My Desperation

I worked full time with rarely a vacation or a day off for 10 years and 2 months. I started my senior year of high school and stopped when I was laid off from my job in 2009.

I started at a restaurant and rose through the ranks to become a manager by the time I was 19. That turned into regional training manager by the time I was 20. I was good at management. I learned quickly, delegated well and had an innate knack for efficiency and creating systems.

Because I progressed so fast (and to be frank, made such good money) and had never really been expected to go to college, I didn’t. I just kept working, thinking because I was doing well for myself now, there was no reason I wouldn’t continue doing well for the rest of my life.

I switched companies and turned that restaurant management job into other management jobs, such as office, loan, and business management. I was very successful and worked hard. If I wanted a job, I tended to get it.

I was Assistant Operation Manager at a very large food manufacturer when I was 27 in 2009. I had just had my first daughter and had been back from maternity leave (the longest I hadn’t worked since the summer before my senior year of high school) for two months. My husband and I had just gotten married the Sunday before when on Tuesday, my boss informed me that I was laid off.

Due to the recent economic crash and the beginning of the recession, company wide lay offs were happening. They had discovered while I was on maternity leave that a cheaper employee could do some of my job while the operations manager would absorb the rest. They also decided that a my job paid too much for someone without a college degree.

That last problem would haunt me for the next several years. After I was laid off, I immediately began to look for a new job. I’d never been out of work before. I brushed up my resume and submitted it all sorts of places. But most every job I applied for, they wanted a college degree. And most of the other applicants had one. I didn’t.

In one year, I had 2 interviews. The first one, I didn’t hear back from afterward. But 9 months after being laid off, I accepted a very part time job as an assistant Bed and Breakfast Manager. It mostly consisted of a few hours a week helping the husband and wife run the B&B and then covering for them on the random weekend off and for their big summer vacation. It was a good job and I was thankful for it but that was the best I could do after almost an entire year of endlessly applying for jobs. That’s just what it was like here in the late aughts. Hardly any jobs for anybody.

I had started to notice after my daughter was born that I wasn’t quite the same as before. My quick mind wasn’t quite as quick and I was so tired.

I attributed these things to being a new mom and not having a job to stimulate and motivate me.

After my employers vacation came and went, and after having some inspiring talks with my female boss, I decided to go back to school. And due to the short time frame, the availability of government grants and a previously subdued life long passion for doing amateur hair and makeup, I decided to go to cosmetology school.

In order to afford school and rent, I used the grant, some student loans and almost all of my husbands inheritance from his grandmother. This didn’t seem risky at the time because I was ambitious, motivated, and had decided on a field with unlimited potential. I was going to do big things. And I’d be able to pay him back.

Hind sight being what it is, that’s a risk we shouldn’t have taken. I didn’t know what the future was to hold.

I’d begun going to the doctor to figure out what wasn’t quite right with me but I was doing okay. I was working my ass off in school and was understandably worn out from it.

I was the top student in the school. Perfect grades, perfect attendance. I participated in every extra curricular. I was in school for only 4 months when I participated and won a competition against the best (and most senior) students in the school. I won trips to a Long Beach hair expo (where I met several hair stylists in the big leagues and was personally invited to apply at a prodigious hair salon in NYC) and a trip to a Chicago hair training course. After my 5th month in school I was chosen by the head of the school to do her very picky mother in laws hair. In my 6th month I was picked as one of two students to assist doing hair and makeup at the Sundance Film Festival. I was not your run of the mill beauty school student. I was already going places. And of course, I expected things to keep going my way. What could go wrong.

With 2 months to go, 2 job offers already under my belt (1 at the school owners salon, the other to teach at the school myself after graduation), and a trip to NYC for job interviews planned for after graduation, I had a breakdown. I couldn’t get out of bed due to pain and lightheadedness, I’d pulled out all of my eyelashes and was picking holes in my skin, I was having blinding headaches, and was completely miserable. I had to take a break from school. I didn’t go back for 6 weeks. I spent most of that time collecting diagnoses and possible diagnoses from a lot of different doctors. Some of those labels I still have. Fibromyalgia, Narcolepsy, Chronic Migraines. Some luckily didn’t come to fruition. Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and a few other autoimmune disorders. I started treatment and went back to school.

But nothing was the same. I made mistakes I never made before. My grades dropped. My attendance was spotty. The head of the schools mother in law was transferred to someone else. I had a hard time standing up for my appointments and the head of the school started letting me take breaks when I needed to. She had lupus and because we had history and she liked me, she helped me finish up my schooling so I could graduate. Concessions were made for me and I was lucky. I graduated in December of 2011.

I haven’t worked since. I had to decline the job offers because I just kept getting worse. Not long after I applied for federal disability because I needed to support my family somehow. It was an 18 month long process that thankfully ended with approval almost 4 years ago.

To be frank, that was the easy part (and it wasn’t easy at all). The harder part was not working. And being okay with not working. Luckily I loved being a parent and my daughter was a fun toddler so I spent most of my days focused on her. And then my son was born and I got to do the same with him. They were wonderful distractions. It was almost as if it wasn’t that I “couldn’t” work but that I was staying at home with my children instead. Almost.

My daughter is 8 now. My son turns 4 in 3 months. We’re done with the night time feedings, the several naps a day. They don’t take up all of my time like they use to.

I’ve been not dealing with that for a while now. The last 6 months have been some of the worst I’ve had in a decade. I have been writing this blog as an outlet for my mental health. But I’ve also been writing a screenplay. That in itself is it’s own story. And during that time there’s been a hint of something floating around in my head.

Writing this screenplay isn’t just something to do.

It’s the only thing I can do.

I have nothing to offer anymore. I can’t stand or sit. I can’t perform motor functions proficiently. I can’t concentrate consistently or reliably.

Everyone once in a while, I can write. And that’s the only thing I can do anymore to support my family other than being sick.

So for me writing isn’t a hobby. It’s not even a prospective career. It’s a desperation. It’s all I have left of the once motivated, ambitious, successful over achiever I used to be.

It’s me grasping for any semblance of mattering, or participating in a life outside of my home and my family (who I love unconditionally).

There was one line he wrote. It hit too close to home.

“Housewife with medical problems. Self obsessed with you not pulling your own weight.”

He was correct. He was a dick but he was correct.

I’m not sure there is anything I can do about it other than what I’m doing. I’m living my life every day just like I was before. Only now, I’m taking the words out of my head and putting them somewhere else in the hopes that someday they may help me change my life.

Does that make me pathetic? I don’t think so. He can be accurate with out being right. I can be those things without them being an insult. I’m doing the best I can and still trying to make my life better. I think those things are virtuous struggles. And I’m not going to be shamed by them.

Turning that frown upside down. Showing that clouds silver lining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aside

I can’t come up with a clever title today

I feel terrible today. 

I’m tired and sore. 

I’m moving about a foot and a half a minute. When I’m lucky enough to be standing. 

My brain is tired and keeps urging me to curl up into a tiny ball on my bed covered with a fuzzy blanket and watch just ridiculously mindless TV until I can close my eyes and sleep at a not completely unreasonable early bed time. 

I am not doing this. 

I am laying on my couch half covered by an afghan trying to accomplish my goal of writing something everyday. 

I tend to write on days I feel okay about the days when I feel terrible. I don’t think this is what I should do. 

I need/want to push past the fuzz in my brain and the weight of my eyes. To shake off the leadenness * of my limbs and bend the pain sore joints of my fingers to form the words tumbling around in my head. 

On days like this I imagine my brain as a dark foggy gray forest running up to tall black jagged cliffs and thrashing crashing ocean.* Everything is just gray. And loud and heavy. And focusing on any one thing feels impossible. 

Pulling words out of this sort of brain is difficult. 

I have gone as far as I can today. Until tomorrow then. 
* I think I’m going to start keeping track of words I make up. But definitely not today. 

* Like this but not as pretty.

bonus bliss

I know exactly what it is that I would have missed had any of my suicide attempts proven fatal.

They are moments that sprouted despite the harsh cold winters of my death wish and the constant shadow of my depression.

These are moments that I cherish. That I am grateful for every single day.

They are the bonus footage on the DVD of my life. I did not expect them.

In fact I thought they’d never come. And because of this, they are all the sweeter.

a-moment-of-forfeit-joy

THE END.

I just wrote the entire ending of my screenplay.

The last third of it. All in one sitting. All the way to THE END PERIOD.

I’m still kind of in shock.

I didn’t think today was going to be a writing day. I had planned to finish reading The Disappointments Room screenplay by muse/hero Wentworth Miller and see where that left me. I should have known.

The haunting nature of the screenplay left me with an uncomfortable knot in my chest. There are some difficult themes involved that I’m particularly sensitive to. In that uncomfortable space, I thought to myself. “I should write the fire.”

I knew it was coming. I knew it needed to be done. And I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I was 5 months pregnant and alone when I was woken up and told there was a fire.

I watched my home burn down while my daughter kicked in my stomach.

It’s a difficult position to find yourself in and distressing to revisit to write about. But I did. Because of the frame of mind reading his screenplay left me in, I sat down and the whole thing poured out of me.

And I didn’t stop. The catharsis of vomiting out this part of my past, left me vulnerable and emotional and nostalgic enough to write the last scenes. It’s incredible.

I’m not sure muse or hero quite cut it. I owe all of this to him. He has inspired me to do all of this. Every word I’ve written is because of him. I hope he knows what a difference he is making. I want him to know how important he is, and how grateful I am for him.

Thank you, W. With love and admiration, R.

little inner horror stories

Bipolar Disorder is the foundation of my mental health issues. I’ll preface this by saying that I was not diagnosed until I was 19 years old.

My mom says she should have noticed it when I was a kid because I had 2 nicknames. I was her sunshine and I was her stormcloud.

I continued to be her sunshine and very slowly started spackling over the storm clouds. I pretended to be happy all the time. By the time I hit middle school, I never looked how I felt. I’d succeeded in shrouding my serious depression in a family placating constant smile.

I have had my fair share of the mania caused by my bipolar disorder. But to me personally, the depression and subsequent 25 year death wish that I lived with have always been much more a struggle for me to deal with.

I have these little horror stories in me. Some of them I caused, I created and I kept. Some of them I only allowed to happen to me. No matter the source, the cause or consequence, I don’t want to keep these secrets in my chest anymore. So here is my first essay.

firstattemptessay

Balance

Don’t let the 48 minute run time scare you. That is in fact, one of the greatest attributes of this video. It is 48 beautiful, inspiring, thought provoking minutes of… Well, I was going to call him my muse again, which he very much is, but I think the more accurate word right now is hero. It is 48 minutes of Wentworth Miller, intelligent, articulate and incredibly frank, discussing mental health and illness stigma, artistic and personal integrity, fighting against self-imposed perfectionism, self-care, and self-speak.

I have watched it twice now. The first time was when I was glutting myself on everything I could find on W. When I was depressed and he was my lifesaver.

The second time was yesterday. The semi-autobiographical screenplay I’m writing takes me back to a dark place. Darker than I remember it being. I’ve blotted a lot of it out. It takes me back to a place blackened by words such as infidelity, abuse, isolation, gaslighting, heartbreak, divorce, depression, and suicidal ideation.

In the end, the screenplay is triumphant in tone but it starts out tragically and I severely underestimated how much revisiting I would have to do to make it believable on the page. It’s been difficult to submerge myself back into that black, black part of my life and yesterday, after a particularly productive writing binge, I knew I needed to stop. I could have continued vomiting soul out onto my keyboard but I knew, I felt, that I was getting too deep. So I stopped.

When I thought about what kind of self-care it was that I needed right then, that video, the Oxford Union interview popped right into my head. And it was perfect. It helped me settle back into the present. It helped soothe my aching soul, in a way that I was learning again how to care for and appreciate myself in the way that I should.

If you’re reading this, do me a favor. Don’t like or comment or share (unless you’re down for more than one favor).  Take a moment (48 moments actually) and watch the video. Contribute to your own self-care. I guarantee you, you’ll find something in it yourself.