The week of September the 10th was relatively uneventful. Work continued to be hellish. My mood stabilizer, Lamictal, has not worked worth a tinker’s damn. I have remained stressed-out and irritable.
I missed my group meetings on Tuesday the 11th due to rain. I played phone tag with my Case Worker all week. Thursday I got up too early and went over to my therapist’s office earlier than I needed to, but the session went well. Right after I got home my friend Gary came by, bringing me some correspondence I wanted to check for a future project. I’d not seen Gary in two years.
Work on the 15th was exceedingly hectic and stressful. After I locked the front door at 4:30 my manager wanted to talk to me:
–Were you, like, really stressed-out today?
–Oh, very much so. Beside myself with stress.
–I thought so. There were at least two times I saw you frozen before the computer screen, as if you had completely forgotten every procedure and function of the register.
–That is absolutely correct. I did.
–Well, this concerns me.
–Well, I just cannot handle hectic situations and all this noise. And for that matter, I still haven’t recovered from work Friday. I’m still exhausted from that!
–Well, this wasn’t a hectic Saturday. This was actually a very normal Saturday. And from here on out they’re only gonna get worse. And the stereo is gonna keep playing, and the phone is gonna keep ringing, and women are gonna keep having loud conversations, and kids are gonna keep running amuck and screaming. And you’re gonna have to deal with this.
–Well, I can’t. This is just how I am and how I’ve been for years. Do you want me to start looking for a job elsewhere?
–Well, no. I like having you here. I like having you work here. But you need to find a way to deal with this, because I can’t have you having a meltdown all the time. But I don’t think I could design a training simulation of Saturday working conditions, so you could practice this and try to get better.
–No, you couldn’t simulate the chaos and noise and confusion. One of my conditions is Adult ADD. I cannot take a bunch of stimuli bombarding me at once. I get “flooded,” to use the official term. I get over-loaded and start shutting down. But there’s nothing you or I can do to fix it. I was on Ritalin for a year-and-a-half and by the end of that time it had me bouncing off the walls.
–Well, we need to see where you are with this in a month.
–Well, I’m telling you now, I don’t believe you or I or anyone can fix it. I just don’t handle hectic conditions and noise well.
And so there’s that crap to worry about now. I’m stuck in this job, I can’t afford to quit it or get fired from it, I can’t stand staying in it, I have no immediate prospects for a new one, I spend all my time stressing out on the job, or dreading or recovering before or after the job. Plus if I got a new job it would have to accommodate my psychological treatment schedule.
Sunday the 16th I spent still stressed out and nervous. My scalp has once again sprouted pimples and boils in response to my stress. In the evening I watched Fellini’s “Intervista.” Monday featured diarrhea in the morning and the usual work bullshit. I got into a phone conversation with an elderly customer and wound up offering to find him legal help for his various troubles. My Case Worker gave me a ride home and we got caught up on my condition and paperwork.
On Tuesday I headed south for four group meetings. I arrived about 45 minutes early and found a lovely, upscale, and over-priced coffee house right across the street from the classroom building. It had low lights, Mid-Century Modern furnishings, and jazz on the sound system. Just my kind of place. It was maybe fifty yards and a million miles away from the shit-hole where I was to spend the next four hours of my day.
When I walked into the classroom building the receptionist was engrossed in You Tube, watching the video Kevin Federline made of a drunk, stoned, and ignorant Britney Spears, holding forth on her belief in time travel, among other things. The receptionist told me,
–Hey, you’ve got the same glasses as Benny Hill! You even look like him!
Now I don’t think I look remotely like Hill, and I don’t remember him wearing glasses, but I played along and gave the Benny Hill salute, which sent the portly little gal into hysterics.
Then, apropos of nothing, the receptionist announced to me and to a rather deranged woman next to me, that,
–You should never listen to the song “I Want To Know What Love Is’ by Foreigner when you’re single, ’cause I did when I was single and it always made me cry.
I didn’t bother to mention that I’d been single for almost 44 years and that song never made me cry. Now various works by Damien Rice, on the other hand….
The chief episode of the day took place in the Anger Management group. A grown black woman was acting like a surly child. Since she was the most willing to discuss her problems and most everyone else was sitting around like lumps, I asked this woman several questions. I thought I was being helpful, trying to get to the root of her problem and maybe see if I could derive insights into my condition by studying hers. To be wholly honest, I was also showing off. Proving that I had every bit as much knowledge of psychology as the group leader provided a much-needed boost to my self-esteem.
To my great surprise this woman, who spent the entire meeting speaking as if on the verge of either screaming or crying, turned to the group leader and denounced me, saying,
–This guy is really pissing me off, asking all these questions like my therapist does! If he’s got all the answers, trying to figure me out, then what’s he doin’ in this group? If he’s in this group he’s got problems of his own he better work out before he goes trying to fix me!
Shortly thereafter the woman said she had to go outside and cool off so she wouldn’t be tempted to attack me. Apparently she is angry all the time, and resorts to physical violence quite a bit. (She seemed like she would be better off incarcerated, for her own good and society’s.)
When she left the room the guy sitting next to me gave my a tap of solidarity on the sole of my shoe, as if congratulating me for finally running the crazy bitch off, but that had not been my intention. When she finally came back I mostly sat quietly and took notes, only commenting again right at the end of the meeting.
After all that I had a quick, cheap, and excellent late lunch at a Mexican restaurant (South 1st is known as Austin’s “Mexican restaurant mile”), then prowled some stores in the neighborhood. I slipped in to a New Age store and asked if they had any Sound or Vibrational therapy items, but they were unfamiliar with the discipline. I went by La Resistencia bookstore, saw nothing I wanted (I have more books in my Theology sub-section at home than they do in the whole store), and got a contact high and sore lungs from a joint someone left, still burning, in an ashtray in the back hallway.
On the 19th a high school classmate whom I’d not seen in 25 years came into the store. While it was fun to see and talk to him, I was deeply embarrassed for him to see me, after all these years, doing no better than working in a fucking store as a clerk. I hated to think he’d go home and tell his siblings that he found me in such reduced circumstances. Needless to say, when I spoke with him I made it sound as if I’d only lost my good dot-com job only recently and not six years ago.
On Thursday the 20th, as I was leaving the house to go to therapy and run errands relating to the bureaucratic red tape that ties up my medical treatment, I found a work crew armed with sledge hammers loudly breaking up the concrete on the landing outside my front door. It’s a good thing I hadn’t planned on sleeping in.
The landings on the second and third floors of my building consist of several layers: concrete, plywood, wooden structural trusses, and then another sheet of plywood, which form the ceiling of the landing below. Apparently this winter’s ice storm and the near-constant rain in June and July helped rot out the plywood layers and do damage to the trusses.
Friday I got on the bus, realized I was going to be late again for another wretched weekly staff meeting, and began to have a massive panic attack. I felt on the verge of tears for no particular reason. I got so overwhelmed and stressed out that two-thirds of my way to the store I got off the bus and left a message I’d not be coming in.
Ah, but what about my manager’s demand that I get a note from a doctor? Well, I mentioned on the message I wasn’t going to a doctor, but I’d try to get my Case Worker or therapist to call him about my condition. They called back, and it seems my Case Worker will be able to get me those things….
Sunday the 23rd I slept in, Monday was another dull day of work, Tuesday I went to four group meetings in South Austin (and talked to the receptionist about the infamous “Leave Britney Alone” video on You Tube), got a letter by my doctor from my case worker in East Austin, went by a pharmacy in North Central Austin—only to find they didn’t take checks, then went by Central Market. Tuesday also featured a day-long depression, two minor panic attacks, and a sense of being on the verge of tears—something I finally fixed when I got home—I played some sad music and let the tears flow, then knocked myself out with a Clonazepam, which I knew would also mellow me down for the following day at work.
Wednesday the 26th I almost twisted my fucking ankle on the job: I was taking out the garbage and a bunch of boxes and stepped in a pot-hole and fell down, letting out a stream of obscenities that would not have gone over well inside the Christian bookstore where I work.
Thursday I met briefly with my Case Worker. I got to witness a fender-bender while waiting for a bus—a batty old man ran right into a car, then backed up, hit it again, and so on, like he was playing bumper cars. I was told later he’d had a seizure behind the wheel. After I met with my therapist I got so hot waiting outdoors for buses I scrapped my other plans for the day and finally got my Ativan prescription filled at the grocery store by my house.
The Ativan? Well, it does seem to calm my anxiety somewhat, but it leaves me very sleepy, indifferent, and rather like a zombie. I feel like I’m walking through life with cotton in my ears. A co-worker said I seem calmer and don’t snap at her and my other co-worker as much—something I wasn’t aware of doing in the first place….
Saturday the 29th was a waste. Sunday I tried to clean the living room, with little result, then had a big crying jag. After two months of treatment and one month of medication I don’t feel one iota better than I did back in July. Monday, October 1st was more work bullshit….
Wait a minute—there was an odd incident that day.
After work, I got my Slurpee and headed for the bus stop. There was a pretty good crowd there, and I began to pace furiously back and forth, as has been my habit all my life whenever I’ve gotten impatient. After I’d drank about one-third of the Slurpee I looked up and saw a boy—maybe 13 or 14—pacing around as well, practically imitating all my moves.
Then I continued to pace and he followed suit. I finally stopped at a spot on the sidewalk where the building on the other side of the street cast some shade. I propped my hand on my hip and began to peer down the street, looking for the bus. Then I saw the boy had also stopped, and was standing fairly close to me, looking worried. I felt a bit paternal. Would I one day have a son who try to imitate my mannerisms?
I finally turned to my left and said,
–Are you okay?
–I just asked ’cause you seemed upset about something.
Then the kid walked off and stood a distance away.
I had no idea what that was about. But I told James that story that night and his theory was the kid probably thought I was a cop.
Thursday the 4th I was on my way to my therapist’s office, crossing a vast, sun-baked parking lot, walking with my eyes completely shut, my headphones on, listening to a Devendra Banhart song called “Now That I Know.” I giggled because it felt like such a Wes Anderson moment:
Now that I know
The way it goes
You gotta pay back every penny that you owe
Twelve years old
In your mama’s clothes
Shut the blinds and lock up every door
And if you hear
Someone’s comin’ near
Just close your eyes and make them disappear now
Finds me here today
On my own, always on my way now
So I send my friends
Gifts from where I’ve been
Something for the hand they’re never there to lend
Better keep those eyes
And don’t pretend you won’t reach it in the end now
I know you been here
Why’d you run tell me why’d you disappear now
That you’re not
Here with me
Seems to be the only time that I can see you clearly
I may not know
How to treat or give you what you need
But I am a gentleman who says what he means now
And now I sing
Upon my knees
And praise the kindness of a gentle breeze
I see it swell
Like a story in me to tell
Told years away and past my baby dying
So you raise them up
To heaven always hell
they’re unaware, share, give a hand to help son
Oh you give them away
But they’ll come back to you someday
Wanna know why nobody was ever there to help them
And no it ain’t fair
And if God forbid you care
It’s enough to get you in a whole lotta trouble
It ain’t wise to idealize
Or put your life in the hands of any struggle
Or ever claim to be
And never buy that freedom just ain’t free now
Sifting in the sand
Like a hymn within to help us understand
We’re making our stand
Glory bound and sparrow in our hand
(At first I thought the song was just pretty, but after I looked up the lyrics I realized how applicable they are to me.)
Therapy went well, as it always does, though my therapist is focusing on the work/career aspects of my illness, and I had another agenda in mind. It doesn’t matter—I’m in no hurry and we’ll cover everything sooner or later….
Then I went home, watched TV, thought about work, and started crying again.
Friday the 5th was pretty typical. I woke up tired, began the day with dread, got to the back door of the store at 8:30am, praying 5:30pm would arrive soon, then slid into boredom for several hours. When the delivery truck finally arrived I leapt into action, slashing open the boxes and piling books on a cart to take up front to price and process.
I got very over-heated doing this, and though I kept turning the thermostat down, I could never cool off. My co-workers didn’t notice the heat, but I felt like I was in a kiln.
During the course of the day, some crazy old woman called the store three different times over the space of several hours, and talked to one of my co-workers, then me, then my manager. She muttered jibberish like Boomhauer on “King of the Hill.” We never did figure out what the fuck she wanted from us. Needless to say, I was the least patient with this old bag, and tried to get her to get to the fucking point. The more unintelligible she got, the louder I spoke.
The manager, on the other hand, remained calm with her and seemed bemused by the whole exchange. Afterwards he said that it was crazy incidents like that that made him love working at this store. I shot him an incredulous look and said,
–It’s calls like that that make we want to hunt down that old woman and go after her with a pick-axe!
As the day dragged on, I got irritable, and after being interrupted by customers wanting me to ring them up and the fucking phone ringing off the hook, I was more than a little jangled, and snapped at a co-worker. Not long after that, though, I cracked a joke and slipped into a phase of dullness and exhaustion.
The new part-timer, who I hoped the manager hired to replace me, came up and asked if he could help me with the shipment. I knew if he tried to shelve the books he’d put them out in a manner contrary to how I wanted them and out of order, so I told him to empty the rest of the book boxes and start bringing them up to me, because I was pricing and shelving books at a pretty fast clip and the cart was developing gaps. After that I had him break down empty boxes and take them to the dumpster—a chore I never enjoy. By the end of the day I had single-handedly processed and shelved almost the entire 27-box shipment in about five hours, despite the fact that I was physically drained by the heat and was very sleepy. Oh me, oh my—such proud and productive and useful work for a grown man with two fucking university degrees!
From there I slipped into yet another mood—anger—as some fat bitch and her cue-ball-headed husband dragged ass around the store after we’d announced we were closed and I had very loudly locked the front door, smacked down the “CLOSED” sign, and began heaving a series of very audible sighs. By the time these idiots left I was in such a state I was this close to storming into the office, quitting, and telling the manager to go fuck himself, but I held back, and sank into the dread of the next work day. By the time I was on my bus home, I was on the verge of tears, and during the last leg of my commute I was figuring the logistics of what it would actually take for me to commit myself for a few weeks to a psychiatric hospital.
I was back to garden-variety worry and dread and sadness by the time I got home.
This is my fifth week on the mood-stabilizer Lamictal. At first it made me constantly irritated and irritable in a very concentrated way. And that effect hasn’t changed much.
This is also the end of my first week on my anxiety med Ativan. It calmed me at first, but no more. It does still keep me sleepy, though. I’m pretty fucking mad that these prescriptions are so fucking useless, and will be even more so if they can’t find something that’ll work on me. I meet next Tuesday with a nurse to see how my meds are working out. I expect I’ll have a great deal to tell her.