Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Concerning myself, my lack of job, and my mental state

So today I went to an office at my university that's supposed to help students get jobs because I'll be yelled at if I don't. I am not convinced I am in anything like a position to hold a job. I could probably show up for work every day, which is better than some can claim, but when it comes actually doing work once I'm there … that'd be hit or miss. I don't have any personal experience being employed but I'm pretty sure, “I had a bad month,” is not a viable excuse for why you've not been doing your job.

Sometimes it's the case that the most I can do is move a finger. Such times have become a lot less boring since I got a laptop. Well, the ones when there's a laptop involved have at any rate. You'd be amazed the amount of content one can access when all you can do is move a finger. At the very least you can just have your finger on F5 and refresh a page to see if anything new has been said.

Anyway, that in itself brings to my mind serious questions about the credibility of the idea I can get a job. I can show up, I'm fairly good at that (though there are times when that is not true), but actually working, I wish I could. Amoung other things, it would have made school much less of an, “I'm always on the edge of total failure,” kind of thing.

I also wonder somewhat about the job market itself. If Fred Clark can't get a job, what hope is there for someone like me?

But apart from that there's also the way things went down today and on days like it.

I went to the place, eventually. (As I said, showing up is one thing I can do with a reasonable degree of success.) Doing that first required me to look it up, find out it was the right place, repeat that process because I'm always convinced that I did something wrong and this need to reassure myself tends to make me check things again and again, then I walked over to the door to said place just to check it out and see if it looked like it could be the right place. My stuff was left where I had been sitting for this checking, so I had to go back for it, of course.

There was a period of leaning on the wall, leaning on the table, leaning on the wall and the table at the same time. There was some having my head in my hands. There was discomfort and fear, there was a pervading sense of indescribable unease. Something like half an hour passed. But I had to get up and go there, so first I went for water.

The fountain was gone. I should have known this. I think it was yesterday when I took pictures of the lack of fountain and fallen "out of order" sign. Why did I take pictures? Not sure. Something to do.

Anyway, I headed up to the next floor, I kept in contact with the wall or, where such things existed, the handrail. It was used to support more weight than usual, and my sense of balance wasn't really there. I don't think I would have had trouble staying upright if there were no walls in reach to keep me grounded, but with the walls there I was definitely going to use them, handrails too. Without them it would be almost like losing contact with the world. I might be able to stay standing, but up and down became much vaguer concepts and I don't think I was standing straight for any part of this.

I don't know exactly how to describe the overall feeling, beyond the apprehension and whatnot, I'm tempted to say something like, “It didn't feel real,” but that's not true. It did feel real. It didn't feel right. Askew perhaps? I'm not sure. Not my usual experience of reality, more like the bizarre quality things can take on when dealing with a severe lack of sleep and everything … changes. There's no doubt that everything is real, but nothing about it seems the same. Especially, for me at least, feeling. The world doesn't feel the same, I certainly don't feel the same.

Anyway, second floor drinking fountain. At first the water was warm and thus entirely unappetizing, then it improved. As I headed back and opened the door to the stairwell I noticed my hand. It was exactly where it was supposed to be doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing (it was opening the door) but it didn't feel like I was looking at a part of my own body, I felt entirely detached from it, as if I were looking at someone else's hand, say if someone had opened the door for me or if I were watching a video that included a hand not my own.

Got down the stairs, managed to go to the office, I spoke in soft words, barely above a whisper, short sentences. I could barely speak. I just wanted to leave the whole time. I have an appointment for Monday now.

This is how I deal with new tasks and coming into contact with new people. This is a major success story for me. This is me functioning at my best. I really don't think I can hold a job right now.

Interestingly, when talking about what I have to deal with, this is almost never what I'm talking about.  I'm usually talking about the depressed mood, the total lack of ability to motivate myself, what we've been known to call the horizon effect* and various other things like that.  Not so much any of what I just said about today.

Anyway, the solution to that seems obvious: get treatment.

I mentioned once or twice before that I might qualify for state run health insurance. Of course now the state is considering cutting all health insurance for people like (adult males with no children) so it could be that even if I qualify now it'll be taken away before I ever apply.

As for why I haven't applied. It involves a phone call. Seems simple right?

I'll admit that there are probably some weeks that I forgot about it, but for months now there have been days when the only thing I planned to accomplish in the entire day was to make that phone call. I got up in the morning thinking, “Today I need to make that phone call,” and that was the only thing I was supposed to do all day.

Didn't matter, still haven't been able to do it.

This is not, so far as I can tell, normal. The inability to complete such a simple task is not part of the ordinary human experience. It is, in fact, what I want treatment for. Part of it at any rate. Its a symptom rather than a cause, but it's definitely something that's in there and hopefully something that treatment can deal with. But the problem is that there's still the phone call now.

This is also a source of great irritation for me because the person who got me the number knows better than anyone what my situation is. She refused to make the phone call because it's my responsibility. On the one hand this is entirely true. It's not her job to look after me at this point in both our lives. It is my responsibility. There's absolutely nothing requiring her to have made the phone call for me and it could very well be considered unreasonable for me to have wanted her to.

On the other hand, if one of the symptoms I'm hoping to get treatment for is an inability to do basic things like making phone calls, maybe it would be helpful to make it so that making a phone call wasn't one of the barriers to getting that treatment.

I sprained my ankle once. (Well, more than once, but only once was it enough to merit a doctor visit and crutches.) I don't remember people insisting that I carry heavy things. I could have. It was a load bearing sprain so I absolutely could have carried heavy things even without crutches. Yet I don't remember it happening. I think people consciously tried to reduce the effort I had to put into things even though those things were still absolutely my responsibility.

I don't remember being forced to hop on my sprained ankle before I was allowed treatment either.

Now if we make a comparison between the two there's no contest. Which is easier, carrying heavy things on a sprained ankle, or making a single phone call? Carrying heavy things on a sprained ankle. There is no question, there is no room for ambiguity. It's much easier, and significantly more comfortable, to put weight on a sprained ankle than it is to make a phone call.

For most people this isn't the case, but for me it is and there's one person who absolutely knows that it is for me, and she's the one who refused to make a phone call for me. She's right that it's not her responsibility, but sometimes I feel like people, or at least family, should help out beyond their responsibility.

If instead of a phone call it had been something easy, like say carrying a 200 pound load 50 miles on a sprained ankle or two, I'd be done by now. But it wasn't, it was something that is incredibly difficult for me and incredibly simple for almost everyone else. To a certain extent it pisses me off that someone who it is easy for, who knows how hard it is for me, decided that this was thing where she'd put her foot down and refuse to help.

Maybe it turns out that I don't qualify, maybe it turns out that I do. Either way I could have known that last year if I'd had help with the phone call end of things. Instead I get trial by catch-22. If I didn't have problems with things like phone calls I wouldn't be in such desperate need of treatment, but I can't get treatment unless I can magically make it so I don't have problems with little things like phone calls. Been trying to do that for ten years, hasn't worked yet.

When you have a sprained ankle people treat that minor inconvenience as if it's something worthy of consideration. When you have depression that prevents you from completing even the most basic of tasks, people don't seem to give a damn.

While I certainly wouldn't have wanted to do without the crutches, I didn't need any special consideration when I sprained my ankle. With the depression I do need it, and I'm not getting it. Bigger problem, smaller response.

I am no one's responsibility but my own, except in the larger sense that all are responsible for all, but it sure would be nice if I could get help. Not because I'm someone's responsibility, but instead because helping would be a nice thing to do.


Of course it is always more complicated than that. If I weren't getting some consideration I wouldn't have a house right now, for example, but I live under the constant reminder that that slack is running out and if I haven't dealt with stuff by the time that happens, to the degree I have an income sufficient to pay for the house, I will have no house.


* So called because it's like things are over the horizon.  You can't feel things outside of the moment, which means that there's no expectation or afterglow.  Expectation is important for things like decision making and motivation, afterglow is important if you expect to be not-feeling-down without constantly having to do things that make you happy that very second.

1 comment:

  1. To a limited extent I recognize some imif the feelings you describe, especially about making the phone call. After three months of struggling uphill all the way, I've got the medication I was after. It's the most vicious Catch-22 situation.
    For me, doing things for myself is hard, sticking up for myself and fighting for what I want/need is hard. Maybe because being depressed involves feeling worthless, taking care of Self Needs feels ... Well, you know what I mean, right?
    But when I read your post (btw I am a mostly-lurking-these-days Slacktivite), I thought, I can make your call! Because as much as I haaaaate making calls to companies (dread) if I were fighting for someone in need, I feel galvanised, like a knight on a white charger, lancing evil unfair beaurocratic dragons because Chris needs help, damnit! (I'm working on finding that attitude towards myself.)
    Then I thought, it would be great if depressed folk had a sort of job swap, where those of us in need but constitutionally unable to be our own advocates right now could trade making calls for one another - or, not even trade right away necessarily, but bank a favor or pay it forward when/if we're feeling better. An interlaced support network.
    Hang in there. I really like reading your posts. Especially on the difficult days.