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.

CEH Test Scheduled!

You may or may not know that I have been studying for my Certified Ethical Hacker certification.  I previously studied for and passed the Comptia Security + certification, despite some serious doubts on my part.  Well, now I have some serious SERIOUS doubts about my ability to get the CEH certification.  I am passing the practice tests, because I studied the answers to the questions I got wrong until I could get them right, but that doesn’t mean I have a true handle on the information.  I’ve studied just about as much as I can, though, and I just have to hope that the questions on the actual exam are similar enough to the practice exams that I’ll be able to muddle through and get a 70%.  It’s a four hour test – WHAT THE HELL?!  I can’t imagine what could take four hours.  The practice test takes about an hour.  It is 125 questions.  The fact that the REAL exam takes four hours makes me worried that I am wildly unready for it.  What the hell do you have to do?  Hack a system?  Fuckkkkkkkkk.  It is scheduled for Thursday, June 29th.  Right now I am feeling too overwhelmed to study but I have to overcome that.  Sometimes I have to literally force myself to study.  When I am overwhelmed I just want to sit around and obsess.  That doesn’t really get me anything good.

Ok, off to take some more practice tests!  The next one is from the study guide I read, it’ll be new questions so it’ll test my knowledge instead of my ability to remember the answers to questions.  Wish me luck!

Just to give some background on me, I have Bipolar Disorder, some say Bipolar II and some say Bipolar I.  I tend to be more depressed than manic, in fact the manic episodes are few and far between.  The depressed episodes are entirely too frequent.  I left my last full-time job about 3 1/2 years ago due to depression.  I actually went on FMLA to have ECT, and I never went back.  I was in a suicidal depression and I was hospitalized twice.  I had over forty ECT treatments.  I still don’t know if they helped.  I tend to think that the Ketamine they used to sedate me helped more than the ECT.  The reason I say this is because I had ECT in Florida too, and they didn’t use Ketamine for sedation, and I felt like shit after those treatments.  I was on Clozaril for about a year and a half and it turned me into a zombie.  I think what finally brought me out of being a depressed zombie was switching from Clozaril to Abilify.  I don’t remember why we did this, but I am totally grateful.  I have been able to function better than I have in a long time, moved back into my own apartment, started working part-time a little more than a year ago, and then got the opportunity to start classes for these IT Security certifications in January.  The fact that I can study and learn is something that I would not have even dreamed of a year ago.  So that brings us up to date.  I am taking my last certification test next week and I have started looking for an IT Security job.  That is my next hurdle.  Full-time jobs are kind of like Kryptonite to me and my mental health.  If I can find a part-time job, I will know there is a God 🙂

Rethinking ECT

I had an unfortunate meeting with Dr. BigHeart last week. So much so that I am rethinking his name, thinking that maybe “Dr. Ka-ching!” may be more appropriate. Whereas I used to believe he had my best interests in mind, I am now questioning if it’s all about keeping me coming back for more and more ECT. He actually said that it was a feasible and rational idea that I might have to do ECT every week for the rest of my life!!!!!! This about made me fall out of the bed, then he continued to tell me that I will NEVER go back to my “Professional” life and that this is as good as it gets. If I accepted what he said, I would have been devastated. However, I believe that he is one hundred percent full of shit, and I don’t believe I want to be receiving care from someone who holds out so little hope for me. It HAS to get better than this!!! The depression HAS to lift!!! I MUST have hope of going back to work some day!!! Granted, I do not want to go back to work in the IT field, I am totally burned out on it. But there has to be SOMETHING I can do!! I have a fucking college degree! I’m trainable!! I’m not ready for lifetime disability!!! That just sounds too much like giving up. And I REFUSE to give up! I am going to keep doing this fucking meditation and keep doing this goddamn yoga and keep doing this daily exercise and I’M GOING TO GET BETTER!!!!!! Just watch me.

Bipolar Medication Cocktails (With A Side of ECT)

I find it helpful to read what drugs are working for my fellow Bipolars. One of my most popular tags is “Best Bipolar Medications” so I know it’s something that other people are searching out too. I thought I’d give an update on what’s working for me, especially since I’ve come back from the very brink, in that I was very, very seriously suicidal at the end of January and I’ve managed to make my way back to the point that I actually have some hope for the future (amazing even to me).

When I was hospitalized in January, the psychiatrist and medical director at the hospital got out what he calls his “big guns” and put me on Clozaril 100 mg and unilateral ECT. Although this has been effective, I don’t recommend it unless you are profoundly desperate, as the Clozaril will cause weight gain due to marijuana-like munchies. In addition, I am on Topiramate 50 mg (to try and give me some impulse control over the munchies), Bupropion XL 450 mg for depression, and Clonazepam .5 mg for sleep. The Clonazepam is a recent addition, as my sleep was quite disturbed and my psychiatrist was worried that I would cycle back into depression. I took it for the first time last night and I was happily zonked.

So people, what’s working for you? Please share in the comments. Let’s help each other!