Becoming Jill: Adventures in Adulthood


Chapter 8: In which I deal with an old, unwelcome foe, Depression. Medicine is taken.
June 15, 2010, 6:18 pm
Filed under: Depression | Tags:

Depression runs in both sides of my family. It’s something I have struggled with since my freshman year of college, and at this point, it seems like something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I started feeling down shortly after Christmas, but, true to pattern, tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Every morning it was a little harder to get out of bed and get to work on time. The effort I had to expend to get through the workday exhausted me so much that I would just come home and sack out on the couch for the rest of the evening, avoiding most social interactions so I would be able to get up and do it all again the next day.

Why didn’t I call my doctor and have my meds boosted, you might ask? Why didn’t I tell my family and friends what was happening? Well, extreme stubbornness runs in both sides of my family, as well, and I hate to admit that I need help. With anything, really. No matter how many times I go through this cycle, I am always too ashamed to reach out until it’s too late.

Eventually things came to a head, as they always do. I finally reached the point where I couldn’t get out of bed, no matter how much I knew that I needed to. In a way, that was a good thing, because I was finally forced to face up to what was happening, tell someone I needed help, and try to get a handle on things.

Unfortunately, I waited too long. Although my VISTA supervisor was extremely understanding, his hands were tied—I had violated my contract, and the state office told me I had to resign. Luckily, I was allowed to take a medical withdrawal, which is much better than simply resigning or being fired. I was upset that I wouldn’t be allowed to finish the last few months of my VISTA year, but I am grateful that I was able to leave on fairly good terms.

Since then, I have been slowly getting better. My doctor boosted my meds, which has helped, and just being honest with myself and others about what was happening made me feel more in-control of my life. I have been searching for a new job, and hope to find something soon!

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and I guess it must be true. Since I didn’t have a job, I was able to go home for 3 weeks to help my family through a difficult time. In the space of a week, my grandfather had a full hip-replacement, and my mom had knee surgery. Mom and Larry are the full-time caretakers for my 97yr old Grandma Denzel, and with mom’s knee out of commission, Larry wouldn’t be able to take care of everything alone. It was a long 3 weeks, but we all made it through! Although cleaning up another person’s bodily fluids is not high on my list of favorite things to do, I was glad that I could be useful. Of course, if I had still been working, I would not have been able to get away. Paychecks are nice, but family is important, too!

I’ve been back in Minnesota for about a week and a half now, and back into the swing of my job search. I am trying to treat it like a regular job, so I get up at a decent time and spend normal working hours sending out resumes and such. Some days that plan works out better than others!

In general, the depression is better, although by no means gone. I still feel the need to isolate myself a bit just to get by, and it’s still a struggle to do the things that need doing. However, I am ABLE to do them, which is the difference.

Depression is difficult for me to wrap my head around… Even though I have been through this cycle again and again, I often feel that if I just tried harder, it wouldn’t keep happening. My brain knows that it’s about brain chemistry, not willpower, but it’s hard to accept that when you feel like a perpetual loser. On the upside, each time I get depressed, I seem to handle it slightly better, and reach out for help a little earlier. Still not early enough to prevent a crisis, but I do know that I am making a bit of progress, which is encouraging.

I am enjoying being back in my own little shoebox, and seeing my friends fairly often. My friends Karen and Sarah are training to do a triathlon at the end of the summer (they are superstars!) and I am joining Karen on the days she goes swimming! Swimming is my most favorite form of exercise, and I know that it should also help with the depression. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the water, so my muscles are sore, but my brain is happier.

Now that I am feeling more human, I plan to return to blogging! I am sure you are all thrilled, ha! I do have some funny stories stored up to share, so be on the lookout!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this, and if I have been out of touch with anyone, please don’t take it personally. I’m back, and hopefully soon I’ll be better than ever!

Advertisements


Moment of Truth
March 8, 2010, 8:24 pm
Filed under: money | Tags: , ,

Have you ever had a moment where you see your life in an entirely new light, realize that it sucks, and that it’s your own damn fault? I have. Welcome to Becoming Jill.

***

Reality has always been a scary place for me, and I’ve tried to avoid it at all costs. I even spent 4-5 years in grad school, mostly because I was afraid to leave and face the “Real World.”  My denial has lent itself to all areas of my life, but perhaps most disastrously to my finances.  After all, who wants to look at a bank statement when there are books to be read? Typically, I had a fairly vague notion of my income and expenses, and just hoped it would all come out right in the end. Whenever disaster would strike, my parents would give me money and a lecture (thanks guys! sorry I didn’t pay attention) and I would guiltily decide that something had to be done. I felt terrible about taking handouts from my parents, who couldn’t easily spare them, but every time I would think about figuring out just exactly where my money was going, panic and dread would set in, and I would read a book instead. As the guilt and panic spiraled out of control, I redoubled my powers of denial (which are powerful, indeed) and tried to pretend everything was ok.

But everything wasn’t ok. I was waking up in the night with my heart in my throat from dreams of being evicted. I purposely kept conversations with my mother short so that she wouldn’t ask about my bank balance. I worried about how to repay my best friend for the bridesmaid dress she bought me so I could be in her wedding. I stopped answering the phone when I didn’t recognize the number, fearing it would be the credit card company (sorry, guys). I didn’t check my voicemail for days in fear of the same, and didn’t open any mail that appeared to contain a bill. I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to deal. I was afraid I had gotten in such a deep hole that I could never climb out.

***

It all came to a head last week. The rent was due, and I had reason to believe that there wasn’t enough money in my account to cover it. I screwed up my courage to check the balance, and luckily there was enough to pay the rent, plus a little extra. As long as the automatic payment for my car insurance didn’t go through until after my next paycheck was deposited, I would be in the clear! Of course, I had no idea when the bill was scheduled to be deducted… I closed my eyes, hoped for the best, and wrote the check.

Several days later, my phone rang and I checked to see if it was the credit card company calling (again). It was my landlord. In a blind panic, I hit the “Ignore” button, as a sea of acid washed around in my stomach. Had the rent check bounced? If it had, where in the world, was I going to find the money to pay the negative balance and fee AND the rent? For about an hour, I ignored the blinking voicemail light, and restlessly surfed the internet, looking at anything that might distract me from the issue at hand.

At last, holding my breath, I checked the balance. Victory! $71. I had avoided disaster this time, but as I logged out of my account, I had an epiphany— I hated the way I was living my life in constant fear and dread. Finally, after nearly 30 years of repeatedly screwing myself over by refusing to face up to reality, I had had enough— it was time to GROW THE HELL UP.

***

This blog will document my journey. It’s going to be a long, hard road to adulthood and financial solvency, and I’m going to need some support. My wonderful best friend Karen, without whom I would be adrift in a lonely sea of financial confusion, has agreed to be my advisor. The daughter of an accountant, she’s been financially responsible pretty much from the womb. She’s taking me in hand, helping me create a budget, stick to it, and repay my debt, all while providing the occasional night of pizza, wine, and girly fun! I think you’ll agree that she’s pretty much amazing.

I’ll share my adventures with you, and hope you’ll all chime in with advice and stories of your own. Growing up is hard work—but I’m glad I have decided to finally do it.