The Prodigy

Milestone moment for me Blog! I have just received my 4 certificates of qualification from the Peer Support programs I enrolled in over the last few months, and I am pleased that my training is largely complete. I have volunteer hours I still need to log, but the hard work is done.

Yesterday I had an actual graduation ceremony at Recovery Innovations, International’s San Diego office. Only about half the class turned up for the event, but I was very glad my parents could be there. Every single classmate I gave a hug to spoke highly of me to my parents, which felt wonderful. As the ceremony drew to a close, I was the last person to speak before the gathering. I always find public speaking to be a bit “amplifying,” however, I think I handled myself with poise.

Someone I was not expecting to see was there, my old case worker Annette. Back in 2014 when I came out of the hospital, she was right there helping me get back on track. She got me into the WRAP classes and that really made such a big difference right away. As I got healthy and went back to work, we closed my case and I said my goodbyes. Here we are 4 years later and she’s representing NAMI San Diego watching my graduation from PET. “Before I met you I was but a learner… now I am the master.”

She gave a big speech about how proud she was of me and that really warmed my heart. She saw me at my lowest point, and now here I am reaching all new highs. It must have been refreshing for her to see that. I was moved by her words and my mom turned into a puddle. My instructor Gloria also stopped and made a special point to highlight my skills and accomplishments. I was showered in praise and compliments which was altogether overwhelming.

But well earned, Blog! I worked my ass off to get to where I am now. I didn’t ask for anything, I just did what I had to do to get myself back to a place in my life I could be proud of. My parents got a chance to see how hard I’m trying to change my life for the better, and that helps reassure me a lot. I want them to know I’m not just Eric the pot smoking chocolate eater, but Westin, the articulate and loving Peer Support Specialist.

I hope you all have a good Friday. I start my volunteer hours down at my old clinic next week to complete PET requirements. That should be a piece of cake. I wish for you all to have fun on your weekend and live in an action-packed non-boring sort of way. I vicariously thrive on your vices! Fulfill your desires and yes!

In It

I am pleased to report that my PET training is going very well, and I am learning a great deal from my classmates. They are all so bold and open with their feeling, which inspires me to do the same despite my reservations. It’s not just the skills, but how they are implemented that is making a difference for me.

 

Today we are sharing our personal stories which I am a little frightened of. It is a abrasive feeling to talk about myself flatteringly, and this is the hurdle I am striving to overcome with this career path. I can’t deny the facts that I have done great things, but I still have my hands on the reins to prevent the glorification wagon from going over the cliff. My humility is one of my best qualities, which reinforces a desire to not proclaim self worth with any sort of volume.

 

But the facts remain that I have done good and I am doing better than I have ever been before. Even if I throw doubt at that, it doesn’t stick. Logic prevails. However, there are far more mercurial subjects that lend themselves to a more destructive path of logical reasoning. It can be both useful, and poignantly detrimental. I have plunged to my lowest lows because of that negative logic spiral. I learned my train could be hijacked.

 

I wish I had these skills a long time ago. Maybe I wouldn’t have been such an abrasive partner or husband If I had better communication skills, or better listening skills. I can logic that back a bit by also recognizing that even if I had been a good communicator, doesn’t mean that would be a mutual thing. All my partners had no true ability to grapple with themselves honestly, so nothing of true worth ever came to be between them and I. I see so clearly now what a functional relationship is supposed to look like. Even though I’m content that I will never have that for myself, I feel empowered knowing my future interactions will be significantly more diverse than they had been in the past. There are fewer mental obstacles to my success than I can ever remember before.

 

Well Blog, I think today is going to be a good day. I promise to be open and genuine with my classmates, and tell them the story of my journey as only I can tell it.

 

Enrolled

I have been busy forwarding my career of mental health advocacy in recent days. I have also begun the process of building my mental health resume with my WRAP certificate. I am taking a Peer/Support training class, enrolled in Peer Employment Training in January and also volunteering with NAMI’s Side by Side program. I just went to the orientation for Side by Side the other day, and Alice already has someone she’d like me to be a companion for. As soon as my background check goes through, I’m likely to start meeting with a mentally ill peer and providing friendship, insight and guidance.

After accomplishments like that, I’m feeling quite good about my progress. I realize things are not going to rapidly unpack themselves towards goals, but steady incremental motions towards my horizon is all I’m hoping to pursue. I know what working 40 hours a week is like, and even in my advanced state of functionality, it’s a hard life to maintain without constant assistance. I support helping individuals find meaning through their workplace contributions, whatever environment they find themselves in. All of us need help finding the meaning and worth in things, especially when the news is negative. I do believe we have to think about progress in order to prevail. I hope to instill a sort of passion or vitality into my companions to help them see that life is still full of possibilities.

My MH career is just getting started, and I already feel the burden of stress lifted far from me. I don’t have to go to a place where I suffer for 8.5 hours in an environment where I am not wanted. I do not have to face the abuse and harassment of my coworkers who I am supposed to coach. I do not have to deal with supervisors who don’t understand my illness and do not sympathize with the way that I suffer with symptoms. Instead, I get to help people the same way I would have hoped to have been helped by those who could have helped me. I see where my boss and my peers went wrong in responding to my pain, and I learn from their mistakes for my own purposes. I know what it looks like to do things the wrong way, which makes me all the more capable of identifying how to do things a “better” way. Learn not only from yourself, but those who you see in the world.

I don’t mean to sound pedantic, but I am very energized about helping. This new career path is along the trajectory of progress towards better health. I know also that this is just the beginning and that many increasingly happy days are ahead. I hope my progress and enthusiasm helps inspire you to pursue mental health awareness. All of us are a community, and we should be looking out for each other. No one else is going to know what we’re going through, and it’s hard fucking work to help people see us. We should defend each other, and help the other percentage of the population understand. I want to start helping. I am helping. I will keep doing so for as long as I can.

A Decision Made

I had been living in a world of ambiguity, unsure as to what direction I would be headed. I didn’t know if I should continue to be true to my workplace or to march ahead with my life helping the mentally ill. I needed clarity and things were coming to a head.

As of this moment, my independent life is over. I am living in my parent’s living room for the next 7 months. We are all, as I have stated in previous posts, moving north in July 2018. I had hoped to be working and saving money during that time, but instead I have sued my workplace for discrimination. That process has moved forward to the point of a formal demand letter. I did not know what my future was going to be and perhaps I still don’t. However, I do have some clarity that I want to spend my time helping people and getting back in touch with my peers. I have been a cog in the corporate machine before, and I reject that as a meaningful contribution. I want meaning. I NEED to be doing something that has an impact. I’ve solved problems for customers, yes. It is not the same as picking someone up off the floor and helping them walk again.

I do believe the lawsuit will be settled out of court. The money I receive should be comparable to what I would have made if I still worked most of next year. I hope that I can be kept occupied by my new direction. I need a formal, professional, helpful relationship to engage with. Life has been a scramble with me moving out, and the dust is beginning to settle. I feel like I am headed in the right direction, but there is still quite a bit to be done. Today I have my interview with NAMI at 4. I am very excited to meet them and express my enthusiasm for the opportunity.

I am definitely in a fiction place rather than non fiction. I am rebooting The Realm for my friends and running a d20 game. First one I’ve run in maybe 10 years. I’ve always been down to run games, I just never had the spark. I seem to have found that now, at least, which has spurned a beautiful creative process. I have written a great deal of fiction, none of which is in any sort of final state. I will however post my most polished turd for you to gawk at. Creative input requested!

As the days go on, the future resolves itself further. I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve made and glad to have something fun to ponder about. The story  have in mind for them is QUITE compelling. Dramatic. Inspiring. Own horn. Tooted.

Rebuilding Phase

Hello again Blog,

I am having a difficult time coping with my reality-in-transition. Fundamentally, my recovery during the last 4 years has been based on having an occupation and regimented structure to prevent me from becoming depressed and relapsing. I needed something to commit to, and invest in, to further my success along the path of being mentally stable. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my reality at the moment, I am forced to start over as thought it were day 1 out of the hospital.

I spent the first week arguably in a state of torpor. I accomplished nothing, and I was, more or less, getting over the shock of having had a psychotic break aka sulking. I then started re-implementing some ground-level responsibilities. I Made sure I got out of bed every day. Step 1.  Then I took it one further and got in to the shower. The next day I gathered up my laundry and picked some shit up. I have compartmentalized my progress as to not overload myself with a burden I can’t fully comprehend, but not so little that I might be deflated for lack of visible sign of progress. This is my reconstruction. I needed to set up my own schedule, as I was not going to be driving to the office again. I gave myself tasks and set objectives out that needed to be met. Why? Pride, pure and simple: my personal antidote to depression.

Being depressed sucks, and I don’t like the way I feel when I am in that place or any number of other bad places. I avoid going there if at all possible, though often it is not. Nevertheless I still believe that if there is ANYTHING proactive one can do to help ease the burden of sorrow, one should take advantage of that. Personally, I finds pride to be a good remedy to feeling depressed or self-deprecating. I tend to counter bad thoughts with pure action; a demonstrative of (hopefully) positive thought become reality. I give no life to my depressed thoughts, but instead, show it that, time and time again, I will act on my positive feelings and execute things in my life that will raise me up rather than tear me down. It’s hard enough trying to live a normal life with the burden I carry, let alone if I can’t even adequately defend myself from my mental illness.

We all have ways to cope. Personally, I cope via elevation. I find ways out of the hole, since being down there is not any fun at all. Life is a wide open door, with lots and lots of possibilities, even for someone like me. We get so mired in our distorted perspectives of reality that we don’t see how beautiful we are and what we still have yet to give to the world. Even the most severely tortured soul deserves a chance to reconcile and get pointed forward. Optimism is what we lack, just in principle if not truly comprehended. I don’t anticipate it is easy to be optimistic about anything when one is depressed, but that is the perfect time to implement some form of structure to reality. I don’t ever trust my judgement or make big decisoons when I am depressed, ever, anymore. I learned the hard way, and maybe we all did at some point. Then, when we are sane again, and feeling hopeful about life, we write ourselves a little message for the next time we get depressed. Like a little postcard from the future when things will be different, and I won’t feel depressed, because I was doing just fine when i wrote this to myself. Go a step further and leave yourself some action items to take care of to settle acute symptoms and get yourself grounded. I took a class here in town from Recovery Innovations International called WRAP, and during that class, we created our Emergency Action Plans. Mine is still up on the main menu, and has been there for a while (probably could use some updating). I developed those words so that I wouldn’t make the wrong decision when I was at my most vulnerable and depressed state.

I still struggle with all of this, day by day, but I hold on to the concept of optimism even if I don’t truly commit to it emotionally and spiritually. The structure gives me hope that steps forward make a difference, and that’s precisely what I intend to keep on doing. Hopefully this mess with my workplace gets figured out before I have to file suit over it, but we shall see. An update for next post, to be sure.

Possible Resolution

I’m not going to write much right now, but it is relevant to note that tomorrow I’m talking to my work to (hopefully) work out the details of my accommodation request. Its either going to be a very good thing or a big huge hassle. It would not be fun to have to march down the lawsuit road with these guys, so I’m really thinking they would like to avoid that as much as I would. Sometime tomorrow morning I should know whether or not I will be able to work the rest of the week.

I’m pretty anxious about this and just trying to take it easy this evening. I’ll keep you posted.

Return to Center

Hi blog. I know it’s been several months since I checked in, and there is a sprawling narrative behind the reasoning involved. The story I have to tell is one of great struggle to exist and sustain in society, and how difficult that is for someone who is severely mentally ill. I have dealt with deep depression, and psychotic/manic rage. I still feel a great deal of hope for my future, but anxiety is crushing me down with spun versions of a darker reality. I hope to be able to expose the last few months to you, and together we can see how the circumstances of my life caused my downfall, and eventual return to center.

About a month before I stopped blogging, the environment at work was becoming acutely toxic. I was hated, loathed even by a solid 2/3 of the people I was supposed to be coaching. It was becoming apparent that my position had no real authority, and would not be validated with any, so no one had any cause to listen to my recommendations because they knew no harm would come to them if they did not. Things had been going on this way for a year or more, and I was just becoming aware that there was no respect for me with a lot of the people that needed to see me as an instructor. Or, at least someone that had to listen to. Instead, the agents acted out against me by messing with my things at my desk, or making areas messy that I had taken the responsibility to clean. They would also use the hangouts chat to gossip about undoing thew work I was doing and how I was, essentially, a prick for asking them to not do something that directly made my job harder.

I had a meeting with my boss after I basically had a mini-meltdown at work. The main thing they wanted me to do was treat the disdain of my subordinates like “water off a duck’s back.” I agreed at the time, sensing that if this was their suggestion for how someone mentally ill should cope with a hostile work environment, I don’t want to even enter a discussion about it. I swallowed my thoughts and moved on, promptly going psychotic the following week trying to do what they asked me to do. You see, I’m not able to just let things roll off the ol’ carapace. Everything gets in, because I’m sponging up emotional vibrations, facial expressions and body language 100% of the time no matter if I want to or not. When I’m in a room with a dozen people that really don’t like me at all, that shit is like radioactivity breaking apart my DNA a little at a time, every second of the day. It was an unsustainable agony that lead to a truly scary moment of murderous psychotic rage while I was alone in my truck.

After some time away, I came to a conclusion that working remotely, as I had done in the past, would be an immediate remedy to the environmental duress I had suffered previously. The remote anonymity and even video conferences are not hostile encounters with agitated people in the same room as I am. I’m in my safe space, and I still get to see them and communicate with them. This seemed like a no-brainer since I have traditionally been far more productive on days where I have been allowed to work from home in the past. I asked for accommodation under the ADA so I could continue to work and be productive for them with a slight adjustment to my needs.

Dealing with HR has been frustrating, since they have no interest in asking me for any specifics on how I will need to be accommodated, and continually postpone acceptance of a return date as well as the specifics of what I was asking for. I’m now basically down to my last few uncommitted dollars, and I need to get back to work so I can start making money again. Then they disabled my email account at work, so I started to get suspicious that maybe they were just hoping I’d give up or something.

To be honest, I might have if not for a step I took a while ago to change the direction I wanted to take my life. I’ve been here on this blog advocating repeatedly for participation in society regardless of mental illness or disability. If you want to be productive, nothing should stand in the way of you being able to do that. I had a chance to work 40 hours a week because of my stability, but nothing is permanent with mental illness. I slid downhill for months. I stayed away from this blog for longer than I ever have before, which I knew was not a good thing. I was becoming depressed, and I felt like I was giving my daily energy to a company that was never going to appreciate who I am or what I have to offer. What was I doing with my life? Making money to pay the bills, but to what end? Saving $50 a month? For what?

I began to understand that unless I am making a difference in someone’s life with the knowledge and skills I have, I am not going to be happy. I need to affect change, and the best way I could think to do that was to start with the one thing I have truly done well with in my time: mental illness. I have a lot of real societal, intellectual and emotional success being a severely mentally ill person, and maybe I could be an inspiring force in someone’s life who also may struggle with it as I have. I went back to my old clinic, the one that raised me up from the mud of post suicidal depression 4 years ago and got me shambling forward again. I went back and started taking classes before my meltdown at work, and I had already decided then that when we all move away next summer to Sacramento,  I was going to start my life over as a peer-to-peer mental health advocate. I don’t care about income, or possessions. I just want to be out there making a difference in someone’s life, being there for a person who is down and thinking dark thoughts, and always a smiling face that appreciates the unique value we all have regardless of circumstance. I’m a step-forward kinda guy, and If I can help people get their heads out of the past and focused on what they have yet to accomplish, I think I would truly be at a place in my life I cold be proud of. I’m not happy about being a cogwheel in the massive machine of corporate greed. I want a life with meaning. I’ve fucked up so badly to (nearly) this point, and I want to give back for all the things I could have done better, and will do better now that I have learned from my mistakes.

I’ve been out of work for a while and at this point, I’ve started the formal legal process of bringing suit against my workplace for discrimination on grounds of disability. My goal here would be to get my company to recognize that they need to take me seriously and respect my rights as a disabled person or there will be consequences. I will not be pushed off or brushed aside. I would like to come back and continue to work for them until next summer, but if they keep walking down the road they are on, they’ll be sued for lost wages and damages.

People of the internets who are disabled and face unjust or inhumane practices from their workplaces: you are protected and you have rights. Don’t let them step on you, especially given how hard you had to have worked to get into a job and hold it. They don’t understand your struggle and they never will unless you hit them in the jaw with the motherfucking gavel of justice!

I don’t know what’s coming for me, but I continue to go to my groups at the clinic and I am enrolled to be certified for Peer Employment Training so I can be a P2P counselor no matter where I go. Do something in your life that makes this world a better place for us all. Things are so absurdly fucked up right now… everywhere. We need to all be helping each other. I want to do my part so I can feel good about who I am, and what I did with my life. I need to know I really did try to do the right thing, and that all I ever wanted was what was fair. I encourage you to do the same in your own respect, and find a path to self-worth that becomes a fire that will not go out.

I promise to be more regular again, for myself and to keep you all appraised of my literal quest for social justice.