Tag Archives: stress

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.

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.”

This is the End


biohazard+mask

This month, I will leave the office job that I’ve had for the past twelve years. I fell in love with the company, believed in its mission…then things…changed.

It wasn’t a sudden change. It’s something that happened over the course of the past several years. The only way to describe the past six months is toxic environment. In the midst of an emotionally and mentally unhealthy space, I realized that the company I once loved is no more.

At one point a couple of years ago, I was contemplating the possibility of leaving. At that time, I still loved the company so much that I described the possibility as being like a divorce – when you end a relationship not because you don’t love the other person, but because you know that you can no longer be with that person and continue to grow and evolve.

Now, today as the end draws near, I describe the feeling as escaping from an abusive relationship where your partner expects you to do everything, even at the expense of your own well-being, giving you little in return. In fact, what you usually get is negative criticism, condescension, belittlement and a constant feeling of dread for when the next metaphorical punch will hit you in the gut.

And to the company, this is okay because the business comes first.

Not my home anymore.

Not meant for me.

Enough is enough.

This is the end and freedom is within sight.

Creative Survival


It has been over a month since I got my official diagnosis. As you may remember, Dr. P was toying with the idea that I’m bipolar. She had said, “I’m not ruling out the possibility.” To me this meant that she wasn’t sure.

During my final appointment, she decided what to write in my chart, what advice to give my primary care physician. As she explained it to me, I did not have enough symptoms for a definitive diagnosis of bipolar II. She stated that my doctor and therapist should continue to be watchful for any mood cycling, and if does occur, she suggested a mood stabilizer to add to my daily cocktail. Basically, I’m a borderline case, someone who is right on the edge of the diagnosis, dancing precariously on the side of anxiety disorders mixed with depression.

Here is my official diagnosis:

Depressive mood disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Honestly, this all sounds right to me. Just looking back over the years and the experiences I’ve had, this mix makes sense. Not that bipolar doesn’t make sense, just that I always defined my “cycling” as long patterns of chronic depression, broken up by uncontrolled anxiety attacks, which on one occasion included “psychotic” features (meaning dissociation and hallucinations).

As I explained to Dr. P, I allow the stress to build to the point that my mind forces me to take somewhat of a vacation. It’s a survival response, although many would call it crazy.

Now, to continue on my path of getting healthy, I need to make sure that I continue to take my medicine and not allow myself to get fooled by the notion that “oh, I’m okay now.” I’ve done that before, and the result has been less than attractive. I’m also continuing therapy with Dr. F, changing my lifestyle and most importantly, being more aware of my physical responses to things, particularly when I begin experiencing signs of a panic attack.

This is the course of action I’m taking. Not just medicating myself, but looking for ways to prevent these responses before they happen, to get at the root cause and placate it. This approach has been working well for the anxiety. Not so much for the depression. It seems that medicine is the only thing that helps with that darkness.