Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clever, Classless, and Free

The funny thing is when you make a huge change in your life and you need everything else to stay the same, everything else never gets the memo. This is week five without Lamotrigine and people tell me that I am doing really well. On some days I believe them and on other days, I feel like I am crumbling inside. I didn't get my dream apartment and got wait listed for the BRA apartment I applied to. This weekend a realtor stood me up for the second time for an apartment viewing and then he basically told me on the phone it is a shit hole. I am meeting a potential room-mate tomorrow and I still have Taunton in my back pocket.

The reprieve from being homeless or losing my cats didn't turn off all the stress and anxiety I had been feeling like a light switch. For a while I was barely getting four hours of sleep. When I wasn't sleeping, I was trolling Craigslist for places to live or looking at my two cats thinking, "If I gave them away, life would be so much easier." which made me feel so horrible and guilty for even allowing the thought to happen so I'd cry and hug them.

I can usually handle stress but my body kinda broke from all of it. This past week I went from "Must have eaten something bad." to "I wonder where the appendix is? to "I can't eat that, I need to leave the house." I had two vacation days scheduled Thursday and Friday in the Berkshires but I had to come home early Friday to see my doctor. She had my blood tested in case of infection. Her theory is that I need sleep and I need to decrease my stress levels. To that end, she wrote a letter saying that I should be allowed to keep my cats since they are therapeutic. I'm also taking 3mg of Melatonin this weekend at least. I am feeling a bit better today and I am looking forward to work tomorrow!

Unfortunately, I left work before my vacation on a sour note. I worked on a new report for over an hour and when I paused to give it a sanity check review, things didn't look right. At 5:30 Wednesday I found out I did the report completely wrong. Luckily, it didn't have a deadline and was something that would be helpful for me to do. Since "helpful" is my Pavlovian bell I went all out and I enjoyed working on it like any true data nerd. I wound up getting upset that I wasted my time and produced crap in front of Super Boss. He thought I was upset with him so I tried to explain that it was my own fault and I should have asked more questions before attempting the report. I kind of can't wait until we get more analysts in our group because it's a bit exhausting and weirdly co-dependent with just the two of us. Baby Analyst hasn't been sucked into this mood miasma which makes her an awesome breath of fresh air to talk to. Work tomorrow should be interesting since Super Boss had to tackle a couple weird situations that usually wind up on my plate. I expect to hear "I don't know how you do it." and/or "Thank goodness you're back."

I also want to write about my two cats. This is Rasputin. He is an eight year old purebred Mainecoon. I got him from a breeder as a gift for myself after getting my MBA. He is very talkative and a big snuggler. As you can see from the picture he tries to sleep on my shoulder at night but I am a restless sleeper so I usually find him curled up against my back when I wake up. He has been pretty healthy with one UTI a couple years ago and a heart murmur - which is common in Mainecoons. He is also a great traveller. He's my baby boy and a complete clown furball.

This is Stella. She is an eleven year old tortoiseshell. I adopted her in 2011 from the Quincy Animal Shelter. The first several months were very difficult with her. She hissed, growled, didn't like being petted, and didn't get along with Rasputin. In my head I had imagined two cats licking each other or curled up purring sleeping on each other. That didn't happen. Getting her to the vet cost me a liter of blood every time. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. After surgery, she was a lot friendlier. She is always first to the door to greet people. She loves being petted now and sleeps next to me curled up purring. I think she was probably in pain when I got her and now she is healthy and has stability. She is also Head Butt Queen. I love this little lady!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stare Into the Light


This past week has been awesome, exhausting, and horrible. In the end, I have been left humbled with gratitude.

Mood alert - I found a therapist who has a neurology background and has the nicest warm laugh. We have our first appointment September 15, my brother's birthday and the day after Rosh Hoshanah. This is week three without any Lamotrigine and it is pretty good. I think I have found my core inner resiliency that let's me feel sad and stress but somehow keeps me together. Work has been pretty busy and crazy. In fact, I wound up handling the craziest day better than Super Boss! I teased him about calling a co-worker incompetent, he hung his head, and admitted it was said in anger. I cherish these moments as examples of Super Boss being human. I also had a good run of asking good questions and making mistakes that turned into good learning opportunities. He also pointed out a "tell" I have. It's so funny, we spend so much time together we can read each other like a book.  We would be awesome as con artists. He was asking me if I needed help and it was 5:30 on a Friday and I hadn't sat at my desk for 30 minutes so I ran my hands through the hair at the top of my head and said "I'm fine." Which was a tell for him.

I used a comp day to take Wednesday off. It was muggy in the upper 80's so my mom, brother, and I went to Nantasket Beach. We were in Trader Joes grabbing lunch items when I got a phone call from my land lady's son who told me that:

1. The cat urine stink has permeated the house
2. I need to get rid of the cats by Sept. 1
3. Or I need to move

On my day off in the middle of the grocery store. I admit that the high humidity and heat helps no odors and the main scoop free litter box needed a replacement. I called the guy back asking if I hired cleaners could I stay. He started ranting about the stink and my brother had just visited last weekend saying how non-smelly the place was. So I asked bro to explain that to land lady's son. It was awkward and horrible. My brother announced that he had to hang up on him after asking, "Are you serious?" multiple times. My beach day was fun and also spoiled by the whirling panic from this situation. But I was able to talk out options with my mom and brother which calmed me down. It was my brother's first time at Nantasket and he loved it. It is seriously my favorite beach - friendly people, variety of ages and body types, plus really cool waves. I got home and there was a letter from land lady's son which said I had until October 1 to vacate if I didn't get rid of my cats.

I have been casually looking for new places to live so this just set a deadline. Plus, my family, friends and co-workers all really rallied to help me. That first night I cried just from gratitude that I have surrounded myself with such generous kind people. I stared at my ceiling and just sent thanks to the universe. So, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night I barely slept because I was trolling craigslist for apartments, imagining giving up one of my cats, and having racing brain.

Friday a high school friend tried to hook me up with a friend who is also looking for a place. This potential roomie sounded awesome. We totally hit it off but I was bringing 2 cats to her 1 which ultimately fizzled the potential team up. I really fell in love with the idea of a roommate and the money I'd save. Boo.

Today, I had an apartment viewing for a place that is a two bedroom. It's two because the one bedroom can only fit a full size bed. The second bedroom is for your dresser. Ugh! Then land lady's son showed up at my apartment telling me he is willing to work with me and not throw me out Oct. 1. So, I need to do a big cleaning for Sept. 1 inspection and then my rent will increase $125 Oct. 1. I was so relieved, I started crying. Land lady's son's wife talked him down from his tantrum apparently. Yeah, I am still looking for a place. Someplace convenient to the train under an hour to Boston and cat friendly. I think I will be able to sleep tonight.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Data Can Save Sanity

My annual review at work is coming up next month.  This is my first annual review at this company. I did have a mid-year which went well.  A lot has happened since then so I'm worried how my accomplishments will be weighed against my ability to cope. I got dinged at my mid-year for being snippy.

Since I am an analyst and I need data, I decided to log every meltdown I've had since April on a calendar. The red dates are the meltdowns and the pink block is when I started reducing my crazy pills.  You know what?  This actually makes me feel so much better! I was getting caught up with the idea that I am being unprofessional.  Another thing that made me feel better is this article. 

I also want to point out four meltdowns since titrating off of Lamotrigine, only 1 occurring when I was completely off, is an actual accomplishment!  Of course, if I want to see how these line up with my cycle, that would be counterproductive and probably infuriating - ha!  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sucking it Up Buttercup

Two weeks clean. I called three different doctors today to try to find a new therapist. Nothing panned out but one suggested that I try to get outpatient treatment from a hospital since my neuroanatomy is different, seeing someone who has more resources would be good. I have a feeling that I might make a good clinical paper so I'm sure shrinks will be beating a path to treat me!

Last week was pretty good. I had a couple days where I got fiercely protective of our analyst team. One day Baby Analyst got so frustrated about a process not working, she said, "I guess I am too dumb to follow step by step directions." That? Broke my freaking heart! Oh yeah sure, I say that to myself all the time but hearing Baby Analyst say it had me leaping into overprotective mom mode. I told her thinking that way sets her up for failure and she had done everything right, it was just the stupid program. Another day,we had our unit meeting where Super Boss had to admit he was falling really behind on a fiscal year process. He looked miserable, defeated, and small saying this. So our director proposed a way to break up the work between all of us. Super Boss got flustered saying that dividing it up would actually create more work for him. Then the director offered to run interference for us with other departments to create some room on our plates.

Literally the next morning I took him up on it. There is a clueless bint in our department who has wasted hours of our time asking us to create a report to help provide work for her intern. Work that doesn't even need to be done until 2016. I am unclear what unmet work need this intern is filling since there is no workload apparently. Super Boss and I had to revise this report multiple times and build queries. Guess what? We got a request for another revision. I know if Super Boss and I work on something together, it's stellar and yet this stupid report was not stellar. That was a red flag to me that we are worn too thin. So I raised the issue with the director.

Last Friday was seriously the pinnacle of my entire time at my workplace. For months, I have been cleaning up a billing process dating back years, at the same time designing a new process, and also drafting company wide communications. Last Friday was the big meeting between IT, my department, and the director. Every single thing I proposed was agreed upon! Even my design of an interface got a thumbs up from IT. The director joked, "Watch out, she's glowing." I was smiling that much. 

This week was a bit more challenging. The billing process I cleaned up over 5 months stopped working for a day, I wasted half a day troubleshooting with IT and I needed to get the bills out. I had a sense of humor about it in the beginning but after hours of un-enrolling people which didn't fix anything, then finding out I needed to re-enroll everyone pushed me to tears (on the phone). A fix was found and bills got out just a day late. Then there was a reconciliation that hasn't been done in two years. Super Boss and I picked August to be the month to delve into it back in June. We met and tried to develop a process to automate the reconciliation this week. The file is such a horrible mess, Super Boss got very frustrated, and I felt overwhelmed because we can't automate anything.  Basically we're checking the work of another department against an outside vendor. The other department is more than happy to tell us what to do and how to do it. Helping? Unheard of. Yet again this is a broken system going back years over thousands of records.

So I freaked the fuck out via email at Super Boss on my walk to South Station. I have no background in this discipline and was pissed that I was being saddled with so much. This other department has a job opening since I'm a mature woman, I emailed one sentence to Super Boss "Does X Coordinator Make More Than an HR Analyst?" Just savor that passive aggressiveness. This kicked off a back and forth about the kind of work I am being asked to do and whether it's appropriate and me pointing out that I can be an efficient good worker and also be so overworked I am close to breaking. All over email from my cell phone at South Station or on a train. I am even efficient in my breakdowns!

2 hours of crying and talking to my mom later, I realized something. I told Super Boss the realization this morning as we hashed things out face to face. I told him,"Here is my crazy. For the past five-ish months I have come into work terrified that you will give notice. So what have I done with that fear? I have done everything and have taken on more with a smile. I can't do this without you. But I can't keep taking on more work. I just don't want you to leave." 

He pointed out that I am making myself miserable and listed every single thing I am currently working on. We also talked about my long work hours and the fact that I have been canceling doctors' appointments which he was very stern about how work does not trump my health. I also kept apologizing for taking up so much of his time and he shut that down. He said that since he has manager in his title, part of his job is supervising employees and I am part of his job (cue an awkward joke from me) so if he doesn't have time, he'll tell me. It was a very good talk I cried a couple times and he looked incredibly upset at a couple points. I think he feels like he's failing as a manager if I'm upset. This is his first time managing. So I made sure to tell him that he's doing a great job and is the best boss I've had. I also thanked him for taking my concerns seriously and listening.

Basically, all my realizations about work/life balance from a couple months ago, I am re-realizing and need to recommit to. I am taking next Wednesday off and hopefully it will be a beach day.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Getting Better All the Time

This is exactly how I feel my first day without a milligram of Lamotrigine.  Technically, given the drug's half life, I still have 6 milligrams fucking up glutamate in my brain but I didn't take a pill this morning which is what counts.  I also worked today!

We had two sessions of testing and I volunteered to help the staffing department.  I get a comp day out of this which will mean another beach day for me.  The morning session was absolutely mobbed with hundreds of people - the most I've ever seen in a single testing session.  I helped check people in and proctor the test.  I really like the check in and check out process.  I think it reminds me of the time when I was the personnel manager for my college marching band, aka Band Mom.  Last month, someone was hired from an earlier testing session and they remembered me! That's the circle of life for hiring right there.  Of course there are interesting personalities who show up and varying testing abilities so that either amused, saddened, or horrified us.  By the afternoon session, we were getting a bit slap happy.  I joked that as we ask for people's testing id's, I basically hear every number in existence but the one they are saying.  Also, number rhythm is essential!  Say "twenty, one one seven" or put a pause someplace.  I had a lot of fun and met a bunch of people.  Now, I am wiped so thank goodness for new "Wet Hot American Summer"!

This work week was pretty good thanks to a fabulous co-worker who clued me in on how to show up to work without being drenched in sweat - take a bus that drops us off literally a block away.  Arriving, primped, clean, and dry every morning definitely helped set the tone for the week.  Ironically, I got to see Super Boss not pressed, clean, and dry for the first time one morning.  He was running chronically late and showed up looking like he had walked through a rain shower - poor guy!  Since I am Sweat Queen, I gave him my packets of facial cleansing cloths and body cleaning cloths.  Those, copious amounts of drinking water, and a fan will get you presentable, I guarantee.

Of course there was one day that wasn't so awesome and surprise surprise it was a Thursday.  I swear every single bad day I've had for the past four months has been a Thursday! I've been at my job for almost 11 months. I have learned a lot and if I don't know an answer, I know where to look and what questions to ask. So, I have been feeling pretty confident but there is one stupid, basic task that I always have trouble with - finding job descriptions.  There are five different places to look and dozens of different ways to look up the file. It's one of those tasks that you can't document steps, you just have to know.  So, I sent the wrong job description Thursday and Super Boss had to call me to let me know. Using his instructions, I found the correct one but the stupid critical voice in my head would not shut up.  

I have tried to nail down where that voice comes from. It isn't the usual "You're a worthless fucking bitch" voice (I call that Dad). When I make mistakes, it sounds like a scared tinier voice saying, "Oh god, you are brain damaged and dumb."  And since my emotional reserves are basically powering every waking second of my life, Tiny Scared Voice can't be dealt with so I just cried when I got home.  Tiny Scared Voice is basically every emotional beat I had in inpatient and outpatient rehab after my stroke.  I swear, all the testing they run you through does more emotional damage than help diagnostically. It's almost like I am still being tested now and after every mistake some doctor will show up with a clipboard. It's easy to fight off the Dad voice because I have a sense of humor about it. I internally roll my eyes and think, "Oh God, this guy? Seriously change your tune." Tiny Scared Voice taps into a visceral fear so crying is the only method I have to wear it out.

This has also been a stellar week of Fuck Up Analyst fallout.  I had my big reveal Wednesday.  Super Boss had his Friday.  My reveal is during a regular chat with Super Boss, I found out back in October Fuck Up Analyst told Super Boss and the other analyst guy that I did not want to work with them.  That I only wanted to work with her.  Firstly, I NEVER said that!  Secondly, keeping me under her wing made the learning curve so much more difficult for me. In Super Boss' office, my mouth was agape, I shook my fists at the sky, said "Argh!" and clarified things.  The sad thing is he thought he had done something wrong that made me not want to work with him!  You know what?  Fuck Up Analyst's name is Michelle.  I am done using aliases for this psycho.  Friday Super Boss was training me on compensation audits now that I have had HRIS audits under my belt for months. He found out Michelle did not do HRIS audits the way he had trained her (and me).  His face turned a purple-ish red, he hung his head, and his shoulders drooped.  Both of us were pissed but what can you do with someone who has left the company?  I suggested we call her She Who Will Not Be Named.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Subtle Understanding

At the end of today, Super Boss pointed out that I shouldn't go home for the weekend thinking I didn't accomplish anything. We talked about everything we got done and the obstacles which made Super Boss state that the obstacles didn't take away a win. Then he brought up another thing we can tick off our To Do list. I squinted at him and asked, "What's up with all the cheerleading?" He said that he knows that I had a hard week. I reassured him that the last couple days things got better.

Then he started talking about his old roommate who was Bipolar and had to go off her meds cold turkey since she lost her job. How hard it was on her and what it felt like. So, my subtle vagueness wasn't as obscure as I hoped but that turned out okay! In fact, if more of us talked about our struggles with mental illness, the stigma would lessen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Lose Your Grip and Alienate People

I had two days off from work last week. For one day I went to the beach and I didn't get burnt to a crisp thanks to UV bands and disappearing potion sun lotion. The other day I had an appointment with Dr. Quackowitz. I sat in the waiting room for an hour. Pissed off, I wrote a note to slip under her door. She was there and she hadn't written down our appointment. Ladies and gentleman, this is the same person who I allowed to mess with my brain chemistry God help me.... The good doctor got very defensive when I listed all the medical problems I have being on Lamotrigine. She kept repeating, "That isn't normally reported..." My response to that was, "My brain isn't normal! I have less gray matter and my neurons aren't connected the same way as normal people's." I had to yell this at her several times. Look up what a stroke does to a brain- geez...

I went down to half my dose on these days off. It felt fine on non-work days but this work week has been rough. Monday was horrible not just because it was my first day back but also because Super Boss was out and the entire department collectively forgot how to do their jobs. I finished fixing all the mistakes from Monday today. To give you a slight taste of the insanity, Monday at 8:00 AM I had to show a woman who had worked at the company for 20 years how to print a report she has been printing every week. The lesson is that I will never take time off.

Super Boss got back and was pissed about what I had to deal with on Monday. Things were so screwed up, there were potential legal implications. Since this is a roller coaster week, I had an awesome Tuesday with accomplishments up the wazoo. Wednesday is when shit hit the fan as I started worrying if the Lamotrigine was the reason why I like my job. I screwed up on a report and revised it to what I thought was right but it wasn't. Super Boss called me and said that I needed to redo the report and he could show me what happened. I was in the middle of three things and it was after 5 so I asked him if I could be over in a minute and mentioned that I have been having a horrible week. Fast forward to me venting in his office. But do you ever hear yourself and just get so sick of yourself? So I trailed off saying, "Blah, blah, blah my feelings..." Super Boss insisted that how I was feeling was important. I waved it off, he insisted, and I replied, "Okay, how I feel is important to you."

As he was showing me how to do the report, I had to get up, go to the bathroom, and cry. The weird thing is I wasn't upset I made a mistake, I just felt like a raw exposed nerve. When I got back, I decided to give a very vague head's up that I was getting off a medication with difficult side effects and I am really trying to keep it together but I do know I've been off. Super Boss looked a bit overwhelmed/scared at the info but he did point out that I have been doing all this stuff to help him on top of doing all Benefits analysis, then taking on more. I appreciated hearing that I am actually helping then he informed me, "That's crazy." The irony was so strong, I had to laugh. 

I felt a lot better but when I got back to my office, dark thoughts started creeping in. The idea of possibly starting back on SSRIs while getting off Lamotrigine popped into my head. Right after that thought, the evil Depression mantra kicked in saying that I am a broken weakling. I sat crying in my office for an hour until I realized that I was in no shape to take a train home. Luckily, my brother was able to come pick me up and listened to me cry and feel.

Just a general overview of the side effects I have been riding; I am very dizzy, I have trouble sleeping, my thinking is foggy, I have jolts of nerve pain randomly, and I sweat buckets. 

Today started rocky since I got no sleep. It was a combo of being upset and discovering rusty brown water coming out of my bathroom faucet at 3:00 AM. The idea of calling my landlady the next day and being screamed at about how I broke the bathroom kept me up. I have been blamed for every repair needed in my shitty apartment BTW. 

I cleaned up a big billing process at work and Super Boss pointed out something I will need to check every month, so I got snippy with him because what he wanted to be done would take me months to figure out how to do so it kinda negated all my cleanup work. I got back to my office, sat down tried to start figuring out what Super Boss wanted me to do, and decided to go and apologize for being snippy. I explained that what he wanted was something I had no idea how to do so he said, "Okay, let's set aside some time and try to work on those queries." I told him, "You don't need to waste your time on this. I don't need you to be in the Benefits pit where everything is awful." He pointed out that I report to him, so yeah he does need to know Benefits, that me being alone in the pit and not accepting help won't work. He said, "You don't need to be a martyr." Yeah, Benefits isn't a live grenade I need to throw myself on. I got really badly dizzy so I had to sit down, apologizing. He said that we're human and I murmured, "No I'm not, I'm a super hero." It's a running joke explaining my crazy need to be all things to everyone and do everything perfectly surpassing expectations.

This is my favorite description of what we need to get out of our holes: