Riveting Crush
Please Be Ok…

Well, today is the day my sister-in-law finds out what her options are. She was recently diagnosed with a mass in the left hemisphere of her brain and from what I’ve gathered, it’s enmeshed within the hemisphere and as such, not surgically operable. Last week she had a biopsy performed and the week before a MRI scan.

This morning, my brother and his wife will meet with a neuro-oncologist to discuss the results of those tests- benign or maligant? treatment options?

I’m not a religious person, but my deepest wishes go out to them that this is something that can be taken care of.

Looking for Silver Linings

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. I just got into the habit of not writing anything because some of it involved my wife and after a lengthy conversation on the subject, I removed everything related to her.

Generally speaking, the last year had its share of highs and lows and I managed to truck through it all with the help of good friends, a great therapist, as well as my daily medications. However, back in October or so I pretty much knew that I was going to either have a rough Fall or Winter. My dad’s cancer had become more virulent, spreading faster than the chemo could hold it back. After a solid six-year fight, it took its toll and he passed away on December 30th.

Maybe a week or two later, my wife and I finally discussed divorce.

I had a feeling it was going to happen. Neither one of us was really happy in a meaningful way. We went through joint counseling but what came out of that was that she had a lot of things to work on for herself before she could work on our relationship. I did my best to give it time, but didn’t really see much in the way of progress. After walking on egg shells for a couple of months (not without good days) we sat down and had the conversation. I was relatively calm throughout it, unfortunately she’s more reactionary and the first couple of days afterwards were spent lashing out at me in various ways even though we both knew and agreed it was for the best. However, since then, she’s become more accepting of the situation, is taking steps towards addressing her personal demons, and overall, we seem to be getting along better. It’s awkard, sharing a home with somebody that you love and care about; that you wish that the promise of nearly five years ago was still going strong with.

The necessity of the situation means that we won’t begin living apart from one another until April or May at the earliest, possbily a little later. The only thing holding us back is the formality of the paperwork, which we’ll begin once our tax return comes back.

As if the loss of my father and my marriage wasn’t enough, I received a phone call from my brother a week ago saying that his 30 year old wife and mother of their two year old son was just diagnosed with a brain tumor. I found out from him the other day that their brain surgeon consult doesn’t think it’s surgically operable. As I understand it, the mass isn’t a solid tumor or lesion, but is something that has basically spread throughout a large portion of her left hemisphere. It’s been causing periodic seizures, of which I don’t the frequency or severity.

They’re going to perform a biopsy next week to determine if it’s malignant or not and still also need to follow-up with a neuro-oncology consult to find out if the mass can be treated through radiation. It’s one thing for two adults to choose to separate, but I can’t imagine the situation my brother could be in if things don’t go well- a single father to a toddler.

Having this trifecta of tragedy occur within such a short span of one another, it’s just about hit my limit for what I can take. I’m still keeping it together, seeing my therapist once a month, and taking my daily medication and breakthrough as needed (more frequently than before). But, I have more days where my eyes water than I don’t right now. My stress / anxiety induced prostatitis is flaring up something wicked.

I know that I’ll make peace with the loss of my father. It was expected and I’m already mostly OK with it. He lived a long, meaningful life and for that, I’m truly thankful. I’ll also make peace with the situation with my wife. Again, not entirely unexpected and working towards being more OK with it everyday. I know that I tried my hardest to make it work, but in the end, one person working hard isn’t enough to keep a marriage afloat. It has to be two people working in tandem to keep it together. But, everything is still just so fresh that it’s tougher some days than other to keep moving forward and looking for silver linings.

Dreamland Vacation

This morning I woke from an incredibly vivid dream with a sense of anxiety and sadness. The details faded quickly, but from what I can recall, the gist involved me on a group vacation with friends. On this vacation I felt ostracized by the group and at one point, a friend of mine in the dream said that it was because I was different. In my dream, I knew exactly what he meant by that and it was terribly upsetting.

Now, I know it was just a dream. I also know that my friends don’t actually feel that way about me. Hell, only a handful of them know the depth of the anxiety and depression that I sometimes struggle with. Yet I still felt the impact of what I presume is a subconscious fear that I have. That feeling has continued through the day so far, even after taking a 0.25mg Xanax.

I do have an appointment in mid-May to see a psychiatrist for a re-evaluation of the medication I’m on. My primary doctor recommended it because there’s only so much she can do. She’s already prescribed the max amount of Celexa that I can take and if my daily isn’t keeping it under control, then I clearly need that re-evaluation by somebody who specializes in it. Thankfully, my FMLA did get approved for 1-2 days per month. So, if need be, I can take a day or two off a month using my sick leave time and not have to worry about it being counted against me in my next evaluation.

Black Hole Sun

Well, it’s been a month since my last post and I do feel as if things have gotten worse for me. A few weeks back I went in to see my doctor and she added Trazodone to my pharmacological treatment. Now I take my 40 mg of Citalopram in the morning and the Trazodone at night before bed. Plus, I also have a nice big bottle of Xanax 0.25 mg for my break through.

If I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I, most days I feel sick to my stomach. It stems from what I think is my diaphragm and radiates both upwards towards the center of my chest but it also radiates downward into the pit of my stomach. Compound that with some prostatitis I was recently diagnosed with and I can assure you that my body is not a happy camper. I’m not certain if the prostatitis is a side-effect of the prolonged and very deep stress and anxiety I feel over my current situation at work.

Speaking of, ever since my co-worker left, there has been a push to basically throw out everything my team has worked on and purchase a replacement. The various reasons thrown out there include us not being responsive enough to the big wigs and that there are numerous complaints about our product. Yet, the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis have nothing but nice things to say about our team, what we do, and the product we develop. Management makes it sound like the issues they’re hearing are issues they’ve heard for quite some time, yet nobody in that time thought to mention it to us so that we could attempt to resolve those concerns?

I’ve worked with one of the people in charge and know that this person always knows what he wants at the end of the day. However, he always presents himself as somebody looking for input and feedback to inform his decision making process. It’s all a cover though. This person is a master manipulator, stacking meetings with people who either kiss his ass or are too afraid to say anything, and then successfully manipulating the meetings by asking leading questions and so forth to arrive to his conclusion.

I spoke to HR yesterday and got my paperwork for intermittant FMLA. Now all I need to do is meet with my doctor next week so that she can hopefully approve it. I can’t afford to take a full-time FMLA leave because that would leave my sick leave and vacation leave exhaustsed in a matter of weeks. However, if I can get it authorized to take up to eight days off per month at my discretion, I can stretch that out to about four months. That’s not to say that I would use all eight days in any given month, but I think it would be comforting to know that I have the flexibility to stay home and not deal with the bullshit when I feel like I need to. I’m hoping that having that extra time to myself will allow me some much needed mental health and decompression time. I’m also going to talk to my therapist about going up to twice a month again and maybe working with me on some processing strategies in addition to acting as my usual sounding board.

I just know that if I’m having to increase my medication and it’s still just barely making me feel somewhat normal on most days that something needs to change. I’m doing what I can to extract myself from this situation on the job front, but there’s only so much I can do. Things aren’t always greener on the other side of the fence, but in this case, I can argue that they certainly can’t be this bad.

First Day

Well, it’s official. Today is the first day in the post-team era. To be a little more clear, my co-worker and teammate of 11+ years had his last day yesterday. This move was in large part a response to the significant changes in management practices over the last year. We went from a department where management treated us as paid professionals and where leadership was a core part of the management style to a department where artificial metrics such as the number of tickets closed within a week (regardless of whether a ticket was worked on for 5 minutes or 40+ hours) is what we’re judged by and where management is by edict without true leadership behind it.

What caused his leaving isn’t the point. The fact is that a core member of our team, our de facto subject matter expert ColdFusion and our in-house CMS is gone. My friend who I’ve spent 11 years growing up with, developing and designing software with, trust implicitly, and mentored under has left the building. We both have been planning our exit strategies, I always hoped that it would be me first, though. The anxiety of inheriting a  bunch of stuff that you don’t feel you’re prepared for, of wondering whether or not management is going to hire a manager in place of a developer, of whether they’ll hire a competent developer when not one of them is one themselves, and generally wondering where the chips will fall is of an entirely different type than the anxiety of starting something new, in a new environment, in a position that you wouldn’t have applied for if you didn’t feel more than qualified to handle it.

Right now I feel anxiety in my chest of a sort that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s not the end of the world and I can manage it. The sun will set today and rise again tomorrow. But, it still sucks. 

Le Sigh

A day hasn’t gone by this week where I haven’t felt morose and filled with a sort of dread at what work will be like in just over two weeks. I feel tired, run down, and borderline ready to cry pretty much every day. If I could get away with grabbing my management by the shoulders, shake them, and ask them what the fuck they’re thinking, I would.

At the end of the next two weeks, life will go on, the sun will rise and set, but until my situation changes as well, I will find no enjoyment in dragging my ass to that place.

Fuck

The Beginning of the End

It’s been a long time in coming, but my co-worker/boss/mentor/friend is finally moving on from our current employer. We’ve been partners for the last 11+ years, but have each been talking about taking the next step since October. Talking and planning are one thing, but when you know that the actual change is mere weeks away, well, I can’t help but feel sadness and anxiety over it. Things are truly going to be different around here without his influence and not in a way that I can say is for the better.

On the flip side, this is also further motivation to move on myself. I’ve been looking and sending resumes out, but the right opportunity just hasn’t come along yet.

Sandcastles

I don’t know that words can adequately convey the feelings I have about my work environment right now. The team I’m on, as I know it, is being slowly torn apart by upper management that seems to get its glee on from kicking over sandcastles. It began with moving our team leader out of our collaborative work environment into his own office under this misguided, one-size-fits-all management mentality that project / team leaders should not directly work with or associate with their team members. Then, to formalize that “policy”, upper management made all project / team leaders into “managers”, even if they only had one or two people reporting to them.

The latest decision by that upper management regarding our team is that what remains of it shouldn’t be in a collaborative office. Their view is that we should be in the cube farm with the rest of the “Senior Analysts”. Apparently title trumps actual function because what we do, as an internal development team that relies on white boarding, discussions (and occasional disagreements) is completely different from the Tier 2  support desk work that the rest of the “Senior Analysts” do. We haven’t been told officially of the move and when we have to make it, but I have it on good authority that it’s coming sometime this week or next.

What kills me is seeing the team that we’ve built over the last five years get dismantled. We have done our best work with limited involvement (read: micromanagement) from upper management. Previously, we had a department director who respected our opinion as SMEs on what we do, allowed us to do our work and acted as a buffer when necessary. Now, we have a department director eager to prove to his boss that he is everything our previous boss was not. That means seeing every problem as a nail and the only tool for the job, a hammer.

I’m done. I don’t know if I can find anything better out in the marketplace. But, I am trying.

Lightning in a Bottle

The last eleven years of my life have been spent working at a place that has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but through it all, I worked on a small team of two (later joined by a third in December of last year) and together we did (and do) great work. Through it all, my team mate and I became good friends and coming to work through those shifts in management and departmental turmoil somehow didn’t seem as bad. In the last couple of years we had a department manager that let us of the leash somewhat and allowed us to do what we do best. As a result, I believe that we have had the most productive and successful three years out of the entire time we’ve been there. A lot of that changed a week ago Friday.

Almost a year ago, we lost our previous department manager and he was replaced by one of the team managers. He’s been in the department probably longer than anyone else and from what I know of him on a personal level, he seems like a nice guy. However, I decidedly do not like his management style. I experienced it briefly when my co-worker and I first started and then heard about it year after year from other co-workers after we were moved under a different manager and then were spun off into our own unit. He has a tendency to micromanage and has a vision of flattening teams and units so that everybody is cross trained and “equal”. The problem lies in that not everybody is equal. Some people are more intelligent than others, some people have different skill sets or subject matter expertise than others and ultimately, I believe that in his mind, if you’re a nail sticking out of the board, he’ll see that and try to bang you back into it.

For the last year things had been operating fairly smoothly in spite of his transition to being our department director. At least for our team anyways. We even added a new member to our team and somehow did so in a way that actually added another bit of lightning to that bottle. We had a few key projects that scored our department some brownie points and by his own admittance, those wins helped to secure his promotion. Rather than be surprised by what happened a week ago Friday, I’m more surprised that it didn’t happen sooner.

Things changed significantly after a joint meeting with our team, our project management team, and our director last week. He called our team manager into a private meeting afterwards and from what I’ve been made aware of, it was more or less a dressing down of his loose, sergeant-like management style. He thinks of what is best for the department in the way that he has influence to, via our team, and also works very hard to defend our team and its practices. Unfortunately, our director feels that as a result, our team has an elitist attitude. That in some way we’re smarter or more intelligent or know better than the rest of the department regarding certain key subjects.

While we do in regard to those particular subjects, I don’t feel that makes us elitist. Everybody in the department has their strengths and weaknesses and in our particular case, software development and user experience design are ours. However, due to our team manager’s defense that Friday, he received a follow-up meeting from both our department directory and HIS boss. It entailed another dressing down (I’m sure that’s not how they perceived it, but my team manager / friend perceived it that way). From here on out he has been discouraged from socializing with us at work, from having lunch or walking out to the car with us, and encouraged to draw a very strong line between himself as management and us as subordinates. In addition, he was told that the team managers were going to take more departmental responsibility and that he needed to stop thinking about his team and needed to start thinking about what’s best for the department, even if it means changes to how our team operates. He did implore them to realize that they’re trying to fix something that’s not broken, but it sounded like that fell on deaf ears.

Thus, began last week. It felt like being in a fishbowl all day, every day and the awkwardness of our team manager NOT being able to interact with us on anything other than a professional level was palpable. Especially for the two of us as we’ve been friends for eleven years now. Needless to say, I think things are going to change in a way that upper management has not expected. I’ve seen my fair share of ups and downs in the department. As a matter of fact, he and I spent nearly three or four years in a bad slump. While we managed to get through that to the highlight years of my career there, I don’t feel that I have it in me to go through another two, three, or four year period where I end up dreading coming to work. Where I feel that I’m not respected on a professional level and that my team is not respected for the work that it does and the positive attention it has garnered our department. All three of us have at one point or another in the last week, confided in each other that we are going to start exploring our options.

I feel saddened by this. I believe that in three to six months things WILL have changed but not in the way upper management expected it to. I think that, based on what we’ve talked about individually, none of us will be there anymore by our own choice. We will have let the lightning out of the bottle so-to-speak. I can’t describe how that makes me feel. Yes, I feel sad, but it’s deeper than that. I love my team. I love the way we joke around, have fun, and still manage to kick ass and chew bubblegum. It bothers me on a level that upper management can’t seem to understand that how we operate works. We’re productive, successful, and at the end of the day, get the job done in a way other teams can’t. Does thinking that make me elitist? Maybe. Does feeling that we are a few of the handful of GREAT people in our department of average to mediocre people make me elitist? Maybe. It’s just a shame that rather than encouraging the other teams and individuals to rise up to the level of the great people in our department, our management seems to feel the need to bring the handful of us down to everybody else’s level.

With everything that went on this week, it was a surprising coincidence that I received an email via LinkedIn from a design agency HR rep. I busted out a portfolio this week in time for a preliminary phone call from a recruiter on Thursday and afterwards, sent him my resume and portfolio link. It may be a week or two before I hear anything further, if at all. But, I guess I am officially in the game. 

A Side Order of Helpless

A week ago Monday I attended my first session with a psychologist and overall, I feel that it went well. Not only is her office conveniently close to my home, I walked away with a solid first impression of her. She had a very pleasant demeanor and definitely helped guide my outer monologue towards something.

Yes, I definitely do have some OCD traits, and that is certainly a trigger. One of several that I know of. It wasn’t news to me, but it was nice to hear a professional, outside opinion confirm that as a fairly probable thing and not something out of my imagination. However, the most surprising thing that happened was one of those literal “ah hah” moments. It was almost like something out of a movie or television show. Here I am just rambling on about different situations and circumstances that give me anxiety and suddenly I pause for moment looking for the right word and suddenly it hits me- helpless.

In each of the situations I outlined to my therapist I ultimately felt helpless that there was anything I could do to influence that situation. Whether it be a work related project where management and executive management is simply charging ahead with requests without taking into consideration timelines, resource availability, etc… or a simple thing like worrying about my wife’s schooling and how to stretch everything on one income. Her advice was to make note of an anxiety moment when it happens, identify why I feel anxious, and if it’s because of that helpless feeling, try to come up with a different word to describe it. As she said, you can’t necessarily change your feelings- those are deeply emotional by their very nature. However, you can try to change your thought process. Changing the word to describe a situation- say feeling angry or frustrated, rather than helpless, may help me cope with things a little easier.

As somebody who often spends a lot of time inside of his own head, that made a lot of sense to me. She also recommended a few authors that I may want to look into for some side reading.

A couple days later, I had a visit with my normal doctor again and got my medication issue straightened out. I never noticed it, but back in May they cut my prescription in half. The reason why I didn’t notice it was that my doctor and I had discussed prescribing 40 mg so that I could float up and down as I needed. So, more often than not, I was able to function on 20 mg. But, sometimes for weeks at a time I need to float up to 30 mg or even 40 mg until things calm down a bit. Since getting back on track with my medication at 30 mg I feel a much more noticeable difference in my attitude in general. It’s surprising to me what a 10 mg difference can make.

My next session is a week from today. I’m interested in seeing where it takes me.