The official Social Security papers arrived yesterday.
I’m looking at the envelope right now. I’ve read through the documents, and once again I can’t believe that I’m really doing this. I don’t WANT to do it. I feel like such a weakling, using a mental illness as a reason why I have so much trouble with working. Yeah, I know—it’s not the mild case I’d prefer to believe it is, and it’s caused me untold misery both in the workplace and out. But even though I know better, I still harbor this insane notion that I could return to nursing if I’d simply be stricter with myself.
I find myself thinking back to the time just before I was diagnosed, when a series of adverse events turned me into a hot mess. I was struggling with depression and anger, and it spilled over into work. I remember sitting in my office and staring at the stack of paperwork on my desk, completely unable to do anything about it, my thoughts racing at the speed of light; I didn’t know what was wrong then. And when I found out, it blew me away, even though I shouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.
Sometimes I look back and wonder what my life would be like today if those events had never occurred. Would I still be working and living a successful life? Or would I be sitting here with Social Security documents on my computer table? I don’t suppose there’s any way to know; it’s not like I can unring the bell. But I do find myself thinking now and then that things might be different if I could turn back time to 2011 and take an alternate path. Which begs the question: would I be so hard on myself if the illness were a physical one?
It’s not as if I don’t face physical challenges as well. I’m severely overweight and have some pretty gnarly arthritis, in addition to being diabetic, asthmatic, and hypertensive. The obesity alone would probably qualify me for SSDI, as there are a whole lot of jobs I can’t do as a result of it. I have always refused to let it get in my way, but I’m up against the realities of aging now and I simply can’t perform the same activities I could 10 or 15 years ago.
Oddly enough, this eases my guilt a little bit. I’m not happy about it, but I’m less upset about having a physical disability than a mental disability, even if that particular disability is self-inflicted (while the bipolar is not). I know it’s weird, but it’s the way my mind works thanks to living in a society which still views mental illness as a curse borne by “those people”. Does that sound crazy?
So here I am with a big, fat envelope from the Social Security Administration on my computer desk, wishing I didn’t have to fill out papers and gather documentation and give permission for Dr. A and Dr. L to give SSA the down-and-dirty on me. I wish I didn’t have to avoid the temptation to make light of my difficulties. And I wish more than anything that I could still be a nurse making thirty bucks an hour, instead of barely existing on $360 a week and worrying about what will happen when those unemployment benefits run out.
In the meantime, I’m still awaiting the results of my interview last Friday, so there’s hope for at least a little extra money if I get the writing job. Keep your fingers crossed for me—I need all the luck I can get.
I want to go off Zyprexa.
Well, I do. I’m in a major creative dry spell and I want to feel something strongly enough to be able to write about it. I also want to throw off this lassitude which is keeping me from shaking up my job search and thinking outside the freaking box. It’s weird how I can get so excited about a football game and yet have so little enthusiasm for everyday life (although I’m still pretty stoked about the possibility of that writing job). Maybe if I weren’t on so many medications…..
Of course, that might be a tough sell with Dr. Awesomesauce, as much as he doesn’t want to keep me on Z forever. I’ve already been on it for six months, and was on more than off of it for the three months prior to that. However, he just reordered three more months’ worth of it so I don’t think he’s going to take me off anytime soon. Still, he may be OK with me trying to cut back a little, even though it didn’t go so well last time. I hate being such a slug in the mornings…..it practically takes a crowbar to pry me out of the bed, no matter how early I take my nighttime meds or how well I sleep. That won’t do if I get a day job. I remember having difficulty staying awake at my desk during my last job, and it’s never really gotten better. Dialing back the dosage might fix that.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything without Dr. A’s knowledge and approval. I know only too well what he’d say, and I don’t want to disappoint him. He can shame me almost to tears with a certain facial expression, and I don’t want to see that. (Funny how he keeps me on the straight and narrow even between appointments.) I also know I’d be risking the reappearance of Manic Barbie…..but sometimes I just can’t help missing her, or wanting a taste of the wild, wild world I used to live in. The depressions are awful, and mania itself carries its own set of problems; but a little hypomania would be so refreshing!
I know even THINKING about this is like playing with fire, and when I think of how bad my mood swings used to be, I wonder why I’d want to take a chance of going back to those days. I remember the time I crashed and burned after a particularly severe manic episode; I sat up in bed long after Will had gone to sleep, crying in the dark and swinging one leg over the side for hours. I ended up sneaking into the bathroom around four AM and calling the suicide hotline because I needed someone to talk to and I didn’t want to wake Will up and scare him.
That sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore. It hasn’t happened in a year and a half, and it seems even longer ago than that. I keep telling myself that a brief, delicious ‘high’ isn’t worth going through something like that again, and that the Vitamin Z is responsible for this relatively long period of remission. What kind of fool would even think about screwing that up just to chase the high?
Thinking about it, however, is all I’m going to do. I won’t strike that match, no matter how tempting it is. I promise.
I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it: I interviewed today for a part-time writing job, and it went exceedingly well—so well, in fact, that I’ve got a really good feeling about it. Granted, I had a good feeling about that nursing home position back in May and I didn’t get it, but this is less of an unknown quantity; I know the people, and they know me…..eccentricities and all.
What’s even more exciting is that this is a ground-floor opportunity, and there’s really no place to go but up. What on earth do I have to lose? I’m certainly not doing anything else useful, and I love to write more than almost anything. I’ve long dreamed of a life where I can snuggle up in warm blankets in front of a roaring fireplace and share my wisdom with the world <cue the hysterical laughter>. Seriously though, writing is my first love and always has been…..now comes an opportunity to do exactly that and get paid for it.
I’m under no illusions that this will be my full-time occupation, at least not for the foreseeable future, but maybe I can get by with another part-time job (if I can even find one) and/or disability if I win benefits. As much trouble as I have with focus and concentration, I do all right in a quiet environment where there are few distractions and people to bother me. It’s amazing what I can accomplish when I’m not stressed out by noise and bright lights and too much activity. That’s what got me at my last major nursing job…..my office was Grand Central Station, and there were a number of times I almost hurled the phone against a wall because it was ringing nonstop and the receptionist just could not grasp the concept of taking a message.
Here, at least, I can ignore my cell phone and if I get stuck on a project, I can get up and do something else for a while until my Muse comes back and takes another dump on my head. Which she does with some regularity now that I’ve developed the self-discipline to write every day, or at worst every other day. This blog has prevented me from developing writer’s block, because over 200 people I’ve never met are counting on me to produce and I feel a responsibility to them, as well as to my friends on Facebook who read my stuff in their news feed every day.
Yes, folks, in the vernacular of my children’s generation, I am STOKED. Even though I have to wait a couple weeks to find out if I get the job, even though most of the rest of my life still sucks, this could be the beginning of living my dream. Keep your fingers crossed!
Well, phase one of my Social Security odyssey has begun; I just had a 20-minute conversation with my attorney’s legal assistant that’s going to get the ball rolling on my disability claim.
It felt so awkward, talking to a stranger on the phone about my health issues. I’m OK with writing about them in this space because the Internet is so anonymous, but reading off my medication list and giving intimate details about how bipolar has affected my life and my ability to work just feels weird. I don’t know why. I’m sure this fellow has dealt with far worse issues than mine. But I’m going to have to get used to it, because this is only the beginning.
We’re going for broke on this. ALL of my medical conditions will count towards my eligibility and with any luck, prove to the powers that be that I really do need to be on Social Security. And I have to admit, if I were to review a chart like mine, I’d say it’s pretty impressive. High blood pressure. Diabetes. Asthma. Arthritis. Metabolic syndrome. Bipolar. Not to mention bad knees, bad back, chronic obesity and alcoholism. I used to joke that I wouldn’t have been admitted as a resident to my own assisted-living facility with my medical record, but I don’t think it’s very funny anymore.
So why do I feel like such an asshole for doing this?
Because it still feels like I’ve given up, even though I continue to search for jobs I think I can handle both physically and mentally. I confess that I’ve looked at a couple recently that I know I can’t handle, simply because they are familiar and they pay well. How I wish I could do that kind of work again; at least I was able to support my family and have a few bucks left over to go to the coast or see a movie once in awhile. But after losing two jobs and quitting another within a year’s time, I know I can’t get around it anymore. All the evidence points to the fact that I really am doing the right thing.
This is what I always was afraid would happen to me if I stayed on psychotropic medications for any length of time, and I was right: I have become utterly dependent on them.
I forgot my AMs again this morning, so of course by three PM I was restless and edgy. I’d called in my refill requests on Monday and the pharmacy didn’t have the Klonopin in; apparently Dr. Awesomesauce hadn’t authorized it, and since I knew tonight was my last dose, I got anxious and asked the pharmacist to fax him again even though I knew he’d be out of the office till Friday.
In the meantime, I was having all these paranoid thoughts: what if he meant to take me off of the Klonopin and just decided not to renew the prescription? He’d re-ordered all the other meds for me, why not that one? What would happen if I came off cold turkey? Would my spare Ativan keep me from getting too wound up? What would I do if he did take me off?
It isn’t that I have any particular obsession with Klonopin. They are not “happy pills” to me, they are merely vital to my existence as a person with bipolar disorder and anxiety, and I fear the rebound symptoms that would occur if I suddenly stopped taking them. I was half-panicking just thinking about not having any till tomorrow night! I usually don’t cut things this close; I know to give the pharmacy two business days to, well, take care of business. But it would have been the same with any of the meds I depend on for my sanity…..I need ALL of them to help me manage my life. And sometimes, I really hate that.
So I wasn’t happy as Will and I drove away from the pharmacy without the Klonopin. Then I remembered that Dr. A doesn’t work that way. He’s not like some doctors I’ve had in the past who would change or discontinue medications without discussing it with me first. Not to mention the fact that we’ve never even really talked about the Klonopin, except to reaffirm my ongoing need for it. I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds for a good portion of my adult life; of course he’s not going to cut me off suddenly, even if it IS a low dose. Besides……he just doesn’t do that.
So I decided to trust the process—and my doctor—and figured if worse came to worst, I’d have Will give me an Ativan at bedtime tomorrow night and then I’d follow up on Friday morning. But as soon as we got home, I couldn’t resist taking a peek online at the patient portal where one can get all their test results and other medical information. And sure enough, it showed that my prescription has been filled after all and is ready for me.
I should never have doubted it for a minute. It’s just that when you depend on some kind of substance to survive—which means depending on somebody in authority to provide it—it’s hard to let go and let God, so to speak. I’m not good at that. Maybe it’s time to learn how.
Was awake waaay too late into the night last night with racing thoughts and no real idea why. But I suspect it was the fact that a day I’d been looking forward to was a complete bust: first it was the canceled p-doc appointment, and then my favorite football team went on to lose their game in front of millions of Monday Night Football viewers. Not only that, they lost ugly, which only made the humiliation more complete. Nothing like a batch of missed plays on offense and half-assed tackling on defense to make a professional team look like junior varsity. But I am a long-suffering fan, and you can bet I’ll be watching when they get slaughtered by the Seattle Seahawks this weekend.
I’m not sure what the purpose of what I just wrote is, and I have no idea where I was going with it except that I wish it took a little more to upset my apple cart. I handled the canceled appointment with great aplomb, in my opinion, but that football game was so crap-tastic—and I did so much yelling and cussing—that I was still overstimulated at midnight, and didn’t get to sleep till sometime after one AM. I couldn’t shut my brain up. And it wasn’t the usual “OMG we’re going to be homeless in another month” train of thought that usually occupies my mind when I can’t sleep. In fact, I can’t really put a finger on any of it because my thoughts were racing so fast that they weren’t even registering.
Usually, that means bad news on the mood stability front, but today I only feel kind of dull, like I’m a bit hung over. At least with this kind, there’s no headache and no puking, nor does there need to be remorse for falling off the wagon. Speaking of which…..I’m coming up on my one-year sobriety birthday, which breaks my heart because I should be celebrating almost 23 years. Damn that slip last September! I still want to kick my own ass for that—and over something that was utterly ridiculous to boot. I wish it had never happened, but as the saying goes…..you can wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which gets filled first.
Anyway, such are the musings for a late-summer day which is rapidly losing light. I don’t suppose that’s helping matters much, but the good news is it will soon be early fall, which is when I tend to have a surge of energy (and boy do I need it). I love fall, almost as much as I love summer, and with the arrival of autumn colors and pumpkin-flavored everything, comes optimism and the urge to nest. Except this year I can’t nest because I don’t know where Will and I are going to go once my unemployment runs out, unless some miracle happens and I find a job.
But that is all stuff to be dealt with on another day. Thanks for reading this post, even though it probably doesn’t make much sense and certainly has no real purpose. That happens sometimes. So do bad nights and lost football games. C’est la vie.
It’s one-thirty in the afternoon, and I should be sitting on Dr. Awesomesauce’s couch right now. I’m not, however, because an hour before the appointment, I got a call from his office asking if I could come in another day because he needed to cancel. Needless to say, I hate it when this happens, especially when it’s on such short notice; there’s a process I go through to get ready for therapy sessions, and when an appointment is postponed I feel like I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Now my next visit is scheduled two weeks out, and while I’m a little disappointed, I’m not in any particular psychic distress so I can roll with the punches pretty easily. And I realized just now that my way of thinking has changed a great deal in the course of the past couple of years: I don’t take these things personally anymore.
It’s amazing, really. I used to get all butt-hurt when something like this happened, thinking that the other person just didn’t want to deal with me for some reason. I remember a couple of previous occasions like that with Dr. A; since I’ve been seeing him, there have only been a few instances when he needed to cancel, but when it happened in the past I’d think he didn’t want to see me or that he was just too busy for me.
Now I understand that it’s not about me: he’s a doctor, for Pete’s sake—he might have to work in a patient who’s in crisis, or he might have had an emergency hospital admission. He’s also a human being whose kid might have gotten suspended from school, he might be sick and need to go home early, or he might simply be having a horrific day and needs to get the hell out of the office before he loses it.
In other words, feces eventuates. And if it eventuates on me once in a while, I can be OK with it.
I don’t know at what point my outlook changed, but I do know I probably never would have discovered it if I hadn’t had the benefit of good treatment. I was still somewhat emotionally immature when I started all of this, and it’s taken a lot of meds and therapy for me to understand that I’m not the same sad little girl who always got the fewest Valentines and was rarely invited to parties. Medications open the door to recovery from mental illness, but therapy is what enables one to walk through and see what’s on the other side.
This must be what normal people do when faced with minor disappointments; for one thing, they don’t turn them into major disappointments, and for another, they realize there are extenuating circumstances in almost every situation. Of course, that’s why I enjoy my therapy sessions so much; I learn something new every time. But right now, I’m doing OK, and if things were to go to hell for me, I know I can count on Dr. A to toss me a lifesaver. It’s all good.