Tag Archives: psychology

Smile, Though Your Heart is Breaking: My Memoir

The older I get, the more visits with the parental unit become concrete episodes of psychological disorder ripe for analysis, versus emotional jabs to the heart. An obese, hot-tempered and narcissistic father dying from not one but two-types of cancer yet beating the odds thus far despite terminal illness, and a mother who has no ability to process emotion and who lives solely for capturing life in posed photographs where everyone looks happy, never mind how they actually feel.

When I hear of yet another occurrence of my father jabbing my mother with his cane or throwing her phone against the room, shattering its screen, or him calling her any number of degrading terms, I can’t help but blame the victim, or see them both as victims, as she has no ability to empathize with others, only to nag and focus solely on the illusion of happiness in moments captured on camera with no context to the disorder and discomfort underneath.

If I were to write a memoir, perhaps its title would be – Smile, though your heart is breaking. I had rationalized throughout my life that every family takes photos, that smiling and looking pretty in pictures was a normal part of life – which is it, if not to the extent of addiction to photographs without having the ability to live in the moment. The measure of the success of any life event or family outing could be measured in two ways — did my father not have an outburst, and did my mother capture photographs of everyone smiling at the camera with our eyes open and teeth showing just the right amount.

Yesterday, I had to stop my father from flinging across the room the $700 point-and-shoot camera I had purchased as a gift to my mother for the wedding. At dinner with my grandmother, sister and parents, my mother asked the waitress to take a photo on her phone, which inevitably didn’t come out that great because it was dark and the phone doesn’t take good pictures, so she asked the waitress to take another photo on the camera instead. This prompted my father to threaten to toss the camera across the room in a way where you knew he was serious. His mother luckily talked him down and the photo was taken by the waitress, albeit with my father purposely with the back of his head to camera.

Earlier in the day, a friend from childhood came over to visit. She was in town as the same time as I was by coincidence, but she actually had planned to see my parents at the time when she didn’t know I would be there. She came over and talked to us for a bit – time wise it was not ideal as we had to leave for dinner with my grandmother. We had to say goodbye and get going to be on time, but of course, my mother needed to take pictures of us smiling for the camera. My father nearly struck her with his cane, but company was present so he somewhat behaved himself. He took a swing as to threaten, but did not get near her.

I hear that this year when they were at their winter condo in Florida, with no one watching the moment, he struck her on the side. She knows that’s not ok, but at this point it’s just her life.

Mom complains about going to the hospital with my father for his surgeries, and shares that she is not looking forward to “taking care” of him if (when) his cancer gets worse. It breaks my heart that she can’t empathize or sympathize with her husband of all these years, of another human being who is dying of cancer and who has his best years behind him. But then I remember all the things my father has done to her, and I can’t blame her for her reaction – though it would be the same if he were a loving, kind man, she’d still only care about herself. She’d still complain about how the events are harming her life, not showing any modicum of care for another human life.

Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking. — I see my family infrequently, and when I do, I always remember why I moved so far away. I wish I could have a close relationship with them, but that just isn’t in the cards…

I knew, getting out of the car, that my jeans had shifted too low and my shirt to high, and my stomach, plump with the roundness of a long winter’s depression and its related binge eating, was protruding in a non-flattering fashion. My father, of course, had to comment. “I am going to say it,” he said, and I knew what was coming. He paused, for a moment, clearly about to say I look fat but instead shifting the language to say “you should change before we go to grandma’s, she won’t appreciate how you are dressed.” I took a deep breath and said “I just need to pull my shirt down,” and left it at that. Years ago the comment would have been more direct towards my weight gain, but I think at this point since I have a husband he doesn’t bother me with that, only the inappropriateness of my clothing choices, despite having just traveled to visit them.

I know it could be worse – much, much worse. I’ve heard stories of friends who have parents who have done horrible things, or who just weren’t there at all. Parents who were divorced, who got remarried, who dated abusive men or women and alcoholics and drug addicts. Plenty of people are born into much worse situations – perhaps into loving families, but in areas of the world riddled with war. Few, in th history of time, come from healthy, stable families. Some do. And those who come from stable households often struggle with life when it gets rough unable to handle any imperfections. Perhaps in a way being hardened early is a blessing as life only gets more emotionally challenging over time, with the loss of loved ones built into not one the status quo, but the inevitable.

I’m trying to break free of all of this to find myself – before I have my own family. I have a wonderful husband who is everything to me. As I said to a friend the other day — one can be grateful and still miserable. Today, that’s me. Grateful, but broken. Appreciative, but empty. In awe all that I have, but have long forgotten what happiness feels like, my mental definition of the emotion locked in as a moment where I tilt my chin lightly downward, pull my shoulders back, open my mouth slightly with lips tilted upwards at the smile, and wait for the flash to capture the shell of a person who appears to be having a wonderful time.

The Comedy of Attempting to Find an In-Network Therapist

Depression isn’t like cancer. There’s no scan you can get which spots a tumor and clearly requires treatment. It sits with you for years–on a good day you may not even remember you have it, then suddenly a dark cloud forms over your head and no amount of fun activities or success can shake you of overwhelming, suffocating sadness.

I’m fortunate enough today where I have health insurance that covers mental health–well, sort of. It is supposed to be $20 a session for in-network therapy, if only in-network therapists actually existed. I’ve written about this before, but after giving up on finding an in-network therapist I decided to try again. I pulled up my insurance company’s “find a provider” website and started searching names of psychologists both close to my house and my work, and put in a bunch of calls hoping one would actually be open and available at a reasonable time to meet weekly. Continue reading

What Enneagram Type are You? I’m 4w7

My therapist would be upset at me because I’m not supposed to be thinking about any sort of career shifts until I achieve my two priority goals (stay in job for at least one year and study for/score high on the GRE.) — But I was in the mood to take a test that would help yet again confirm my suspicions that I’m in the wrong career. I’ve taken the Myers Briggs multiple times and have come out an INFP, so I moved on to the 145 question Enneagram. Apparently I’m at least consistent with my persona (INFPs reported to be enneagram 4’s most frequently.)

I’m a 4 with a “7” wing, and a bit of a mix of 5, 3 and 2. What on earth does that mean?

4’s are either called the “individualists” or the “romantics.”

Well, the other terms used to describe this type are more negative but perhaps more honest — “over-analyzer” and “melodramatic elitist.” Hmm.

“You need be seen as artistic, gifted and accomplished. You focus on your individuality and on carving your own distinct image. You need to express your deep feelings and want others to validate your emotions. Whether you are organizing your living space to reflect your refined tastes or engaging in an artistic pursuit, it is essential for your sense of well being that you express your creativity.”

Ok, ok. So this test really gets me, deep down, in all the ugliness that is my self-absorbed, artistic, intuitive, over-dramatic self.

The career portion of the test notes that ideal careers for 4’s = psychotherapist, dance instructor, artist, writer, life coach, relationship counselor, missionary, web designer or actor/musician. Again, the therapist suggestion pops up. Maybe I should stop ignoring that option.

7s, which is my second highest score, recommends fun careers such as comedian, photographer, entertainer, tour guide, artist/musician.

Clearly I either should be an artist or a therapist.

The whole 4w7 is apparently a strange mix, which is why I probably am eternally conflicted…

“This mixed type has an enormous potential for creativity. The lightness of Type 7 mitigates the heaviness of Type 4, and the profundity of Type 4 makes the superficiality of Type 7 tolerable. But at the same time it is hard for this mixed type to stabilize himself emotionally; he is strangely faltering and ungrounded.”

“Type 4 and Type 7 are very different. Nevertheless, they meet in their creativity. . . .”

“The lightness of the seventh Enneagram type is completely foreign to Type 4, who goes through life in a melancholy way. Suffering, from which Type 7 flees like the plague, is a constant companion of Type 4, who accepts it and does not try to repress it.

“The superficial optimism of Type 7 is a mystery to Type 4, just as the suffering of Type 4 is incomprehensible to Type 7.”

“This type is relatively rare, and like most of the mixed types that have some Type 4 in them, it can be found in artistic circles.”

Getting back to 4s, because that’s what I scored highest on…

Generally, Fours are intuitive, sensitive, impressionable, quiet, introspective, passionate, romantic, elegant, witty, imaginative, and self-expressive.

Fours get into conflicts by being moody, emotionally demanding, self-absorbed, withholding, temperamental, dramatic, pretentious, and self-indulgent.

At their best, Fours are creative, inspired, honest with themselves, emotionally strong, humane, self-aware, discrete, and self-renewing.

Recognizing Fours

Type Four exemplifies the desire to be ourselves, to be known for who we are, and to know the depths of our hearts. Of all the types, Fours are the most aware of their own emotional states. They notice when they feel upset, anxious, attracted to another person, or some other, more subtle combination of feelings. They pay attention to their different changing emotions and try to determine what their feelings are telling them about themselves, others, and their world. When Fours are more in balance, their exquisite attunement to their inner states enables them to discover deep truths about human nature, to bear compassionate witness to the suffering of others, or to be profoundly honest with themselves about their own motives. When they are less balanced, they can become lost in their feelings, preoccupied with emotional reactions, memories, and fantasies, both negative and positive.

Their Hidden Side
On the surface, Fours can seem to suffer from chronic self-doubt and extreme sensitivity to others’ reactions to them. But part of the reason for this is that Fours often hold a secret, inner image of who they feel they could be. They have an idea of the sort of person they would like to become, the kind of person who would be fantastically talented, socially adept, and intensely desired. In short, Fours come to believe that if they were somehow different from who they are, they would be seen and loved. Unfortunately, they constantly compare themselves negatively to this idealized secret self—their ‘fantasy self.” This makes it very difficult for Fours to appreciate many of their genuine positive qualities because they are never as wonderful as the fantasy. Much of the growth for type Four involves letting go of this idealized secret self so that they can see and appreciate who they actually are.

Wow.

So this made me tear up a bit because it’s so true. I’m constantly hoping that somewhere deep down there is a person who is so innately talented and special and she just needs to figure out how to make her grande appearance to be appreciated and loved. But I also acknowledge this is complete and utter bullshit and I just need to accept who I am and move on with life.

The Passion: Envy
At some level, Fours believe that they are missing something that other people seem to have. They feel that something is wrong with them or with their relationships, and they start to be acutely aware of what is not working in their lives. Naturally, given this frame of mind, it is difficult for Fours to feel good about themselves or to appreciate the good things in their world.

Fours rightly perceive that there is something inadequate or incomplete about the ego self, but they incorrectly assume that they alone suffer from this problem. Fours then get in the habit of comparing themselves to others, concluding that they have somehow gotten “the short end of the stick.” Fours feel that they have been singled out by fate for bad treatment, bad luck, unsatisfying relationships, bad parenting, and broken dreams. It comes as something of a shock to many Fours to discover that other people have suffered as much or even more than they have. This doesn’t mean that Fours haven’t suffered or that their painful pasts are inconsequential. But Fours need to see how they perpetuate their own suffering by continually focusing on old wounds rather than truly processing those hurts and letting go of them in a way that would allow them to heal.

On the Cusp of a Dream

Every so often, the storm firing between my synapses leads me to seek an outside, expert opinion. I met a therapist in an online program, and it turned out that not only was her focus career guidance and work stress reduction, but she also lived locally enough where I could visit her in person. Realizing the online program wasn’t enough for my current needs, I signed off and signed on to her in-person services.

What I appreciate most about this woman is that she has a similar background working for technology companies in the communications field, so she understands some of the rewards and challenges that come with such a career choice. She is different from therapists I’ve seen before as she isn’t afraid to pay close attention to what I say and call me on where I’m getting in the way of my own happiness.

One trend she pointed out, which is 100% true, is that for the entirety of my career (and even college) I chose to be just-removed from what it is I actually want to do. For college, instead of majoring in acting, I majored in design — now, that may have been a good choice (my acting talent is limited to say the least), but it still is the first of many proof points of how I’ve been consistently too afraid to follow my dreams and self-selected to sit on the sidelines. When I had my heart set on directing, I secured a marketing internship at a theatre company, always longing to be in the rehearsals instead of promoting the end result. Then, as a journalist I loved writing human-interest stories for local communities, but I gave up on this in exchange for reporting on business news which had little heart or soul, only data and “scoops.” My work as a business journalist led me to what I thought I actually wanted to do – work in a startup company creating products (later I found out this role was titled “product manager” but I never got there, instead spending years building an impressive resume, on paper, as a career marketer.

What I’ve come to realize is that if you aren’t passionate about what you do on a day-to-day basis, especially if you are just one step removed from what it is you actually want to do, you find yourself in this professional limbo. You’re so close to doing something fulfilling and yet you sit from the sidelines watching others who are engaging in the work that drives them. Of course nothing is perfect, and everyone has their work stress no matter what the field, but I’m all for stress that ties to doing something meaningful. And while it’s important to be able to pay the bills and have savings, it’s time to stop thinking so short-term about my networth growth. Life is short enough, and there’s plenty of time to save.

As we got into what I really want to do with my life, a few different prospects came up. The one which I find most interesting is to become a therapist myself. I actually thinking I would enjoy this in many ways. I love to help people, and nothing fulfills me more than helping others in a one-on-one environment. There are many reasons I’m scared of a potential career in therapy – I know how hard it is, and how draining it can be. Your clients may be psychologically disturbed beyond the point you can help, they may be severely depressed, angry, or worse. As a therapist you hear horrible things and can’t talk to anyone about them due to confidentiality agreements. It sounds like a quite stressful job. But that’s the type of stress I could handle if I knew I was actually helping people on a daily basis.

I’ve always wanted to be known for something, but I know this is largely due to growing up with two narcissistic parents and not my actual inner intention. Well, in a way many people want to leave behind some sort of legacy – so this is just part of being human – but I don’t need to be famous in any way. That said, I believe if I follow my own path and become an expert in that which I am most interested in, I can easily become known for that via writing and sharing advice, should I chose to market myself.

I’m terrified of leaving the tech industry in pursuit of something entirely different – as much as this industry stresses me out I do enjoy being at the center of innovation. Walking out my door and seeing Google’s self-driving cars sweep down the street reminds me how I live here in the future; if New York was the place to be at the center of the future during the Mad Men era, well, that’s Silicon Valley today. When my genetically-altered grand children ask about life in the early 2000s, I can tell them about how before there were self-flying cars, there were self-driving ones that roamed the streets alongside cars that were, gasp, driven actually by people. Companies were only beginning to test drone delivery services, and this was outlawed by most of the country. We could 3D print human cells, but not the human mind yet, or full limbs, though we were rather close to this discovery…

There’s a dynamic pulse of life-changing innovation to living here that is one vibrant ingredient to the taste of the air here, from San Jose to San Francisco. As much as I miss what was a simpler time when I grew up in the 1980s, when one had to actually pause and rewind tapes in order to transcribe lyrics from their favorite songs, and had to pick up a phone connected to the wall should someone give them a call, and even had to write reports for school on a device that was fully mechanical, stamping ink letters onto paper as you thought what you would say versus printing all at once after a series of complex edits, I do love the world of change. Of leveraging technology to change the world for the better – to make processes more efficient, people more healthy, the world more connected…

It’s not to say I can’t be a therapist IN Silicon Valley (in fact, my therapist yesterday noted that she is filled to the brim with clients here, and has to turn down clients for certain days), but I fear not being part of the innovation, which I’ve come so close to tapping. Yet as a marketer my only innovation tapping is telling the stories of what other’s have created, and no say in what is created or how its user interface is rendered for human contact. I do know that I cannot spend the next 30+ years of my career telling stories of other’s creations. Either I find a way to get inside of this, to be the creator, or collaborator in such creation, or I accept that being on a product team is not my fate, and instead I appreciate rapid change from the outskirts of innovation, perhaps in my own maroon leather therapists chair, listening to the embers of innovation behind the privacy of a closed-door session.

 

The Seven Type of People in the World

When we grow up, we have dreams of what we want to become. Some kids want to be firefighters. Others, doctors. Some want to be school teachers. Me, I wanted to be a performer. In my family it seemed like the only respectable job someone could have in order to get a lot of praise and attention was to be on stage. Sure, being a doctor seemed like a great job if you were smart and boring, but entertainment was the world I longed for. I wanted to be the center of attention, to make people laugh, to be incredibly talented and to make friends just because I was a star.

Of course, childhood dreams rarely come to fruition, and clearly I’m not an American Idol or Broadway star. God knows I sing slightly off key, I have two left feet and my acting ability is better suited for a walk-on role in a community theater production than a blockbuster film. As I grew up I realized that I would never actually be a performer so I tried out the next best thing in my limited worldview – being involved behind the scenes, designing the sets and costumes of shows, but of course that wasn’t good enough since ultimately I wanted to be performing, not backstage. I tried out directing for size, which I enjoyed more because I liked being in charge, but ultimately I didn’t have the conviction or drive to become a great director. I gave up quickly and without much remorse.

What I wish I knew what I was younger is that there are really five types of jobs in the world and generally speaking you naturally fit into one bucket. The good news is that even if you can’t do the most famous job for the bucket, there are other careers out there which maybe aren’t as renowned or as well paid, but at least enable you to be who you are deep down. And each bucket holds value in our society.

The Creators: The creators are entrepreneurs, innovators on R&D teams, designers, (certain) engineers, inventors and dreamers. Creators like to make something out of nothing. They work at startups inventing a new product, or big companies developing the next new formula that will sell like hot cakes. Creators love the unknown. They thrive in environments where outcomes are uncertain but there is a constant opportunity to make something new, or at least a variation on what already exists. Creators may be a little offbeat in their thought process, but this is something that should be encouraged and nurtured. Creators are those who change the world.

The Fixers/Analyzers: The fixers are the people who like to take something that already exists and see where it can be improved or packaged better. They are business consultants, marketers, electricians, and average business people who have moved up through the ranks to middle management. They like things fairly constant and routine, but are good at finding inefficiencies and other errors and improving processes. They are just as interested in facts as they are “what’s possible.”

The Healers: The healers are the people who care a lot about others and want to help “heal” the world. They are psychologists, doctors, social workers, veterinarians, religious ministers, charity workers, and people who have a strong desire to help others. The healers do not care as much about money as they do making the world a better place. They work relentlessly to improve the lives around them.

The Protectors: The protectors are people who go out of their way to make sure that others are safe. These people generally work in law enforcement, firefighting, or even the military and FBI. These people have a strong sense of what is right and have a drive to ensure public safety or to protect others.

The Educators: The educators are similar to entertainers as they like to perform, but to perform in a classroom with the goal of imparting knowledge on others. They enjoy broadening minds and sharing information. While some educators are similar to creators in that they like to discover information and use it to create something new, they are unique in that the core of what drives them is in educating others about what is already known, not in creating something from scratch.

The Politicians: The politicians are driven by convincing others that their point is correct. They are lawyers, actual politicians and senior business executives. The politicians are like entertainers in that they are comfortable in front of a crowd, but their goal is always to prove a point. They get a rush out of debating and winning a debate. They are detail oriented and have a love of facts, as well as using facts in a way that supports their point. They are confident, sometimes overly so, and often have a strong sense of what they think is right. This sometimes is challenged by performing certain jobs designed for politicians, such as the law, since often legal jobs require one to argue a case or point they may not believe in. That said, most politicians care more about winning than being right.

The Entertainers: The entertainers are the people who help distract the fixers, the creators, the protectors, the politicans, the healers and the educators from the hum drum of their everyday lives. They provide momentary escape from all of the bullshit that life brings. They are Hollywood stars and comedians, but they are also magicians and princesses that perform at children’s birthday parties, clowns who crack jokes in the circus, DJs and musicians and wedding singers. The entertainers love being the center of attention, but they also love to help others break away from reality for a moment in order to either just have fun or to really reflect back on their own lives and become all the better for it.

Which one of the seven are you? Do you think your job today aligns with who you are?

Becoming an Executive Malfunctioning

It’s a rough transition from individual contributor to executive, especially for someone with ADHD. While I’ve gotten to the point in life where I value my innate abilities, I also acknowledge that there are many things vital for moving up in the workforce that do not come naturally to me. I am currently at the point where either I figure out how to fake it well enough that no one realizes this, or giving up.

I don’t want to give up. The opportunity I have today is so great, so exciting, so overwhelmingly awesome that I end up getting to the end of every day and kicking myself for not doing it better. Because I know the best executives know how to be those ducks with their feet kicking hard under water but their faces never flinching. They manage to instantaneously prioritize thousands of projects or project particles while also not slipping up on any details. They are human gods.

There is a reality to my existence, which, at best, puts me into the absent minded professor type category and at worst has me tripping from job to job impressing on one project but failing magnificently on the next. The trick, I’ve learned, is an executive must learn how to make friends and influence people. She must have such charisma that even if other people come up with a great idea and execute on it flawlessly, she will somehow take part of the credit without hoarding all the credit to herself, and seem somehow to effortlessly manage so many moving parts at once. And while she embraces conflict in the right moments, she avoids it in all others. She is everything I’m not and will never be. Continue reading

Why I’m investing $400 a month in an ADHD Coach

Despite wanting to believe I’m capable of being a highly-functioning adult on my own, data has shown that this is not quite the case. While I manage to pick myself up after every fall and keep going, each time I fall the cut is a bit deeper and harder to recover from. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought help, but this is the first time that I felt that I desperately need it.

There are so many different kinds of “help” one can buy. Psychiatrists seek to uncover a chemical imbalance to explain your shortcomings and treat you with costly medications. Psychologists use talk therapy to help you approach situations differently, largely looking at your childhood and how that has affected the current scripts your replay over and over again in your mind. Acupuncturists poke and prod you to reduce stress. Hypnotists claim to be able to help you achieve your goals through mind control. And coaches, well, help you with practical advice and ongoing support so you can determine and then reach your goals.

ADHD coaches are unique in that they focus on helping people who are driven to distraction, as they say. The reality is that so many of the simple tasks that high-functioning individuals can do without batting an eye present a huge challenge to the ADHD mind. I dislike jumping to conclusions that my mind is somehow different than the norm, yet anyone who knows me at all and believes ADHD actually exists would say obviously I have it. I can check off every single requirement in the DSV.

That’s why I’m splurging this year on a coach. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy and what has it got me? Maybe I’m a little more aware of the scripts I play in my head that aren’t really rational, but that hasn’t helped me avoid losing my job (multiple times) or fix my relationship (which is great except for the fact that I’m a huge mess and my boyfriend can’t marry a girl who can’t keep her house remotely clean.)

If you don’t have ADHD or know anyone closely who does, it’s easy to say “just clean your damn house” or “stop losing your job.” It’s not that easy. Ultimately people with ADHD have issues with their temporal lobe functioning properly as well as a lack of dopamine to drive proper task-oriented motivation. Tie this with years upon years of beating myself up for my challenges focusing and staying organized and I end up wasting so much time lost in anxiety and failing to accomplish anything – until it’s late at night when I should be sleeping and only then can I start to hyperfocus and get my work done well.

This clearly isn’t a sustainable model. Now that I’m in my 30s I even feel my body starting to break down. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I’ve been sick three times in the last three months. I’m pretty much driving myself batshit and I need help.

In selecting an ADHD coach I wanted to find someone who has worked with ADHD individuals – especially adults – over the years. I want someone who can share tips and tools that have worked for others with similar minds. And I want someone grounded in reality, not someone who is going to try to flatter my ego (one woman kept saying that people with ADHD are brilliant so it’s clear I must be brilliant. While I briefly enjoyed the flattery I need more tough love than some ego boost.)

ADHD coaches are also often very expensive. This is largely because parents – many who have disposable incomes – are convinced their children have ADHD and are willing to send a ridiculous sum on coaches so maybe their kids can do well in school and make it to an Ivy League. And it happens – kids with ADHD, taught the right strategies and put in the right educational environments—can do very well academically. So maybe it’s worth it for parents who have the money.

However, these big-spending parents inflate the cost of help. I wrote to quite a number of ADHD coaches online (many of who do their coaching via Skype so location is not an issue) and one literally responded to me that “if cost was a concern” I would be better off talking to someone else because she charges more than others due to her “years of experience.” When I responded to ask exactly what that meant she didn’t respond. I assume she was in line with another organization I talked with where ADHD-specialist psychologists and psychiatrists charge anywhere from $300 to $500 per session.

The woman who I found is not cheap but she’s not ridiculous. I understand that coaches do this for a living and thus their expertise is worth a reasonable rate. The more standard fees I found were in the $150-$200 per hour range. Some coaches refused interactions between meetings while others – who clearly understand how ADHD works – note that they allow emails throughout the week as long as they don’t get excessive.

I’m meeting with my ADHD coach for my first 90-minute session. She already sent me an intake form and an anxiety/depression questionnaire which I had a strange kind of fun filling out (man, I am SO ADHD.) I am not sure exactly what to expect from this project but my primary goal is to learn how to be better at time management and organization… and ultimately not lose my job (or boyfriend.)

The plan is to invest in the $250 intro session and then three months of $390 worth of sessions (3 45 minute sessions.) We’ll work intensively on very tactical strategies while I’m sure discussing options (not included in cost) to resolve my problems further through the use of medication ($$$.) I’m going to try to solve them with coaching and willpower alone, but if shit starts to hit the fan I’m going to head back to a psychiatrist and see what they think would help this crazy little mind of mine.

That is, it seems to be I have Bipolar II co-morbidly sharing the space of dysfunction with a solid case of ADHD and a touch of anxiety to top it off. Mental illness is real even though I’m the first person to try to avoid labeling my issues as being anything more than just some personal crazy. Yet at 30 I have a pretty good view of my life thus far and these are the reasons for what is going on in my head and heart.

I’m not self-diagnosing either, I’ve been officially diagnosed with these issues (as well as others) but these three seem to make the most sense. I’m going to be entirely open with my coach about this too – and I already have been (bipolar/depression/anxiety are often found co-morbidly with ADHD, so this isn’t going to throw her for a loop at all.) I’d really like to make significant progress and fast. It is certainly worth $400 a month to remain gainfully employed and highly productive. At least for the short term until hopefully at some point I can sustain such “normal functioning adult” baseline on my own.

 

Contemplating a Serious Career Change

Maybe it’s because I’m an INFP with ADHD, but I always feel the need for a career shift every couple of years. I get bored at jobs but that’s not the only reason I look for a change. There is something missing at every job I’ve had so far and what that thing is becomes clearer as I get older. That thing is feeling like I’m helping people.

Of all the jobs I’ve had so far, the moments I’ve liked most were when I felt most connected to my “NF” side. Admin? Hated data entry. Liked answering questions when people needed help. Retail? Hated “selling.” Loved helping people shop for something that fit what they wanted. PR? Hated “pitching.” Liked helping journalists get the information they need. Journalism? Liked when I got to write articles to give a voice to people in the local newspaper who otherwise wouldn’t be heard. Disliked when my whole job was getting stories first about corporate drama. Marketing? Well, it’s hard to find a lot to like here in this sense. I do enjoy the strategy end of things, but I’m lacking motivation to promote something that doesn’t benefit people in any way. Notice a trend?
This has me sitting here, wondering if I have gone the entirely wrong direction with my life. I’m “only” 26 but some jobs out there require years of training… a high GPA… and a whole lot of commitment. The worst thing is that now I am making really good money. That would be great if I loved my job, but it’s hard to stop everything and go into debt for another x number of years of school to ultimately learn less money. My secret TJ side is screaming “that’s stupid!”
One of the fields I’m tossing around is nursing. If I like helping people so much, and I like jobs that are fairly high paced, why not be a nurse? I always wanted to have a job where I could be special and different. Being a nurse is not about you at all. It’s a job just like any other job. But where I’d never get recognized by the masses, I’d be recognized for helping people every single day. Would that be enough to make me happy? Maybe.
The only thing I know is that if i keep on the route I’m on now, well, I’m looking at doing what I do best… getting fired, or laid off, or quitting, and being depressed, but too scared to change my track, and then managing to find something else that is “better” in theory (better pay, more reasonability) but worse in getting me closer to career happiness. If that exists.
There are other things I’m interested in… especially psychology… and if I’m going to be a nurse why not just go for the PsyD? Or, heck, get a postbac in premed and go to school for 12 years to become a psychiatrist? It feels too late for all of that. And I don’t want to kid myself. I’m definitely interested in psychology, but I’m also not a good test taker and I’m of average or only slightly above average intelligence and below average focus and motivation. I’m on a roll right now faking it in the field I’m in, why change? — and, granted, I don’t totally fake it – but I feel like a big phony. But… if I have one life… why give up a chance to feel like I’m helping people every day? Wouldn’t that be worth more than any salary?

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?

I Should Call My Blog: ADD & ADHD Money

If you’ve been reading my blog for longer than two minutes you probably can guess (or have read) that I have ADHD. I don’t entirely believe in ADD or ADHD (I think its caused by anxiety, which I happen to believe is the cause of most mental disorders) but for whatever it’s worth, I have all the symptoms. I’m distracted, disorganized, have never followed a routine for longer than maybe two days at a time, and am pretty sure my intellectual potential far surpasses any of my output.

Every year, especially around this time, I tell myself — this year I will get organized. This year I will figure out what to do with my life. This year I’ll wake up early, go to the gym, get to work at a reasonable time every morning, work hard from 9-6:30, take an actual lunch break (not work through lunch), come home, clean, do laundry, COOK DINNER, read a book, go to sleep around 10, wake up and do it all again…
And every year, I know it’s not really going to happen. Not without some serious outside help that I’ve yet to find. I don’t know why I’m so unable to keep to routine. I don’t understand how most people do easily (or seemingly easily.) For me, it takes so much focus and energy to accomplish anything once, let alone multiple times on repeat into the foreseeable future.
I still feel like a child, albeit one who understands the world overall fairly well, but I’m still a kid in my mind, wanting to run off on a whim, commit to nothing, yet still have the security of being taken care of, and living a life where risk is just s synonym for trying something new without the fear of any serious kind of failure.
Here’s why I’m depressed — I am afraid of everything. I’m afraid of trying and failing but I’m even more afraid of trying and succeeding. What’s success? It always seemed like some sort of end to me. End of childhood. End of my 20s. End of growing up and instead being grown. At least failing you have somewhere up to go. I think too much. Constantly. My mind is filled with worry. I check my budget compulsively. Not routinely. Routine is alien to my very existence.
I oft wonder if some ADHD drug would help me focus… but every psych wants to treat my depression and anxiety before treating ADD. So I get drugged up on SSRI’s and give up on them because they put me to sleep, they don’t help me focus, they don’t make me able to handle routine, they just make me feel out of it, like a zombie who is unable to cry, who isn’t happy or sad. That’s not getting me anywhere.
Whenever I consider actually applying to grad school there feels like a huge brick wall up in front of my face that I can’t get passed. First is figuring out what I want to do with my life (I want to do everything and I want to do absolutely nothing), then there’s actually having faith in my ability to do graduate-level work (I struggle with writing, math, reading, well… focusing, and just about everything that is required of academia) so then I think “what am I thinking? I can’t do graduate work. I barely got through undergrad and somehow took enough classes to squeak by with a 3.2 from an average (ie non-impressive) liberal arts school. I don’t necessarily want a PhD, an MA or MFA is more likely, as my graduate study should probably be largely about learning and applying skills, not solely research. But I worry about the level of other students who would go to any of these programs – they’d undoubtedly be smarter and more capable of focus than I am. They’d already know a lot more about whatever field I decide to study. I’d never be able to prepare enough to feel competitive in any graduate program worth attending. Then there’s the pressure of applying — I was lucky in undergrad, I applied to 5 schools, and even with a miserable high school GPA I was accepted to 4 out of the 5, mostly based on my artwork. But now… I don’t know who would want me. I’m average at best and not sure what I could contribute to any program. Then there’s my average GRE scores (not getting into any of the Ivy-level schools I like to daydream about) and my fear of asking anyone to write me a letter of recommendation. And beyond all that there’s the cost of grad school which I can’t even comprehend. Right now I’ve at least gotten myself comfortable with saving… if I can stick to my budget, I’ll save $20k next year. But grad school looks like it will cost me $50k per year. For 3 years. After putting so much effort into getting accepted I then would have to take out HUGE loans that I’d pay back for practically the rest of my life.
Or I could… not go to grad school. I could find a job that I’m good at. But what IS that job? I get bored so easily. I fall for every job at the beginning and then after a year I’m ready to move on. It’s like this with every other aspect of my life as well, but even more so with work because it feels like it’s my entire life. I hate feeling infinitely trapped as an indentured servant of capitalism. But that’s life. Can’t I just accept it and move on? Why can’t I just… focus?