Category Archives: work

Bipolar Discrimination and Stigma – It’s Getting Old

There are a lot of blogs that I follow about bipolar and Struggling With The Elephant In The Room recently posted about mental illness stigma and work/school/etc.  I shared my story in the comments there, but I thought I’d share it here as well in hopes that one day this stigma will no longer exist and that people with mental illness will be able to be open about their illness without being treated as poorly as I was.

Here’s what I said:

“When I was pregnant with my son, I had to come off all my medication. Obviously, doing so did not have the greatest effects on me. From all the stress plus being pregnant I was constantly physically ill. My job threatened to fire me so I called HR.

I spoke to the “HR nurse” and explained my situation. I had doctors paperwork faxed over documenting my illness (length of time I’d had it, that I had been medicated prior to becoming pregnant, etc) and that one could, in fact, get sick from mental illness. The “nurse” yelled at me and told me there was no such thing and that I was just trying to get out of work. She said it was company policy that I couldn’t miss more than X number of days. I explained I was covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She said that basically it didn’t cover for days off due to mental illness as that was not “reasonable accommodation.” I broke down crying on the phone and said that it was unfair discrimination and that basically at this point I was just waiting to get fired.

I was two months away from qualifying from FMLA at which point I would be able to get a letter from my doctor which WOULD allow for days off (I still don’t understand why FMLA covers and ADA doesn’t). So for two months I dragged myself into work throwing up, crying, seeing things, no voice, too depressed to function properly. It was the worst two months ever. I made it, got FMLA paperwork filed ASAP, and took days off as needed. I even had scheduled “mental health days” to try to prevent further depression as just going to work literally sucked the life out of me because everything they put me through and how cruel HR was to me.

I begged to be transferred to a different department for about a year after my son was born and was finally moved in October of last year under a manager who is more understanding of my condition. The HR department is still regrettably the same, but since my manager allows me to take days off without reporting them to HR, it’s not an issue. He commented the other day that I rarely take sick days anymore. Well, yeah, because I’m not stressed 24/7 that I might be fired any second. Stress=sick.

ADA needs to be tweaked a bit for those with mental illness as it is more geared towards handicap, etc. For the mentally ill, it still allows people to discriminate, make life a living hell, and not provide what accommodations are truly NEEDED for someone with mental illness.”

I’m taking a politics class in school and this week’s chapter was about civil rights.  It spoke about the struggles of African American, women, elders, gays, and other minority groups.  It had a section on people with disabilities and talked about how handicap bathroom were required and elevators and such.

Where are the accommodations for those who have illness that is not visible?  Everyone feels sorry for the war vet in the wheelchair, but everyone gives the side eye to the girl talking to herself.  People look at me like I have two heads when I say I have bipolar even if they’ve known me for years and I’ve managed to act just quirky enough for it to go unnoticed.

Better working arrangements need to be made for those who are mentally ill.  I’m largely in favor of “mental health days” and not just those with serious mental illness.  I think everyone could benefit from a day a month or so off to de-stress and have some time to themselves that isn’t a Sunday.

Short term disability should be more accommodating to mental illness.  When I tried to claim short disability, I was met with all types of problems.  I was told I either had to leave work entirely or I couldn’t claim it.  There was no way I could take a week off as need be and be covered.  So if I had an episode and go too depressed to go for a week, it wouldn’t be covered if I applied in advance knowing this would happen at some point due to my illness.  Why not?  I know it’s bound to happen sooner or later.  Why not just let me set everything up in advance?  Because you want to fire me, of course.

I also had a hard time getting accommodations for my anxiety about people sitting behind me.  When people sit behind me, it give me panic attacks.  I told management about this and explained to them they simply needed to give me at least fifteen minutes notice so I could take a Xanex.  I had two managers that REFUSED to do this and would walk in on me mid-conversation with a client, one time causing me to run out my office hyperventilating and crying almost to the point of having to go to the ER.

When the district manager was at my office and I didn’t even mention bipolar (I just said I had anxiety so it wouldn’t sound so crazy) she reported back to EVERY MANAGER IN THE STATE what I had said and pretty much stalled my promotion for a year.

By the way, they promoted a guy that performed FAR below me before me simply because he was African American (thanks, affirmative action).  How about some affirmative action for mentally ill?  I bet promotion numbers for us are even lower than African Americans or any other race for that matter if management becomes aware of the condition.  Talk about “discriminated or historically underprivileged” group.

We need our own civil rights movement.  Maybe we should all get together and do a sit in somewhere.


Crash and Burn

I find myself crashing more on this new 3/day Adderall script.  I also find I’m more tired in the morning taking Lamictal 2/day.  I hate med changes.  The Adderall boost in the afternoon helps, but the mid day crashes leave me exhausted and drained.

On the plus side, the extra Lamictal seems to be helping and I feel less depressed.  Not sunshine and daisies or anything, but better.

Haven’t posted much because there hasn’t been much to say.  I’ve been busy with work and school but generally feeling unmotivated and doing as little as possible to get by with those things.  Where I was making 30 calls a day for work, I now make 10 on a good day.  I was spending 3+ hours a day on school and now if I spend one I’m lucky.  I’m just too tired or something.  I can’t muster the energy or ambition to do anything.

Ambition.  That’s it.  I’m usually such a go getter.  It’s like I just don’t care now.  I’m unhappy with mediocre results, but want to put in mediocre effort.  Clearly a mismatch there.  Something needs to give.  At some point my grades or income will drop and I’ll be in deep you know what.

Hubby and I are going out next weekend.  That should be a nice change of pace.  It’s something we really needed.  Our anniversary is coming up so it’ll be good to reflect on what went well and what didn’t this year.  It’s also a chance to start clean for our next year together.

Look at that.  Some optimism.  Courtesy of Lamictal.  Thank goodness for drug induced happiness.

Hopefully this coming week will bring with it some much needed energy and some serious motivation before things start to go to hell in a hand basket, as my grandmother would have said.


Migraines, Work, and Medication

I’ve been getting migraines every day for two weeks now.  My insurance started requiring 90 day supplies of “maintenance” medication, so my Topamax prescription was denied as it was a 30 day supply.  As such, I have gone a month without it because my migraine doctor is about 45 minutes out of the way and frankly I’ve been too lazy to call and ask her to call in a refill.  Too lazy to pick up the phone, even though I’m on the phone all day at work.  I have no valid explanation for this.  But after two weeks of insane headaches that are causing me to take random naps on my desk to avoid the pain, I finally called her yesterday and asked that they call in a 90 day refill for me.  Was it at the pharmacy today?  Nope.  Took some Treximet and another nap on my desk.  How productive.

I’ve been at my current location for work six months now.  I’ve yet to tell any of the people that I now work with about my illness.  Since things have mostly been under control, I just come off as kinda quirky.  I guess I’m okay with that.  I have an office to myself, so there isn’t ever an issue of anyone touching stuff on my desk and sending me into a rage of fury because my pen isn’t where I left it.  Plus if I’m feeling unmotivated no one is standing over my shoulder asking why I’m not working every second that I’m there.  I get some down time and breaks, which has been super helpful.  Not every day, but most days.  On days I’m up and ready to work my ass off, I’m left alone to work like mad.  What’s really great is that since no one can see into my office unless they go really out of their way, the constant switches between super productive and totally useless go unnoticed.

Since I’m so secluded at work, talking about my bipolar hasn’t really been enough of an issue for anyone for me to have to bring it up.  The only time that I get concerned is when I have to go to my doctor (which is usually 2-3 times a month) and people ask me if everything is okay and what I’m going for.  Usually I just say I have a myriad of medical issues that need tending to and mention my migraines and then leave them to wonder what else might be wrong with me.  Is it bad I’d rather them think I have some life threatening illness rather than know I’m crazy?  Then they pity me instead of back away slowly and run for the door.

Part of me doesn’t like not talking about it though.  It makes me feel like I’m lying to people, which I hate doing.  My manager said I shouldn’t mention anything unless there’s no other alternative though, so I guess I’m gonna keep on with what I’m doing it.  The times I’ve had to leave over the crazy I’ve just blamed it on a migraine and everyone mostly seems okay with it.  I just have to avoid crying or acting mental long enough to get out the door (so about five minutes).  Usually manageable.

I gotta say, medication that works is truly a blessing.  Every medication I’ve ever taken has caused so many side effects that my head spins, but my current cocktail seems to be working with no side effects at all.  My mood is mostly stable (as stable as it’ll get at least) and I’m not so tired that I can’t wake up until noon or feel drugged up all day.  Xanex days aside, of course.  On a high anxiety day if I have to pop a Xanex I’m out of it for half the day.  Most of my coworkers know I have anxiety though, so I can write that one off as well.

Overall, I’m still mildly depressed but working through it.  I’m surprised at how little I wallow in sadness.  Usually it’s all consuming, but now I just feel more sleepy than usual and have “down” moments through the day where I just sit and do nothing for a while.  Of course, doing nothing is really bad for depression, but sometimes I just can’t get the motivation to do anything else.  It’s usually not for long periods of time so I’m giving myself a pass.  My therapist said I should time these moments and give myself one to two minutes of self pity and then force myself to move on.  I haven’t really tried this.  Don’t know why.  Maybe because I don’t like to be forced to do stuff if I’m not in the mood.  I feel like if I did this I’d be forcing myself to work when I don’t feel like it and the quality of work would be awful and thus not worth doing.  My perfectionist personality rearing it’s head.

We’ll see how this all plays out, but for now I’m hopeful that this will be a short lived and mild depression.


Things That Suck

I just got the information on our new medical plan at work.  The “low deductible” options has a $3000 deductible.  $3000!!  That’s ridiculous!  It covers 100% of well visits to primary care so it’s supposed to be cheaper for most people, but for me…well, I’m screwed.  I see my therapist twice a month and my doctor at least once every three months, more if I’m having issues.  I go to the ER sometimes in really bad situations, which will now only be covered at 80%.  To top it off, neither of my crazy doctors will be in network, so even after the insane deductible is met they will only cover 60% of the cost.  WTF am I gonna do?  My medical costs are already astronomical.  I really can’t afford another huge hit to my wallet just because I’m ill.  Then I have my son’s medical care to worry about as well.  He takes a few trips to the ER each year for serious illness etc.  I have a health spending account, but that won’t really help.  I put in $2400 this year and was out of money in less than six months.  I can’t even deal with this right now.

Onto relationship issues.  Today is the day that my husband and I send each other weekly emails.  This was a suggestion of my therapist after the Craigslist fall out.  We decided that since he was obviously more comfortable sending emails than actually coming to me saying there was a problem that we would try to fix our communication problems via email.  So now once a week we write to each other saying how we feel, how the other did that week, and what could have been improved.  So far it’s working okay, but my husband’s emails are always just a few sentences while mine are like a book so I get a little frustrated.  The ultimate goal is to make it a habit of being open about our feelings and discovering problems in a timely fashion so they don’t spiral out of control like they have in the past.  I’m hoping that even if it’s not Thursday that if there is a mjor problem we will email each other to disucss it.  This also helps because you can’t really yell or walk out one someone via email so it keeps tensions lower.  Plus you generally think before you type but not so much before you speak, so it makes you say less hurtful things.  That’s the intention anyhow.  We’ll see how it works long term.

I’m not sure exactly what I want to say this week.  Things have been good between us, but I’m still feeling mildly depressed.  I feel generally crappy and like my life blows.  I’m not wallowing in it too much.  I’m getting on with my days.  But around 3:00 I exhaust out and can’t do much of anything until around 6:00 when I get a second wind (usually thanks to my new second dose of Adderall).  I’m stressed that even though things are okay now that we’ll just get back in our regular pattern of fighting and misery.  I love my husband dearly and wouldn’t want anyone else, but we both have short fuses and don’t bend so easily and it makes for explosive situations sometimes.  I hope we can work through these things and have a lasting, somewhat healthy relationship.

I guess I’m depressed because I remember when we first got together and never fought.  I remember how nice it was to feel loved and wanted.  I remember nighst up late talking to talk.  Then I see us barely speaking in our bad times and fighting in our worst times.  But then we have upswings and things are great and we talk all night again and love each other.  My marriage is like my mood – great or awful with hardly any in between.  Is it my lot in life to have only extremes?  Can I not have a middle ground in any aspect of my crazy life?


All work and no play makes Kira a bad blogger

I’m not dead, I’m just busy with work and my mood is normal aka boring.  It’s hard to post when I feel uninteresting.  Pressured speech is replaced with not knowing what the heck to talk to people about.  Before I talked too much and now I can’t think of anything to say.  Not so good in sales.

My husband and I got in a fight over the weekend.  Just like old times and still just as awful.  He made some stupid comment about a girl and I lost my shit and hit him with a pillow.  I was having a low self esteem kinda day and my lack of sex drive makes me constantly fearful that he’ll cheat or leave me.  Thus, comments about other females are not acceptable.  It may be childish, but I really don’t care.

So I hit him with the pillow.  When I get mad, sometimes I lose it and hit.  Not hard enough to hurt…or really hard at all, but the intention of hitting is there and my husband is fed up with it (understandably).  I’ve gotten better about it (I used to hit harder and more often), but I’m not there yet.  I’d like to think it’s not abusive because I can’t hit hard, but that’s just me trying to make it sound better.  I mean, how abusive is a pillow?

Anyway, I had a migraine at the time and he hit me back with the pillow twice as hard or at least it felt like it.  My brain felt like it was bleeding because of the migraine, I got pissed.  He lost his cool and started screaming that if I hit him again he was going to hit back for real.  Told me I was being stupid.  Told me he hoped my head hurt so bad that I cried (it did and I did for the record).  He ranted on some more, got up, walked out.

Now see, a few years back when we were having problems I would at this point get up, follow him, and bitch until I turned blue in the face.  This would piss him off more and our fights would go for hours.  So I sat, said nothing, let him go, and thought to myself “we can talk later” in mantra form to avoid calling him every three seconds or following him out the door.

I texted him about ten minutes later and said “I’m sorry…you don’t have to reply.  We can talk later.  I just wanted to apologize.”  He apparently wanted to talk because he responded “Oh you’re sorry so that makes it okay” or something like that.  Well, no, but I was sorry.

He came home, left again to complete the tasks he had to do for the day, I took some pills and went to sleep.

He woke me up when he got home, still pissed.  WTF?  Apparently he purposely stayed mad because he thinks that I think I can hit him with no consequence.  Not true.  Him yelling is a consequence.  If you knew my husband, you’d know why.  He’s mean and scary when he’s mad.  I cried, started packing my stuff because my head hurt and I wasn’t dealing with fighting, and he said “all shit aside you have to stop and you can’t just do these things and expect me to be okay with it.”  Which was a fair thing to say and after that we talked civilly although I cried my way through it.

I’m sad about it because we haven’t been fighting in a long time so when we slip it’s upsetting.  I always wonder if one fight can lead us back to where we were two years ago.  At this point, we’ve spent more years not fighting than the other way around, but the memory of our bad year is a scary one.  I don’t want us to ever end up there again.

For the most part, we discuss things now and talk like adults and work things out.  Every now and again my temper or his flares up and bad fights happen.  I try my best not to escalate them and keep my son far away when they do happen.  Sometimes I can kinda keep my cool, others not so much.

In other news, work is great.  My new position is all I dreamed it would be, which means I’m at work a lot.  Workaholic Kira in full swing.  Many nights past closing, every Saturday.  Work related stuff when I get home.  I’ll burn out in the near future I’m sure.  But for now I’m enjoying not hating life every second I’m at work and being excited about going again the next day.  It’s been a long time since I felt that way.

This week has kinda sucked in numbers though so I’m basically working for free this week.  I’ve helped some people out along the way which is fulfilling but also doesn’t pay bills.  Need to find the right mix of charity and actual sales.  I’m far from a hard closer (I think in the end that bites you in the ass in my industry…if not all sales fields), so my numbers take a while to build up sometimes.  After a while, people start calling me for everything and trusting me because I didn’t just sell them something.  Which leads to sales.  My process is just a bit longer.  I used to hard close when I started in sales but I felt like shit about myself and at some point people will complain.  I didn’t like it so I came up with my own methods.  I’ll probably never beat the hard closers in the short term, or even long term if they change locations a lot, but I do get good results and (added bonus!) I don’t hate myself.

Sorry for not posting in a while.  I’ll try to be better.  Work and toddler are taking up all of my day and without mania to help, I’m exhausted.


Update

So I’m officially stopping the Geodon.   Sad to see it go on the mood end, thrilled to be done with the side effects.

We opted for Abilify because apparently I had the pills in the wrong order in the “more likely to put you in a coma” chart.  My doctor said Abilify was best and Seroquel and Zyprexa are heavily sedating.  We debated starting it today (she wanted tomorrow, I wanted today so I can see how I reacted before work tomorrow).  Opted for half a dose today as a compromise.  Also added Ambien (another pill that scares me) because Geodon withdrawal makes my insomnia go crazy.

Took my half pill around 4pm.  So far I haven’t passed out so that looks good.  Geodon knocked me on my ass within an hour every time.  By “knocked out” I mean so tired that taking my bedtime pills or even just getting to the bed was a challenge.  It was like a mixture of feeling exhausted and just outright drugged as if someone put something in my drink or something.  This morning with the full sedation in full effect when I woke up I was walking into walls and I can’t recall most of the things my husband (or a glance at my phone) tells me.  My doctor called me, but I couldn’t remember calling her.  My car was moved and when I asked my husband if he knew why he reminded me I asked him for a Frappe.  I kinda remember the coffee, but not anything else that happened.

I’ve always said I would never take Abilify because of all the side effects, but the low side effect meds are officially ruled out now, so all I’m left with is long term side effect meds.  I’m hoping the Lamictal (will hit 100mg in a day or so) works because I really hate to have to take Abilify long term.

Side note, now that I’m done training and back actually working and now commission only once again I feel my workaholic self coming back in full force.  I’m trying to figure a way to get my husband a car to chip in his part of picking up our son from daycare a few nights a week so I can work late.  Going in tomorrow to make up for time lost today and will probably do so the following weekend again.  Luckily I work somewhere that closes and doesn’t let you (though some do) take work home.  So at some point they’ll kick me out and my day will be over regardless of if I made money or not.  When I was self employed and no one told me to stop working there were many nights I was home around 11pm or later after getting in around 7am or 8am.  That’s not to say I’m lazy with a base salary or hourly pay, I just don’t get quite as workaholic-y.

Hopefully workaholic tendencies won’t slow down my posting, but I guess it remains to be seen.

This blog has been a help in a lot of ways, so even if I’m swamped I’m going to try to make sure to take time for it.  Getting everything out is cathartic and going through my tag reader and subscriptions is a nice reminder that I’m not alone.  Free individual and group therapy sessions basically.