Values

Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of introspective evaluation. I have been depressed and anxious and can’t seem to rid myself of pessimism and cynicism. It’s not for lack of trying. I feel worst when unable to control my life. That’s part of the reason my morale has been suffering. I don’t feel secure and that’s important to me. I have lost confidence in my abilities, not to mention what the depression & anxiety have done to my abilities to focus and analyze things. Unfortunately, analysis is a pretty big part of my job. So it’s a viscous cycle. I worry that my job could be swept out from under me at any moment. I worry about everything. I tried to make a list but it’s much too long… I worry about everything.

Nothing I do or think or feel is worry-free. It is so overwhelming I am jumpy and on the verge of a panic attack always. It’s not humanly possible to switch it off and on at will (my manager doesn’t believe me). If it were possible, I would do it. It is not fun to always be ON. All my senses are hyper-sensitive and it’s draining; it’s physically and emotionally draining.

How do I cope? I have some healthy coping skills but I also have some unhealthy ones. Luckily, I don’t rely on drinking or drugs. The two unhealthy things I use are eating and shopping. Both have obvious negative impacts but are socially acceptable which technically doesn’t make it any better but at least there’s not a lot of judgment about my behavior.

I do do some positive things too. I am taking some time off this week. I enjoy my art. Thursday, I’m attending Sherri Haab‘s PMC class at the Portland Bead Expo. Friday I’m getting a massage. I am meeting with some of my art-friends on Sunday. Next week, I have a therapy appointment and I try to attend a support group meeting on a regular basis. The class I taught at NAMI is about over but it was a good way to help others who also have mental illness in their family which in turn helped me. I’m really happy my volunteer time is being matched by my employer, Intel.

I am working on some new healthy skills too. I am working on healthier eating habits. As the weather improves, I am determined to get more exercise. Last year I bought a new bike that doesn’t have more than ten miles on it yet.
I also have some longer term goals. I would like to write a book. I would like to simplify my life (I know that’s kind of broad).
In the meantime, I need to do some thinking about my career. Luckily, Intel is throwing new resources toward development. I have read a couple articles and have seen a trend toward matching your personal values to your career goals. I think this excerpt from the book Finding Square Holes: Discover Who You Really Are and Find the Perfect Career by Anita Houghton sums up my situation well and I realize I have a lot more reflection to do about my life and my career.

Knowing what is important to you will also, by default, help you to clarify what is not. Being more aware, more alert to the values by which you live your life, you start to question your actions, question your motives, question your feelings, and gradually the important things in your life float gently to the top, while the less important ones sink slowly to the bottom.

And when that happens, the result is… happiness.

Source: Finding Square Holes: Discover Who You Really Are and Find the Perfect Career by Anita Houghton

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Well being

I wrote the following for my work blog but thought I’d repost here because it’s good info for all:

In the US there are pretty strict privacy (HIPAA) laws regarding health records. In addition, a diagnosis of of clinical mental illness would afford you protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So there shouldn’t really be any fear of your manager or the company finding out you are seeking mental health treatment.

I understand there is stigma attached to a mental health diagnosis but until we speak out and advocate otherwise, it will not change. Whatever your condition, whether cancer, clinical depression, diabetes, bipolar disorder, there should be no shame. And there should be no shame in seeking treatment.

I see a psychologist on a regular basis. It took several interviews to find the right therapist. Don’t settle for seeing someone who doesn’t share your values and with whom you don’t make a connection. You have every right to shop around for the health care provider who works for you.

And it shouldn’t be an expensive privilege to seek counseling. It is covered much the same as an office visit to the doctor (co-pay, deductible, etc.). In addition, if you participate in the flexible spending account deduction, you can use that reimbursement for those costs.

I am active in National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). This resource is a wealth of support and information. They can help you navigate the system if you’re struggling. I co-teach a class called Family-to-Family which educates families with loved ones affected by mental illness. It helped me immensely and I would highly recommend it. No one should feel alone. There are people out there who can help. For those of you in Oregon, the Washington County affiliate is very active and has many programs that you may find helpful.

I have also found the following online resources to be very helpful:

National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health.

Mental Health Network
Information and tools to help you manage your stress, depression, anxiety and more.

WebMD
MayoClinic

I’ve been dealing with this for a long time and it comes and goes depending on many factors. The past year at my company has had a huge impact on my sense of well being but it’s much easier to manage stress and/or depression with the support of others. You can’t just will it away… it takes positive action!

So busy

My gosh, I’ve been busy the past several days. Last week, my parents came over and helped me do some spring cleaning. My dad put together some shelves and a workbench for the garage. I got rid of a ton of junk and recycled a bunch of cardboard. My mom worked on the inside. My niece took a sectional sofa that was taking up too much space in the office upstairs. And we boxed up a bunch of Amber’s stuff that was spread out everywhere. It was so nice to get so much done. I think I’m going to hire my mom to come over on a regular basis because I just don’t have the time to keep on top of everything. And she does such a great job!

I went to a support group meeting on Friday night. Everyone was pretty chatty so I got out of there later than I had expected. Afterwards, I ran over to my brother and sister-in-law’s to relieve my mom & dad from babysitting duties. Karen got home at about 10:00. We sat and visited for a bit and I got home by 11:00 or so. Woke to snow (I hate the cold!) on Saturday morning. Got to NAMI at 9:00 but decided to call off Family to Family class for today. Hate to hold class when some of the people aren’t able to make it.

I had some shopping to do so I ran to Barnes & Noble and Washington Square. My friend, Doreen’s birthday party was that evening and as usual, I waited ’til the last minute to get her gift. Well, that’s not entirely true: I practically had to invite myself to the party. I found out about it through the grapevine and her husband, Ken, was planning it and you know how men are. It was a milestone birthday and I didn’t want to miss out so I had to take matters into my own hands. Anyway, I got her a candle from Yankee Candle the scent is called Sun & Sand™ and it smells just like summer! Of course, I had to get myself one too! Steve and I went to the party that evening. It was pretty snowy but the roads were just slushy so it wasn’t too bad. We stayed until about 10:00 and got home fairly early. I don’t think she reads my blog so I can spill about the girls get-together tonight, which should be a lot of fun too! I got her a gag gift for this party and I’m sure she’ll want to kill me!

Then Sunday was the SuperBowl. Steve and I decided to stay home this year and watch the game together. Wow, what an upset!

Also this weekend, I started creating the proto-type for my fatbook pages. I cannot wait to get them put together. They’re gonna be soooo cool! I decided to go with the Art & Soul theme: By the Sea. I’ll post a picture when they’re done.

Take a breath

I had an interesting meeting with my manager today. He helped me remember that I have a choice whether to stress about EVERYTHING. He also asked me what kinds of things I want to work on. I couldn’t answer that question. Unfortunately, Intel doesn’t have an art department. Anyway, he gave me this workbook to help me analyze my strengths and preferences. Creativity and aesthetics were two important things that were reinforced by the activities I completed. Now I need to create a plan to help me map out the path to get to my goals.

I’m co-teaching this class at NAMI called Family to Family. It’s held weekly each Saturday. The people in the class all have family members who have a mental illness. It is really intense and emotional. But it is my way of giving back because the class helped me so much when I took it. This is the third series I’ve co-taught. So far, we’ve taught four classes so we’re a third of the way through. I don’t think I’ll teach another class; it really takes so much out of me. One really great thing about doing this is that Intel will be matching my hours with dollars. In the past they’ve only matched educational volunteering so this is a plus. If you do have a mentally ill family member, I would highly recommend this class. Plus, it’s free.

Mental Health

Today someone at work posted a message to his blog regarding burn out.  I wrote back to him and I think what I wrote was worth reposting here.  I apologize if this is more information than you’re interested in but maybe it will help someone deal with similar issues.

You are not the only one.  I recently had a burn out myself.  I had been asking for a day off and it just wasn’t happening.  Everything was so intense (work issues, the guy whistling across the way, the girl eating in the next cube, not to mention home problems) that when I got an annoying phone call, I literally lost it.  My therapist was concerned enough to authorize my leave. 

I have suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.  I have been in therapy for many years.  I have made a lot of progress but I still struggle at times.  My 20-year-old daughter is bi-polar, self-medicates, and is a total risk-taker, which makes things so difficult.  I have tried almost every med on the market and hated the way they left me feeling flat and dull emotionally.  It wasn’t until the most recent break down that I found one that seems to be working: Lexapro. 

If you haven’t done these things already, I would recommend the following:

  • Get in touch with your local NAMI affiliate.  This is an invaluable resource for information as well as support for both you and your family members.

  • Find a therapist you like.  If you don’t feel comfortable with one, interview another and another until you find the right fit.

  • Work with your doctor to adjust your meds if needed.

  • Listen to your body and take time for self-care.

  • Keep talking.  Until we break down the stigma, people will continue to misunderstand mental illness.