Monday, October 28, 2013

ebbs and flows

Life is full of ebbs and flows.  Jolts and lurches forward.  Screeching stops and gradual accelerations.  Depression, mental illness for that matter, is really not very different.

When I'm at my worst, it's usually because I'm dealing with a perfect storm, and I've forgotten in the midst of trying to balance a million fire balls in mid air, to take a breath, take meds, do yoga or invest in the silencing of my brain.  And when I'm sniping and snapping at the smallest things, and I can even feel my face showing complete and utter disgust in the world, what hurts the most is knowing that the recipients of my ire and the pain and despondency of no hope are all in my own head and are at that moment, uncontrolled.  I had a moment like that briefly yesterday.  We've all been sick, and stressed and running a mile a minute and when we went to my mom's for dinner yesterday I struggled to lug all our crap into the house, had to call my husband back to help me heave crap in, then couldn't get in the door without fighting a million hurdles and it just felt like I was trying to navigate a medieval gauntlet from hell.  "Jesus H Christ!" I snarked.  "One of you kids come and deal with this ball!  Get it out of the road!"  I looked up to see my mother and my step brother looking at me like I'd walked into the room breathing fire.  I wasn't, but that's how it came out.  I was mildly frustrated, but at the brink of my perfect storm, that's how I look to the world at large.  Mild frustrations are treacherous climbs the likes of Mount Everest.  And a smile looks like Satan has usurped my body for his own and my possessed spirit is seething it's disdain.

If I could change these moments, you best believe that in a New York City second I would change them.  I'd do a 180, slap a happy ass smile on my face and act like I'd just been through the sexcapades and taken home the bronze, (cuz you know if you win the gold you were trying too hard to have any fun).  And I'd give absolutely anything not to let my daughter or my husband see or feel them.  It breaks my heart when those moments overtake me - for that reason more than any other.  I'm living with the knowledge that my child will have to say one day "there was a time when I didn't know what would greet me when I got home.  My mom or the evil doctor inside her."

But the moments of happy are sheer, exquisite joy.  That's the trade off.  You can never be normal - well I can't.  And that's probably because there is no such thing as normal.  But you can be your best sometimes, and you can value that above everything else, because that's what separates us from the beasts inside us.  And while you live with the moments where your body feels like it's going to explode into a million little bits and with their own wings, fly away so you can never put them back in can let one little teeny weenie tiny voice in the back of your mind, shout out as loud as it can that it will all be better in the morning.  A good sleep, and some peaceful quiet will help you to put the pieces of you back together, and you will have a better day tomorrow if you just persevere through this one.

Even Wil Wheaton knows what that's like.  It just gets better.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Weight of People's Opinions

So I'm at a point in my career where I've been in the same pay grade, doing basically the same things for a decade and well, that means it's time for an assessment.  Not that I'm not constantly assessing things anyway.  But lately, what this means is a bit different.

There's been a lot of change in my work this year.  At every level of the company, things have been getting a bit shook up.  And when I'm strapped for cash, and I'm lamenting that I could, should or would be making more money if only (pinpoint any one of at least a dozen reasons), well, I have to acknowledge that I and my illness are partly responsible for 10 years of stagnation.

At the same time, vertical and horizontal mobility at my place of employment hasn't really been viable.  And so, I've been pretty content to take on new projects but to hold the course because frankly, having a job is better than not having one, and I get paid very well for what I do, and I've learned in my 40 years that some things in life are more important, and having a job which affords me the time to devote to such things, well, that's the bigger priority.

Still, when you work in Corporate America, it almost doesn't matter how stagnant the industry is. They want to see, in fact they have to see, that you want more.  Just to maintain your status quo you have to give people an illusion that you're eager for more/better/different, because that's the generally accepted signal that you're worth your keep.

So I've done what I could to keep that illusion alive.  I've done what I had to do to make sure that my execution was top notch, and that the quality of my output was reputable.  At the end of the day however, it's a constant stress, a constant pain, and a constant struggle to find a groove where I can achieve this without feeling like I've compromised my own principles, ethics and morals.

Which brings me to the crux of today's angst.  My manager is firmly of the opinion that I should be doing a 360 review.  In other words, I am expected to solicit the feedback and input of approximately 30 people I work with for opinions and thoughts on what I do well, what I don't do well, and what I should be doing.  I've tried twice now to duck out of it, but have failed miserably in flying this one under the radar.  And when pressed, it's hard to simply say that I'm not interested in doing it because frankly, I'm past that desire to look for others approval/input on my personality.
I think the level of maturity I've reached tells me that the only opinions that really matter are mine, my husband's, my child's and well, honestly my closest friends on only certain issues.  I'm really not so career minded anymore that I'm interested in crafting people's perceptions of me.  And where at one point in time, it would have mattered to me that someone thought I was too assertive or not assertive enough, I just quite frankly don't give enough of a damn any longer to try and appease either of them.

And so, with metaphorical chains on my wrists, I'm appeasing my manager and going through the motions of setting up this feedback survey, knowing full well that some of the crap it generates will potentially trigger my anxieties and depression.  And I'm trying my damnedest not to be placing too heavy an emphasis on the potential results.  I'd sooner they fire me than cultivate any part of myself differently just to appease yet another innocuous and anonymous survey comment.

Feedback is important if you want it, need it, or can use it to move on.  Knowing it's all futile anyway makes this a whole lot of wasted effort for a whole lot of people, and it only potentially hurts one person.  It's like the corporately sanctioned bullying mechanism to weed out the weak ones and force them to sit at the front of the bus near the driver.  Hopefully this marks the beginning of the end of my career here and I can look back a year from now, lovingly looking at a severance check and a brand new chapter where the only opinion that matters in my life is truly mine.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Call to our Crusaders

Be loud.  There are people struggling with mental illness this very moment who need to hear they are normal.  That they are strong.  That they can cope with what ails them and come out victorious.

Be supportive.  Lend them a hand.  Help them pull themselves out of the pits and show them a light.  Any light.

Be there.  Day or night.  When they call on you, answer.  Be positive.  Share.

We have mounting needs for crusaders in the area of mental health.  I've long known about organizations that work with the health systems to process people and get people help, but there aren't nearly enough forums that reach out to individuals or where individuals who need a hand can turn to without stigma, without launching into a very cold and clinical system or without having hundreds of dollars to spare on out of network therapists, in a seriously underfunded portion of the health care programs.

In Ontario, I know this is changing, albeit ever so slowly.  And the fact that it's changing at all is a true testament to all of the crusading men and women in the clinical and non-profit programs who made it happen.  BUT, with the numbers of new people being included in the list of highly stressed, highly depressed and functionally living with the diseases growing each and every day, we really need to make our voices heard.

Let them ring clear.

Let me be the first to sing it from a roof top.

If you need me, I WILL BE HERE!
You are strong, you are normal and nothing you're going through right now is insurmountable.
I LOVE YOU!  And YOU ARE WORTH MY TIME and everyone else's...including your own.

Problem Solving for Dummies

One of the most integral pieces of learning we do in our childhood development is to solve problems.  It teaches us to look at problems from different angles, to deconstruct and rebuild so that we can perfect our outcomes as best we can.

We teach our children as toddlers that if something doesn't work, take it off/apart or turn it over and try again.  When you do, and apply what you've learned in the first attempt, you're going to have a better result.  As grown ups, we seem to forget this rule, or lack trust in the outcomes it will produce.  That's because it means in some cases we have to give something up, or risk losing something we have for the promise or hope that it will be better once we've tried it a different way.

Example.  If you're job sucks, after a certain point, it's not so easy to just quit your job and change careers.  You have to plan that kind of transition or risk being homeless and hungry or worse, putting your family through some degree of hardship.  In other cases, your government physically demonstrates it's no longer working for the people who elected it, and you would think that would clearly be a sign that a tear down or rewrite of the current infrastructure is in order, but people are afraid that will lead to lawlessness, disorder...perhaps there's fear that the people we put in power are actually too powerful and stronger than we are.  In still other examples, when a business has an operation that makes them a little bit of money and keeps things balanced but doesn't grow or show the ability to make more money, the  people who manage it are scared to expand scope and change tactics to do it smarter, better and perhaps more ethically because well, there's a chance it will cost more, and potentially won't make as much profit and therefore it's better to maintain a broken status quo.

So I imagine trying to explain this to my 3 year old, who get's incredibly frustrated when her foot gets stuck half way into the leg of her pants, or when her sock goes on upside down, or when she can't quite tie her shoelace or fit a puzzle piece into the picture...It's impossible to explain this in a way that a 3 year old would understand because at it's core, it's wrong.  And I think that's why I find it a lunatic thing to NOT deconstruct problems and start again at any age.

It's no wonder we're all on antidepressants.  We're not governed by our liberty and capability.  We ARE governed by fear and shame.

We overlay the words and concept of "risk assessment" on our decision making process as we grow older and wiser.  It's still a critical part of our decision making process and has a viable and legitimate place in our world.  Doing something that will compound the world's problems is definitely the wrong choice even when the short term benefits are so appealing.

That said, there becomes a point where you get stuck in "analysis paralysis", and that risk assessment phase overcomes you're ability to take important risks because the overall longer term benefits of it so outweigh the short term pain we'll feel to re-frame or re-build the solutions.

If you are fundamentally unhappy in your work, but you risk having to live in a trailer versus the nice executive home you've built for yourself so that you can keep feeding your family and go back to school to learn the trade that will inevitably make you happier than you are today, is it worth it?  It would certainly solve the immediate problem, AND would make it less painful to work until you were of ripe old retirement age, AND would show your children/family/self that you value your happiness above a paycheck.  It demonstrates that sacrifice is often the price you pay for success, and that success can't always be measured by a dollar sign.  Not at all the kind of lessons you try to AVOID teaching your children, so how can that then, be a wrong choice?  Well, no one likes poverty.  No one wants to live pay check to pay check.  Does that (or better yet, Should that) prevent you from trying?

Similarly, when resources are constrained at work, and doing things more ethically, or increasing scope will increase costs and labour investment, does it really make that the wrong choice?  I'm thinking this is a prime example of when you should turn it over, flip it around, tear it apart and start from scratch.  And when your government shuts itself down and act illegally, well then it seels like it's time for some sort of reform, reconstruction, rethinking.

We have to let go of the notion that tearing it apart and going back to the drawing board is a bad thing.  "The purpose of this meaningless and empty shell of life is (as Tim Minchin has said) to learn as much as you can about as much as you can, and to fill it".  I see that as the best justification of all for turning things over, starting from scratch, embracing change and taking the risk.

Not taking the risks are, too often, the riskiest choices of all.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lucidity is Wishful Thinking

So it's felt a lot lately like the world's a bit out of control.  There's no rhyme, reason or sense to how insane people are acting.  Most of what I'm referring to is in the world at large, and some still is far more personal.  In any case, it's all insane, and it's getting rather difficult to keep hanging on to any tethers of normalcy.

For a start, there's the shut down of Congress in the US.  In essence, there are Americans not being paid, bills not being paid, and not because there isn't money...these aren't austerity measures, these are children, pissed off they haven't been able to run the world into the ground legally, so their going to do it illegally.  AND while there has been endless rantings and ravings over the lunacy of it all, there's absolute apathy at delivering, forcing driving a solution.  If this were 1786, there'd be far less talking and a whole lot more torches and pitch forks, and a new government would be forming, under a new constitution, and frankly a whole new individual investment in the outcomes would be obvious across the western world.  At the very least, every congress person who is responsible for this shut down should be fired, without their ever loving insane pensions, and the jobs should be completed by the people who actually sit there with a brain in their heads focused on doing something for the country - full stop.

Then there's this whole "wag the dog" stuff happening in the middle east - whereby it would be just really fucking nice if one person with some clout had a brain and said the whole fucking thing is corrupt - and it's either time we step up and take over, or leave them fucking to it - no support, no trade, no sides - step out and fix your own shit so the good ones see opportunity for change and ask for fucking help first.

Then there's the personal life which honestly combined with the lunacy of everything else around me, is just not letting me get back on a diet plan.  I'm eating.  I'm cowering in a corner, and while it's stressing me out, it still seems infinitely wiser than throwing myself out into any sort of fray where the cross fire is sure to kill me.

So my apologies for seemingly unending silences here - I'll pop back in now and again when things seem far less dangerous.