The fall semester has just begun, and somehow I feel more relaxed now that I did all summer. This is the semester I’ll be starting my practicum hours, so I decided to resign from my position at my agency to allow myself the freedom and mental capacity to focus on this learning opportunity. Fitting full-time responsibilities into a mere 25 hours a week on top of school and the whole purchasing a house & moving in process has made these last 6 months ridiculously tedious. More often than I’d like to admit, I didn’t handle it well. The stress triggered everything from OCD & anxiety to some major irritability. I did, however, manage to end things at work on a good note. I tried to do my best for my clients up until the very last day, simply because their education is important and I cared about them enough to do my due diligence. My supervisor had been under the impression that my last day was on a Thursday, and was prepared to let me go even though the start of the school year is the busiest time of the year for my position. I had to request to stay an additional day, because I wouldn’t have felt right about leaving unfinished work for my successor. With that extra day, I managed to wrap things up nicely. Somehow that makes me feel a little more proud of the entire experience; as if I found the strength to maintain a jogging pace all the way to the finish line despite the fatigue and unbearable cramps that begged me to quit. Now I can take stock of my lessons learned and hopefully make some changes to better handle the new bouts of stress heading my way.
Life has been difficult lately. On paper, the work and school schedule that I have is manageable. It leaves little room for a social life, but it works. What I didn’t anticipate when I committed to the schedule was a reemergence of OCD symptoms. When you throw a panic attack into the mix, and some everyday generalized anxiety while you’re at it, the workload becomes damn near impossible. For this reason, I’ve been struggling to maintain the light within me.
My work environment is the root of the issue. My office is known as the recreation department, which holds all the arts & crafts supplies, movies, games, beauty supplies, sports equipment, & misc. items the girls could ever dream of. What all that means to me is a whole lot of clutter. While I did my best to organize it in one full work day, I barely made a dent. Being in there makes me feel tense; in a constant state of discomfort. I’ve tried to just suck it up and not look behind me, where most of the clutter is, to no avail. Although the generalized anxiety escalated to panic attacks, I was afraid to open up to my supervisor about it. I felt as if I was asking for too much. Yet, I was at the point where something had to give. The anxiety followed me from the office to everywhere else, causing my quality of life to take a serious hit.
I wrote a letter of resignation during my desperation for an escape route, then pondered the option of turning it in for a week. It didn’t sit right with me, I felt like a coward. Yes I was setting my expectations for myself very high, but how would I ever conquer anxiety if I chose to run away from it? It finally dawned on me that maybe there could be a middle ground. I was preparing to run without even giving this agency, that had been so good to me thus far, a chance to work with me. I decided it was time to open up to my supervisor. I explained my symptoms to her and the source, along with a few suggestions of what I thought might help me (part-time hours and either a new office or a laptop to work elsewhere when symptoms worsened). To my surprise, she was more than willing to work with me. She thanked me for going to her rather than simply quitting under the pressure; she understood how difficult that was for me. My part-time schedule was mapped out and agreed upon. Finally, she’ll be speaking with the HR Director to try to work out the office situation. They’re going to try to get me out of there altogether, but the laptop will be the backup solution.
What a relief it’s been already. I am so appreciative of my supervisor’s willingness to accommodate my needs. Furthermore, I’ve learned a valuable lesson; asking for help shouldn’t be a shame inducing action. People might surprise you and extend a helping hand. As this photo depicts, “Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind?”
It’s my second week of juggling work on top of grad school, and it’s already been a somewhat difficult adjustment. That feeling of not having enough time to accomplish it all hit me almost immediately. Looking at my weekly planner can be a bit daunting. There’s a rainbow of scheduled activities on each page; black for work, pink for class/assignments, blue for scheduled appointments/the gym, purple for special events, green for birthdays. Not to mention the things that don’t make it into the planner like household chores, my commute, meal prepping etc. There’s very little time in between it all to unwind. My mind has to be focused with few breaks from approximately 6am to about 10pm every night. It overwhelmed me for the first time last night. Tuesdays are my longest days, with 8 hours of work followed by another 3 of class. Halfway through class I could barely hold my head up anymore. It was then that we started talking about anxiety disorders & OCD related disorders. Those who have experienced these illnesses, like me, know that thinking about the symptoms can sometimes spark a sense of fear that we will experience them again. Normally, I can discuss both disorders or my experiences with them and be just fine, but because I was so tired my defenses were weak. Talking about Panic Disorder was tough enough, but when we started talking about Hoarding Disorder our professor decided to play a video clip of the show Hoarders (something I’ve tried to avoid like the plague, because I knew it would negatively effect me). As soon as I got a look at the client’s house I was horrified. Suddenly waves of anxiety started washing over me, I could have cried right there.
Today I don’t work, but even on my days off I set my alarm for 7am so that I have plenty of time to go to the gym and tackle some school work before class in the evening. I woke up feeling exhausted, and defeated by the thought of dragging myself to the gym in that state. I originally scheduled my gym sessions for mental health purposes rather than physical health. Today, I just didn’t believe that the gym would be beneficial for me mentally. What I needed was a bit more rest and something that would stimulate my mind gently (yoga, meditation and writing). I made the best decision by deciding to be gentle with myself. I could have told myself to suck it up and dragged myself to the gym. I could have also been too easy on myself by sleeping the entire morning away. However, I was able to realize that my unwillingness to go to the gym wasn’t about my usual laziness, but rather a genuine need to unwind in a way that included more than just sleep. I’m rather proud of my attunement to myself this morning, it gives me hope in my ability to continue down this busy path.
For the last year & a quarter, I’ve been on an anti-depressant for generalized anxiety & mild OCD. It was a necessity after my grandma passed, when my symptoms became too hard for me to handle on my own. My neutral obsessions, with sharp sounds specifically, made working with an office-mate so unbearable I’d have to keep my headphones on throughout most of the work day to avoid having a panic attack or acting out my visions of inflicting bodily harm to my coworker, whom I sincerely liked (aside from the sounds she’d unconsciously make). I had wanted to get off the meds after about 6 months. They, along with therapy, had helped me tremendously, but I didn’t like the side effect of having an unusually low libido while on the meds. My psychiatrist advised against weaning off due to the stress that can arise when planning a wedding, which I was in the middle of. Now that I’m officially a married woman, I’m revisiting the idea of weaning off. I think it’s time. I’m just nervous, because I’m still under a lot of stress now that I’m a new grad student. I’m hoping my symptoms don’t come back with a vengeance during vital periods like midterms or finals! However, I have a wonderful support system both at home & school. Here’s to hoping that it’s enough to keep me sane through this process!