Trust in Mental Health Treatment (Part 4): Choose Your Own Adventure

So, I potentially have good news. I’ve gotten to the final round of the interview process for a new job in my same city. It’s what I do now but with a different organization. I’ll update eventually whether I got the job, but talking about it right now feels a bit too much like tempting fate. I’m not a fan of pure CBT, but even I’ll admit I’m engaging in a bit of magical thinking by staying silent. I know, I know. However, PTSD and its sense of foreshortened future mean talking about anything positive that hasn’t happened seems like it will only make me look like a fool when it doesn’t happen.

I have no such qualms, though, about talking about my fears of what will happen if I get the job. C-PTSD is fine with that. The commute will be just far enough that I won’t be able to make it to my therapist during her normal business hours. She was able to do a limited number of phone sessions while I was in the 9th Circle of Hell last summer because she knew that was an active trauma crisis, but she can’t, unfortunately, do regular phone sessions. I’ll also have to go to trauma yoga on Saturdays instead of during the week. That’s…not terrible. But, it will mean a bigger class in front of which to modify my yoga-for-hypermobility. There will probably be social anxiety compared to the three people that regularly go to the class I currently attend, but I guess I can live. How unsettled I feel not being able to attend weekly therapy, though, is one reason why I never fully wanted to develop trust with a therapist in the first place. Not all therapists are the abuse-permitting social workers of the 9th Circle of Hell, but, in the end, they are all running businesses. They’ll only modify so much, so my brain (bully and other parts) says don’t depend on someone for whom helping me lasts only as long as I am convenient. (Alongside the issues I wrote about in the first three parts of this series.)

Forget attachment. I’m still a survivor of enough systemic abuse that I’m shocked I even got to trust with anyone who is part of a system. But, shockingly, I did, and I don’t see myself being the kind of person for whom lightning strikes twice. My therapist attempted to suggest there might be others closer to my potential new workplace whom I could trust, but she shut up quickly upon seeing my look. She then switched to, “Ok, I think you are strong enough that you could do more like once a month. I think you’ve been through enough with irregular support during the Crisis of 2018 that you can manage in 2019.” I’d be willing to take a half day to see her once a month during her hours. I’ll admit to being scared of tapering therapy, but not scared enough to contemplate finding another therapist. The legacy of systemic abuse runs deep, and the system she is in – and the others that both my insurances have covered for outpatient therapy – are really not trauma-informed. She’s the rare exception in a clinic I’d otherwise bitch about. (My psychiatrist, who is not necessarily trauma-informed for most but likes me, has Saturday hours. I could keep seeing him.)

I’d actively choose once a month therapy over trying again with anyone else. But admitting out loud that therapy was an important part of my support system during the Crisis of 2018 was terrifying. What if I’m not really strong enough yet to taper? Last year was pretty damn re-traumatizing.

What if I shouldn’t even be looking for a new job at all because I don’t have the spoons? The commute isn’t just too far to make therapy: it’s also a commute at all. I’m currently a remote worker, and that saves a lot of physical spoons. It doesn’t save mental spoons, though, I’m only a remote worker because I exist within a limbo wherein my boss finds me too useful to purge, but too much of a hassle to talk to.

When I started to panic-think maybe I should just stay with my current company, my therapist very quickly shut me down by reminding me how many of my boss’s communications she has read while I cried. As she has stated, she “can’t ethically diagnose someone” she hasn’t met. But, while she can’t speak clinically, she did suggest that I do some serious research into the various presentations of narcissism and think hard about why my current boss was able to trigger full-scale PTSD episodes when I still saw him in person. 2018 wasn’t the first time I had to testify to ongoing abuse in the 9th Circle of Hell. I testified against the Thesis Defense Rests Stop the same week as my thesis defense (hence the moniker). Yes, each successive trauma adds a straw to the camel’s back. But my boss…also reminds me of someone who abused me personally in a way no one outside the 9th Circle of Hell ever has in my entire life.

The day of my end-of-year-review – which perhaps I will eventually write about – was a perfect example of my the way my boss can start the day in such a towering temper I wonder if I will still have a job at the end it, but then whiplash to being conciliatory to the point he asked if I could use more physical accommodations. What changed in between? A combination of a) something I produced being very well received by clients on a call between the beginning of the day and my review and b) letting him take all the credit for it. With my history, my instinct is to roll over and hand off intellectual credit for anything I do to anyone who scares me because C-PTSD says “stay safe by staying out of sight.” That…works with my boss. It’s probably a big part of why I got concessions and the rest of my office got fired last year.

But, as my therapist notes, he exacts a cost in mental spoons that is likely more damaging to me than the cost of the physical spoons from commuting. It’s not generally a smart idea to work for someone who pings your PTSD to flashback to childhood abuse. Even if I hadn’t experienced childhood abuse, working for someone who can flip moods so drastically and so quickly is not a great idea, period. Nor is working for someone who has flat out stolen the academic work of all those who are under him in a field that typically recognizes subject matter experts as experts. There’s also the pesky fact that I still have the gut instinct that the company itself isn’t financially stable, and I could lose my remote job by 2020 even if I’m able to keep my boss perfectly happy until the day the doors close for good. I’d rather choose my own adventure now, while it still is a choice.

Therapists don’t usually tell you what to do, exactly, but mine seemed worried enough by the prospect that I’d not take a job if I got it because of the fear of losing one piece of my support system that she ended with “we’ll work out what happens with therapy, but I really don’t think you should trust your boss longer when you have another option.”

We’ll see what happens. I don’t know if I will know yet by next week whether I’m their final candidate. Whether or not I do, next week’s post will be a review of the strategies that kept me sane while testifying to abuses in the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 without consistent access to therapy. Maybe if I write out what helped me then, it will help others unable to access good therapy now, whether because of a therapy break, because they only have access to those horrible therapists in their area that are the reason I’m so afraid of ever starting over with someone new, or because they can’t afford decent care. (The U.S. sucks at mental health, did I ever mention that?) And, maybe it will also help to reassure myself that I can eventually return to working in a real office – with its increased physical demands upon my EDS/dysautonomia – because the mental benefits from reduced anxiety, depression, PTSD and panic are worth it. Maybe it’ll convince me that I can be strong later since I was strong enough before.

Also, if I flat out state that I won’t be writing about what happened with the job next week, then perhaps  I won’t feel internal pressure to “follow up” with the “bad news” my brain thinks it will inevitably receive. I write a lot about failure on this blog, but I’m trying at least this week to tell myself someday I might also write about success.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

 

Advertisements

Written on the Prophetic Plates?

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
<Image>: Smug cat on a ledge with a broken vase on the floor. <Text>: This is why we can’t have nice things.

My Partner and I are going to a game night tonight hosted by someone I met through an ADHD support group. So, of course, I had a dream that the hosts kept serving me party food on real plates, and I kept progressively dropping them. I desperately tried to explain, “Please stop giving me nice things. I drop things constantly,” but somehow the china I was handed just kept getting progressively finer…

On the one hand, I hope that doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is wet and slippery out today. I also didn’t sleep well – no thanks to that dream.  And, it would be nice to actually make “friends” with people before I break something (of theirs or of mine) in front of them. On the other hand, if there will ever be a household where, “I know I’m clumsy, but I forgot to put my plate down before my hands got too tired” might actually make for an understandable explanation, perhaps it would be a fellow neurodiverse household?

I’m sure this dream has nothing at all to do with the fact that I read the Ehlers-Danlos Society’s “Mental Health Care Toolbox” on Facebook yesterday or the fact that it noted that people with EDS and HSD have a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Or the fact that I have fallen down in public places twice recently. Nothing at all…

I'm Not Clumsy. It's Just That The Floor Hates Me, The Tables And Chairs Are Bullie And The Wall Gets In The Way T-Shirt
<Image text>: I’m not clumsy. It’s just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, and the wall gets in the way.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

 

Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers

*Knock knock*

“Who’s There?”

“Wobbly”

“Wobbly who?”

“Wobbly out in this weather when I know I will fall over? I’m very dedicated to my art, ok? Now offer me a seat on this train before it’s you I fall onto…”

Amtrak preemptively canceled some Acela routes and other regional commuter routes in advance of the snow this weekend. City transit authorities are posting their standard “expect delays on above-ground routes.” In addition to keeping us abreast of their plans to keep us safe – albeit possibly not on time – during the winter weather, both agencies also seem to be touting themselves as the solution to all the city’s partying needs lately.

On the way to Improv today, I saw ads introducing several bus and train operators who “skip the party, so you don’t have to.” I’m guessing several other class members also noticed the recent uptick in public transit emphasis on how their employees ensure we can have a good time by working while everyone else is playing. “Partying” was a prominent theme in our montages today.

There’s nothing more thematically appropriate for that inevitable first time I sublux something on stage and fall over than during a scene in which the administration of a “party school” with a name one letter off of the Ivy League discuss how to improve their image. This was a class, not a live show, so people stopped scene work and asked about me. I almost wished it had been a public show, though, as I doubt I will ever again get such a gift of a scene to play off a sublux and associated fall as “intentional” than during that one.

With a class, it’s…well…as awkward to bring up EDS in advance as it is to sublux something on stage. I’m in the dual position of both performing in indie shows with a troupe, but also simultaneously being a student. I have to actually graduate from the theater’s comedy school if I ever want to audition for anything solo, and graduating to each next level requires not just an instructor thinking I am ready in my performance capabilities, but also having missed no more than two classes out of any session. The Crisis of 2018 ensured that I wasn’t in the position to even contemplate that kind of attendance commitment for the past two sessions, so I never even bothered to register. I also fainted just before the first class of this current session and thus missed its very first class. So, no guarantees I will make the attendance requirement this time around either. My indie troupe – who are all now graduates – didn’t drop me when I got behind last year. I could conceivably have had my first onstage sublux happen during a real performance, with a team who have been warned in advance to just keep going and use the exquisite thematic timing to heighten, heighten, heighten.

But, as with last week’s hair appointment, I don’t typically get that lucky when introducing my diagnoses to new people. Explaining how I occasionally fall over – and to just give me a minute to see if I can reorient my own joints before treating it like a big deal – is still just…awkward. I never know how to respond to the sort of excessive solicitousness that people offer immediately after they first see me faint or pop a joint.

Continue reading “Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers”

Striped Girls Can Jump?

Reminds me of a few people I know!!
<Image Text>: “Your flexibility amazes me. How do you get your foot in your mouth and your head up your ass all at the same time?”

People have the strangest reactions to learning about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. So, telling them about it when you are already socially awkward quickly becomes a study in ridiculousness. For instance, I got to have that discussion recently with my hair stylist. It ended with me jumping up onto things alongside the majority of the salon staff. I promise there was no alcohol involved. I just would rather do practically anything – including impromptu social experiments – than make “small talk.”

My stylist knows that I have dysautonomia. I hadn’t exactly planned to tell her, as how does one broach that conversation during “small talk” at a salon, but fainting in her doorway last year kind of forced the choice between sharing the diagnosis or paying whatever the deductible would have been for an ambulance ride when the owner was afraid otherwise I’d die on him – or worse sue him. My old office, before my bully-of-a-boss fired everyone in it and made its lone survivor a fully remote worker, used to have a faulty heater. I had to wear a sweater, an undershirt, and a camisole just to keep from turning blue in that office most of the year. In winter, I’d then add a big heavy waterproof coat, scarf, gloves and hat on top of it to walk the about ten minutes from my office to where I get my hair cut. I learned last winter that just because it is 50 degrees inside your office and about 20 degrees outside, some salons will inexplicably choose to keep their facilities at about 80 degrees. If you walk into one of those salons wearing all those layers, you’ll pass out in the doorway from the dramatic temperature change. At that point, the cat’s out of the bag.

Continue reading “Striped Girls Can Jump?”

Messages in a Bottle #10: Random Acts of Baked Goods Generation

It’s that time of year again: end of year reviews at work! As my trusty Passion Planner reminds me, this year has mostly been a trash fire. Also, I’m only “self-reflecting” upon nine months of work, because I spent three months on leave. Yet, I did fill out the monthly reflections for those three months because I did “freelance” work during that period. That “collaborative” spirit (aka running away from one set of problems by digging deep into another) turned out to be some of the best work I did all year. Strong enough that it may have saved my job when my mental-health-stigmatizing bully-of-a-boss fired the rest of my team. It sucks to re-read those months of “self-reflection” when there is so much 9th Circle of Hell crap alongside it, but there is no way I’m not reminding my boss of how pleased he was with the work I did on leave when my next year’s salary is being determined.

Unless you are a data analyst or are an avid gamer, the concept of RNG probably doesn’t mean much to you. I am both. I don’t believe people are inherently good. (Sorry, I’ve seen too much. We’re neutral at best like every other species. We can choose to be otherwise, but it is an active choice.) I don’t believe everything “happens for a reason.” I do, however, believe in RNG and the Central Limit Theorem. If you roll the dice often enough – even accounting for psychological phenomena like streakinessrecency effects and/or salience, which violate true statistical independence – sometimes jerks give you positive accommodations amidst a general office purge. Sometimes, truly random events happen that even the best statistical analyst – or the bully-in-my-brain – could never have predicted. Being granted the greatest accommodation my ADHD/C-PTSD brain could ever ask for – the right to be left alone – is something I could never have predicted.

If the same set of circumstances happened to 100 people, likely 99% of them would be fired (within my office alone, in fact, as I was the only survivor of nearly that percentage of purge!) Somehow, though, my boss never stopped loathing the visible indicators of my multiple diagnoses, but he realized during my leave that he could avoid having to deal with his employee-in-crisis and still get work out of her by just never speaking to her again. We meet as little as possible, I submit my work remotely, and somehow we’re both satisfied. Somehow the RNG that is life rolled such that I think I am actually more confident in myself during this review than last year.

My boss is a bullying arsehole, but I found a way to make it work? My Passion Planner really missed the mark there. About a month before I went on leave, it included a quote for the week that read “If you need a sign, this is it.” I made a little note in the margin that even my planner wanted me out of the company! The base set of variables (horrible boss, layoffs, financial instability as a result of the instability of the government we rely on for contracts) have not changed. Yet, I’m still employed. My end-of-year review seems like a perfect example of how you can’t always expect the worst, but it would be equally naive to conversely expect the bad to be rewarded with an equal amount of the best. The best you can remind yourself during Depression is often simply that RNG exists.

And that irony magnet superpowers violate randomness in blog-worthy ways. Today is National Cupcake Day. I learned that from another blogger who wrote about Random Acts of Kindness and receiving a cupcake during a rough day at work. I did not receive a cupcake from anyone at work the week my Passion Planner told me to expect a “sign.” All the good people who would have bought me one had, sadly, been fired already.

I did, however, stop into a corner market the first week of my leave. It was summer, the heat had been getting to me, and I had been an idiot to try and walk to my doctor’s appointment. Dysautonomia doesn’t care that I needed to move to avoid thinking about everything happening. I tried to buy a Gatorade and beef jerky, but I didn’t meet the minimum $10 to use a credit card. I had no cash. It triggered a bit of mental panic at the cost. It was, after all, my first week without salary. I tossed some filler Hostess cupcakes by the register onto the pile anyway. I needed the liquid and salt.

I must have looked as panicked as I felt at that moment, spending money I wasn’t sure I could replace and wondering if I’d ever get another paycheck from my company. I was thoroughly befuddled when the cashier suddenly nudged me to take my stuff and move along. The guy behind me had paid for my entire purchase. He had told the cashier I looked like I needed something to go right, then left before I surfaced from my spiral to thank him. I wrote that incident down in my planner with the note, “People think East Coasters are jackasses, but I bet nobody in the 9th Circle of Hell would buy me a cupcake while they screwed my family over.”

My Passion Planner, my own stats training and the bully-in-my-brain all couldn’t predict what my job would look like in December 2018. RNG can be a comforting surprise. However, my Passion Planner’s note from the week of June 10th, 2018, about signs also wasn’t entirely for naught. I’m an East Coaster now, by choice.

Things don’t happen for a reason. People aren’t inherently good. It’s a choice. I never got – nor expected – any cupcakes in the 9th Circle of Hell. My planner and that other blogger remind me, though, to keep being better than the 9th Circle of Hell or my boss. I probably owe a stranger an RNG cupcake…

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Improv #12: Funny You Should Mention That…

memorial quotes for son | Share Inspirational Picture Quotes About Life - On Facebook
Image text: “Pretending to be normal, doing your best to act like you’re ok, day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s just so exhausting” over a woman crying.

For anyone wondering, the Thanksgiving turkey turned out great. Cooking a turkey is like cooking a whole chicken. If you want to practice before next year’s big day, cook whole chickens. Then, do the same thing on Turkey Day for about 3-4 times as long. (Also, turkey enchilada stew and buffalo turkey sandwiches feel much more like a “change” from a week of all-turkey, all-the-time than the standard turkey pot pie and stews that are usually recommended.)

Unfortunately, my Partner sent our only photos to his parents when he last spoke to them. Now there’s a remote chance they could someday identify me as the author of this blog if I recycled those pictures. I used an herbed-butter rub and baked the bird with roasted vegetables for aromatics. The pictures, through the magic of Google image search, could theoretically be vaguely identifiable. Every picture of the same natural feature looks about the same. (I did some digging to prove that to myself before posting Iceland pics last year.) As long as I pick out different photos for his parents and my blog, I can share travel photos here and still keep my worlds separate. But, I can never share the same photos, or my worlds might collide, right?

Not really. All Thanksgiving turkeys also look about the same, so there’s nothing truly stopping me from posting the same pictures here except my ingrained need to keep my worlds separate. There’s nothing except my ingrained need to control to whom and in what situations I reveal just how not normal I am. I am still masking in most of my life, and, though it sucks, I don’t think I’d know how to fully unmask in daily life if I tried. Unmasking hasn’t been safe in childhood, in my workplace and in advocating for my neurodiverse sibling within a regressive, systemically abusive state.

Continue reading “Improv #12: Funny You Should Mention That…”

Candy Canes

Image result for pokemon go pikachu santa hat
Image: Pikachu in a Santa Hat from Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go had a super event this weekend, in which all their previous special events were combined. Increased spawn rates for all prior Community Day Pokemon were available all weekend, but, within the weekend, there was one three-hour period wherein all the prior Community Day event bonuses (including double candy and stardust) were also available at once.

Because it is winter, everyone is sick, and I’m still destined to catch every acute illness that I am ever exposed to, I was getting over being sick and the concomitant flare this weekend. I was aware of the spoon cost to participate fully, but self-care sometimes means caring for my mental health even when it costs my physical health.

I’ve considered mobility aids before. There’s probably some residual feeling that I’m a pretender who doesn’t deserve one wrapped into my prior avoidance. It’s hard to get over a lifetime of ignoring your own needs because someone else has it worse. Mostly, though, I haven’t used one because I haven’t seen how it would help.

All the canes I’ve ever been exposed to are sturdy, wooden things that have to be held onto like an umbrella.

Continue reading “Candy Canes”

Where’s Whoopsie #16: Build Me Up, Butterball

“For pounds up to nine,” Peapod’s flat fee’s pretty fine
But they lied, they substituted and then (Ba-dah-dah)
Showed up from the store, a turkey fed many times more
It’s not them, will I let us down in brine? (Hey, hey, hey)

Maybe, baby, try to find (Hey, hey, hey)
Dethaw time and I’ll make us happy (Hey, hey, hey)
I’ll be home, I’ll be beside the stove waiting on food
Ooh, ooh

Why do you build me up (Build me up)
Butterball, baby
Just to give me dread? (Give me dread)
And mess with my head?
And then, worst of all (Worst of all)
The bully calls, baby
“You can’t keep us fed” (Keep us fed)
But it’s quite misled
I trust us (I trust us)
And the Internet darling
On prep, I will soon make a start
So build me up (Build me up)
Butterball, don’t break my heart

It’s true, we’re just two, but we could eat for many days more
If you’d just turn out right (Ba-dah-dah)
Although you’re quite rare, I am willing to dare just to gorge
Oh, let me feed us so! (Hey, hey, hey)

Maybe, baby, try to find (Hey, hey, hey)
Cooking time and I’ll make us happy (Hey, hey, hey)
I’ll be home, I’ll be beside the stove waiting to chew
Ooh, ooh

Why do you build me up (Build me up)
Butterball, baby
Just to lay breast down? (Lay breast down)
On plates all round
And then, worst of all (Worst of all)
The sides and all, baby
Why can’t you be alone (be alone)?
But I’ll make them too
I’ll eat you (I’ll eat you)
And everything, darling
Of all, I’ll eat more than my part
If you build me up (Build me up)
Butterball, don’t break my heart

I-I-I want you on Thanksgiving Day, baby
That’s why you were put in our cart
So build me up (Build me up)
Butterball, don’t break my heart

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #16: Build Me Up, Butterball”

Top Ten Things I Hate About Top Ten Posts

I went away to a place that was not the 9th Circle of Hell this past long weekend with my partner. It was just a long-weekend getaway, and – given that my Partner had literally been to Hell the week before – it doesn’t quite imply everything is fine. However, it was enough of a mental reset for me that I don’t want to think or write about that other place if I can avoid it for a week.

I wasn’t sure at first what else to write about. The 9th Circle of Hell and the soon-to-be-introduced-on-my-blog replacement for the Bedbug Motel still occupy entirely too much of my brain space. It was harder at first to not think of the 9th Circle of Hell than even to not think of an elephant. Until suddenly, I realized…

Continue reading “Top Ten Things I Hate About Top Ten Posts”

Improv #10: Seven Things for Self-Care

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“Seven”

“Seven Who?”

“Seven Eleven…”

“Dude, you can’t fool me. I know there’s only seven of you. When I’m seeing eleven then maybe I’ll believe I’m as think as my friends drunk I am. Now bring me my black coffee and tylenol delivery stat!”

There’s an Improv game called Five Things that seems to be fairly universal. The basic gist is that you sing a little song and then ask the person next to you on the spot to come up with five (or seven, or eleven or whatever arbitrary number) of a certain category. It’s a warm-up game to get you thinking in odd ways.

It’s also a song that will lodge itself into your brain forever. If you don’t believe me, watch here. You get bonus points if you stay on beat and/or come up with wittier or more advanced versions for your answers. For instance, to start you might ask for five types of vegetables and only be able to think of “potatoes, carrots, peas, turnips, and celery.” Later on, you might get a little more inventive: “Mr. Potatohead, Veggie Tales, Carrot Top, The Jolly Green Giant and Sweet Pea.”

I do not seem to have self-care lodged in my brain in the same way. Between the double-vision fiasco, being mentally frozen in the 9th Circle of Hell and general ADHDness, I have been kind of terrible about my self-care this past month. (Don’t worry! No real alcohol or mind-altering substances were involved in my lack of self-care. Line games are just things that have also become permanently lodged my brain.)

Continue reading “Improv #10: Seven Things for Self-Care”