Where the dogs of society howl

Lots going on.  Mainly feeling lost.  I’m still on FMLA per my psychiatrist.  I’ve been off all this month and won’t be going back until next month.  I’m having a hard time keeping my medications down and we’re not sure why.  My moods are cycling rapidly and I’m thinking it’s because they aren’t being absorbed properly since the surgery.  I’m worried about having all this time off, how it’s going to affect my job.  It gets more interesting: I have an interview for another job next week.

I reached out to a friend of mine regarding a possible job opportunity in a private practice setting.  I was doing some research and found that working midnights with bipolar disorder is a no-no.  Apparently most people working midnights – mainly those in the healthcare field like nurses – with bipolar disorder have circadian rhythm issues, leading to shift-work disorder (which I’ve been diagnosed with).  This triggers mania and many times, hospitalization.  Sound like anyone we know?!  

So I got freaked, reached out to a friend and asked if she knew of any job opportunities.  She reached out to her boss who reviewed my resume and offered me an interview.  I miss doing therapy.  I remember my old supervisor said to me ages ago while I was in training after graduate school and doing therapy in an underprivilaged area with substance abuse clients.  I was burning out hard, between the clients and the administration I couldn’t seem to meet anyone’s expectations of me and wanted to quit doing therapy altogether.  I told him that I wanted to work in a hospital doing intake assessments and case management to take a break.  I said that it would be “one and done” – I’d never see the people again after they left; no need to build rapport and no need to terminate; they couldn’t accuse me of abandoning them if I’ve known them for 20 minutes.  He told me that I was an excellent therapist and working in a hospital setting was “a waste of my talent.”

He burned out too and moved out of state.

I didn’t listen and got a job doing assessments.  The population I work with tend to abuse the system.  I often see the same faces – sometimes 3 times a week.  I’ve had some people discharge because they tell me they are not suicidal, turn around in the parking lot and walk directly back into the hospital stating they are suicidal and homicidal and want 3 sandwiches.  The record turnaround is 7 minutes – I actually counted.  It is rare that I assess someone that actually needs help.  I got into this profession to help people.  Will I have better luck doing so in private practice?  I think so.  I think I will because people are paying to be there.  Sounds messed up, but it’s true.  This is your “managed” care/health system at work, USA.  I have “managed” in quotes because there is nothing manageable about it and you, my dear reader, know it.  I’d be ignoring the system by leaving, but I’m not single-handedly going to overhaul the health care and mental health system – I know that.  Contrary to popular belief by many recent graduates in my field, you cannot change the world.  You can only make a dent.

Here’s where my trepidation lies.  I would have to file quarterly and withhold my own taxes.  What a pain in the ass.  I’d also have to go on the exchange for health insurance.  God please no.  Right now every doctor I work with is in network because they all work for my employer LOL.  If I go on the exchange, there’s no guarantee they take that insurance and I’d have to pay astronomical premiums.  It would take several weeks to build a caseload and get paneled with insurance companies, which means I would not be paid by the patients or insurances for those weeks.  Weeks.  Flipping WEEKS, man.  I’m torn.  Do I liquidate my house fund to pay my bills while I’m not paid for those few weeks – if I’m even offered the job?  Do I leave my awesome co-workers because I hate the population I work with?  The population, the crushing rules of administration and low wages are what keep me from wanting to stay are my job.  I know once I get a full caseload as a private practitioner I could rake in double what I’m making now, but I’m afraid.

I’m terrified.  What if I’m not good enough?  What if I fall on my face?  What if I messed up my taxes?  What if my clients don’t like me and I end up without anyone and I’m broke?  My psychiatrist told me it takes a while to build a caseload too.  How do I work both jobs to cover my butt?  Work midnights and days?  I freaking can’t.

And Mom’s going into surgery.  They said it’s going to last 8 hours and due to the definite blood loss, she had to sign a waiver permitting them to give her a blood transfusion.  So I’ve been scared about that.  Lately her voice has been irritating me for some reason and I’ve been blocking out most of what she says, but I think it’s me being irritable because of my mood cycling.  I apologized to her if I had been short or curt with her and explained I had been tuning her out.  I told her I’m scared shitless about her surgery next week.  I wish she didn’t need it.  She’s going to lose 20% functionality of her back in all directions.  She seems excited she’ll never have to load the dishwasher again.  Lucky.  Not the way I would want to avoid that chore, but still lucky.  I’m just scared – I keep telling myself not to tune her out.  Not to put this bed vibe out there in the Universe, but if her being annoying is the last thing you ever hear her say, hear it anyway.  I try to remember that and listen to her give me instructions about how to feed her fakakta fish.


message from a.c. lerock

They fucked up and let me see some of my  chart. Lordy lord… this is what I bug the husband with in the middle of the day. 

And he stays. 

And I misspoke. There’s a space under the diagnosis that allows for clarification, as being depressed all the time negates a bipolar diagnosis but what people fail to realize is depression is my baseline.  

Sorry. My lack of chemicals, since a very young age, is all I’ve come to know. I’ve started back in therapy and I went back to the source: my childhood therapist. I worked with her from age 5 until my sophomore year in college, when I was raped. She said that I disappeared too soon – I had only scratched the surface in dealing with the rape and given my presentation, it seems that my mind hasn’t recovered. 

My body is now paying the price. 

So I spent a week between that session and the next thinking about everything: the rape, the aftermath, my life since then – my progress, my failures, my detours – everything – and it all made sense. My therapist was right: I stopped taking care of myself long ago.  I can’t do that anymore. I have a family, I have a husband. I have a life. I have a life I don’t want to lose. 

I told her that I have frequent suicidal thoughts with plans and access and means. But I have a huge protective factor: my husband. I told her that my husband lost his mother when he was 22 and he crawled inside a bottle to numb the pain. A year later, we started dating – he had one foot out of said bottle. I told him he’d have to stop drinking for us to date (at the time, I was a tee-totaler) and he quit. I will never send him back to that life. I will never leave him destroyed like that. He told me once that the only reason he attempts to get better paying employment is because of me, otherwise he would just live at home working a dead end job with no purpose. That leaves me to believe that I give him purpose. He gives me purpose and hope. 

I was hospitalized so many times during the first 2 years of our relationship that my own family stopped visiting. My (now) husband visited everyday, without fail. He never missed a day. Even when I didn’t want him there, he came. He’d sit through my nasty attitude and come the next day.  I finally thought to myself: Stop. Just fucking stop. This guy sees something in you. Something that’s good; something worth saving. Isn’t it worth it, perhaps, to stick around and find out what it is?  Otherwise you may never know. 

I still want to know. But if I keep hiding behind this trauma, I’ll never know. So it’s time to process it and move from victim to survivor. 

The only way around in this life is through. 

‘Cause life is just a dream here

I saw my doctor this week. I told them the SSRI they prescribed isn’t doing squat – I’m still depressed and picking.

Doc said that picking is near impossible to cure, so not to focus on that more than the depression. So I guess I’m back to nail polish and hand lotions to prevent cuticles and seeing my nails in the first place. Great.

I mentioned that I’ve been getting angry and irritable more often – Doc reminded me that that’s indicative of either mania or depression, in this case Doc believes it to be depression. Doc has me back on anti-anxiety meds to prevent me from stressing out, causing the anger and irritability, Doc also suggested I go back to therapy.

I told Doc about my drinking more often. Doc wasn’t pleased; they told me not to mix my meds and they’d rather see me take meds than drink at all. I don’t know how I feel about that – it’s really about which is the lesser of two evils, but I do see the point. I’m going to try and increase my usage of coping skills to prevent the use of either.

I spoke with my mother yesterday to inform her of the doctor’s appointment. She said she hasn’t seen me manic in a while – she didn’t understand what I meant when I ran away during dinner earlier this week in tears, ashamed of my behavior. My mother, who’s known me longer than I have, and also suffers from the same illness (technically untreated, however is medication resistant), said “that wasn’t you being manic and I’ve seen you manic. That was you being happy for once.” I froze.

I haven’t been “happy” in months. I forgot what it looked and felt like. Holy shit. It took someone else to point it out; I’m so out of touch with myself – I think that may be on purpose.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs; maybe I’ll wake myself up.



A small word with so much power. It can sum up the power of millions, describe the feelings and accomplishments of many, or symbolize the embodiment of two people against the world.

Today it felt like my undoing. That seemingly tiny word – a word that can encompass so much – appeared to rob me of my stolen jewels, even if just for a few short moments.

I spent the remainder of the group I facilitate overcompensating for my misuse of the word, knowing full well I didn’t misuse it – only in this setting, at my work was it misuse. Yes, WE suffer from these diseases and yes WE are in recovery.

But they can’t know that.

And for once I felt so fake. I felt like an imposter. I just wanted to swallow the words as they left my mouth and sit in silence.

I’m not faking my recovery, but having to hide my illness can be unbearable at times. I don’t have any other choice; I’ve seen how the other staff treats our peer support personnel. For fear of being swallowed by stigma, for not being taken seriously despite my years of work to get to this place of recovery and stability, I choose to keep my diagnosis a secret.

Fuck. I hope no one caught it.

Psychologist is out. Of bounds.

Did I mention I fired my therapist? Oh yeah. The second session should not consist of “I specialize in trauma. Is there anything traumatic you’d like to work on? What about the assault [rape] incident? Did you want to work on that again? Didn’t you read about my specialty on psychologytoday.com?”


No. I’ve dealt with that; I’m good. I’m really don’t need to discuss that in a therapeutic environment; in how many languages does one have to say this was processed over 10 years ago! I went to therapy almost three times a week for 4 months while on summer break from college to process those events.

I’ll never be the same – I still get flashbacks maybe twice a year; a vast improvement from wearing clothes 2 sizes too big, sleeping all day, injuring myself, and avoiding every black man I see on the street [Note: both me and my husband are black. I’d call that a fucking breakthrough, honestly]. I don’t believe this is an avenue I need to walk down again; there’s always a risk of re-traumatization. Some things should just be left alone and to have a professional attempt to pry the door open to demonstrate their “mad skills” is self-serving bullshit.

So I fired them. And had I had hubris like theirs, I’d expect to be out of business soon.

We all fall down

A patient of mine died.

A part of me keeps thinking I could have done more; followed up on calls sooner, tried harder to engage them. Then I remember I wasn’t the first counselor they had. I didn’t think I’d be the last.

The system makes it so difficult for patients to make lasting connections with clinicians: few clinicians + high caseload + low pay = burnout and increased turnover rate. This leads to job dissatisfaction, shitty performance, and a turnstile instead of a counselor’s chair.

Maybe they got tired of the rigmarole. Maybe they were sicker than anyone knew, themselves included.

Maybe I could “maybe” myself to ends of the earth and back and never get an answer. What I do know is that I can’t save anyone; contrary to popular belief, that’s not in my job description. I can’t save anyone as much as I may want to or try to. I’m finding that I sometimes work harder at my patients’ wellness than they do.

And that’s when I stop. That’s when I wake up and realize I’m using my reserves for others instead of myself. So as much as this patient needed treatment, no one could force it. I could have tried every trick in the book to help them; there would have been no guarantee they would have lived.

I wish things were different. I wish they saw – all my patients could see – what they have to offer this world.

But I can only save myself.

Raise me up

Sorry I haven’t written in a bit – life has been changing before I had a chance to pull my pants all the way up.

While I’m waiting for my therapy appointment to start, I figured I’d do my own version of Throwback Thursday. I remember my first client. Without violating HIPAA, my profession’s ethical code, my agency’s code, or my own personal ethical code, I’ll spare you a vast amount of detail.

At the time, I worked as a student/counselor-in-training in a very underprivileged yet urban setting. My caseload: 4 clients (now: 92, but I digress). Anyway, my first client and I worked together quite well.

Then they stopped showing up to treatment altogether.

I always wondered what happened to them. Did they ever find their way back into treatment? Did they ever find what they were looking for? Happiness? Hope? Love? Acceptance? Peace? Or just being?

I am well aware of my limitations as a clinician. I can’t force help on another; I can’t force wellness on anyone (myself included). I am just a part of someone’s toolbox; the issue is that I can’t fix anyone or anything, despite my best intentions on trying.

I’m like a jack. Yeah, see, jacks lift cars to help remove a tire; someone else has to remove it and use other tools to aid in the process.

I like that.