I am just going to preface this by saying this diary is going to be personal. Intimately personal. I tried journaling, at my counselors suggestion, but I felt myself writing and not really connecting emotionally with it. I feel like when I am writing for an audience of one, I struggle to really connect with how I feel, and it ends up being “Dear Journal” niceties on a very Nickelodeon’s Doug type level. I don’t really feel what I am writing. I also tried posting anonymously on Reddit about this, but again, I really struggled to connect really deeply not only with what I wrote, but the responses I was getting. I wasn’t really looking for solutions to my problems, I wasn’t looking for holistic remedies, or advice about mindfulness or general relaxation skills, I didn’t ask for a youtube link to Lo-Fi hip-hop beats to Study/Fall Asleep to, because, truthfully, I was listening to that shit before it blew up during the pandemic. Thats why I am coming here with this, because I have legitimately formed connections with people here. I don’t have many friends in real life, I feel judged by my looks, by my voice, by my opinions (whether they are stupid or smart, I have both sets). Here, I feel like I am judged by my ideas, my thoughts, the rationale I have. I came here initially for the politics, but found, instead, a group of people that understand me on a level that many (most, if I am honest), don’t. As such, I find myself seeking connection. Empathy. Genuine feeling. Not really advice. And I knew I could come here and ask that and people would inherently understand. I just want to know that I am not really alone in the fight against this.
So I had my second counselling appointment today. It was okay. My counselor seems nice, and genuinely understanding. Intellectual, willing to push me for evidence of my beliefs and point out discrepancies in my thinking. Challenge me, make me uncomfortable. I like that in a therapist (I have had a couple over the years, not many I have gotten to know). She was incisive and smart, cut to the bone on some issues today, which I really appreciate. She was the one who initially suggested I journal, and I said I would give it a shot as homework for my anxiety and depression. She suggested being honest, not using catastrophic language, looking at things objectively, and pouring myself into it. That is what I intend to do here. Its kind of hard to do that on kos, because I am so used to writing intentionally hyperbolic, or dry academic pieces that its hard to really connect with how I feel without becoming bombastic for the sake of being bombastic. I told her that I would try my best not to use catastrophic language while journaling and really take a step back and examine myself. Like I said, I tried it solo and it ended up being so dry and boring I don’t feel like I really worked anything out inside of me. So I am going to attempt this again.
I have been struggling really hard since I got long COVID, and lost my job. Kind of just feeling a bit adrift in my life plan. And really, I feel like a lot of things in my life have gone wrong, and when I examine myself I blame me for a lot of it. I like to use long COVID as a starting point because its easy to point to something that was out of your control a few months ago, but my struggles to keep a job started at least 3 years ago.
I was working for Oregon DMV headquarters and I really liked my job. I had come from a medical Quality Assurance position at a blood/plasma center here in Salem, Oregon, and I had enjoyed that job as well. But I was missing human interaction, ya know. Being crammed in a stuffy office, reviewing physical and digital charts, checking lot numbers, filling out forms can be boring. I come from a customer service background so I became used to human interaction and team work in a job. So I sought something a little different. I landed at the DMV building here in Salem, in a cubicle, taking calls from people with severe medical conditions that impacted their ability to drive safely. I felt I was a right fit for the job: empathetic, understanding, responsive, quick (everything the DMV isn’t, lmao). People really took notice. Within a few months of becoming permanent, a leadership position opened up and myself and three other of my co-workers applied for the position. The manager of the unit had an idea to rotate us through the leadership position to teach us the ropes of leading a DMV medical team, and I (the newbie) was up first.
I was excited about the promotion, happy that I got it, but felt quickly overwhelmed. The work, I could handle, angry customers, no prob. But the interpersonal politics quickly overwhelmed me. I had made a friend along the way, and older lady who had worked there for years. Both of us quickly bonded over our mutual love for SEIU, and attended meetings together. I felt a real comradery with her. She trained me how to do the job, and while a lot of the information she gave me was wrong (we will get to that in a moment), she always did so in a very kind way. We became fast friends. Kinda weird, me being a young 32 year old and her being in her 60s, but we became work buddies. During the secret santa in 2018, she got me a gift certificate to Popcornfetti for a bag of cheddar and bacon popcorn. She knew me pretty well. She was LDS, I was an atheist, like I said kind of weird friendship but not the weirdest I have ever had (that would be the street gang of Juggalos I lived with when I was 19, lmao).
Although I liked her, her work was...sloppy. Not only sloppy, but slipping further. She was giving customers incorrect information, placing them on hold for inordinate amounts of time, not remembering simple processes that she had known years previous...I had seen this before. My father in law went through much the same thing in his last years of teaching. He began to...slip. Talk to himself. Sweat. Mumble. Forget. He was diagnosed with dementia shortly after he was forced to retire, thrown out like garbage by a school district that had used him dry for 30 years of his life. A kid accused him of mumbling a cuss word under his breath (which I don’t doubt he did, not only was he in the early stages of dementia, but he was under IMMENSE pressure at work), and they tossed him out. My wife’s family rolled with the punches, but underneath the smiles there was a sense of...heartache. Dementia is a death sentence, everyone knew that.
When I saw these same qualities in my friend, I couldn’t help but wonder. I never really knew her when her work wasn’t getting sloppy, but from what I heard, this wasn’t her. She was usually very accurate with her work. Throughout the 5 months or so I was working as a supervisor, I brought this nagging feeling up in 3 or 4 team meetings. “Perhaps we are putting too much pressure on her”, “I have seen this before, it seems like something my father in law went through”, and yet they all wanted to push her out. I heard nothing but constant complaints that they couldn’t just throw her out because she was “tight with the union” and they’d be “up our ass”, they wanted her gone. The order came down to build a case.
One day, she made a pretty bad mistake. Like, gave some really wrong information that could have delayed a person’s medical paperwork by months, thats if we ever even received it. I heard her say it, my cube was right across from her, I tried flagging her down and saying “no no no no no” but she was already in the middle of saying it. I had to report it. The manager had to call this customer back and AT LEAST give them the correct information. I didn’t really tell her anything but to review the call, and she did.
A little later, I get an email saying that essentially they want me to write a report, at length, about what was said, what information was incorrect, and just how it could have impacted the customer. I knew what they were doing. This was the last straw, we had just talked about it in the last meeting. They were going to make a case to HR to push her out, and they wanted me as their stool pigeon. I was faced with a choice, and I made the wrong one. I wrote the email.
I little while later, I was working with my previous counselor about depression and anxiety, the same old companions that have been with me for all my life, and he suggested zoloft. Wanting relief, I agreed. Everything was fine until I went to the max dose, and I began struggling with anti-depressant related drug psychosis. All of a sudden, I could no longer handle the situation at work, and I went on medical leave for mental health issues. My guilt was immense. Crushing. Awful. I had nightmares, heard scratching noises, saw a bald man in the back yard of my in-laws house. Eventually, I had to quit the job, because I couldn’t face what I had done. I got better once they pulled me off zoloft, but the damage was done, I was out of a job.
It really mirrored something my mom went through just months earlier. As I have diaried before, my mother had a terrible life. It was abusive. Foster home after foster home. Just fighting to survive day to day. She struggled with this for the rest of her life, and I always knew that something was brewing just beneath the surface inside of my mom, but she was the best parent she could possibly be to us. Without a high school education, she and her partner provided for us, made sure we had a roof, and a loving family to stay with. She vowed to NEVER repeat the cycle, and she never did. But her life, her childhood, took a toll. A bad one. All the time she raised us, she ignored her own issues. And when Donald Trump got elected, those issues came absolutely BOILING to the surface.
November 2016 came as a shock to everybody. My mother included. She had really believed that Clinton was going to win, and couldn’t imagine a person like Trump in the Oval Office. My mom talked about, many times, how Trump reminded her of her father, before the LDS, before the forgiveness, before the sanctimonious garbage. When he was a serial philanderer, drinker, smoker, child abuser, molester. My mom really drew a parallel between Trump and my grandfather pre-redemption in her mind. When Trump’s election came, she began to spiral. She would stay up late at night, doomscrolling articles on facebook and becoming more and more paranoid. I firmly believe his inauguration marked the beginning of my mother’s dive into psychosis, driven by a narcissist at the top of our government.
Early 2017, things really started unravelling for her. She got it in her head that Trump was going to annul her marriage to her partner, and prevent her from seeing her grandchild, my nephew. She got hospitalized several times after threatening suicide, convinced that Trump was going to break up our family. The mental healthcare system was hit and miss, mostly miss. They tried a lot of meds, mostly. And one of those meds was Wellbutrin, another was Zoloft. My mom began diving further and further into delusion, one time even calling me on a business trip asking me if I changed her healthcare. She had become convinced that myself and a few of my siblings were trying to commit her. And to be honest, we had talked about it, especially if she got violent. After that, she disappeared on her bike for 3 days, while my family frantically searched for her.
Over 2017, 2018 and most of 2019, my mom struggled with mental health issues. Hospitalizations, arrests, court hearings. Rumors swirled around my family, and because I always had to work and I have always been independent of my family, all I could get were second hand stories of my moms behavior and mug shots from local police departments. She got better, she got worse. Finally, her meds were dialed in, she found a psych who was willing to work with her and she started putting the pieces of her life back together. By this time, I had become estranged from her and most of my family. I couldn’t deal with the constant back biting, bickering, and drama that came with my moms sickness and disavowed all of them. My mom was innocent, but everyone else made her sickness about them. And I had had enough. So I really didn’t even talk to anyone in my family, including my mom, for about 18 months. Thats part of the guilt right there. I ran, like a coward. Instead of facing my mother’s fallibility, her humanity, her mortality, her fragility, I ran. Because I couldn’t deal.
My mom got better, we reconnected in 2020 when the pandemic hit. The rift between some of my siblings and I hasn’t healed, but I am back in contact with my parents, at least. But when I started going through my mental health issues, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my mom. I understood what she was going through. I knew that running was wrong. My wife didn’t run from me, but I ran from my mom. It kills me when I think about it.
So I left my job in 2019 at the DMV, after months of medical leave for my own mental health issues. It was a stinging blow, but right after I found a new direction. I decided to go back to school to get an MSW at the University of Denver. I was inspired to do so by my wife, who entered the same program in 2018 and graduated in 2020. I wanted to help people, I felt limited in the things I could do at the DMV, so this seemed like a perfect solution. I could be an advocate. I could spend an hour with a person and talk about real issues with them, not just medical paperwork or a doctor’s decision. I should have realized I was STILL struggling with my own mental health limitations and issues, but I have never been one to stand still. I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to go back to school. And it was a giant fucking mistake.
I don’t regret my time at University of Denver, far from it. I felt like I had found my people. Progressive. Action-oriented. Evidence-based. Empathetic. Emotionally connected. I really felt like social work was the correct job for me, like mental health was the correct field. Kind of like I had answered a calling. I spent a year doing coursework, my first internship rolled around, then COVID hit like a lightening bolt. Everything went virtual. Strangely, that was a huge benefit to me. There was something about the virtual space that made me more comfortable, more myself. I was also working with people living with ID/DD, which quickly became my favorite population specifically because we weren’t dealing with particularly heavy hitting issues, just ADLs and simple emotion recognition. We had fun, played zoom games, watched videos. I made little animations on a flash like program and included all their names. I had a lot of fun and good ideas, and so did the other interns. I studied therapeutic techniques for people who are non-verbal, and my final project for the internship was implemented in a program a little while after I left (it was about ASMR, really fun project). My second year is when shit really started hitting the fan.
I got an internship where my wife works, at a community mental health center. I was feeling some success from my first year, my GPA was a steady 3.6, I was doing good. But as soon as I had to start dealing with real issues: abuse, neglect, trauma, I fell apart emotionally. My childhood wasn’t my mom’s but I had my own issues: homophobia, my dad kidnapping me, neo-nazis chasing after my family, watching a guy get stabbed in our apartment basketball court, getting propositioned by the local pedophile. All of this came rushing to the surface. All the issues I stuffed down. All the depression I ignored. All the anxiety I swallowed.
I started getting stomach aches. I started getting panic attacks, which hadn’t happened since my undergrad days. I just couldn’t do it. On top of all this, money was running out, I was a term over my graduation date, and already a cool 150k in debt. I just couldn’t do it. I dropped out, wasting all that money, all that time, all that effort...on nothing. Thats why I regret it, not because I tried, but because I failed.
I tried to get a job in the field, doing office work in a secure locked psychiatric facility. Unfortunately, there was a COVID outbreak, I was not as careful as I should of been and got a breakthrough case. And now, I am living through long COVID and not only mental health limitations, but physical limitations as well.
So I find myself kind of adrift, for not the first time in my life. I have applied for a whopping one job, here, as a community content moderator. I know its something I can do, but honestly I am feeling like its a bit like being discovered by American Idol….well, maybe not that exclusive. But its a dream job to not just me, but everyone and their dog. And sure, I have spent a long time here, but I have no moderation experience, at least not paid, so this job is a pipe dream. Other than that, I have applied for disability, but even then I am facing down a 2 year battle just to get a whopping 1300 dollars a month, roughly half of my regular salary even before college.
Its so unfair that my wife has to carry this burden. So damned unfair. When I think about it I get so pissed at myself. She says that she isn’t angry, that she supports me no matter what, but thats not good enough for me. I should be able to drag my carcass to work regardless of how I feel. People do it all the damned time. And yet here I am, chasing after pipe dream jobs, waiting for a social security check that may not come, and scrolling around kos, while my wife provides everything financially. It hurts. I absolutely fucking hate it. I feel so down.
Anyway, I dunno if posting this will make me feel any better. Maybe it will. Maybe when I hit post, all of this junk will just float away. I hope it does. Because I am getting emotionally exhausted, I feel like I am at the end of my coping skills. I don’t want a handout, I just want a job I can do. A purpose. Its nice to have time to work on myself, go to appointments, worry about my healthcare, but all the while my wife is financially supporting me. And I can’t do ANYTHING to help.
Maybe these are all first world problems. I am not dying, I am not in war, I am not starving, I have a roof, 3 hots and a cot. I feel bad for feeling bad. Jesus. Now I am rambling, this has gone on long enough. If you got to the end of this, sorry for the pity party. It does feel good to get it out though.