A life well lived and what do you do when you’re scared of your own mind?

“A life well-lived is a precious gift
of hope and strength and grace
from someone who has made our world
a brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments sweet and sad,
with smiles and sometimes tears,
with friendships formed and good times shared
and laughter through the years.
A life well-lived is a legacy of joy and pride and pleasure,
A loving, lasting memory our grateful hearts will
treasure”.

This poem is often read at funerals. It’s called “A Life Well Lived.” But I think that it’s a good reminder for all of us sometimes. That it’s not about how much stuff we have of what kind of car we drive. It’s about the relationships we have and the impact we have on other people’s lives.

I had a conversation with my mom tonight that made me think of this poem. She told me that I make her laugh, and that I had always made her laugh. That’s a good legacy to have. But it makes me think about how I assume other people perceive me. I’m not confident. I’m uncertain and overly self-critical. I assume that people don’t like me. My brain automatically goes to the thought that people don’t really like me, that they just tolerate me or put up with me.

This leads into another point – I’m constantly on edge that I’m going to lose my job, my husband, my friends, and everything else that means anything to me. Someone made a mistake at work? Automatically my fault and I’m going to get fired – even if I had nothing to do with it.

I hate my brain. Sometimes my mind honestly scares me. It goes off on these negative tangents that I can’t control. It goes right to the most negative outcome of any and every situation. I’ve joked and told people that it’s self-preservation – if I assume the worst and that doesn’t happen then I’m pleasantly surprised. If it does, at least I’m prepared.

So what do you do when your own mind scares you? It’s not like you can cut it out or even shut it up.

Maybe right now I feel like things are going too well and I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. But if I really believe in karma, or universal payback/retribution, doesn’t the last year of hardship mean that I have some good things coming?

I don’t even know anymore.

Let’s talk about the here and now

From http://pexels.com

A number of my recent posts have been very retrospective. But let’s talk about what’s going on recently.

Two of my recent moronic moves involve books. The first is a Goodreads giveaway. I use the site to track what I read, give me a number of what I’ve read this year, etc. I used to be super involved in a few groups, but over the last two years I’ve left the groups and culled my friends list down to almost nothing. I use it now more for my own personal use. Maybe someday I’ll get back into the groups as some of them were really quite fun. But back to the topic. Goodreads does giveaways of books. They send you emails of giveaways going on based on your lists on the site. A few weeks ago I entered a giveaway for a Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series. I’ve read the first book, the giveaway was for the third. I figured, hey, I’ll never win but let’s give it a go. I won. So now I have this brick of a book that I can’t read because I haven’t read the second one yet. (Side note: I actually just entered another giveaway for the 8th book in the series. I really need to stop.) The second involves the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. I really want to read this series. I’ve been meaning to start it for years. I had a coupon for 15% off a purchase at Barnes and Noble on Monday and I was in the area, so I figured what the hell – let’s go pick it up. (I decided to ignore the 15 books on my nightstand to read, as well as all of the library ebooks I have, not to mention all of the ebooks that I’ve purchased but haven’t read.) Thanks to my rushing to get in and get out since I was meeting my uncle for lunch, I grabbed book 3 in the series. If I had access to the facepalm emoji I would use it. So another book I can’t read! Ugh.

Work is going well. I’m through most of the base level training in terms of cashier, the head cashier-like position, and the service desk. We’re digging down into some of the management functions and the reports that have to be run and what to do with them. I really like it, but I feel like I’ve been stalled the last week or so. There’s three of us training right now, and one is on a shortened schedule so she’s getting most of our trainer’s attention. That’s fine, that makes total sense. But I want to do more. I want to learn more. I really need to learn how to be an advocate for myself and put myself forward and tell my trainer this. But this has always been a hard thing for me, to step up and ask for what I want. As much as it surprises people, I’m can be very not assertive.

A lot of that stems from my anxiety. I have a hard time standing up for myself. Sometimes I have a hard time pulling myself from the shadows I tend to fall into. Actually, now that I think about it that’s also a product of years of dealing with depression. You forget how to advocate for yourself. You want to slink into the background and be left alone. You don’t want to put yourself out there. And that’s something I really need to learn, and quickly.

I’ve been living with mental illness for the majority of my life, and sometimes I’m smacked in the face by how it has shaped me, my personality, and my life. There are behaviors that are learned that are very hard to unlearn. Behaviors that were learned during dark times, during hard times. Behaviors learned for self-preservation. Things that I do to protect myself from let down and disappointment, from getting close to people for fear that I’m just going to end up being hurt, from moving my life forward into the unknown.

I need to find a way to stop.

Anyone have any tips on unlearning negative behaviors? I’m open to suggestions. This is just another one of those mental battles that I have to fight. The number that I’ve fought this year is kind of unreal. But now that I’m relatively stable, it’s time to do it.

The evolution of a life

Don’t worry, I’m not going to deep-dive into my childhood, here, but I was thinking recently about how different my life is versus what I thought it would be 2, 5, 10 years ago. The friends I had that I thought would be in my life forever I haven’t talked to in a year.

It’s interesting to trace back the last even six months and the decisions you’ve made and how those choices shaped where you are now. I decided in the middle of the interview process that I didn’t want to get a Ph.D. and I turned down offers of acceptance to some of the best research schools in the country. I realized that I didn’t want to spend the next six years in school, doing more classes, doing research, and making next to nothing all while my student loans accrued interest. We wouldn’t be able to travel, afford more than a small apartment, or probably get home to see either of our families often since most of the schools were out of state and not at all close to either group.

At the places I’ve worked, I’ve made friends. Some I’ve kept in touch with after I’ve left there, some I haven’t. Some I’ve prioritized over others, for any number of reasons. Some our interests diverged and without that common denominator of work, we had nothing in common. Some got married and moved away. Some had kids and their priorities shifted. (Note: I have nothing against people having kids, but in my experience, when people do, they spend more time with family and make their friends less of a priority, especially when the kid is young. That’s fine, but when your friends become zero priority and you lose your whole life outside of your kid, I see that as a problem. End rant.) Some? We just grew apart. Nothing wrong with that, and it was no one’s fault. I had friends even a few years ago that I would have thought we’d be friends until we were old and gray. Now? Some of them I barely even talk to.

I honestly thought we would have left <home city> by now. I’m from here, and while Mike isn’t, I always assumed that we would have left by now. There’s nothing wrong with this city, I actually quite like it, but I’d like to experience living elsewhere. I have no problem still being here, I just thought we would have left by now.

I can’t talk about the past and how it has shaped my present and future without mentioning my mental illnesses. Looking back it’s amazing how much having bipolar and anxiety has shaped my life. The decisions I did or didn’t make. The decisions that were colored by the influence of the disorders. Not doing something or going somewhere because I was depressed, making a stupid decision because I was manic or mixed. Not wanting to do something because my anxiety was flaring and I could barely leave the house without needing an Ativan.

I know I’ve talked about the road not traveled before, but recently I really haven’t thought about that or wondered. Maybe that means I’m actually content with the life that I’m living? Maybe I’m actually… stable?

Some pet peeves that have been on my mind

Everyone has pet peeves; they bother some people worse than others. Here’s a few of mine.

One of my biggest is when people use medical terms, typically used in the diagnosis of mental illness, to make flippant statements. I heard someone say recently, “OMG I was so bipolar today. I was in a great mood when I woke up and now I feel like crap.” No, Karen, that’s just the human condition. I always feel like saying things like this totally minimizes and trivializes the shit people like me go through day in, day out in dealing with mental illness. It is possible for a neurotypical person to feel more than one way on any given day. I hate to be that person, but don’t diminish my struggles just to use soe en vogue phrase. Another one is “I’m so OCD.” No, you aren’t. You just like things neat and organized. You don’t spend a collective two hours over the course of the day washing your hands. I hate that these terms have become so popular.

Another big one is don’t call me honey. I got this a lot as a cashier, and I get this a lot when I’m just out and about. Honey, sweetie, dear. No. I don’t like when Mike calls me these things, so I sure as hell don’t want your creepy 60-something self to call me honey. I get that it’s from a different time, that women were always called this, blah blah blah, but I HATE it. I have a name. And when I’m working and have a name tag on it’s clearly right there for you to see it and use it. My mother took the time to give me a name. I would hate to see her effort go to waste.

The non-apology of “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Mike said that to me once and was subsequently read the riot act. Be sorry that you made me feel that way. I heard someone say this to someone else while I was out running errands recently and I actually felt bad for the person. They looked so defeated when that was the apology they got. That’s such a non-apology. It takes no ownership of the action that brought them to this place. It doesn’t take into account the way the action made the recipient feel. HATE.

I abhor when people are chronically late. I hate even more when other people excuse it by saying, “that’s just how they are.” No, that’s how they are because everyone has brushed off the fact that they are always late, with no good excuse, for their entire lives. I feel like it’s rude when you’re meeting someone for lunch or whatever to show up 20 minutes late, unless something came up before you got there. Traffic, kid wouldn’t go to bed, husband late coming home from work. Fine. But when it’s every stinking time? I’m over it.

I have a technology gripe. When I go out to dinner with family, friends, whoever, please don’t spend more time on your phone than you do talking to me. My brother is famous for this. As soon as we sit down, the phone comes out. Put the damn thing away and contribute to the conversation. I didn’t come here to stare at the top of your head. I have friends that do this – as soon as the Snapchat notification goes off they’re reaching for their phone. I mean, did you come here to see me?

And lastly, text speak. Use your words. Whole words. I admit, JFC, OMG, etc., can be useful. But typing the letter ‘u’ instead of the word ‘you’ drives me crazy. My mother is famous for this and it drives me nuts. We’re no longer texting on a keyboard that’s 9 keys for 26 letters. People laugh at me because I use proper punctuation in my texts, but I feel like it’s just respectful. (Unless I’m using voice-to-text through Siri, but even then I still try to throw in a comma when it’s needed.) It’s also a hell of a lot easier to read when it’s not a massive block of text.

So there’s that.

A new addition and my first few days on the job. For real this time.

Picture taken from pexels.com

We adopted a new cat. We were not in the market to adopt a new cat, not by a long shot. I mean, we already have four. Five would just make us those people with all of the cats. But this little guy really tugged at my heart. He had been at the shelter I volunteer at for almost his whole life – about 1.5 years. He was originally brought in because he was feral, and someone saw a car clip him and took him in to make sure he was ok. He was, other than being shaken up and a little bruised, so they nursed him back to health, clipped his ear, and planned on setting him free again. It became clear very early that he was not going to survive being outside on his own. He didn’t know how to take care of his fur (it’s fairly long), and even while in the shelter began to get very matted. He was also incredibly shy and not assertive at all. Then they had to pull most of his teeth after he got an infection. So no releasing this dude to the wild.

While at the shelter he often slunk to the back, too shy to come out and say hello. As such, no one wanted to adopt him. Everyone wants that cat that comes right out to them to get pet and purr. So he got passed over time and time again for adoption. But in my time there he became very comfortable with me. I’d come in and he’d immediately come out and say hello and ask for pets. In talking to the staff I learned that he wasn’t doing well in the shelter. His shyness was putting him at the bottom of the pecking order and he was just suffering. So we decided to bring him home. So far, so good. We still have some bridges to cross, but we’re all doing okay.

On to other things.

I’ve been at the new job and actually at the new job, and not in classroom training for a few days. So far it’s going well. My trainer and I had a real talk today, as there are two other women in training with me, and she told me that she’d be spending the most amount of time with me of the three of us as I have the least amount of actual management experience. Read: none.

That made me feel a lot better about the situation as both other women keep trying to push themselves forward. I get it, I really do. But when there are three of us training together, and we all come from different backgrounds, sometimes you have to step back and let someone else have her time. I feel better though – she knows I’m going to need the most “hands on” training, and she also commended me for jumping in when something needs to be done (that I can do), and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.

So far, all good things.

I’ve got a long road ahead, and today was a hard day, but so far I really like it. I think that in the long term this is going to be a good thing.

My mental health has been pretty good, actually. I think finally having the first step of my career sorted and started has been a big boost. Some of my anxiety about the new job is subsiding, although what my shrink calls a “healthy” amount still remains. As he said, if I was feeling no anxiety at all then it would mean I’m too much medication.

It’s a hard realization that having some anxiety about certain things is normal, even healthy. I’ve been carrying around so much anxiety with me for so many years that it’s weird to not be on the brink. My bipolar and depression seems to be under control. I feel like I’m finally in a good place.

Now I feel like it’s time for the other shoe to drop. Things typically don’t go well in my life for very long.

Perceptions

Something that I really struggle with is how people perceive me. I’m at that stage of my life where I’m not sure what my style looks like. I’m too young for “mom clothes” and I’m too old to dress in a lot of the fast fashion that women in their 20s wear. It definitely does not help that working in labs for ten years, I wore scrubs. And then when I worked at Big Box store, it was jeans and t-shirts and hoodies because you generally ended up filthy by the end of the day.

And now, my job requires business casual. So with the help of my parents I got a wardrobe that’s a lot of button down shirts, sweaters, skinny-cut bottoms (I’ve found that I look surprisingly good in this cut), and comfortable dress pants. I’m comfortable, I look good, but I kind of feel like an impostor. Maybe it’s all of the years of wearing scrubs. I mean, management wears what I’m wearing now. But I have to keep reminding myself, I’m management now. As my husband says, fake it until you make it.

I think that that a lot of this stems from lack of self identity. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what my style is. I’ve talked about it before – I don’t know what my personality is. I don’t know the difference between what I like, and what I feel like I’m expected to like. The things that I like to do versus what I’m expected to like to do.

I have to wonder how much of this is due to my mental illness and so many years of instability causing my personality to shift like the winds change. The things I like changed depending on my mood and what phase of my disorder I was in. Even during extended periods of stability I really had no sense of self. I still have no sense of self.

I’ve talked about this before – the not knowing what I really enjoy versus what I do because it’s expected. And it seems like a reoccurring theme. For example – I went out to see the Downton Abbey movie last night with a friend. I probably stood in front of my closet for 15 minutes trying to figure out what to wear. What did I want to wear?

Who would have thought that one simple question, a question that people figure out every day without much thought, could take me so long.

Ugh. I hate this. I hate not knowing myself. I hate that I spent so many years in flux that I don’t know who I am, what I like, what I want. I’ve spent so many years doing what was expected, being who was expected. I don’t know where expectations stop and I begin.

I often wonder how other people deal with this? Is this something that’s common in people with mental illness? Is this even common in people my age? I have friends that have become parents that say that they lose their sense of self. Is this something along the same lines?

I have many thoughts

I have many thoughts. But I’m not really sure what they are. Does that make sense? I have all of these thoughts and feelings, but I can’t really define any of them.

One major irritant is that I spent 10 hours (while travelling) doing all of these modules for a food safety exam. I took notes, made flashcards, and studied my butt off. Took the exam this morning. Most of it was stuff never covered in the modules, and what was covered heavily in the modules wasn’t even on the dumb thing! I’m so annoyed. I either did fabulously or bombed the hell out of it. On the upside, if I bombed I can take it again in a few weeks and will have a much better idea of what is on the stupid thing. Although watch, it would be the reverse that time – all of the stuff that I studied for this time, and nothing that I would focus on for next time. For better or worse, I’ll get my results in 10 days-2 weeks. I hate these kinds of tests. They seem to be almost impossible to prepare for. I mean, does anyone else know what kind of cockroach is commonly found in food areas? I threw a Hail Mary and guessed American. Upon googling it appears that I might have been right, but this was NEVER COVERED IN THE MODULES. I quit.

It looks like Mike is agreeing to bring home a 5th cat. He’s a rescue at the shelter where I volunteer. He’s incredibly shy and hides when people come in, so it’s making it hard for him to get adopted. That being said, once he’s comfortable with you he is the sweetest little thing on 4 legs. My argument is that I’m the one that does the litter boxes normally, so he really has nothing to worry about other than cuddling the shit out of the cat. It appears that I finally won him over. I know, 5 cats sounds crazy. But this dude needs a loving home with other cats to play with. We can provide that. It looks like we’re never going to have kids (something we’re fine with), so pets are going to be our kids (something I’m also fine with). There are a lot of shelter animals out there that need a good home. We’re lucky that we can provide that for some of them.

I’ve spent a week and a half in training, now. Part of me feels totally confident that I can do this job. The other is screaming, “management?! I can’t be management!” Everyone seems to have a lot more faith in me than I do. How can you be sure of yourself? How do you shut up those voices in your head that tell you that you aren’t good enough.

I don’t know how. And I also kind of don’t want them to go away.

The death of a friendship?

Relationships change over time. That’s just how their nature. I recently hung out with a group of friends that I’ve known for years. But the last few times I’ve felt more and more distant and removed from them. That’s fine, the lack of effort is on all of our parts.

It’s just kind of sad, the death of a friendship. We’ll probably all still remain in touch, but I don’t think that we’ll ever get that level back.

And that’s ok.

One week done

I’ve been at the new job about a week now. This whole week and part of next week has been nothing but leadership training. It’s been a good experience, surprisingly. They seem genuinely committed to providing a supportive framework for their managers. Most people in the class have already been in their stores for a few weeks, so I’m the newbie out of everyone.

Last week we all had to take a personality assessment, called the DISC personality test. It measures you into one (or two, in cases) in terms of your behavior towards others and things that you do every day. It breaks it down into four major personality traits, although you will have bleed over into at least one other section if not all 3 to even a small degree. The categories are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.

When we started I would have sworn that I’d be in the Dominance group, but I ended up in the Steadiness group. The dominance is exactly with you think – direct, analytical, calm, diplomatic, etc. The steadiness, on the other hand, is almost the direct opposite – tactful, inspirational, cautious, independent, measured, etc. Steady, stable, predictable, even-tempered, friendly, sympathetic.

Turns out once I really read the report, I have to agree. I wonder how much my own experience with mental illness has really affected this. Probably at least some, more likely a lot.

One of the other things we had to do was an emotional intelligence test. Here’s where things get interesting.

I scored really high on the self-awareness part. But if you think about it, this is what I’ve been working on in therapy for years. Having bipolar disorder, I have to be totally tuned into my mood and emotions to monitor them and make the determination “is this a normal reaction to this situation?” or “is what I’m feeling extreme?” or even “am I spinning off of the rails?”

I guess it’s no surprise that I scored high there. When I was younger, we spent a lot of time on identify emotions, triggers, situations, etc. that can be an indicator that I’m moving into an episode. Hell, all of the things about self worth and self esteem with Sean has a component on this. In this case it’s more about thought than emotion – is this normal? is this positive? is this true?

I almost volunteered that this is something a lot of people work on in therapy, but I didn’t want to out myself.

Despite being very open about my diagnosis, I’ve decided that I really don’t want this to get out at this job. I feel like if my employees knew it would undermine me and my authority. Cause them to look at me differently or not take me seriously. It’s been a hard decision to make, but I feel like at least right now, it is the correct one.

It will be hard. I try to be open and almost be an ambassador for my diagnosis. Prove that the stereotypes aren’t true. That we are more than our diagnosis.

I hate being in this position. Can anyone else relate?

How does your story look from the outside?

I spend a lot of time wondering. Just thinking about different things. Most of the time not even about things that are all that important.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is my story. Obviously no one knows it better than me. I’m privy to the thoughts and feelings that I have that I don’t share with anyone. My inner monologue, if you will.

But I had two interesting thoughts this week.

We are all a part of other people’s stories. Maybe for a fleeting moment, maybe we hang around longer. But their stories help make up our own stories. Their stories expand our stories as we touch people’s lives and influence them. Every person you meet, hell every person you see, is a part of your story and you are a part of theirs. This could be net positive, net negative, or even net neutral.

If you really think about it, you’re connected to just about every person Earth just because of the people you’ve interacted with, and they’ve interacted with, and so on. It’s kind of a crazy thought.

I had a further thought though – in someone’s story, you are the villain. At least for a little bit. Just like you have your own villains, you are almost guaranteed to be someone’s.

I have to admit, all of these thoughts made me panic a little bit.

I’m an introvert at heart. When I’m at work, I’m an extrovert because I have to be. I couldn’t do my job as an introvert. But you bet your ass as soon as I leave work and am out of “work-mode,” I’m back to my social anxiety ridden, introverted self. I have to moderate who I spend time with by who adds to the bucket, who takes away, and who has little effect on it. I have friends that I can’t see very often because they exhaust me. And then I have friends I could see every day because they add to the bucket. My husband (luckily? thankfully? maybe that’s one reason why I married him?), is one of those people that adds to my bucket.

But a little further off topic, but still kind of on – who can you be yourself around and who do you wear a mask around? I have very few people in my life that I can be 100% myself around. I can think of 3-4 off of the top of my head. Everyone else I have to moderate myself with, either to protect myself, out of embarrassment, lack of trust, etc. I don’t show my true self to many people.

I don’t know. These were just some of my thoughts over the last few days. They’ve been rattling around in my head and I wanted them out.

I don’t even know what to tag this post as.