Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Power of Touch

With the last year being so ridiculously horrible in regards to work my mental health deteriorated steadily through the year as well. I started this year with extremely high hopes, and great grades to show for it. My company helped me pay for my education and as part of their "help" to get me where I wanted to be my life got turned upside-down more than it would have just through school. I took great risks with my medication, which has lead to more and more serious episodes of mania, depression, and paranoia. The worst of this was the paranoia that has continued, albeit less severe than when I was at work being tormented by ever changing rules.

Which leads me to the subject of this blog post. Many people believe in the power of touch, this is apparent with massage therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, and countless other therapies that have made a comeback in our medical profession. My preferred reading lately has been dystopian societies or books about sex. The interesting juxtaposition of these types of books really tells two things about touch. Humans crave touch the same way we need water or food. The first book of the Hunger Games shows Katniss reaching out to whoever she can for help, for contact, for comfort. The other side is shown in Jenna Jameson's memoir, where she tries so hard to be accepted that she ends up putting herself in a compromising position as a teen and touch does nothing but hurt.

Having experienced both sides of the spectrum I can say for sure that touch can both heal and hurt. The healing aspect of touch is way more effective than the way that touch can hurt. I spend my nights laying awake in bed, scared that someone is going to break into my apartment. Terrified that my job is going to find something they deem to justify their actions, and that a judge is going to agree. Horrified at the possibility of being murdered in my bed while I'm asleep. This paranoia doesn't subside ever, it's always present at low levels. Until last night. Last night as I fell asleep I was super uncomfortable and at the same time more at peace than I have been nearly all year. My head resting on his shoulder, the most comforting touch came from his hand on my shoulder. He was sleeping, and every time I needed comfort his hand squeezed my shoulder a little.

All it took was that little touch and I slept more soundly than I have in months. I hope 2012 brings more peaceful nights, and a more peaceful mind.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grocery Shopping & Racism?

I went grocery shopping this morning to get basics for meals, and stuff for pirogi because Miss Crystal Freeman made me want to try making some. While I was there I witnessed one of the most atrocious instances of human behavior I've ever seen, recreation below:

Clerk standing next to the aisle: Excuse me. (as she moves out of the way)
Old Lady: *whispering* Fuck you!
Clerk: Excuse me? I'm just trying to get out of your way...
Manager: Is something wrong?
Clerk: I was just trying to get out of her way.
Old Lady: *all haughty* That is NOT what happened and you know it.

Another employee vouched for the young clerk and the woman just shook her head and walked away. I watched other people get in this woman's way; she behaved completely different when the person in her way was white than she did when they were black or Asian. I have never seen anyone treat people like that.

When I got home I wondered why I've never seen that before. I would imagine that it probably happens on a smaller scale pretty frequently because of our countries desire to just not talk about something instead of fixing the naivety that allows it to continue. I've come to the conclusion that the reason I don't see it is I don't treat people that way. In my world there is no reason why someone should be treated differently based on color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender...Not to say that I treat everyone equally. People are treated differently based on how I feel about them, or how I feel when I'm around them. I suppose some people may make those judgments based on external things. Either way I was completely appalled by the lady, and if it wouldn't have gotten me kicked out of the store I would have made her shopping even more hell than she made it herself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Healthy Dose of Paranoia Never Hurt Anyone

I've been on and off short term disability for roughly four months of this less than happy year. Not of my own accord, but because Corporate America does not believe in the employee. Which leads me to my conspiracy theory about this employers market that is currently happening in the good old U. S. of A.

My employer does engagement surveys to improve their employees experience in the workplace. I've filled out this engagement survey twice. Last years survey was very positive. I was more than satisfied with my job, I needed improvement but trusted my company to provide me with the opportunity and tools to improve. I trusted my boss, my bosses boss, my bosses bosses boss, and HR to provide me with fair treatment and a due process if anything happened to go awry. Unfortunately, everything went awry. My new boss had a degree that made me trust her with my very individual set of mental illness difficulties. I was presented with a series of "opportunities" packaged to make me feel good about the direction I was moving in the company. There were accusations made on my abilities as a scientist, and my ability to perform my job satisfactorily was systematically demolished by a boss that was unable to communicate with me. There was no help given to my boss, except to continue feeding them corporate double-speak that worked less every time we tried to make sense of each other. In the end my schedule was changed in a way that was impossible for me to accommodate with my medications and my illness. I was deprived of the ability to help my coworkers, the one thing that really brings me joy at work.

I love doing a great job, I love being phenomenal at what I do, being indispensable. Most of all, I love being helpful. Knowing enough about my job to step in where I'm needed, taking some of the blood, sweat and tears away from coworkers that don't have as much of a desire to throw their lives into their work. I want nothing more than to give my employer everything they want, and do a better job for them then they could ever dream. In return I ask for respect, the ability to have flexibility in my schedule to accommodate my insane need to fill my life with more than most would dare with school. I also ask for understanding for my strange schedule habits just in general. My particular breed of crazy sometimes doesn't let me do my job all at once if it's not necessary. Sometimes I need to take longer breaks than most, sometimes I work better in the middle of the night. If I'm needed for something there is a guarantee I will be there for the entire time I'm needed, but if I'm not I work better with an accommodation of extreme flexibility. I'm not alone. I read a memoir of a lawyer who used to sleep under her desk for that very reason. People like she and I don't fit into Corporate America's rules and regulations. If the company is willing to look the other way, or make special contracts to allow for our strange work habits we will be the best employee you will ever have.

America right now is an employer's market. They don't have to put up with such nonsense, and no one cares if employees are good as long as they don't cost very much. Unfortunately for people like the memoir writer and myself, we are very costly. Each of the first two years I worked for my company I was hospitalized for a week, and out for two more after that to determine the correct amount of medication. Six weeks of unworked time paid for by the short term insurance company. Six weeks the company had to hold my job for me without the ability to bring someone else in and fill the void. It was two terms of three weeks, nearly a year apart, but when it becomes an employers market they remember those things. In the year since I filled out that first employee engagement survey I have been pushed and pulled into stress that resulted in four months out in one year. Every time I make enough personal headway to return to work the rules change. Last time the rules were completely thrown out the window and I didn't even recognize the game that was being played.

It would be very easy to point at my company and say it's their fault. That's false. I'm not usually one for political statements, but what I've heard of the "We are the 99%" movement, it is the same principle at work. Our large businesses run exactly the way congress works. Everything is based on money. In an employees market, when companies are struggling to fill jobs I am worth the risk and the cost because I am an amazing employee. When employees are struggling to find work because the unemployment rate is so high I'm not worth the cost. Quality is sacrificed for the sake of the bottom line. Power and control lie with the company and when the power falls elsewhere the company uses any means necessary to get it back. It's lame and I've seen and heard many large companies doing this recently in the U.S. The 99% don't have money, therefore they don't have power. This means that the corporations, which behave like our government, are going to run our lives until there is an economic shift.

I don't know how to fix the underlying problem without an overhaul of the government, but I do know that we need to educate the public about their rights regarding illnesses and disorders. There are laws that require companies to behave a certain way when there is a legitimate medical reason for an accommodation. Students use this all the time in the form of test readers, note takers, extra time provided for tests, and quiet environments provided for tests, among other accommodations. These laws do extend to Corporate America and an adult life. It is unreasonable to expect someone that needs extra accommodations at school won't need them in their professional life. The ADA may be a good place to look for help, but there are two professions that are the most stable in these economic circumstances: law enforcement and lawyers. Many lawyers provide free consultations. They will be able to tell you if your employer is behaving in a legal manner. Not all unsavory behavior is illegal, in spite of being unethical. A lawyer can help sort that out for you.

One year ago I believed that large corporations would be able to self-regulate against unethical behavior. I now know better. I don't believe that unions are the answer to regulating unethical behavior, but employee knowledge of the line between unethical and illegal will be a huge step forward. Don't let an employer take advantage for as long as I did. Find answers, find help, learn the laws that pertain to your circumstances and don't be afraid to take a stand. The more people do this, the more companies will realize people value fair treatment and ethical employers. And please, don't forget being the 99% five, ten, twenty years from now when the market turns and yet again favors employees more than corporations. That is when we will have power and can make a real change in Corporate America.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Medications and every day life

Every thing I read online keeps saying, "stick with it, when you find the right medicine combination you'll feel amazing!". I have been through the ringer with medicine for the last 10 years. They keep screwing with it now, I swear if I ever find the right combination I'm going to be 150 years old. It feels hopeless.

Right now I am supposed to split up my Seroquel and take some during the day. This is not possible at all. I've had the trifluoroperizine dose increased and I am still seeing a guy outside my window with a knife. The prazosin was increased to help deter the dreams even more, and I'm waking up wondering how I got back home because I was obviously at school picking up books on genetics. Obviously Julia just told me Henry is going to school in Rockford with their little baby, why isn't she going along?

I'm tired all the time because sleep brings no relief from my daily trials and tribulations. On top of that the medicine does nothing but make me pass out.

I'd say the worst, though, is the paranoia. It's never stopped. My therapist said I need to decide what behavior I want to modify and that is enemy number one. I'm convinced someone else would be better for Terry, that he really should have nothing to do with me. That my friends should want nothing to do with me. I want to slide into a life of nothingness, no people, no animals, no me, to protect myself and everything around me. Slowly my thoughts are turning back to everyone being better off without me. Slowly the idea that I need to find an escape is creeping back into my life. Enemy number one is these thoughts. They need to be purged and when I'm so tired from the medicine I don't know that I can make them go away. Though, that tired nature means I probably won't have the energy to act on those thoughts, it really only takes one burst of energy and one well thought out plan and it will be done. Unfortunately, it would likely be without warning. I can only hope that burst of energy leads to a phone call instead of action taken. There is really not a guarantee  that will be the case. So, enemy number one must be fought like hell.

And maybe someday the therapy and the medicine will do their job. In the meantime I am continuing to stumble through life, school, and trying to get my head on straight. Hoping like hell that my short term disability will see this as enough to pay for my time in treatment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Returning to the real world.

As I mentioned in my last post this summer has been particularly hard on my brain. I don't know if my diagnoses of bipolar will change or adapt with this summer's activities, but the psychosis has increased dramatically. I have had visual and auditory hallucinations my whole life. Most of the time they were pushed aside by everyone, myself included, as an overactive imagination. To be fair to all, it was very difficult to tell apart my dealings with hallucinations and a normal child with an overactive, or overstimulated, imagination.

This summer the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality has been impossible. I spent countless weeks dreading the night, dreading the descent into that dark place where horrible things happened. The worst part, though, is when I wake up I don't know that those horrible things weren't real. I spent close to 15 hours one day believing my father-in-law died. I went to his funeral, my husband decided not to talk to me shortly after, and my friend Dan stepped up and helped me out when I needed it.

None of those things happened. When I finally talked to my husband I couldn't believe him, wouldn't believe him. It took me hours of ruminating on the idea that Dave is fine, Terry never abandoned me, and I haven't seen Dan all summer, for me to finally accept that it never happened.

Shortly after that incident the Seroquel was increased to 200 mg a day and an alpha blocker was added to my tiny cocktail. I now take 2 mg a day of Prazosin, which for some strange reason separates the dreamer from the dream. I can now, most of the time, tell the difference between dream and reality. Though, when I saw Inception two weeks ago I identified dearly with Mal. I wished that I identified a little more with Ariadne. Maybe someday.

Unfortunately, that is not the end. I still hear, see, feel, and smell things that do not exist while awake. Such fun! I'm starting to be able to identify which things exist and which don't by other cues around me and around the object, but it isn't enough. To the cocktail! I have already tried and failed with one additional anti-psychotic, I'm currently refusing to take Zyprexa because of the terrible reaction I had to it the last time it was in my cocktail (sometime between 2001 and 2004). The second medication I'm trying is trifluoperazine. I'm on a low dose that is going to be increased a week from today. My driving ability is nil currently. I flighty, I can't hold more than one thought in my head at a time. I'm on short term disability at work to protect my job from poor performance.

Tomorrow I start school. To say I have an ambitious schedule may be the understatement of the year. In the end, talking to the teachers, taking a TON of notes, writing everything down...hopefully that works. If there is damage done to my 3.83 GPA it will be unfortunate, but with a 3.83 at least I have room to fall a little. And work is scheduled to start again on 26th of September. Fingers crossed for sure that this will all improve and I can go back. I hate the way this feels.

Monday, August 22, 2011

And we try again...

I stopped blogging in June because several things happened. First, Terry left for boy scout camp for about 8 weeks (staff, not camper). Second, I was placed on an improvement plan at work, which left me a tad bit scared to share things about myself. Third, my bipolar has gotten significantly worse, and this has left me with an even more scared feeling about sharing with myself. Reasons number two and three are kind of bull for not wanting to sharing my experiences. I naturally am a very open person and I want so badly to share and be an advocate for people with mental illness. I told Terry that I'm interested in writing a sort of memoir-truth-telling-self-help kind of book, but these are so commonplace right now for mental illness that I'm a little gunshy of doing anything with that idea.

I don't know where I lost my voice. At some point I decided that I was going to let social acceptability and corporate America take away my ability to shout from the rooftops that I am mentally ill and you know what people? it is okay. sometimes life with mental illness is hard, its regularly not pretty, but that doesn't mean its urinating on the side of the liquor store scary. So, long story short, I am going to make an attempt to find that voice again. I want to share good things about life, bad things about life, annoying things...

Look for more of me soon.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One busy semester leading to another...

I finished my first year back at school, and I even made the Dean's List! I don't like talking about work, but I'm going to allow a blurb this post. Work had been awful. Beyond awful. I've been focusing on my home life, my school life, and other non-work related things, in the meantime I allowed such a toxic environment to happen. I can't even begin to describe how terrible it felt to go to work and see my boss. I applied for FMLA, and a position in the lab to try and squash some of those terrible feelings, but they really haven't gone away yet. I'm going to make a significant effort over the summer to improve them, and hopefully I find something in the lab. A few months ago I was given an amazing opportunity to help third shift. I love everything about it. I learn so much, the people are fabulous, and the third shift supervisor is really funny and nice. It has made work fun again. I still have significant anxiety and personal issues dealing with my boss, but my summer goal is to learn how to adjust my style as an employee to better match my supervisors style and needs at work. She's out on maternity leave the whole summer, so I'm really going to make that effort for when she returns.

During my (too short) summer break this year I'm taking two classes, a speech class and an online calculus class to help me graduate a bit sooner. I'm planning on moving in August so I get to apartment hunt (on my own!). Terry will be out of town from June 12 through August 5 rejuvenating by working at a boy scout camp so he gets to put up with whatever I pick for our next home. I get to work on my cooking skills, and focus on me. It feels like a gift to me that I get to take that time out to learn what I'm like when I live alone. I've been motivated by the Madison Marathon runners to run in the Crazy Legs race next April. Crazy Legs is definitely not a marathon, its only an 8k so I feel like that's a good goal to successfully accomplish.

I'm excited for summer and looking forward to the break. Next semester is going to be another doozy, 6 classes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This is probably going to be a short post, I'll have to run back to school shortly, but I wanted to touch on something that has always confused me. Honestly, if anyone is reading this that knows more about the topic please let me know your thoughts.

I watched a National Geographic documentary last night about Jerusalem, I actually thought it was going to be about historical Jerusalem, but it turned out to be about modern day struggles between the Muslim culture, Jewish culture, and Christian culture in Jerusalem. Watching all of the separation put between the groups, and the different groups efforts to exclude each other from places that are important for all three religions beliefs. It made me so upset to watch, There was a man in the documentary that said before 1948 when all of the Jewish people were thrown out of the city the Jewish minority and Arabic majority lived in peace (mostly). They were neighbors and helped each other. After the mass genocide of World War II the Jewish population started traveling back to Jerusalem to return to their religious roots, most having the belief that they couldn't be persecuted there. That the genocide couldn't touch them there. And instead, ever since, there has been a massive struggle between religious nations.

I read an article a while back that said if you aren't Jewish by birth or "Jewish enough", meaning your lineage isn't pure, there are parts of the government in Israel and Palestine that won't consider you part of the religion. You aren't able to travel to certain places, you aren't allowed to worship in certain ways...I don't talk about my religious beliefs a lot, but I was raised Lutheran and have since changed my opinions many many times over. Never officially changing my fundamental beliefs, they have simply been rearranged and re-evaluated over and over again. Maybe its the fluid nature of my beliefs that make me wonder how people can justify turning religion into such an exclusive club. How can you teach love and compassion and at the same time build walls and express such hate? That duality is just too much for me to understand...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Goals and aspirations


My friend Becca and her husband have made this list of 101 attainable goals in 1001 days. I love this idea and I wanted to make my own version. Because my life is currently being turned upside down every few months with new school schedules/work schedules I decided to keep the ratio the same, but use 365 days instead of 1001.This left me with about 36 goals. I then split them further, 12 for me, 12 for terry and 12 for "together" goals. I'm writing it on the internets to keep me more accountable this year. I have about 293493287 more things I would like to accomplish so depending on how far I get mid-year I may add more for myself, otherwise I'll hang onto those other goals for 2012.

On to the list!

STEPH

  1. blog two times weekly
  2. complete a "Year in Madison" photobook
  3. keep a mood calendar daily
  4. work out three times weekly
  5. change jobs (obtain lab position at my current company)
  6. read 24 (non-school) books - 12 "fun" fiction books/12 non-fiction books
  7. complete all homework on time
  8. watch Craig Ferguson one time a week
  9. attend one symphony
  10. attend three plays
  11. write five movie reviews
  12. make one "foodie" dinner a month just because it looks/sounds delicious & uses at least one ridiculously indulgent ingredient.
"TOGETHER" GOALS

  1. camp more often
  2. make dinner six times a week
  3. have one date a month
  4. move somewhere with more space
  5. make/follow a cleaning schedule
  6. set spending limits & budget
  7. pay off credit cards (again)
  8. volunteer three times
  9. don't get married again
  10. pay all bills on time
  11. become more social
  12. find a new "together" hobby
TERRY (a work in progress)

  1. buy a firearm
  2. clean animal tanks every other week
  3. get a new job
  4. pay off a student loan
  5. fish more!








I am looking forward to seeing how this goes. Honestly, I think the item that will be the hardest for me is picking 12 fiction books to read. I mostly read biographies/autobiographies & nonfiction books about religion, sex/sexuality and science. I deliberately didn't include anything about losing a certain amount of weight or trying to eat healthier because I feel like any goal I set about that will disappoint me. If I eat more food I make it will automatically be healthier simply because I can control what goes into my food. Also, I feel that by working out at least three times a week I should either lose weight or inches without making a specific goal. Frankly, I know I'm considered obese by the medical industry but I don't care. I'm mostly comfortable with the size I'm at right now, and my chest is enormous. My most recent best guesstimate is each breast weighs somewhere between 15 and 20 lbs. That's a lot of chest and I don't want to make an unrealistic weight goal by not compensating for that weight.


Anyway, I love planning and making goals and I'm super excited as this year begins. There is so much that is unknown. It's like this big huge blank space on my future and I get to write in whatever I want. I'm going to close with the writing that I identify with most at the beginning of this year.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the under growth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I wish the best for each and everyone of you in 2011. New beginnings are always important!
There was an error in this gadget