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.

This Bipolar Chick Is A Certified Ethical Hacker!

Whelp, I didn’t think I could do it.  Seriously.  I didn’t think it was going to happen.  I cried.  I prayed.  I studied my ass off.  But I didn’t think it was enough.  Well guess what?  Sometimes the Universe hands you a little miracle in the form of a PASS!  And I PASSED the Certified Ethical Hacker exam today!!!  Believe me, no one is more surprised than me!!  Sure, I studied.  But I didn’t own the material.  It was just SO MUCH TO KNOW.  I can’t even convey to you all the different tools they were testing on, things I’d never even heard of, would crop up on questions, and I’d be like, WTF?  I need to know this?  Or WHY do I need to know THIS?  It just went on and on.  I was feeling quite a bit of despair there at the end.  I prayed for a miracle.  And I believe I got one!

First of all, it’s a miracle that this training was even offered to me.  Second of all, it’s a miracle that I decided to try, because I didn’t really believe that I could learn this stuff.  After three + years off work and 40+ ECT treatments, I just thought my brain was fried, end of story.  But something in me said, “Try.”  And I can’t believe I did.  And I can’t believe that this is the outcome!!  To me, this just goes to show, you don’t know the end of the story.  You might think, this is it, this is my life, Bipolar has me beaten (which is what I thought), but Life might have another message for you.  And it might be really, really good.

So I am so encouraged.  I still have a dwindling bank account, and a car for sale, but I have HOPE.  And I have two high-value IT certifications that say that I can learn, that I’m a technical person, that I have abilities.  And I have six baby bird eggs about to hatch!  Life is good.  I think, I actually believe, that I’m going to be o.k.  And for that, I am extremely grateful.

The Grind Is Getting To Me!

Oh, Glory!  The book that came with our class (I’m sure you know what class but it is Certified Ethical Hacker) is an absolute piece of shit, basically the slide-deck that the teacher uses each night for class.  It’s all graphics and bullet points and no actual substance.  So, I bought a book from Amazon to help me study for the certification.  And the REAL grind has begun.  Again.  I know now what it takes to get a certification, it takes giving it your ALL.  I have been reading the new book ALL DAY.  I created a calendar with a schedule of how many chapters I need to finish per week and it’s fucking intense!  This fucking studying is some lonely business!!  I know it’s time-limited, but my feelings don’t know that.  I just feel lonely and super-tired of studying and I want to do something else.  I know, I know, where’s the gratitude?  For this great opportunity?  Well, I’ve lost it.  Perspective, out the window.  I need to get it back and be able to buckle down and focus and do this.  Ok, Ok, I’m ahead of schedule.  I had one chapter as this week’s goal and I’m on Chapter 2.  I just want to be done and certified already.  I need to be ok with this process.  I don’t know if I have it in me to do this again.  I think I need a hug.