It’s hard to believe that it’s all ending in 48 hours

My last day at Big Box Hardware is this Friday, and I have to admit that it’s kind of bittersweet. When I left the (corrupt) lab last year, it was with a heavy heart. But I couldn’t stand by and watch things that I felt potentially jeopardize patients’ health happen. Instead, a campaign seemed to be launched against me to force me out.

It worked.

But I had already been working at Big Box Hardware part time for some spare cash. My boss at the time immediately jumped in and gave me full time hours for as long as he possibly could. That ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be.

My job searched stopped and started and stalled on more than one occasion. I’m not going to lie, I was depressed about the whole situation. I was angry at the way things had turned out at the lab, even though I was in the right. I managed to put my student loans into forbearance, and I trucked on.

And here we are – Friday is my last day. I’ve made a lot of good friends there, some I even intend to stay in touch with. But it’s time to move on, start a new chapter, and all that jazz.

I wish I had something profound or inspirational, but if we’re being honest, I’m freaking exhausted and am totally going to be in bed by 8. I just wanted to mark the occasion with a small footnote to the whole affair. It’s time to move on, it’s time to start over.

Myths and legends

I think it’s always important to review some of the myths about things, especially if it’s something important that affects you directly. So I found online a number of myths about mental health, and I’m going to address each one.

1/ Mental health problems don’t affect me.

I think by now that most of us at the very least know someone that’s had at least a run-in with mental illness. I think it’s something like 20% of American adults have, at least once in their life, experienced a mental health issue. This might be depression after a major trauma that eventually resolves itself, anxiety during a specific period of their life where they were under a lot of stress, or maybe a chronic illness that requires life-long treatment.

If you really honestly believe that you know no one that’s dealt with a mental health illness then you are either entirely unperceptive, not trusted with this information by those close to you, or living in a cave somewhere. I think that most of the people that I know have dealt with this in some form or another, either with themselves or someone that they love.

2/ Children don’t experience mental health problems.

When I was in college I volunteered with a lot of community medical programs and support groups. In a lot of these groups were parents with a child struggling with mental illness – anxiety, OCD, depression, eating disorders, etc. and they were there to learn how to support their kid through it, or looking for resources, or maybe just looking for someone in the same shoes as them – someone that gets it.

I know from personal experience that my battle began when I was in my mid-teens. It wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 20, but knowing what I do now, a lot of my behavior and thought patterns were definitely a product of mental illness. I think I wasn’t diagnosed earlier because back in the late-90s, people just didn’t know what to look for. It wasn’t diagnosed in teens as much, and back then people really did have a completely different view of things. Luckily my parents learned from the experience, and when my (very much younger) brother started exhibiting signs when he was a pre-teen, they immediately got him into treatment.

3/ People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

How often do we still deal with this stereotype? We’re not murders, or rapists. We don’t assault random people walking down the street. In fact, people with mental illness are greatly more likely to be victims of crime, especially violent than psycho-typical people. I have to wonder if it’s because so many people with mental illness are still are still marginalized by society and forced into situations that aren’t safe – living on the streets, being stuck in an abusive relationship, and so forth.

4/ People with mental health problems, even those who are managing their illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

It’s true that sometimes we need to take a break from work to manage an episode, get our feet back under us, etc. But by and large, most people with mental illness are productive members of society that hold jobs of all sorts, volunteer in their community, and have families. I remember when I was first diagnosed my mom crying to my stepdad that no one could know – my life would be ruined if people knew.

Now? I’m moving to a new job into a management position, I volunteer, I have a family. I keep the house running. Sure, there’s stress, but I manage it effectively through the help of pharmaceuticals and therapy. I’m a contributing member of society, and personally? I think that I’m doing a damn fine job.

5/ Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental problems, and people with mental illness can snap out if it if they try hard enough.

Of all of the myths on this list, this one pisses me off the most. I know a number of weak-willed people that don’t suffer from mental illness. In fact, some of the strongest people that I know have dealt with mental illness for at least a time in their life, if not chronically. We deal with it day in and day out and choose to keep going.

“Maybe if you exercise and get some sun you’ll feel better.” I just want to punch these people in the face. Gee! Why didn’t I think of that? Why am I wasting all of this money on meds and therapy and appointments with my shrink when this was the answer all along! /s Ugh. I hate these people.

6/ There is no hope for people with mental health problems. There is no hope of recovery.

Sure, there may not be “recovery” for a lot of us, and we’ll be dealing with these problems for the rest of our lives, but they can be managed and allow us to lead productive lives. See #4.

7/ Therapy and self-help area waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?

For most of us those pills are the Holy Grail. I admit that freely. But these pills allow us to be able to tackle the issues that we deal with in therapy. So yeah, the pill helps. But the journey to wellness is really through therapy.

So yeah. Myths and my responses. Your mileage my vary, as always, with my thoughts, but I feel like addressing these kinds of myths and fighting back against them is, in a way, our duty.

How I keep the voices in my head quiet

The one perk of the Big Box Hardware Store is that I’m off weekends. Which, on Saturday, means college football and chores.

But I’ve found this a good way to keep the voices in my head quiet. If I keep busy and my mind and hands occupied, they don’t seem to pop up nearly as often. It’s in those quiet moments that you feel the tap tap tap of them getting ready to make themselves known and heard. I have to be in the right mind-frame to go to bed. I have a ritual I go through with my meds, and skincare, and getting everything ready for the next day. This routine is how I tell my mind to shut the hell up and get some sleep. I’ve found that if I just go to bed without doing these things I will lay there and obsess and ruminate and think. And then I never get any sleep.

I’ve also made sure over the years that I get enough sleep. I go to bed early if I have to be up early, and I stay up later (well, relatively) on the nights I can sleep in in the morning. I’m pretty strict about my sleep.

But I have to be – one of my biggest triggers for a mixed or manic episode is to not get enough sleep multiple days in a row. It’s part of the reason I’m such a planner. I figure out what I need to do each day and make time early in the evening or the day to do it. If I didn’t have it all written down I’d be worried that I forgot something, or I wouldn’t realize how much I had to do and be up late finishing things. And over the years my husband has learned that when I say it’s time for me to go to bed, I mean it. So on the nights I have to go to bed early, we make sure we spend some quality time together before that deadline.

I don’t think most people in my life realize how closely regimented my days are. They are planned in advance, taking care to have a general idea of what time I need to go to bed and what needs to be done. I plan things heavier on days that I’m off, and try to get started early in the day so I can have some time to relax in the evening.

It’s funny, though – I don’t know one person with a major mental illness that doesn’t do these things. We’ve talked about it at length, traded tips about how to organize and budget time, purchased tools to help with that.

This also helps keep me busy. My family laughs that I’m always on the go in some manner of speaking, and they aren’t wrong. But I don’t think anyone, sans my husband, realizes why I stay as busy as I do.

I want to voices to shut the hell up.

The voices that tell me that I’m not good enough, that I’m not worth anything, that I shouldn’t be happy, that people don’t love me.

I hate them with a firey passion, and I would love nothing more to shut them up permanently.

So you see? I’m not super organized because I’m into organization, exactly. I’m organized because it keeps me sane. One thing my therapists/docs could never agree on over the years is whether these are caused by something like bipolar or anxiety, or these have been shaped by my experiences. Honestly? It’s probably a little bit of both.

I wonder sometimes what it’s like to be in the head of someone neurotypical. Do they have these voices? Or are their thoughts just full of random things when they’re not busy?

My anxiety is how I know I’m alive

Had orientation today. We scheduled it before my first day while I’m still at Big Box Hardware Store so I can just jump in and get going when my first day comes.

I had the first realization that – holy shit, I’m management – today. In my orientation were two younger kids, both there to be cashiers. There was a lot of “this doesn’t apply to you” or “we’ll go over how you’ll do that later” directed at me. But… this was the first time that I really had that realization of holy crap, it’s actually happening.

All the while my anxiety is screaming in the background.

You can’t do it.

You’re not good enough.

You’re going to fail.

Then I remind myself that I worked in an incredibly high stress healthcare job that was literally life or death for six and a half years and I survived. I completed a high-level Masters degree while working full time. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that people said I couldn’t do or that I’d fail. And not only am I going to survive this, I’m going to be amazing.

So fuck you, anxiety. Fuck you, mental illnesses.

I got this.

I’m going to let the first sentence of this post speak for itself

I GOT THE JOB!!!!!

Ok, I had to get that out of my system.

I was big time hitting the Panic Button yesterday afternoon, and I ended up reaching out to the recruiter again. I got her voicemail (again), and was try to shut my anxiety the hell up and convince it that I wasn’t being ghosted. By a company. Is that even a thing?

(To be fair, I’ve followed enough of my friends’ job searches that I have seen that yes, this is a thing.)

Anyway, she called back while I was getting my haircut and she emailed me a draft of my offer letter. The only thing missing was when my orientation would be. I put my notice in at work, and so far so good. The store manager is refusing to even look at me, but that’s better than him freaking out. I’m assuming my immediate supervisor will flip out when she gets back from vacation next week, and her boss, who is back tomorrow, will also be very unhappy and I’m sure I’ll hear about it.

But good news – orientation is Friday after I get done at work. I had mentioned to my recruiter that things might go south once I put my notice in and asked if there was any wiggle room for me to start early. That’s the advantage of doing the orientation this week – hopefully I won’t need it, but if I do, maybe I can start early.

My anxiety is running at full bore since putting in my notice. I had a good conversation with one of the managers, and he made me feel much better about the whole thing. Part of me feels like I’m abandoning them. I mean, they’ve done a lot for me over the past year – gave me full time hours even though I was part time, finally (finally) promoted me. And then two weeks later, I leave.

But at the same time, they held me where they wanted me for how many months? There was a store reorganization a number of months ago, and they never informed the general store that there were a number of management positions open. They put the people into the positions they wanted, and stuffed the rest where was left over. I didn’t hear about all of this until applications were closed and they were doing interviews.

Dick move.

So yeah, they’ve done a lot for me, but they’ve done a lot to hold me down.

Now that I think of things that way, they aren’t worth my anxiety. They aren’t worth my stress. They aren’t worth damaging my mental health.

So I’m going to move on to my new job with a clear conscience and hopes for a brighter future without burning any bridges and holding my head up.

Still waiting, and stuck in another way

I’m still waiting for the official offer letter. It’s driving me crazy. They told me I’d have it by today. but when I reached out to my contact after mid-day, the call went to voicemail. I’m trying not to panic, but I know if I don’t hear from her tomorrow that I’m going to. I’m pretty much stuck – I won’t put in my 2 weeks until I have that offer letter in hand I’ve been burned by that before, and I won’t put myself back in that situation.

Current job is not going to be happy, and I already confirmed with new job’s HR that if things go poorly or completely south that they can have me start earlier. But they’re going to be pissed that I accepted the new position only to leave three weeks later. They have a track record of making life utterly miserable for people that are leaving, and I’m preparing for the worst.

But onto other things.

Have you ever had the feeling of being stuck in your own head? Like, repeating obsessive thoughts all along the same line. Here’s an example. I accidentally cut my wrist on some rough metal sheeting. It was a shallow cut, but I couldn’t stop staring at it. And from there we went to literally dissecting my wrist, making sure not to cut anything vital, down to the bone until I could literally see my pulse through my arteries and veins. If I’m being honest, I still dream about this, I don’t know how many years later. My shrink calls these intrusive thoughts. I call them a pain in the ass.

My head can get so hooked on a thought or idea. Hell, even a person or a place. It goes round and round and round. Most of the time a weird cycle of anxiety goes with it. Sometimes it means an episode is coming on. Sometimes it’s just Tuesday. One thing we’re working on in therapy is how to let these thoughts go, but it’s easier said than done. A lot easier said than done.

I’m open to hearing how you deal with these things.

It finally happened

I heard back today, my background check is back and looks good, so they offered me a job. I’m shocked, ecstatic, nervous, and I still feel like it’s a big joke. But it’s not. I’ll have an official offer letter on Monday (the recruiter wasn’t exactly sure what my pay was going to be as no one had told either of us). My last day at current Big Box is the 20th.

No, they don’t know yet. I couldn’t find the resignation form at work today, so I’m going to have to go Old School and write a legit resignation letter and deliver it on Monday. Seeing as how they just gave me a slight promotion, I honestly feel bad for leaving. But this job is a huge jump in pay and responsibility and actually *gasp* uses my education.

I know I’ll feel better once I do it, but I hate feeling like I’m letting people down. They’ve done a lot for me in the last year – gave me 40 hour weeks even though I was part time, working with and around my personal schedule when needed, and then finally giving me a new position with a slight pay increase that’s full time.

This is one of those things that’s really not good for my mental health. I’m dosing up on the CBD all weekend because this is prime Panic Attack material.

Ugh, this is the part that I hate.

(But I’m still totally excited. I’ve been looking for a job for two years. And finally – FINALLY – all of that work paid off. It’s vindicating.)

I think I may have done it

Both interviews today went really well. The one this morning was the big one – the final interview for a position I’ve been interviewing for for two months. Ultimately, we decided (mutually), that the position I was interviewing for wasn’t a good fit yet. I needed some experience at a slightly lower level and then I’d be ready. So she verbally offered the job, pending a background check. After that’s done, they can send an official offer letter. All of the interviewing is done. Now it’s just paperwork.

I think this is a good thing. I had really questioned the sanity of putting me in a position, after completing two years of training, mind, with little to no experience. Jumping straight into a store manager role, to me, makes no sense. There’s a lot of experience and learning opportunities I’d miss out on if that was what was going to happen. She agreed. So we’re starting a step lower than that. I’m perfectly happy with that as over the last few weeks I thought about how much stress it would put me under, even in a training program, to jump right into the deep end. I have no doubt I could do it, but I feel that this is a much better turn of events. I’m happy, my parents are happy, the few friends I’ve told are happy… everyone is happy.

I did the second interview, just to keep my options open. And I have to say, I’ve gotten really good at answering the question when they ask why, after a degree and almost a decade in science I went back to get my MBA. I’ll come back to this in a minute, but I felt as though it was important to do this interview – what if something at the first company fell through? What if I needed another option? I don’t want to close a door before it even opens. Besides, doing another interview would continue to hone my skills.

This position is definitely not a good fit. 85% travel or more. The money would be good, but it’s a high stress job that would require me to do a lot of sales work from cold calling, which is something I really don’t want to do. But I’m keeping it in my back pocket if I need it.

Let’s chat for a minute about why I left science.

I love science. I still read up on new research and developments. As it turns out, I really hate bench work. The work is monotonous, at my last job we worked in teams of 2 in a basement with no windows. Especially at night you had no concept of time or the night passing. If no one came into the lab and you were too busy to get out to the other department that was there at night, unless someone came in you literally saw no one other than the one person that you were working with. There was little to no room for a career advancement. To make matters worse, where I worked was at the top of the pay scale for tech jobs. I was never going to go anywhere and make even 80% of what I was making there. I was up against a wall.

To make matters worse, my mental health really suffered there. My anxiety was constantly ramped up due to the culture of “make a mistake, lose your job.” They expected robots, both in and out of work. You were expected to sacrifice your family life and quality of life for them. To be honest, the whole experience really soured me on working in a lab and even in certain sections of healthcare. Which stinks, because I really like the field. Maybe some day I’ll use that part of my MBA, but at least as of right now, I have no desire to.

Anyway, because of the anxiety I was always on the edge of an episode. I can think of three mixed episodes and four depressive episodes off of the top of my head over the six years I was there. There was probably even more minor blips, but that’s seven in six years. That’s not stable. That’s always on the edge.

It is so not worth it to work in a toxic environment like that. The price that you pay is far from worth it. I don’t care if it’s in science, retail, healthcare, sales, culinary – it flat out isn’t worth it if you’re miserable all of the time.

I’m trying not to throw up or panic

Tomorrow is the big day – 2 interviews! The final with the first company, and the first with the second company. I don’t know if I can take this much excitement in one day. In other words, I don’t know if I can take this much anxiety in one day.

Interview A is 45 minutes away. I have to drive in rush hour traffic, either on the interstate or up a major highway. Either way. This is anxiety on top of anxiety. I’m already trying not to panic.

I have a dermatologist appointment in the middle (joy of joys), just to break up the monotony of the day…?

Ugh, I have so many feelings. Is it possible to have this many feelings at once? I MISS MY EMOTIONAL GARBAGE CAN!

*deep breath*

Ok. I needed to get that out of my system.

Well, wish my luck. I’m going to need it.

The audacity of… hope?

I had a whole post written last night in a response to a pin I saw on Pinterest with the “7 Cardinal Rules of Life.” The cat walked across my keyboard, put my laptop in airplane mode (which I did not notice), and a series of unfortunate clicks before I realized what the problem was, the whole thing was lost. I’ll get back around to it someday. But today is not that day.

I’ve had nothing but let downs and false starts over the last year, if not longer. There’s a lot of balls in the air right now, but I’m starting to feel the stirrings of something I haven’t felt in a long time – hope. Hope that good things will happen. Hope that things are finally turning around. Hope that it will turn out in the end that I made the right choices. Hope that my friends and loved ones won’t regret sticking by me. Hope that I’ll finally be able to crawl out of the pile of shit that I seem to have slid into.

I don’t remember what it’s like to feel hopeful. It seems like for so long I’ve been crushed under the weight of life, the repercussions of my decisions, the constant worry and fear that I’ve done the wrong thing time and time again. Any more it feels like the only thing I know how to do is fail. I’m sick of feeling that way.

I’ve been thinking back over the last year, and I have to say, it’s only by the power of my meds that I haven’t slipped into a crippling depression under all of the stress. I mean, it’s been there, just beyond reach the whole time, but it hasn’t grabbed me and pulled me under. Sure, I’ve had minor blips, but that’s really all they have been – blips. I haven’t spent weeks on the couch, unable to physically move. I’ve managed to remain motivated, I’ve been getting things done. I’ve taken on the vast majority of the chores around the house, including handling all of the finances, most of the cooking, and a lot of the cleaning. Not because I enjoy it, but because it gives me a sense of purpose, and keeps me moving. It gives me things to do every day. A reason to get out of bed. And a nice surprise, I’ve found I enjoy doing a lot of this stuff.

Now anxiety, that’s another bear to deal with. It’s been there, though muted by the CBD I vape. But it has reared it’s ugly head on more than one occasion. There was one major panic attack, and countless crying conversations with Mike. It’s no wonder, under the strain of tight finances, the hassle and intensity of looking for a job, the nervousness of interviews, the dread of working a job I’m so over-qualified for its not even funny.

Actually, now that I think about it – how the hell have I not completely cracked?