Friday, July 31, 2009

normal? (or something like that)

"The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some
Solitary company.

I know that I must do what's right'
Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus
Above the Serengede

I seek to cure what's deep inside
Frightened of this Thing that I've become"

From Africa on the album Toto IV by Toto

Today just felt, well, normal. As per the letter advising me of my paid administrative leave instructed I called my branch supervisor prior to my 10:30am shift time. It was a brief and pleasant conversation. A pleasantry or two specific instructions about calling her cell phone tomorrow and Sunday and thanks, have a nice day. It was Much cooler here today and Ron and I went out and ran several errands, which took us on a nice little circuit around the county, about half through more rural areas. I didn't start to feel hot until we came out of Walmart and got back in the car parked in the direct 3--4pm sun. There was lots of traffic of course and that last ride home was unpleasantly hot when we were standing, though it was fine when we were moving and catching a cool breeze. It appears our car's AC needs freon or other servicing since it only blows Hot air. Can't worry about that today.

Thanks to everyone for all of the thoughts and prayers you've sent my way. I am hopeful that all of this will be resolved and I will get back to work within another week or two. Hope so at least. Here's wishing you a cool and pleasant weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

que calor!

It is hot as an oven in my part of the world this week, though today was not quite as bad as yesterday. an e-mail from my talk therapist john advices that he faxed human resources at pcls and told them in No Uncertain Terms that he and Dr. Park agree that they can not possibly feel they can complete the forms pcls submitted until after he and Dr. Park have had the chance to go over them with me at our appointment on Tues 8/4 and assuring me that they would be more than happy to provide me with a medical absence clearance through that date.

a little birdie I am not supposed to know told me that my shrink was 'furious' and told them when they pressed her that it would be 'unprofessional' for her to attempt to answer the questions they were asking her. according to the birdie that hr woman i met with the other day got royally bitch slapped. the birdie suggested i wait until tomorrow to email hr mentioning the email I received and asking if my 'administrative leave' will be continued until they get the medical reports. (I have jumped through every hoop they put out and it is my shrink and Her Great Big Organization telling my human resosurces lady to sit, down, shut up and wait her turn, thankyewverymuch). To say that I enjoyed hearing from that little birdie would be an understatement.

I still believe that with my shrink and my therapist Thoroughly on my side (they tell me we will fill out pcls's forms together at our appointment) that there is every chance that pcsl will give me Exactly what those forms say. ron and i are aware i will have to be on my best behavior if they do, but with john and the shrink apparently going to at the very least get full input from me before completing the forms I feel like the Most likely outcome is that they will transfer me to a Small branch and lower the productivity standards, perhaps after consulting with my orthopod whom i will not be seeing for the first time until the 12th of august I believe and after the earfull they got this morning I doubt they will press me OR group health about the 'timing' of this.

meanwhile with the stress of having to go to work and deal with "Roberta" every day removed from me for the indefinite future, I have been able to sleep a great deal and am overall much calmer than I had been (that last observation from nurse huzbear RN's notes btw)

currently the only thing i am at all stressed about is an email from my mother. and the irony of course is that the e-mail was sent with love (but not in my considered opinion) great understanding. and the request was simple. at the beginning of all of this, before we read my mother's opinion of the matter "from the perspective of a human resources professional" which among many other things my mother has been in this lifetime, that told me (at least as Ron read it and took it) as my mother that what I need to do is put my chin up, dust myself off, and get out there and do those hire standards in that stress house enviornment she has created cuz otherwise they Will find a way to fire you. Did I mention that my illness has been really hard on Ron. I will talk a lot more about that later but since today's installment is primarily directed to my mother (who as far as I know is reading along every day; I wouldn't be half surprised if she's figured out how easy it is to get these post by e-mail as soon as they are published and she may even be reading in real time for all I know)


I don't think you ever really understood or appreciated that my late husband Joel was the strongest advocate on your behalf that I have ever had in my life. I don't believe that you realize the degree to which it is because Joel nagged me that we made the effort to do Heather's every year. or that Joel rather than Alan who whipped out his credit card and made plane reservations when you wanted me to come see you while I was still working at Sprynet/CompuServe/Mindspring/Earthlink. And I do feel that in a very real way you repaid that kindness he showed me many, many times over for being there for me both emotionally and financially the summer he died and I was on unemployment and struggling (despite my high level of overal education) to get a stinking lousy one year accounting certificate so i could work as a book keeper. (a job i know i could Do if only I had a degree......wait a minute....making a mental note. this is the internet. who checks degree. and I don't need to claim that I have one. but if tell the small business owner that I can set him up and get him started in Peachtree or Quickbooks (which he must buy himself) and then I do it, will he care about anything other than that the price was right/????...))

And you did make a reasonably good impression on ron, my second husband. He was willing to go down to the Heathers. But the fact is your beloved neice was Unforgivably rude to a guest in Her Own Home, my very beloved husband. She never ever acknowledged or made any effort to apologize for behavior which according to the set of good manner YOU!!!! raised me with gives Ron every right to 'cut her dead'. As in not acknowlege her invitations or overtures and flatly refuse under any circumstances to appear and impose himself upon her premises again. Ron was never the advocate for you that Joel was, Mom (and if to any degree at all it appeared that I more considerate of you in those days that was his doing as much as mine, mam). Ron will probably get over being pissed with you for what you said in that letter. (It didn't piss me off. It didn't surprise me either. quick question, how much do you know about the ADA revisions congress passed in 2008 and how that has greatly increased the rights of disabled people dealing with large bureaucratic organizations? I're been reading the exact full text law and searching in vain for relevant court opinions. the regs are brand new so there are no new precedents to refer to and it is unclear how courts will address the changes but hr professionals routinely acknowledge that "under the new ADA it is different?)

If you learned nothing new in that paragraph, mom, please accept my sincerest (and I mean this) apologies for talking down to you just not. if any of that last rant was new, i think you need to go back and look at your e-mails to me, particularly your e-mails AFTER the google doc with your HR impressions and try to figure out what made him so mad at you. I am staying out of it. his email is mackaybear AT inbox DOT com and you can make up with him or not as your see fit. In any case, Ron will not be able to provide you with his on the ground RN's eye view. So it up to me to convince you that you have raised a son who is both 1) crazy 2) extremely smart and 3) only marginally employable due to the effects of 1 despite 2). I can only say this, mom. When things started going wrong for me at Sprynet cuz my crazies were out and instead of that brilliant genius who come up with all those amazing e-mails docs and spreadsheets from the privacy of his office or cube i was turning into the guy who can't get a hold of his emotions in order to be a good supervisor. it hurt, but it Was the truth.

how many times after the realization, which i admit came way back when I was working for SPRYNET the company CompuServe created when the bought Spry software. I was hired almost immediately after that merger. I hung on and kept my head up and kept going to work Every god damned day for three more years through two more mergers meeting and making the best impressions I could on two new management teams advised of my crazy genius status by my manager friends who, like me, managed to hang on through all of the mergers and acquisitions. By the time I Finally came to the attention of a professional who saw that I was dead weight since they were no longer make good use of a mad genius (which had Been exactly what the start up ordered and if they hadn't merged I would have remained in mgmt IF not for my mental illness). When they finally let me go it was through a post merger job buy out plan and they paid me about 30,o00 specificallty to leave and never come back, not sue them, and not bad mouth them. Hardest thrity grand I ever earned in my life but it is just part of a lot more money than that that I would have walked away from if I quit in a huff.

mom, I am a UNION employee who read the contract hundreds of times and read the new ADA cover to cover dozens of times when my mind was in better days since i knew these documetns more than anything else would determine my fate if i lost control of my crazies at work. please believe that despite my mental illness I am way more than competent to look to and act in my own best interestes with regards to my employment.

Last question, mom. (stressing that I am not angry with you, I love you to death and will not disappear on you regardless of how you answer) Do you think you owe me any apology for underestimating me in your advice to 'chin up and bear it' speech?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the hardest parts

In my considered opinion one of the most difficult issues that mentally ill people face is getting everyone from their employers to their families to take their illness and their needs seriously without becoming afraid to have the mentally ill individual around.

I am crazy but I am also by many respects and criteria an excellent employee. Right now I feel as though I am just barely hanging on to my ability to control my emotions and keep on an even keel. The place that I need to keep to so that I can go to work and smile and do my job every day. Where I have earned satisfactory and excellent performance appraisals and been genuinely committed to the library's mission of bringing "information and imagination" to the people of the county we serve. In my heart I know that if i do as my mom advices and "just go back to work and keep your chin up and do the damned job" I will end up cycling uncontrollably between psychotic screaming rages, very tearful desperation and despair an completely calm in control and capable of taking notes and deciding what's going to have to happen next.

I need for the people in my life to understand that I work hard every day of my life dealing with my various mental illnesses. And when I tell you that my stress has reached a critical level, I need for the people around me to appreciate that I often know better than anyone else just what exactly is going on in my head. As I tried to explain to my mom (whom I know loves me despite my illness and honestly wants what is best for me) it is not just that I have major depression Or panic anxiety syndrome Or agoraphobia Or social phobia Or OR OR! I have major despression And panic anxiety disorder And agoraphobia And social phobia andAnd and AND AND AND! They all in their ways feed into and affect each other. Please hear me when I try desperately to tell you that I really am sick and I really do need your help, understanding and accommodation of my disability. But I'm really not at all dangerous to have around and if you make room for me, I have a lot to contribute.

Alan (has been asking serious and specific questions about local mental health facilities cuz it's beginning to seem like they're going to push me til I completely lose it and end up in Western State. I would so rather be allowed to stay home. I don't know what's going to happen and that scares the shit out of me).

Monday, July 27, 2009

just another nervous wreck now

They'll run for cover
When they discover
Everyone's a nervous wreck now

--Supertramp Just Another Nervous Wreck
on the album Breakfast In America

One of the things that helps me most when I am in crisis and spending my days at home trying to hold off my anxiety is music. I've bought a few songs from iTunes and imported a number of CD's I brought home from the lib into my iTunes. And sometimes I really enjoy listening to radio on Pandora, though that is kind of hit and miss in my experiences. Some days that site plays only songs I absolutely love and other days it's like it just doesn't know me.

The doctor warned me that my new anxiety pills would probably make me sleep a lot and boy was she right. Last night I believe I slept 12--14 hours and that was on top of the 15 and a half hour nap the night before. But my sleep had been so disturbed the past two weeks or so as the pressure and stress level continued to build at work. The thing is the rage, panic, crying and babbling that are the symptoms of my 'out breaks' are actually there in me All the time. I've learned over Years of experience dealing with myself that the key to living normally in the world is to continually not let them get started. It's like a semi automatic reflex. I've learned that I can not control what the world will throw in my path but I CAN control how I react to it. And a lot of the times that works.

I used to have horrible rages in traffic and feel extreme and irrational anger towards drivers who did something like cut me off or followed too close or whatever. Now, though I mostly just drive slow in the right lane, never worry about who is passing me and when another driver behaves badly I just say to my passenger or to myself 'what an asshole. did you see what he just did' all the while continuing to drive safely and keep my mind in an "everythings ok, no need to panic" mode. I've been able to apply similar coping strategies to most areas of my life. With my hearing impairment I don't like loud parties or large gatherings but here in cyberspace I am jovial, outgoing and sociable and am genuinely amazed at how many people I've met online who remain good friends and ever ready to lend a helping hand. Honestly, in spite of my multiple handicaps, I know I have truly been blessed in this life by the love and kindness of my family and all of my friends.

Part of me feels guilty because except for it being Too Damn Hot, I am mostly just enjoying my sick leave from my nervous breakdown, though Ron could tell you that if I let myself start thinking about what I need to do next like request some ADA accomodations from PCLS so that I can go back to work and apply for social security which i'm told will allow me to continue working for the lib, where I can earn up to my monthly benefit amount. It will ultimately mean working fewer hours and having a higher net take home pay. My mom and several of my friends are really pushing me to apply for disability. I also have to decide whether I wish to pursue a Worker's Comp my mind the fact that the raised stress levels (which everyone at the library is feeling and which the branch supervisor readily acknowledges) contributed to my breakdown which was directly percipitated by my supervisors really poor handling of telling me about the new "standards".

When I can listen to the music and not think about what I need to do, my nervous breakdown honestly feels like vacation. But I have a lot of decisions to make and have to decide what I am going to ask for and how I'm going to approach it when I go back to work Friday morning.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

notes from the nervous breakdown day 2

If you are uncomfortable with frank talk about mental illness, stay away from this blog while I am having my nervous breakdown and trying to share it with you. All are welcome to read but this is really and truly Very personal. All names have been changed to protect me.

I got to sleep around 11pm Friday night and slept clear through til 2:20 pm Saturday. It was exactly what I had most needed and I woke up feeling store and stiff from being in bed so long but emotionally feeling much Much better. Yesterday I began making plans for dealing with this situation.

I went over to work where my boss' boss, a really nice lady named Karen was the manager on duty and gave to her a copy or my medical excuse form letter as well as the "After Visit Summary" form that details diagnosis, treatment plan, follow up plans, etc. Karen could not possibly have been nicer or more pleasant. She completely agrees with me that the library system has become an impossible stress hole, that the new standards are almost certainly impossible for our 40--50 year old page staff, who were hired not because we can move materials especially fast but because we are literate, eloquent, well read and care deeply both about books and the public library's service mission. She really could not possibly have been any nicer to me, and I am very grateful for this.

Based on advice given to me by two friends who well know what they are talking about on Monday I am going to go to the social security office and apply for SSDI/SSI. Because my last ten quarters have been worked for the library part time for low wages my benefit check each month will be only $480--$575. BUT I can continue to work for the library part time and earn as much as my benefit amount. The net result if I get approved for SSDI and can keep a part time, fewer hours position at the library will be that my monthly take home will Increase while I will work significantly fewer hours.

The only times at work in the past month or two when I have not come home stressed out and drained, were when I substituted at a small branch library. (The library where I work is the largest and busiest in the system) Working at the small branch, even though it was so busy is just a LOT less stressful. So when I return to work on Friday I am going to request an ADA accommodation in the form of a transfer to one of three small libraries where I have worked before, like the supervisors and feel positive I would be happier, even though I will make less money and have a longer commute.

Meanwhile, Ron has agreed to take over the Libdrone blog for a while and has gotten a bunch of books of his choosing from the library and hopes to begin posting next week. Me, I just hope to survive next week and make it through to Friday and get them agree that transferring me is the best alternative for all concerned. Please keep the thoughts and prayers coming. I greatly appreciate them.

I am planning also on my week off to read, re-read and print out a copy of the American With Disabilites Act and bring that with me when I return to work on Friday and request this accommodation. I am hoping that library management will be co-operative and helpful with this and that my transition to disability can go smoothly. I just feel so much relief at not having to be at work getting all stressed out today and am trying to feel hopeful that going on disability may make my day to day life better instead of worse.

notes from the nervous breakdown day 1

If you are uncomfortable with frank talk about mental illness, stay away from this blog while I am having my nervous breakdown and trying to share it with you. All are welcome to read but this is really and truly Very personal. All names have been changed to protect me.

Thursday afternoon I went in to work and by Friday morning the one hour meeting I had with my supervisor, Roberta, had me to the point of what both my psychiatrist and my huzband (who has 20 years of work experience as an RN) both agreed was-- right on the verge of a "nervous breakdown". I am like constantly on the border of hysteria and my mood cycle swings (often Quite rapidly) between talking wildly and in circles and crying in deep despair.

My psychiatrist, Dr. Young gave me a new medicine that got me calmed down and let me get a good, long nights sleep and also wrote a medical excuse that gets me out of work until Fri 7/31. with good pills, good herb I am staying mellow. My illness has been very hard on my poor sweet Ron. I'm in a state where I am constantly on the verge of having a Horrible panic-anxiety attack. I truly hate having them. They are excruciating for Ron to watch and the fact is that I get by in this life by keeping a lid on all of my panic and anxiety. (I have been diagnosed with at least seven different serious and debilitating mental illnesses.)

Since old Ronny Raygun's old theory of "trickle down economics" is finally coming true for me. For the first time. The Library System is funded by property tax. Foreclosures, people not paying and a sudden halt to much new construction and the LS has a half million dollar budget shortfall staring them in the face.
This is my first experience working for government rather than business. Any private company that realized on march 1st they were half a mil short would have sent out pink slips til they were back on budget. That didn't happen. They announced instead that we would be using Very few substitues from now on. Now whenever someone is sick or on vacation or otherwise absent, we pretty much have to just do without.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Branch Library where I work, where I specifically chose to work because it was such an easy, fun and no stress way to earn a little bit of money to get by on. Since the substitute announcement, my library has gone from easy, no stress to a treadmill of ever increasing productivity demands where in front line workder are being told that keeping their job depends on moving materials at a rate that most of us are not capable of physically possibly acheiving. Work under the new standars my boss told me they were implementing my severely arthritic hips were Screaming in pain and my anxiety level was truly Dangerous.

And when I called in sick the following morning, having been completely unable to sleep and literally on the verge of hysteria , actually making the call myself (ron usually handles the phone since my hearing is so bad) she was clearly Ticked off with me for calling and Warned me that I would need a doctor's excuse and that my calling in was starting to become a "pattern". (I didn't realy hear all this; Ron was listening on the speakerphone and explained to me in detail Exactly what she said and her tone and connotations. I has been so focused on making sure she understoond I was absent because I was sick and let her know that I would definitely get a doctor's note.

I spent the day panicking while we first e-mailed (which required going to my friend Kathi's, who cheerfully allowed me to use her excellent broadband desktop) then Ron spent hours on the phone trying to get me in to see Any psychiatrist who had a slot available. my former shrink, whom I liked a lot accepted and who left the Tacoma practice a couple of months after getting a slot in the Seattle office which she says she likes much better. One of Ron's phone calls was to her and she could not have been more helpful. She told Ron exactly who to call and what to say, and then I had a 4pm appt with Dr. Park, who gave me pills and wrote me an absence excuse form that will allow me to stay home from work til Friday 7/31. It was my first time seeing her but I was very impressed and walked out of her office feeling relieved and almost overjoyed.

The saga will continue next time I have time to add another day's notes.