December

I have since learned that December is also a hard month for me. December has certain markers, so to speak, that jump out at me throughout the month.

December 9 — The day my father died
December 14 — The day I found out
December 17 — The funeral
December 18 — The burial

Makes for quite a depressing Christmas. Even though he passed away only 7 years ago, it still hangs a dark cloud over my head. It takes me so long to get into the “Christmas spirit.” I now settle into the Christmas mood a week before the holiday, which is somewhat frustrating because it took me almost a month to finally enjoy hearing Nat King Cole’s smooth voice crooning through the ceiling speakers at Barnes and Noble.

I think celebrating Advent next year might help, however, I never know much about the season anymore since I no longer attend Catholic church and the Presbyterian church I attend doesn’t seem to acknowledge it. I need to remember that Christ is “the reason for the season” (yes, I know it’s trite) but the materialism surrounding Christmas really does a good job of distracting me from focusing on that. Materialism is tangible; Christ is not. But materials are temporal; Christ is eternal. Something to keep in mind.

I’ve been incredibly busy lately and have gotten pretty sidetracked from blogging. I’m traveling a good bit this (and the coming) year, trying to get a personal website up and running, running errands and accomplishing chores, trying to fit in exercise, spend time with friends and family, attend (usually) church-related activities, and make time for myself at night. My life in the past 2 years has moved faster than I could even imagine or fathom. The introduction of children could only make it crazier.

How’s my mental health in spite of all this? Well, I was doing pretty well most of the year with the exception of my “normal” dive in August. Lately, I’ve been dealing with some suicidal thoughts again. Mostly passing and no serious urges but the idea of trying has been tempting. I mentioned recently that I’ve felt a “need to prove” that I am serious about committing suicide. It’s a serious pride issue. Why should I care whether people think I’m suicidal for attention or not? That doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t be more concerned about what people think of me. Rather, I should be more focused on living my life to please God and for His glory.

I’m currently reading a book by J.I. Packer titled “God’s Plans for You.” (You can read a preview of this book through Google Books.) Lately, I’ve been struggling with what I should do with my life. I’m experiencing what has been deemed a “quarter-life crisis.” It’s like a mid-life crisis but with different challenges. Usually those challenges are related to career and vocational decisions. The mid- to late-twenties is the time when college grads are hit with the reality that full-time work isn’t as idealistic as they hoped and they are faced with the grim realization that some—or many—of their dreams may never come true.

This is becoming the case with me.

I obtained a degree in print journalism and a minor in English, hoping that I could enjoy working as a reporter or copy editor in the newspaper or magazine industry. It started out that way but then a move to Pennsylvania and a switch to daytime hours and a lack of clips set me back and now I am a freelance proofreader. Granted, I’m fortunate to even be a freelancer at 26 but proofreading at an ad agency was NOT what I had in mind when I took on my student loan debt.

While I enjoy the people I work with and have become more comfortable with the materials that come across my desk, I again have fallen into the perfectionism trap. I had a week where I caught a string of my own mistakes that I’d missed (other people—non-proofreaders—had caught them) and it was extremely discouraging. This has led me to wonder whether I’m even in the appropriate field. Now, I have a desire to pick up writing again (as opposed to sole editing) and am frustrated at my lack of internal motivation. I’m even beginning to wonder whether I should go back to a full-time job because it’s tough not knowing when a check will drop in my lap during any given day of a month and the fact that I am a terrible boss and employee when it comes to meeting my own deadlines. I’m even afraid of getting audited come tax time.

All in all, I’m currently facing a slew of decisions. Where to take my career and the prospect of motherhood, which may be hindered by my Lamictal (lamotrigine) treatment. I don’t want to be taking Lamictal during a pregnancy unless absolutely necessary and right now, I don’t feel that it’s absolutely necessary. I would like to take the risk and come off of it to see what happens but so far, it sounds like Lamictal withdrawal can be hellish. Lamictal during pregnancy raises the risk of a baby being born with a cleft palate. The likelihood of that happening to me is low and even if it does happen, it’s fixable but why take the chance? I’m also the super-psycho freak that will halt topical steroid medication of my eczema and zealously check all toys “Made in China” for lead.

Gianna at Beyond Meds and CLPsych over at Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry have written pieces on how Lamictal’s efficacy has been shown to be no better than placebo. This is something I intend on writing about soon considering that I’m one of the patients who could probably (currently, anyway) sing the wonders of the drug.

So there’s the update. That’s what’s going on in my life. I hope that you are all well. I likely won’t post again before 2009 so I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year!

Mood rating: 5

Motivated, persistent, confident, and resilient—four qualities I do not possess

Thanks for the well-wishes for me and my husband. He is doing better. He is still in some pain but his bleeding has stopped and he’s just suffering from sinus drainage. We’ll be off to the ENT tomorrow and see what happens. In the meantime, he’s stuck eating cold foods and taking cold showers.

I’m having what I call "a day." It basically means it’s not the best but I’m dealing with it. I noticed today that I’ve been overlooking a ton of mistakes on things that I’ve been proofreading so that’s been quite discouraging considering it’s my JOB to catch mistakes. I’m also not particularly feeling socially interactive so I’m having some slight social anxiety when I need to smile, interact, and look like everything is right in my world.

I’m also having second thoughts about this freelancing gig. To be a freelancer, you’ve got to be motivated, persistent, confident, and resilient. I just don’t have any of those qualities. I hate the 9-to-5 grind but it’s probably what I’ve got to do. I keep telling myself that I’ll take risks this year but I’m so fearful of nearly everything that I’m just willing to run and hide. I want so much to write articles again but I "fear" my best days are behind me. I write fiction but I don’t read enough to make them any good. (I prefer nonfiction because it appeals to my hunger for factual knowledge.) I keep trying to tell myself "I can do it" but I can only lie to myself so many times.

I miss doing my regular news posts and other updates but they’ll have to wait until I can get my act together. For now, many of my posts will likely be related to my personal life. It’s nice to know you find me interesting enough to read them.

Some of you might have sent me e-mails but I’ll be responding to them later on tonight. Thanks for your kind thoughts, prayers, and comments.

What do you know?

I received a $150 check today. Joe made good on his promise and sent me a copy of my piece and a check for one that’s been published and one that’s been accepted for publication. Who’s the jerk now?

Freelance writing, editing, and proofreading

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to obtain a part-time job at an ad/marketing agency where I can do some freelance editing and proofreading. I charge them $10 more than what I made at my last job right now, but in retrospect, I think I underestimated my value. However, I cut the company some slack because I haven’t been editing or proofreading in quite a while. I figure I’m a good deal considering my kick-butt skills at the rate that I’m charging. (Woo-hoo! Confidence!)

This leaves me with two free days to do some writing. I’ve mentioned in the past that I haven’t done any form of reporting since 2005, which scares me. In the past, I’ve had editors tell me what stories they think are important or relevant to the locals and I just went out, covered the story, wrote up my assignment, turned it in, then basked in the glow of seeing my name glistening in print. Now, it’s up to me to be up on what’s important and relevant to the community that I live in and decide what I think editors will want to publish. It’s a tricky game and I’m bound for rejection. Considering my history of rejection from my peers, I don’t know if I’m particularly apt for constant rejection from editors. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally but I’m Ms. Overly Sensitive. My recent experience with Joe (here and here) from the magazine I interviewed for has actually taught me a lot. It’s been an annoyance to endure but it’s been a valuable lesson. I’m learning not to take his treatment of me personally. Perhaps I read him all wrong and he’s not the jerk that I think he is. Regardless, he at least sent me a copy of the  issue my work was published in — wouldn’t you know — sans that elusive $75 check. I’m particularly angry with him, mainly because I feel like I got played for the fool. Part of me wants to pursue my writing career even more now to show him that he lost out by not hiring me. The other part of me knows that I’m so unmotivated to do anything that I won’t get anywhere with anything. Better to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than to have high expectations and be significantly disappointed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obligatory post

stressedI’ve been quite tired and haven’t been much in the mood for blogging. I’ve been feeling bogged down by all the preliminary crap (see expenses, accountant, and IRS) that I have to do to begin freelance writing. I’m not particularly enjoying the administrative side of life.

On the other hand, I’d like to thank everyone for the kind words on my last post. The issue has been bugging me all week and I wanted to put the matter to rest so I e-mailed the ed-in-chief again on a whim:

Hi Joe,

I figured I probably wouldn’t hear back from you after my last e-mail. If you’re not willing to provide me with the $75 for my submission, at the very least, I’d appreciate having a copy sent to my home address. Thanks.

I figure I had nothing to lose since I’d already lost time spent on the article and the money he’d promised. A copy of the issue is the least he could do for me. (insert not-so-nice thoughts here) He wrote back about an hour ago:

i’ll be sure to make both happen at once. hope you’re well.

I’m not holding my breath. I’d rather be “pleasantly” surprised.

In other news, the ad/marketing agency I have been freelancing for has offered me a part-time contract position. I’ll be able
to do some writing on the side while I have a steady job doing some
proofreading and editing. That makes me incredibly happy.

Otherwise, I hope everyone reading this is getting along decently. It’s been a day. For those in the Northeast, enjoy the beautiful weather!

Not on hiatus

I’m currently freelancing on-site for a company as an editor/proofreader so posting will be minimal this week through Tuesday. And yes, I finally am enjoying what I’m doing. It’s a nice feeling after having been at a job for two years "just to pay the bills."

Bipolar & the Workplace

I was surprised to see an ABC News article on bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is the “hip” mental illness these days — especially when used to characterize someone with extreme mood swings. One section addressed admitting to bipolar disorder in a work environment:

One day, he let it slip.

“I just blurted it out. ‘I’m sorry I’m getting shock treatments. I can’t remember anything,'” Steve said. His colleagues’ reactions were less than encouraging, he recalled.

“I would say that they were afraid of me,” Steve said. “They stopped referring their clients to me.”

Steve said that eventually his colleagues’ attitudes forced him to leave his job.

I admitted my problem to three people at my job: my managing editor at my last job and three of my coworkers (one with whom I am still friendly).

  • The managing editor, who had picked on me mercilessly, finally backed off. As far as I know, she didn’t tell anyone which I appreciated.
  • One of my coworkers admitted she had depression to me first before I told her I had bipolar disorder. It’s understood between us that we won’t go around and talk about these things.
  • The other coworker also told me about her journey through depression and her treatment afterward. I then revealed my struggle with bipolar disorder. We are friends outside of work now.
  • I’d told the last coworker about this shortly after I received my diagnosis after being released from the psych hospital. As far as I know, she didn’t tell anyone. But in the end, she’s the one who said the hurtful things about me in the e-mail I inadvertently received. It’s anyone’s guess if she told other coworkers or if she completely forgot.

From Bipolar Journey:

My experience is: work is work.  Outside of work is where one gains support for any illness they struggle with.  Acknowledging my response is skewed on the basis of recent events, I can’t recommend telling anyone you work with about one’s illness.  I should have kept to my Psychology professor’s advice:  “Never tell anyone you work with about your illness, trust me when I tell you:  they will treat you differently.”

I attended an outpatient group in late October 2006 after my hospitalization. One lady said that one of her coworkers admitted she was bipolar; since then, the coworker was teased and verbally abused by her supervisor and other coworkers. I’m not positive but I think the person might have even gotten fired lest her disorder interfere with her ability to do her job. (She cleaned pools.)

People with the disorder often have trouble keeping a job and are 40 percent less likely to be employed than the average person, said Ronald Kessler, a public health researcher at Harvard University.

On the other hand, Kessler said, if treated properly, they can be creative and invaluable individuals. Many highly successful authors, artists and professionals have the disorder.

I’ve seen statistics like this before and they worry me. I constantly wonder whether I’ll ever be able to hold down a full-time job for a long period of time. I’m currently unemployed and – to my disbelief – enjoying it. I’m afraid I’ll get lazy and never go back to work. I’m afraid that I’ll start to go in and out of jobs like a revolving door. One of my psychotherapists in college flat out told me that I’d never be able to hold down a job.

As I try to venture into editorial freelancing, I’m afraid of a host of things: outdated skills, inexperience, lack of confidence, failure, libel, confrontation, socializing, networking, creating expectations (of myself) that I never live up to. My counselor told me to just jump in and do it first then worry about the details later. [deep breath]

failureI fear failure the most. Failure that I’ve forgotten my editorial skills because they haven’t been used daily since 2005. Failure that editors will write me off because I’m a 26-year-old with unimpressive clips like “Bees Infest Dorm Hall” (yawn), “Student Organization Rallies Youth to Vote” (so cliche), and “Penn State Strikes Deal with Napster on File-Sharing” (Nov. 2003 = old). Failure that I’ll write an article, misinterpret the facts, and then get the publication slapped with a lawsuit. Failure that I’ll have to be “pleasantly persistent” in calling up editors, asking for prompt payment of my freelance services. Failure that I will intentionally avoid things that would otherwise propel my career: attending social mixers, networking, doing all the social things that makes my blood run cold because I hate meeting new people (in person). Failure that I’ll look at past awards I’ve received and then never live up to the reason why I received them in the first place. I don’t want to blame bipolar disorder from holding me back but sometimes, I can’t help but think where I’d be in my professional career without it.

(Image from gobears.wordpress.com)

I'm officially unemployed

As of this past Monday, I currently own the title of "resident housewife." I made the big jump, at my husband's behest, and now find myself doing domestic things like housework and running errands. (I can't tell you how many times I washed dishes yesterday.) Oddly enough, I don't seem to mind except my feet hurt. I'd like a part-time job but the likelihood of obtaining a job where I wouldn't work weekends is highly unlikely. I have a friend, however, who's willing to pay me $10 an hour to help take care of her kids on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She's currently having carpal tunnel problems so I'll likely take advantage of that offer whenever I can.

During the next coming weeks, I'm also going to try and freelance write. We'll see how that works out for me. I also wouldn't mind picking up some editing and proofreading jobs so I might have to re-interview with creative staffing services like Aquent and Boss Staffing. If anyone knows of any other creative staffing services like that in the Philadelphia area, please let me know. They specialize in placing people in "creative" jobs like editing, copy writing, proofreading, desktop publishing, web design, etc.

So that's my update. I can't promise multiple posts a day but I hope to write about mental health issues for a few publications so the potential for frequent posts and scouring other blogs for information in the next few weeks could be high. We'll see. I'm not sure about a market on writing about mental illness but it's one of the few topics I have a significant interest in.

As a result of leaving my job, the excellent medical  insurance that covered my husband and I has expired. We'll be moving to his health care insurance (which isn't awful but not as great as mine was). After a cursory search, however, we noticed that my psychiatrist isn't included under his plan. I'm reluctant to go to another doctor because I've already established a rapport with my current one. He's allowed me to have control over my own treatment and dictate the medication that I choose to use. I'm afraid another psychiatrist would try to shove Abilify down my throat if I mention passing suicidal thoughts. A few months ago, I went down to 100 mg of Lamictal in an attempt to slowly come off of it. I've been decreasing my dosages by about 25-50 mg every three months. I had a recurrence of frequent suicidal thoughts so I upped my dosage back to 150 mg. I was hoping that perhaps I had tricked myself into feeling better in conjunction with my counseling, but my suicidal thoughts have significantly decreased on the increased dose. It never ceases to scare me how much medication influences my mind.