Seven Weeks of Weird: The Prison



Welcome back for another round of “Seven Weeks of Weird,” a challenge put on by Mental Mama.  With only this week’s and next week’s to go, I’d say I’m a little relieved this challenge is almost over.  Sometimes it’s hard to come up with weird things about yourself!

This week asks:  “What’s the weirdest way you’ve every earned money?”

Ahhh, ummm…by working, doing the Rosa thing,  helping out all those mentally ill people do everything from find a job to manage their meds to apply for disability and Medicaid to get a second pillow from the prison laundry.

Although I don’t personally think it’s weird, I spent three years working as a mental health case manager in a women’s prison.  I get asked all sorts of questions about that, and it really was an interesting job.  I was mostly tasked with coordinating all medical and mental health care, sometimes including housing, always including SSI applications for the women in the facility who met criteria for my program.

It was a stressful job and I don’t like to think about it a lot because it was the last job I crashed and burned on before I went on SSDI.  I can say for the most part that the staff I worked with were burnt out, uncaring, and rude at best, but the inmates were overall very thankful and caring.  Now THAT’S kind of weird, huh?


Finding Meaning in a Bait Shop

Almost one year has passed I stopped working any sort of formal job. When I quit my last position, I was sure that I would find something else, once the mania and depression and overall craziness blew over.  Sure that I would breeze right back into the mental health field, armed with my several years of experience and (nearly-useless) Bachelor’s Degree.  It turned out that, instead of this happening, as had been the pattern for several years (work, severely decompensate, period of unemployment, back to stressful job, rinse and repeat), I ended up choosing another route.

And it was a route that I was not altogether convinced, at first, would even work out, nevertheless be the best thing that had happened to me.  Every member of my treatment team encouraged me to file for disability.  My family and DSB and everyone I asked agreed.  No one thought that I should go back and repeat the stressful job to severe decompensation to unemployment and back again cycle.  The cycle that has gone on my entire adult life.

I had a good part of my identity tied up in my career, as do many people.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be working with the mentally ill, that I wouldn’t be advocating for them, that I wouldn’t be able to help people get up out of the mire.  Most of my self-worth was entrenched in this work, and I just didn’t know how I would fare without it.

I filed for SSDI/SSI in April of 2012 and was approved in June of 2012.  I didn’t receive a check until November 2012, but thankfully my parents and DSB were able to support me during that time.  It wasn’t my concern at the time, but I never wanted for anything.  I was too busy being depressed and irritable and generally unwell.  

Time has passed and I really feel like I have evened out.  I’m would even consider myself content, happy on a good day.  Not working took quite a bit of getting used to, but I found things to do to fill up the time and I am working at my parents’ businesses on a very part-time basis.  DSB and I are able to spend a lot of time together, which is simply wonderful, and I also spend quite a bit of time with my mom, QoB.  I think not working has really allowed my relationships to get stronger, as well as allowing me to focus on what is really important:  love and family.

I will be working more this summer, as my parents’ businesses are somewhat seasonal, but I have worked out a schedule with BigDog and QoB so that I will only be working about 12-15 hours per week.  I am pretty sure I can handle that and I know it will be a huge help to them to not have to hire someone for those hours.

Working at the shops really gives me a sense of achievement, as it puts me out in front of the public and forces me to interact with others.  In other words, it puts me out of my comfort zone, and that is a good good good thing.  Building mastery and building structure, both DBT skills, are very key to my success as far as my mental state goes.  I need to feel useful, like I am challenging myself.  I also need to stay busy with structure in my life.  This small bit of work does that.

Not everyone with a mental illness has the incredible support system that I do, and I am immensely grateful that I have several people that I can always count on.  I don’t think I would be faring as well if not for these people, and for them, I am eternally grateful.

Pinprick of Hope

The overwhelming sensation of nothingness is mostly what I feel right now.  It does not have a depressive quality, but more of a “shut down” quality.  Yesterday in therapy I attempted to access that which is bubbling below the surface and it is just so difficult.

I am using a lot of self-soothe and distract skills, but really need to work on PLEASE (basic ADL’s, especially bathing and grooming), turning the mind, opposite to emotion, and improve the moment.  DBT skills are never forgotten, but I can lose track of them and they get pushed out of sight.  Thankfully my therapist and can turn me back in the right direction, but it is really a lot of work.  The best thing I have going for me right now is that I am being willing, in that I am at the point where I will do anything if there is the slightest chance it will make me feel better.

I have spent the entirety of my work-life lying to myself, my family, my supervisors, my co-workers about my ability to complete the work assigned.  I do not know if I have ever worked a 40-hour week, even though I usually have claimed to.  It is not something I am proud of, and it is something that has taken a toll on my mental health, but I am hoping that my days of hiding out in parking lots and chain smoking, talking to my mom on the phone, and generally being AWOL for long stretches of time during the day (because I simply can’t TAKE IT!) are over.

After long consultation with Goddess of Mindfulness, and discussion with QoB, I think I am going to go ahead and file for SSDI/SSI.  I have never been able to hold down a full-time job for an extended amount of time and actually put in the time required.  How many times do I go through this with a new job?  I’m fine for a little bit but before you know it, I’m a wreck and am missing work and being AWOL all the time.  It just doesn’t feel good.

With filing for SSDI/SSI, I can finally take care of myself instead of embroiling myself in ridiculous levels of stress every day.  And I have had jobs that shouldn’t have been stressful, and still was not able to complete the work in those jobs, even working part-time.

In some ways, this decision comes as a relief…I won’t have to pretend and lie anymore.  In other ways, it feels bad because it makes me feel as if I am a failure and I am giving up.  The good feelings about it outweigh the bad, and I am just hopeful that the people that I love and who love me can accept this decision as something I have to do, if I am going to have any kind of long-term sanity.  This decision has given me the smallest amount of hope that life can be better.  I can just hope that the pinprick keeps opening wider.

2Pac, Keep Ya Head Up