred. How can I get over it? How can I stop making mistakes? That really is the only thing that will allow me to stay happy. Ugh.

Sequoia says RIP, How Worried Should I Be?

I’m trying really hard not to worry about this whole financial “crisis.” I’m young(ish) and resilient, as are my stocks, as is my career, and I’m in a much better place than all the baby boomers who are currently watching their 401k’s break even after years of saving… or worse.

Me? I have a job. It’s more stable than not, though after the latest Sequoia report came out it’s looking more and more like if I don’t have the skills to hack it at a web startup, I’m going to be toast. Or dust. Or dust-buttered toast. I’m nervous.

More than anything, I wish I had some serious skills – like computer programming. Then I’d be able to do something useful. But I know that I have to do a lot to prove that I’m useful over the coming months, or it will be my head on the chopping block.

Working for a startup, I’ve always assumed any day could be my last. That’s the joy of working for a startup… even if the markets are doing great, you could be unemployed tomorrow! 🙂

I really wonder what the Silicon Valley shakeout will look like in the coming years. During my brief stint in business journalism, one thing I saw was how many silly companies were getting millions of dollars just because they happened to have a persuasive CEO. It’s totally a bubble, and with the latest turn in the economy, it’s certain to burst. I’m trying to just hold my breath and hope for the best. Again, I’m young, and this won’t last forever. I just hate that I’m trying my darndest to save and I’m still losing money. Bah.