Tag Archives: life

Double the Madness


depression green road sign over storm clouds

A few months ago I wrote about how I had again received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As many of us know, one of the major characteristics of bipolar disorder is mood swings. My doctor prescribed medicine that worked quite well in stabilizing my mood–that is until January 27, 2016. On that day, I had a hysterectomy.

Last year I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. The only permanent treatment is a full hysterectomy. After six months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, we made the decision for me to have the surgery. After I healed, the physical difference was amazing, particularly in regards to my lower back pain. I can now walk long distances without much discomfort. Yay me! Mentally is a different story.

One of the side effects of a hysterectomy is that you are thrown into menopause, and one of the major things about menopause is that you have mood swings. Bipolar disorder and menopause is no joke. Although I’m on medication, the emotional upheavals were unbearable. I found myself getting irritated at little things (an aspect of hypomania) although I’m regularly taking my medication. On the flip side, I was crying for no reason at all. Because of these things, I made the decision to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Along with my medication, HRT has helped with the irrational irritability and crying spells, however I still struggle with one mental challenge. I can only describe it as the most horrible mix of depression and anxiety that I have experienced since I was a teenager. On a good day, I constantly think about my own death. Not in a suicidal ideation type of way, but always thinking that I will be dying soon, either from a horrible accident or from fatal health issues.

On a bad day, the thoughts and feelings are so bad that I don’t like leaving the house, and I even feel shaky trying to drive–shaky in the sense that I’m panicked and hyper-aware of other cars because I’m waiting for the car accident to happen. You would think that being hyper-aware would make you safer, but I don’t feel safer so I usually find someone else to drive. Even then, I’m still looking out for disaster.

My daughter likes to sleep in the same bed as me to have mommy snuggles before slumber. I’ve gotten so panicked about me dying in my sleep and not wanting my daughter to wake up with her dead mother in bed with her that I’ve started refusing her requests. I don’t tell her the real reason why, but focus on her getting older and needing to sleep on her own.

Trying to sleep is a whole other issue. Not only am I plagued by thoughts of dying of a heart attack in my sleep, but anxiety over a house fire or natural disaster keep me up until the early hours of the morning. I will lie in bed and plot exit routes out of the house, safety precautions in case of or a tornado, or I’ll just cry because I don’t want to die yet.

This is no way to live. I’m hoping my doctor can switch my medication so that the madness can end. Until then, I’m writing more poetry just to get it all out of my head.

This is just a glimpse into mental illness and bio-chemical changes within the body. The next time you encounter someone with these issues, please remember this post and be compassionate–that person has enough hurt and worry to deal with without the need for social sanctioning or ostracizing.

My Love in India


When I first got married, people often said that my husband and I should have our own reality show. I admit, how we worked through cultural differences was often quite funny.

My husband is Indian. A Kashmiri Pandit from the Indian side of the LOC (Line of Control), to be exact. I met him while I was working in India for Amazon. The company sent me to Hyderabad in 2005 to help open a new office–the first Amazon-owned customer service center in India. Previous to that time, Amazon had only worked with outsourcing companies. This was the dawn of a new era when Amazon would be in a foreign country and run things in their image rather than someone else’s. I was honored to be a part of it.

I arrived in Hyderabad after a harrowing trip through Paris. Twenty minutes into my flight from Paris to Hyderabad, the plane started smoking. There’s nothing like seeing flight attendants running down the aisles with fire extinguishers to make you feel safe and comfortable while 30,000+ feet in the air. My immediate reaction was to lay my head against the seat in front of me and chant, “Om Kali Maa, Maha Kali.” (I had been a devotee of Kali since seeing her in a dream as a teenager; this fact made the trip to India even more emotional and spiritual for me–although it was supposed to be all about work).

Finally the decision was made to turn the plane around and try to figure out what caused the smoke. After six hours of trying to stay awake in the Charles DeGaulle airport, the airline finally decided to cancel the flight. After an aggravating weekend in Paris, the urge to return to the United States, and bursting into tears on the side of the road, I finally made it onto a flight that SAFELY arrived in Hyderabad. Jai Maa indeed.

Since I was in India for work, the first two months were spent doing just that–nothing but work–well, except for the occasional tourist or shopping trip. After weeks of all-day office work and evening conference calls with people in the U.S., I needed some downtime. My co-workers and I decided to take a weekend trip to Bangalore (a place that has become my favorite city in India, although Hyderabad will always have a special place in my heart).

During this weekend trip, I went to a get-together for a Bangalore teammate’s birthday. At the party, I met Deepak, the man who would later become my husband. He offered to show me around Bangalore, and we had the best time ever. My favorite memory is of meditating in front of the largest statue of Shiva in all of India. It was an epic experience.

Deepak and I kept in touch after I left Bangalore. We even saw each other again as I made other trips to Bangalore and he visited Hyderabad. But I had to leave. After six months, I was to return back to my life in the U.S. Neither one of us wanted to be apart. It was with these strong feelings that Deepak asked me to marry him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, not exactly. The immigration process is a nightmare for people in love, but I’ll save that for another post.

Deepak finally arrived in the U.S. in February of 2007. That trip would be the first time he had traveled outside of India. It was culture shock to say the least. Although we both spoke English, those cultural nuances would often cause misunderstandings. Like the time he told my nephew to put the groceries in the dicky. Saying this to a teenage American boy was definitely cause for twelve-year-old-type innuendo and laughter.

For me, there was the month where on separate occasions, he basically called me a homely fat cow. Let me explain.

When he stated that I was fat, I was still in that American frame of mind that immediately took that as an insult, as a negative criticism of my looks. To him, it was just a statement of fact, not a judgment on my appearance. To him, a person can be skinny or fat, which has nothing to do with one’s beauty. I understood that. Still, it took me a long time to see things his way when it came to that perspective. I still count this initial misunderstanding and later clarity as a huge contributor to my lifelong process of body acceptance. For that, I thank him, even when I wanted to smack him when he had first said it.

Then there was the time he called me homely. I immediately took offense. To me, homely meant “not pretty, plain or unattractive.” To him it meant “being familiar with the home”–in other words, a Domestic Goddess. I definitely enjoyed that much more than the fat comment.

Lastly, he called me a cow. I nearly blew a gasket! He explained that he worshipped cows, and for him to make the comparison, it was like calling me a Goddess. I’m still not sure, even after almost nine years of marriage, if he was being honest or backtracking when he realized his faux pas. Still, I’ll accept any time someone wants to call me a Goddess. And I definitely made sure to tell him to NEVER, EVER call an American woman a cow unless he wants to be slapped.

I could go on, but I’ll leave that to a different post. Right now I’ll just say that I love India, and I found love IN India. I’ll just say that I’m glad I live with an open mind and respect others’ differences. And we make beautiful babies.

 

A Call to My Tribe


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I will not settle. I will not take orders. I am NOT defined by what others expect of me. I will not create myself in someone else’s image. I trust my own moral compass to guide my actions. I create my own happiness. I am grateful for all that I have. I embrace diversity as a path to enrichment. I accept the challenge to find the positive, to learn the lesson, in even the most negative situations. I am constantly becoming a more perfect ME, forever in progress.

Life is not without suffering. I have a unique opportunity to transform my own suffering into a bridge of understanding. Understanding only blossoms when the soil is rich with learning. The only constant in life is change. There is only meaning in change when we are self aware, when we learn. Through the awareness of my own experience, I continue to learn so that I continue to be a conduit for healing, touching the lives of people who have also suffered, comforting them through storytelling.

Chicago State of Mind


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My daughter and I have successfully relocated to the Chicago area. My husband will arrive in a little over a week. Although tired, I feel so much more relaxed and content to once again be surrounded by family.

I have an interview for an office job tomorrow. I’m excited for new professional opportunities to help people learn and develop their careers. I just hope it doesn’t take away too much time from my writing.

Speaking of which, I’m reviewing/editing the last chapters of Mining the Dark. I’m going to write some new material for a plot arc, then finish the epilogue. After that, I’ll send the updated manuscript to my hard reviewers, make any necessary remaining edits, then it’s publishing time! So excited to have this novel ready for you all. It’s been much too long since the first book in The Mountain State Vampire Series (The Source (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 1)). I personally think that Mining the Dark is a better book. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Cheers to positive life changes!

What Did You Like Least About Your Job?


This is what my former employer, Amazon, asked me. This was my response, and is solely my opinion on the events that have happened over the past 6 months. **WARNING** some strong language.

Over the past six years, the leadership approach has changed significantly. The company is currently in a state where in leadership, it’s acceptable to be an asshole to your employees, even when that means being demoralizing, demotivating and condescending. I’m worth more than that, and it’s not something that I will accept. The company doesn’t pay me nearly enough to put up with it. This all started back in June, right after Ms. X became my manager. During our first 1:1, she asked me about the length of the eLearning courses we developed, and when I said that our target was for none of them to be longer than 20 minutes, she had a full-body reaction on the scale of Kramer from Seinfeld. My interpretation of her body language was that I just received a full-body eye roll, which implied that the work I had done was sub-par. I withheld comment at that time so that I wouldn’t speak from emotion. I scheduled a follow-up meeting with her to discuss my concerns with her communication and that with her being new to the team, I wasn’t certain how everyone would react (I specifically mentioned X employee, who later left the company because of these issues). Ms. X advised that she had an agreement with her last team that when she did these things, they were to speak up and ask what she really meant. My first thought on that was that if her previous team had to have this agreement, and it’s still going on, what does that say about this leadership approach? Immediately after this meeting, I began having tingling sensation all over, tunnel vision and felt like I was going to lose consciousness. Through drinking water and deep breathing, I was able to make it over to urgent care who sent me to the ER because of the possibility of a heart attack. The ER doctor concluded that I had had a severe panic attack, but noted that my blood sugar was higher than it should be. In my follow up with my PCP, we learned that I’m diabetic. I struggled after the diagnosis to get my blood sugar under control. At the time, the other ID had left the company and I was fulfilling the job of two IDs. Not long, we got a request to develop training for another team. Ms. X wanted us to provide data, facts as to why we couldn’t take this work on right now. In my e-mail message to her, I stated what I was working on for two people (since the other ID left), how long it would take me to complete, and what it would take to complete this new work. I followed this up with the following: “Additionally, what these facts/data do not capture is the human factor. I have a few medical conditions that are negatively impacted by stress, including one condition that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. I cannot take on additional work stress without escalating the current negative impact on my health. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow (7/1/2014) to discuss next steps.”

Ms. X’s response to this shocked me: “I appreciate your note. Is there some other role that gives you a sense that it will be easier to maneuver.

The instructional design work will increase… it can be really fun work. The Sr. ID will be tasked with allocating the roadmap for both internal and external facing assets. From the company’s point of view the business comes first, as the idea is people/leaders look after themselves and manage change.” Emphasis added by me.

I was totally shocked that, one, a company people manager would respond in this way when someone identifies themselves as having a disability, and two, that the people manager would be ignorant enough to write it down in e-mail. Really, how would people react that speaking on the company’s behalf, a manager responded to a person with a disability with “From the company’s point of view, the business comes first.” I read this as “If you have a disability, manage it, deal with it and do your job or leave.”

It really felt like a betrayal by the company that I had come to love over the past 12 years. Even HR recognized how bad it was because the HR Business Partner apologized to me when discussing this issue. I actually only discussed the matter with HR because Ms. X went to them advising that I needed “special consideration” in my job. The days that followed that e-mail and the time Ms. X went to HR on me, it was a constant barrage of suggesting that I needed some kind of alternate arrangements (I never requested such), a different job, maybe work part time, etc. I was mentally beaten down with this to where I felt like I was no longer trusted to be able to do my job. I regularly cried at my desk (as witnessed by colleagues) and began having regular panic attacks (the severe kind where I almost lost consciousness – this happened one time when I was on I-5). I made an excuse at one point to work from home for a week because I could not drive toward the office without starting to panic and feeling like I was going to vomit. During this time I didn’t even leave my apartment for that week because I couldn’t even manage the thought of being around other people. I met with my PCP and discussed these things, to which she said she was shocked because she had never seen me like that. Because of my condition, she referred me to both a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was put on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication, including Xanax. I was able to come back into the office, but I would regularly have to take Xanax to be in meetings with my boss just so the way she communicated didn’t make me feel worse than I already did.

Even with all of this, things did not approve. I had one more face-to-face talk with Ms. X where I expressed concerns over what she thought about me, because her e-mail communication came off as so condescending, it made me think that she didn’t have a very high opinion of me. Again, she said that she wasn’t going to change, and she would write e-mails to me the same way she would to the new ID. I pointed out that her leadership training with adaptive coaching and adjusting your leadership style to your employees’ personalities – I told her that it seemed that she expected the rest of us to adjust when she’s not willing to do the same, although it’s what she teaches. She didn’t agree with me and pretty much ended the conversation.

It was okay for a while, then on October 17th I received another e-mail where Ms. X had jumped to conclusions and felt the need to e-mail me about the proper process, including our contractor on the e-mail, when if she would have sought to understand the situation, she would have known that I did everything that she had assumed that I hadn’t. It hit a brick wall – it was never going to end. I called my husband crying and begged him, “Can I quit today? Please say I can quit today?” After seeing how I had been, he agreed that continuing on with this company just wasn’t worth it. That day I met with HR and explained things. I had a box with me and advised that my intention was to pack up my desk then and leave. She asked me to give her the weekend and she would discuss the issue with my boss’s boss (she had documentation of all the issues I had with Ms. X). She said she would follow up with me on Monday, October 20th.

When I got the e-mail from HR on that Monday, she advised that after looking over everything, it was determined that Ms. X had not broken company policy. That was even more concern for me. I knew then, without a doubt, that the leadership style at the company had changed. We no longer cared about being customer centric for internal customers. As stated previously, the current leadership style is that it’s okay to be an asshole to your employees. I can’t accept that. Right after responding to that e-mail, I walked into Ms. X’s office and gave notice.

During this time (in June), I began getting insight from an investigator with the Seattle Human Relations Commission. When I told her about the work environment and the impact to my health, her initial response was, “J.B., this company has broken you.”

NOT ANYMORE

The Decision


Help message written in blood

When I put in my notice on October 20, 2014, it was actually something that was a few months in the planning…sorta.

The company I work for changed sometime within the past four to six years. I have some ideas on why it changed, and I’ll explore those in another post. For now, I’ll just say that I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the direction we were headed, particularly in regards to the working atmosphere.

In May, my husband and I began discussing plans to relocate to Chicago. Being in Chicago would put us closer to my family and his sister’s family. We even set a timeline – once our daughter finished her first year of school in June 2015, we would move.

Then things at work got astronomically worse. The bad environment that I had observed in other parts of the company came to rest directly on my shoulders in the form of a new boss. It was not just an issue of having a bad boss, it was an issue of having the worst employee interactions I have ever had in my entire professional career, both with this company and other companies – and I used to work for Wal-Mart, which is known for treating employees badly.

Although we had planned for me to leave the company next year, my experiences over the past six months, my interactions with one person in particular, are what influenced me to make the decision to leave right now, at this point in time.

For those who know me personally, I have never left a job without having stable employment waiting for me at the end. This time it was different. After reading a particular e-mail, I walked into my boss’s office and gave notice. I couldn’t wait until I found other employment – it wasn’t about ending a job, it was about saving myself. My doctors have even documented improvement in my conditions since I gave notice, further proof that quitting without a “plan” is sometimes the healthiest way you can take care of yourself.

I don’t regret the decision one bit.

A Glimpse into My Hell


red+devil+crystal+ball

October 17, 2014 was the last straw. It was the last time I received a communication that was condescending, seeking to “remind me” or “educate” me on how to do my job. Something I’ve known very well for twelve years.

This was just the latest example of what I had been struggling with for almost six months. I ended up crying uncontrollably, from anger and defeat, talking to my husband on the phone, desperately saying, “Please, can I quit today? I want to quit today. Can I? I can’t take this anymore. I’m better than this.”