Bipolar Beat The Odds

Well it looks like I am going to start a job as a Security Operations Center Analyst the day after Labor Day!!  What a long road this has been since I left my job in IT Support in December 2013, thinking I was going on FMLA for six weeks to have a little ECT, and ending up taking three years of private disability pay.  Being so depressed for so many years, and yes, disabled by it, I never thought I’d work again, let alone gain a new career.  That wasn’t even an option that I thought of.  I didn’t even think I’d ever have my own home again!  But this last year has provided some major growing experiences, and life sort of said “Ready or not, GROW!”

It started when I was living in my sister’s basement, which wasn’t ideal, but I couldn’t think my way out of the situation.  By April of last year, the disability payments stopped, and I was working a part-time job and living off savings.  Then last Fall, my sister rocked my world by asking me to move out.  I was completely blown away!!  I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me!  What was I going to do??  I didn’t feel like I could work a full-time job, but I started looking for one, half-heartedly.  And I started looking for a place to live.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I got a phone call.  Why I answered the phone, I’ll never know, because I never answer the phone.  But you know, it was one of those God things, I think…and this guy starts talking to me about training that I might qualify for because I might possibly be underemployed, and there’s grant money available, might I be interested in IT Security?  In my mind I was seeing a way out of the horrible dead-end that is Desktop Support, my previous profession.  It was all I could do not to cry on the phone, it seemed like a miracle!  A grant to take training and get certified?!?!  It seemed too good to be true!!!  Yet it was true, I did get the grant, and I was able to take two IT Security training classes and certification tests.

So I had a plan!  And now I just needed to find a place to live!  How do you do that with non-verifiable income?  One thing I did when my sister asked me to move out is I started to pack.  It was something to fill my time, and it was something I could do to show my faith that things were going to work out.  People would ask me why in the hell I was packing, when I didn’t know where I was going?  Well, I knew I was going somewhere, and I needed to pack.  So that little act of faith, and seeing the boxes, helped me.  I kept looking at places in Boulder that were like little dumpster fires, they were so bad!  Everything in my price range was just horrific!  And really, I wanted a one-bedroom apartment, not a studio apartment.  So I expanded my search to the next town over, Longmont.  I looked at one place that was like a flophouse, and my gut gave me a hard “NO!”  But then I came across a place that was…ok, and the landlord was trying awful hard to sell it to me, offering a discount, and flexible lease terms, so I decided to go for it.  Of course, he wanted to do a credit and a background check, and with a bankruptcy in my history, and no real effort to rebuild my credit, I had to talk to this guy.  I just gave it to him straight.  “Look, I’m working part-time and bringing in x amount.  I have x amount in savings.  I’m going to be studying for these IT Certifications and I just need a place to live where I can study.”  He said “OK, let’s go for it.”  And I got the place!

All of a sudden I had my own home again!!!  After I had agonized for years about whether I’d ever have a home again, and whether I was just being a fool for storing all of my home goods, like my kitchen stuff, I had a home!!!  It felt great (and still does).  I moved in and unpacked in record time.  I had to be ready for my Security + class, which started in January.

Security + started and I became a student again, studying for hours every day.  There was a lot to understand and a lot to memorize and I was very concerned that the knowledge wasn’t “sticking” like I thought it should.  I talked it over with Dr. Drugs and we decided to add Aricept to my drug regimen, a drug that helps you form new memories.  I do believe it has helped me immensely.  I don’t know what the ECT (40+ treatments) has done to my brain and maybe it’s just that I’m in my 50’s now, but I needed help.  In addition to the crappy book that the class provided, I bought my own book on Security + (much better at defining the concepts) and I also bought access to that author’s website to help me with study questions.  Taking practice tests over and over until I mastered the material proved to be crucial, and two months after taking the class, I passed the certification on the first try (much to my surprise and relief).

Next up, and much harder, was the Certified Ethical Hacker class.  I started this class in April, a month later than planned, but Security + took some study to pass.  Again, the book provided with the class was a piece of shit, and again I bought my own and just began studying that, not bothering with the other book.  I was a bit burned out and had a really hard time concentrating in class, but I made it through the 40 hours of class time.  Then the real work began.  I studied for a solid two months, but even after two months of studying, I still felt like the material was somewhat over my head.  By the end of June, though, my funds were running low and it was time to start the job hunt.  (It was also time to stop my daily marijuana habit, so that I could eventually pass a drug test).  I had to take the certification test, ready or not.  I scheduled the test and poured on the study for one more week.  I fully prepared my family (and myself) for my failure – I just wasn’t “there”.  I went and took the test and at the end it said “Congratulations – you passed!”  —  I nearly fell out of my chair.  How I passed that test, I’ll never know.

So began a job hunt for a Security job, mostly a futile job hunt, posting my resume with my brand-new certifications on all of the web sites, getting NO calls for Security jobs, and endless calls for Desktop Support jobs.  Can you say discouraged?  How could I come so far, only to go back to a Desktop Support job?  Well, hell, I was desperate for a job, so I started taking interviews for Desktop Support jobs, even an interview at Hustler!  You may have read about that J.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any darker, I got a call about a Security job!  Great!  Yay!  Yes!  I’ll interview!!  I got up ultra-early and studied my brains out for the interview, only to go to it and freeze up like a damn popsicle.  Mid-sentence!  Uh…wha…I mean…It was so humiliating!!!  I totally BLEW the interview!!!  It was painful, let me tell you.  I went home and wrote a heartfelt thank you note, trying to re-sell myself to the interviewers.  And then I tried to let it go.

Four days later, I heard that they wanted to hire me.  All I can say is, another miracle.  Because based on that interview, I should have been banned from the building.  So, one background check (how do I pass these background checks??) and one drug test later (60 days without pot now), I have a start date for my new job:  the day after Labor Day.  And I have to say, I’m scared shitless!!  But all I can do is what I’ve done for the past year, and that’s walk through the fear, one day at a time, one moment at a time, and trust that life has a plan.  Just the fact that I’m going back to work means that I’m beating the odds.  All of my doctors recommended that I be on Social Security Disability (denied three times) and that I never work again.  I guess life has other plans for me.  For those of you with Bipolar who feel beaten by it, all I can say is, be open to life.  It can change.  It can get better, so much better.  And I am soooo grateful for that.

13 thoughts on “Bipolar Beat The Odds

  1. It’s normal to be scared starting a new job, it’s pretty much expected. I’d be scared to try for another IT job, I left for long term disability 11 years ago now. I was a Unix Sysadmin. I specced out the backup system for a fortune 50 company and installed the servers and tape robots (with some help of course). I created all the new system images for our Linux workstations. I was the guy they called when they needed computer forensics. I wrote most of the admin automation software. Now, 11 years later, I feel that I can hardly remember any of it, and it’d be so out of date now. I don’t think I’d ever dare to try and get back in this field… You’re brave.

  2. Yay! Yay! Yay! I am so happy to ready your post and of your success and overcoming fear and the bp and all it’s fun. So happy for you and ready to read of more success and believing in yourself and going after what you want. Many Congrats from Canada!!!!!!

  3. Congrats and then some. Going through major life changes is a major stressor for anybody and because of the consequences of bipolar, those with it have to deal with more life changes than those without it. That you were able to get through it all is amazing story of human resilance and quite inspirational.

    I am on SSI disability for my bipolar and anxiety right now, but i am in the category of “might recover” enough to work (as opposed to will recover and won’t recover), which means I come up for review this November. Having never gone through the review process, I don’t know what to expect, which alone is enough to get the panic attacks going. And if they say I’m recovered and need to go find a job I’m not sure I can handle that, let alone the job i might get. At the same time there is a part of me that wants to go back to work (to believe that I can work without melting down), and more money than what i get from SSI would nice, too.

    So again congrats on the new job and making it through it all. It does help reading your story.

  4. I was a mid level executive with usually high profile global financial institutions before breaking down and going on disability for seven years. I went back to a similar job and broke down after a year and as half, until then things were going very well there. Now its five years later, I am 56, no references, over qualified for everything a feel I can do and the marketplace reminds me of it every week. I’m planning my suicide now, Ive got a lot of life insurance and I’m not worth anything anymore.

    • This comment makes me very sad. I am sorry that your illness has beaten you down and convinced you that your life is not worth anything. That is of course a LIE. Your life is worth something. And I’m sure there are people who love you who would give anything to see you stay alive. Please consider seeing your doctor and telling him/her the truth about where you are. YOUR LIFE IS WORTH SAVING. Things can change on a dime. I have been out of the workforce for four years, and here I am, starting over. Things can change. I will be praying for you.

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