a frustrating week

It has been a very frustrating week for me. I still have not heard anything about my interview three weeks ago. The wheels of HR turn slowly at the Big Gas Co., but now this is bothering me. Just make a decision already. As Tom Petty once said, the waiting is the hardest part.

Another source of tension is the fact that my daughter won’t take steps to improve her mental health. I have been trying for months to get her to make an appointment with a psych. I tell her I will make the phone call and all she has to do is be there to say “yes, he can discuss this with you” (because of privacy), but she won’t do that. I’ve been so angry with her this week. I told my wife I’m not equipped to deal with this situation, and it’s pushing me too far.

My wife and I planned months ago to take a short 3-day trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but I don’t know if it will happen because of my daughter. She is tapering one medication because she is running out, and won’t see a psych. She has been stable with the lower dosage, but if she has a mental health emergency while we are gone, we will have to return immediately. I’m not sure we should go, but we will only be two hours away.

There are so many things that cause me stress and worry, and I can’t control any of them. I’m compiling a growing list of triggers for anxiety and obsessive thinking, and I must say the list is quite extensive. I went to therapy to try to learn how to reduce my stress, but thinking about this mindfulness crap is stressing me out even more.

On Tuesday I went for a drive to calm myself down and ended up mildly lost in Pennsylvania, but thanks to Google Maps I found my way back to the freeway. Usually driving takes the stress away, but not this time. I got more angry and tense as I got closer to home.

Enough for now. I’ll post again when I hear about the job.

after the ordeal

Welp, the interview went about as well as I could have hoped for. Not great, not a failure, but a solid B+ effort. I’ll be mildly surprised if they choose me, as I think they are looking for someone with more field experience who will learn the office tasks. I have more office experience and would need to gain field experience. Overall I’m happy with it, I gave my best shot, and the rest is out of my control.

Talk about poor timing: my daughter was freaking out a little because she had missed her meds yesterday, and I was trying to talk her down a little, but this was two hours before the interview. I finally asked my wife if she could come home from work for a couple hours to help me out. Then I had to calm down and get back into interview mode.

I may have hyperventilated a little at one point, but at no time did I vomit. However, I may have accidentally peed on my leg a little before the interview. Don’t ask. You know how sometimes a fire hose will get out of control? It’s like that, but different.

I didn’t tell anyone at work except my supervisor, who gets notified by HR. I kept it to myself, and didn’t even tell my friends. Well, I told you guys, but I don’t think you would spill the beans. Then just 5 minutes ago, one of my friends at work texted me: “How was the interview?” Fucking Columbo. I thought about playing dumb, but I confirmed it. Good thing I didn’t choose a life of crime, because everyone would know who did it.

believe the hype

I have a job interview coming up (on Friday the 13th of all days). It is for a new job with the same company, but I still have to go through the formal process because Big Energy Company is all about following the process. I’m often not a “follow the process” kind of person, but I won’t emphasize that.

I’m practicing responses to potential interview questions, the ones that go like “Tell me a time when something really difficult happened, and you singlehandedly turned it into a success overnight with no authority and no budget.” You have to answer in a certain format, emphasizing the actions you took and the end result (which had better be positive). I would prefer to have more of a conversational interview, but again, follow the process.

Writing a resume isn’t terribly difficult because it’s factual. However, promoting myself and talking up my knowledge and skills in an interview is something I have never been comfortable with. If we could do it all in writing, I would do great, but I have to deal with my self-esteem issues long enough to hype my accomplishments and talk around my failures. It goes against years of bad habits to say something good about myself without following it up with a perceived weakness or flaw that would shoot down my chances quickly.

I figure the less I ad lib and the more I can stick to what I’ve practiced, the better off I will be. I have to build up the hype long enough to make it through the interview, then go vomit afterwards. It is a panel interview, with two managers and their boss, which is a little intimidating. One of the interviewers knows me personally, which could be good; she is the person who hired me 10 years ago. It is an online interview, which may help me a little since I can be at home. However I don’t know if I should dress up for the video like I would if it were in-person; any advice?

Anyway, fingers and toes crossed.

too

I’ve never been comfortable being myself. I’ve always struggled with defining my self-worth by the way I perceive that others see me. I look at myself as though I am a judgemental outside observer, constantly criticizing my faults and shortcomings. I suppose this comes from a severe lack of self-esteem, something I learned at home and had reinforced at school when I was a kid.

My hair was too messy. My braces were too geeky. My face was too dorky. I was too slow. I was too nerdy. I was too “husky”. I was too quiet, too depressed, too clingy, too intense, too creepy, too naïve, too introverted. I was too smart. I was too boring.

I wasn’t outgoing. I wasn’t down-to-earth. I wasn’t cool to be around. I wasn’t athletic enough. I wasn’t happy enough. I wasn’t interesting. I wasn’t dateable.

Ugh. Enough memories.

I still feel my flaws as much as ever, but now I suppose there is more of a reluctant acceptance of my flaws. Some of those perceived flaws are imaginary, a function of my own insecurities projected onto what I believe others see in me. Some of those shortcomings are realistic, and I just have to accept them and work around them. I don’t have much faith that therapy can fix this mindset.

I don’t like who I am on some days, but sometimes I’m okay with myself. For a perennial depressive, that’s good enough. On very few days, I get to feel more positive, and that is always welcome.

mind over ice cream

I don’t know if I am on the same page as my therapist. Yesterday was an awkward appointment. I had very little to say and didn’t want to be there, and he seemed like he was stumped, trying to find something to talk about. Neither one of us seemed prepared. Granted, I’m the one asking for help, so I guess I should be the one with questions. I would have been fine if he had let me go home early.

After flailing for a few minutes, he started talking about mindfulness as a tool for reducing anxiety. He described what mindfulness is, and I was having trouble concentrating … as he’s telling me how to concentrate on acknowledging distractions then coming back to the moment. My brain was tired but bouncing all day yesterday, so it was a particularly poor time to have to listen to someone talk.

I have to admit I don’t get the mindfulness thing. I thought it was more about doing something to distract you from everything in your brain, allowing you to have a little reset. I know how to be totally present in the moment, like while listening to my favorite music for the 100th time, or when being by myself in the woods, or reclining with a purring cat. But either I get distracted by something or someone, the moment is gone, and I start thinking about all the things I took a break from.

I asked him if mindfulness was blocking everything out and just clearing your mind for a few minutes, and apparently that was incorrect, because he was trying to convince me that something like eating ice cream or the act of standing up can be the object of a mindfulness exercise. (Really? Does pooping count?) I asked him what did that solve, and I never really got an answer. He said he wrote a dissertation about the subject, so I decided not to tell him I didn’t get the point.

Then he started talking about Buddhists and India, and honestly he lost me at that point. Nothing against Buddhism, but I just need something I can understand. However he did refer me to a book on mindfulness for anxiety, so I’ll get that from the library and see what I think. He also told me about some guy’s videos, but I told him I can barely sit through an episode of a TV show on Netflix. My brain moves way too fast to listen to some dude drone on for an hour about how to enjoy ice cream.

I don’t know if mindfulness exercises are going to work for me, but I guess I will give it a good faith effort to see if I can get something useful out of this. If anyone has any tips or references for helping me understand this, I’m willing to listen. Comment or email me if you have something that might help.

allow me to recapitulate

It has been an interesting year so far. Manic episodes, sketching house plans in the middle of the night, COVID vaccines, no more masks, mentally preparing to work from the office again, and the Giants still in first place bitches! (yeah, you, LA fan). 

Anyway, I feel like it’s a good time for a bulleted list, so here is a recap of the first 6 months of this year:

  • In January I began a strong manic episode for about 6 weeks, possibly encouraged by trying Latuda for bipolar depression. I had extreme anxiety and a couple of panic attacks, I couldn’t sleep most nights, and I was very restless. My OCD rituals became much stronger and nearly impossible to control.
  • In February I began to come down from the manic state but the OCD and anxiety continued in full force, and it was very difficult to work or be “normal” at home. 
  • In March, there was very little improvement, and I worried that something had permanently been damaged in my brain from the manic episode. (I still think that is the case, but I’m learning to manage it.) I was very concerned that my continued employment was in jeopardy, and the resultant worry fed my continuing anxiety.
  • In April I discontinued Wellbutrin and went back on Abilify, and my anxiety calmed down somewhat. I was officially diagnosed with OCD. I also began seeing a therapist for help to deal with the anxiety and OCD behaviors. My daughter spent a week in the hospital with a vomiting syndrome.
  • In May, the anxiety began to decrease significantly, although the OCD rituals were still a problem. I finally got to go on my planned hiking trip to Pennsylvania, which was calming and satisfying. We had a multi-family barbecue for the first time since COVID, since everyone is vaccinated now.
  • In June (earlier this week), I applied for a new position at the company I work for. It would be a promotion, although the pay would be about the same. I don’t think I have much of a chance, but if you get an interview, anything can happen.

Looking forward to the rest of 2021, who knows what will transpire? We do have a few plans:

  • As of July 6th our company will begin a hybrid work schedule, which means I will be able to work every other week at the office again. Maybe I will remember all the people who I used to see every day.
  • In August we will have our annual family camping trip at a local state park. We had to cancel in 2020, breaking a streak of 12 years. 
  • In September my wife and I will take a short vacation to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We’ll probably take a bigger vacation next year, but my daughter can’t be alone for more than a couple of days, so we’ll see what happens then.
  • In November we will be seeing Genesis in concert. 

… and off we go.

what do you want from me?

The problem with being a child genius is that everyone wants something from you.

The kid in 2nd grade wanted to cheat off my paper. The kid in 3rd grade wanted someone to be the butt of his joke. The girl in 5th grade wanted someone to manipulate. The teenager at church wanted to mock me as I performed for him. The school principal and the teacher wanted a spelling champion. Another teacher wanted an aide to help her teach the kids who didn’t understand. The kid in 6th grade wanted a partner in crime so he wouldn’t get in trouble all the time. The people at church wanted another fine young man to mold into someone who was less of a disappointment than their own kids.

The problem with being a child genius is that you want to prove how smart you are.

I let people cheat off my papers. I allowed people to bully, tease, and manipulate me. I performed for those who wanted entertainment from me. I spelled everything that was thrown at me. I gave answers and spread wisdom and behaved the way I was expected to. I believed the hype. I was full of myself.

The problem with being a child genius is that you believe you have everything figured out while you fail to realize you are socially and emotionally inept.

I couldn’t relate to my peers socially. I didn’t understand how to have meaningful friendships. My own depression was off the charts, even before the bipolar symptoms emerged. I kept my home life secret from everyone out of shame. I tried to use intelligence to buy acceptance and friendship. I would latch on to people hoping for understanding but receiving dismissal.

The problem with being a child genius is that eventually nobody gives a shit.

ten things

I wrote a long post about work, and decided it was too much right now. The TL;DR is that I’m unhappy at the best job I’ve ever had, but there’s nothing better out there right now, so I need to change my attitude and deal with it.

I had other things to write about, including my recent bipolar problems (I’m a little more stable right now), my recent anxiety-driven excursions (which helped me cope), and saving one of a kitty’s nine lives (I was able to hit the brakes in time).

But I can’t really focus right now on anything coherent. Instead I will give you 10 random facts about me. These were written a long time ago and hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar until today. So in random order:

3. I played trumpet, trombone, baritone, euphonium, and tuba during high school and college. I was once in the state honor band. Unfortunately I don’t play anymore.

7. My first post-college job was to perform wetland delineations. I used to know the fauna of the northwest very well. One day I was chased out of a wetland by a pissed-off nutria.

4. I can look at maps and air photos for hours. Google Earth is the best thing ever.

1. I’m addicted to crackers, bread, and anything salty.

8. The last time I smoked a cigarette, it gave me a massive boner. I liked it so much I smoked another.

2. I have actually hugged trees. I love hiking and being alone in the forest. When I was a kid, the forest behind my house was my refuge from life.

6. When I was growing up I wanted to be an engineer. Once I became an engineer, I wished I could be something else: naturalist, writer, musician, baseball player, geologist, or a world traveler.

10. Many years ago I was charged with a felony for violating California environmental laws stemming from a contractor mishandling PCB-contaminated soil. The charge was dropped.

5. I love rain and dreary weather because it makes everyone else feel miserable.

9. I wish I was a cat instead of a human.

11. I’m 1/4 Canadian, 1/16 Mexican, 1/16 Native American, and 100% looney.

where there’s smoke, there’s pizza

I think I’m coming down from the recent manic episode. Monday I got my first good night of sleep in several days. My tension headaches are still there, my anxiety is still elevated, and I’m still twitchy, but sleep has returned.

So why am I up at 2:30 writing blog posts, you might ask? My daughter decided to bake a frozen pizza just after midnight. Apparently there was something that had dripped in the oven, so when she turned it on the “something” started to burn. She opened the oven door to put the pizza in, the smoke came pouring out, and the smoke alarm went off.

In the meantime, I was just waking up from a dream in which Tony Danza was showing off some exceptional drumming skills while on the set of a tv show. His character carried a pair of drum sticks in his back pocket, apparently for drumming-related emergencies. As he was finishing another paradiddle on a kitchen countertop, I woke up to the sound of the smoke alarm.

I hit the snooze on the alarm clock first, and when that didn’t work I realized what it was. Awake in a heartbeat, I jumped up, put on pants, and went rushing out the door while shouting at my wife “SMOKE ALARM”. I got downstairs and found my daughter standing in the kitchen with a chagrined look on her face. I pushed the button on the smoke alarm and went back to my still-sleeping wife and told her it was under control. “Mmmph,” she responded, as she settled into the covers.

Of course I’m wide-awake at this point, and so of course I turn on the computer and start reading to calm down. Two hours later, I’m still awake. I will try to take a nap in my easy chair before the night is over.

manic wanna-be architect

I’ll preface this by saying I might be having a little manic episode, but it’s nothing to worry about, right? I’m not out of control or in any danger, I’m just riding the wave for a while. I’m mildly amused at my condition right now, but I hope I don’t have a crash in the next few days.

I haven’t slept a lot during the night for the past several days, yet I have fallen asleep at random times during the day and evening. My anxiety has been high due to work issues and problems with my daughter. I’ve had tension headaches which turned into a migraine on Thursday. I’m writing a lot, and trying to keep from posting it all. I went looking for a difficult word search, and ended up downloading and printing 40 different ones I need to stay off Fakebook and stay away from Amazon … or the car dealership.

Yesterday I got up at 7:30 on an off day, I was awake all day, and I went to bed at my typical 9:00 to 9:30. Then I woke up from dreaming at about 1:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was not a weird dream, but I remembered it very clearly when I woke up. I was in a different house, and I was designing it in my dream, arranging rooms and hallways.

I was laying there, completely awake, and I decided to get up and capture my dream house on paper. So I got up, got my graph paper, a scale, and my mechanical pencil (because geeks have those items handy in the middle of the night), and started drawing my house.

My daughter (whose sleep schedule is often backwards) comes upstairs and asks why I’m up, so I explain to her. Then we talked for a while, but the whole time I’m thinking about my house. Finally she went back to bed, and I started drawing again.

I realize I’ve lost track of time when my wife gets up at 5:30. I explain to her that I might be a little manic, and I spent most of the night designing a house. She said, “That’s not bad. At least there aren’t computer parts all over.” [That’s another story to tell someday.]

Here is the final sketch I came up with during the night:

I didn’t finish obviously. I still need to do a lot of details, and I might put it in Autocad today and work on it this week. Or I might do it online in Sketchup, since I don’t have architecture blocks for my Autocad installation. In fact, I have no architectural anything, because I don’t know how to design houses. I’ll post something when it is done.

low brass, high anxiety

I was a good trombone player back in high school. I was also good with a tuba and a baritone, but the trombone was what I enjoyed the most. I earned a trip to the state honor band playing trombone, which I thought was pretty cool even though I was seated in the 3rd chair.

When I went to college in Reno, I joined the marching band and immediately realized I needed to elevate my trombone game. I was suddenly surrounded with serious music students who could play circles around me, so I needed to get better. Even though I was still 3rd chair, I improved, and I knew I belonged.

After my short stay in Reno, however, I didn’t play my ‘bone for a couple of years. The local junior college had no music program, and there was no community band to play with. I missed playing.At college in Hippietown, they had an infamous marching band, but I didn’t have time to commit to practice and performances.

There was an informal jazz band, so I joined that group hoping to have fun. Unfortunately it turned out there were serious musicians in that group as well. One time we got to a place in the music where there was supposed to be a trombone solo, and I didn’t know what to do with it. The director, trying to help, said “This is yours, man – just blow!” I had no idea how to improvise, and I quickly became intimidated and embarrassed to be there.

The last day I went to the practice to tell the director I was leaving. I made up an excuse about not having enough time to be able to practice, which was mostly true, but not the real reason I was quitting. As I was walking out the door, he turned to the group and, exasperated, said “Great, there goes our trombone player!”

That hurt. I felt like I was failing, and abandoning the group who had accepted me. Then again, I’ve abandoned lots of people and places over the years, and not dealt with the wreckage. It turns out it gets easier each time, and you care less much faster.

The sting of that day stuck with me, and I never played the trombone for anyone again. I kept it long enough to find out neither child had interest in playing music, then sold it for $100.

motivational speaker

I never seem to be motivated by other people’s stories of how they accomplished their dreams in the face of adversity. I don’t really care about people’s stories of perseverance, faith, courage, or whatever strength of character allowed them to reach their goals. Maybe that’s because I never had anyone to motivate me other than myself and a twisted sense of spite.

I decided early on that I would accomplish everything I could because people around me told me I wasn’t capable. Spite is a great motivator, for a while, but it becomes an empty feeling when there is no one left to prove wrong. In the end, I decided to accomplish things for myself, and later for my family’s well-being.

When I was a kid, no one really motivated me or gave me guidance on how to accomplish the things that were important to me. No one took an active role in helping me become the person I wanted to be. I can’t remember anyone sitting me down and telling me “You’re smart enough, you can do this, but you have to work hard and push yourself to succeed.” As I grew into adulthood, I just forged ahead with good and bad decisions, and made some really dumb mistakes along with my humble successes.

I didn’t really have any guidance as a kid, but that’s not to say I did everything alone. My friend Lisa and I encouraged each other and pushed each other to succeed in school; I had other friends in college who did the same thing. My high school band teacher taught me how to act with integrity and hold myself to a higher standard. The pastor at our church showed me dignity and humility, even if the religious teachings didn’t last very long.

we were on a break

I thought this would be a good time to write here again, since the world seems to be crashing down around us. I haven’t missed writing until now; in fact it has been a relief not being obligated to think of things to write. There have been a few occasions where I thought “I should blog this,” but the feeling passed.

I’ve been really busy with work in the past six months; I’ve worked a lot of overtime with early mornings and Saturdays. The money is good, but I have had a lot of stress to deal with. Otherwise my mental health has been relatively stable, a little down at times but nothing I haven’t dealt with before – in other words, my normal. I haven’t done very many things for myself lately, although I bought a nice color laser printer for the “atheist holiday shopping season.”

One interesting thing that happened was that I finally found my birth father (he died in 2012), and I have been in contact with several of his brothers and sisters. That deserves a future post of its own.

We had plans for this year. We were planning on spending about 10 days visiting people and redwoods and beaches in California in July; I was considering visiting newly-found family members in San Diego in September; and we were doing our annual camping trip in August. We were even thinking about saving up for a trip to the UK in 2021.

Then the world changed.

the kibosh

At the moment, I’ve completely lost interest in writing in this blog. I have content, I just have no energy to put anything here. I don’t think anyone cares, and I care even less. I’m planning on taking down the archives and removing much of the content that I don’t want to identify with for various reasons.

I’m doing okay at this time, and there’s no single reason for putting the kibosh on this project. I just think there is too much of my personal life on the web right now.

<the rest of this post was sanitized for your protection!>

escape

This town doesn’t need a name, it’s just a place on the road to somewhere else. It’s not a destination, it’s a part of the map that people avoid. This place is a starting point for some people, a purgatory for others, and a finish line for too many. Youthful dreams and old memories die here, and the cemeteries are filled with restless spirits who could never get away. Those who stay are forever scarred by the desolation of this town, a place where hope withers in the parched landscape. Those who do escape have a dark spot on their memory burned away by the searing summer sun.

And yet … something calls me back to the place it all began. Someday I will visit again, and part of me will die a little more.