Hi, how are you? Mental health support and discussion thread (April 2023)
This is a monthly thread for those who need it. Vent, share your experiences, ask for advice, talk about how you are doing. Let's make this a compassionate space for all who may need one.
It's been up and down. I was let go from my job. I think it's partly due to layoffs in general in the tech industry, but I suspect I was an easy pick because I had been having some health issues that had been hurting my productivity.
So, at least I've finally been addressing those issues with therapy and medication - I was diagnosed formally with ADHD combined type. It's good to know but infuriating at the same time, because I do feel more driven now with treatment ongoing but... it's kind of aimless, because I don't have a job.
It's also frustrating because I really should have been diagnosed as a kid, but I fully embody Eldest Daughter Syndrome and I suspect that's a big part of why nobody bothered. It feels very unfair to be getting this health care after I've already torched so many relationships and opportunities from doing unreliable ADHD shit... I know it's better to be getting it now rather than never, but today it kind of hurts.
On good days I'm writing code, volunteering, cleaning, exercising to deal with the restlessness. The medication and therapy have helped in that way, at least I'm doing things rather than sitting in paralysis screaming internally and completely unable to choose.
Bad days usually start on LinkedIn when I actually have to try to get hired again. I have such low tolerance for corporate inauthenticity that being on LinkedIn makes me want to chew glass. Most of what I see there is my friends getting laid off anyway. Sucks. I might end up going back to QE if I can't find anything in FP.
(Also, what's with full stack meaning all of DevOps too now? Ugh. I'm fine with Docker, but it's not like I can practice large-scale orchestration independently.)
I've been trying to turn my thinking towards my strengths rather than my weaknesses. I'm smart, I'm a creative problem solver, I'm social, I'm quick: my problems start when I don't find the work novel or interesting, then I have issues with persistence. I can cope with poor memory and poor organization/time management with my calendar habits, so I wonder sometimes if I might do well working independently or starting a small business.
It has been a few months since I typed some words here. I got past another super busy period. The previous semester at university is long gone, so I am also done helping teaching. By the way, that was again quite enjoyable, I feel like I did an ok job, hopefully better than the first time I did that, but afterwards in the survey I got some not very good ratings. I won't be teaching again because I will have finished school by the next semester the course is taught. But it still did hurt very much. I was definitely trying to do a good job, but I also was quite busy so I couldn't give preparation infinite time. But the ratings also weren't too terrible so I don't know why am I even still thinking about it now. Anyway, this is my last semester studying at university, probably the last ~half year of my life at school. I need to finish my diploma thesis, still have quite a lot of work to do but I think I am doing ok on time with that.
After the last semester ended there was almost a quarter of a year where we were asked to do overtimes at my job. I am working part time, but I ended up basically working a bit over what full time people do, plus still had to do some school stuff, and of course work on my diploma thesis. But luckily that is over too now. I am a bit disappointed in the result of those overtimes but I won't go into it more.
So after those things, I finally had a few weeks which were a bit quieter. First, I am now again working only part time, and also there is just much less school stuff to do than last semester. In addition around Easter I had a few extra fully free days. So I had almost two full weeks where I had quite a lot of time. Sadly I spent a lot of that time not really doing anything, just procrastinating and wasting my time mostly. I don't really mind it too much, but I do wish I got more work done on my thesis. Would have been really nice. It's nice to do nothing for a bit though.
And there's one more thing. Around the start of December (I think?) I met a really interesting guy on a dating app. I didn't/don't really check them at all now, so it was super surprising to find someone cool there suddenly. We got talking, I invited him to go out right the next day and he agreed. I remember how nice it felt to chat with someone nice in a really long time and to also go out right away. We shared so many interests and talked about a lot, it was a really nice time.
I wanted to go out more later, but he was mostly really busy, and honestly I was too. Still we met up a few times again, even went to a concert once. We also never really talked about what we were. I am demi/gray?/asexual and he did mention that he was also somewhere on that spectrum, so I was fine with taking it extremely slow. But I also felt like he wasn't really "really" interested.
After another month or so I finally decided I wanted to know so I asked what was he looking for really on the dating site, and he explained that he just was looking for friends in a new town. And when he asked what I was looking for I did admit that I would have loved more. Still I also accepted it right away and acknowledged that it was my fault that I didn't ask earlier what he was looking for. I am kind of dumb that I didn't ask earlier, but I was very afraid of ruining what we had, and I did enjoy at least chatting and spending time with him. I asked if he was ok if we still talked, he said it is, and we still do chat once in a while. I think I can manage to not get my hopes up more.
I was of course also a bit disappointed. Now is the time to let some patheticness out. I feel like I will really be forever alone. It just sounds so pathetic -- can't think of a more accurate word -- to say it like that. But it's hard to imagine me being in a relationship. I was disappointed similarly so many times now. It's like that saying about meeting assholes every day -- if everyone you meet is an asshole, in reality you are probably the asshole. So if everyone I meet doesn't want to "date" me (god, again that sounds so pathetic and dumb to type out, I promise I am not a stereotypic "nice guy" or something), it's probably not the other people, but me. I just don't really know what am I doing wrong. But yeah I know, I should keep my hope up, somehow it might work out one day.
But mostly everyone I met like this ended in a nice way too, maybe I am at least ok at making friends, so I can't really complain too much. And having great friends is amazing too.
Well we'll see what the future holds, maybe after I am done with my degree I'll quit my job and move somewhere and finally fulfil my escapist dreams. I am kind of just venting, putting out a stream of words, so I am sorry for the dumb words, and thank you for reading if you did!
It's been a bit rough. Lots of ups and down. My wife kicked me out and filed for divorce five months ago and we finalized last week. I lost pretty much everything but my car. We just have the final transfer of settlment funds, she makes way more than I do, and then we're done. She transferred 10 bucks into my account to see if it goes through. It did today, so i talked to her and she said she would send the rest of the money I'm owed. And while I could really use the money, I do very much miss her and my cats, it is the true ending of out 13 year relationship. I thought I was about over it. But I'm crying almost like I'm starting grieving all over again. it sucks. I wish her the best and have no ill will. There was no cheating on either side, it just has been a weird disfunctional relationship for a long time.
Here's a long one, but I promise it'll be worth it with interesting battle-won lessons.
Last Friday morning I had a sit-down conversation with a friend/housemate named J., and I chose to formally end the friendship.
This comment walks through how my friends—one of them a clinical psychologist (PhD)—and I sat down to discuss:
With a focus on being kind and polite but firm and diplomatic.
Why? Because he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and he has hurt everyone in our friend circle, myself included. On top of that, he is unable to know that has.
How do I know that he has NPD? Another friend in the circle named M. is the clinical psychologist and was once close to J. He, his partner A. (also my friend), and I sat down for a conversation last Wednesday evening to discuss J and share our observations and feelings about him:
I feel badly for his condition. He grew up poor with a disciplinarian but largely absent military father whose love seemed conditional, and he struggles with issues of racial identity, inadequacy, and self-loathing. Fundamentally, he's a lonely person who struggles socially and with himself yet tries very hard to project an image showing otherwise. His only other friends besides us—M, A, and me—are his boyfriend and dance colleagues. But he manages a dance studio, and his boyfriend and colleagues all are... his employees. Note the earlier comment about his need for control. He considers us his closest friends. I never reciprocated the feeling: M and A are good friends, but my closest friends are scattered around the world. I'm only in the SF Bay Area temporarily. We've also learned that J has old friend groups in the area that have kicked him out.
I prepared for the conversation with my friends M and A that last Wednesday. After sharing our observations and feelings about J, we agreed on all the aforementioned points, and I decided that I will end the friendship, when I was on the fence before. But I wanted the conversation to be:
I deputized M to therapize me. I took three turns roleplaying the conversation with M, the clinical psychologist. M, A, and I exchanged feedback after each turn.
My friend A took notes throughout the session and emailed them to me afterward to review and practice over.
And so, I was ready.
The actual conversation went... not great, but not terrible either. It didn't devolve into shouting or cursing. I kept it neutral and diplomatic, though boy oh boy, given how he chose to engage and steer the conversation, it was fucking tempting to call him a straight up asshole and plunge the metaphorical knife into the part of his psyche where M, A, and I know where all his deepest insecurities reside, his troubled childhood be damned!
But I was able to exercise restraint. M taught me to continuously repeat a mantra to myself, "be vulnerable, be vulnerable, be vulnerable," even when things get tough and testy. Humiliating and antagonizing a narcissist only unnecessarily fuels their rage and resentment. I managed to stay 80% on script.
His decision to not listen and instead use the conversation to hurt me on the way out, changed my mind from "maybe we can be friends again" to "hell no". He burned the bridge as I tried to leave it in place.
In many ways, J as narcissist acted predictably in the conversation.
And the narcissist is at heart a bully. When I stood my ground and firmly explained—with neutral, colorless language—that he had hurt my friends and me, that I can no longer tolerate his pattern of hurtful behavior, and that I'm ending the friendship, he became meek. It was clear he got the message and he was scrambling to assemble some sort of equally impactful response.
When I finished, I concluded the conversation on my terms, not his. Immediately after, in act of petty revenge, he began trying to weaponize household tasks and concerns against me. And a bit later, after I finished showering and was about to head out, he got his wanted last word / dig in. I said, okay, sure, and walked away.
I diplomatically informed our two housemates, whom I'm very friendly with and hang out with a lot outside the house too, that I chose to end my friendship with J. I didn't go into specifics, only that J and I had "differences", that I bear him no ill will (I didn't plan to but I certainly do now), that I hope he and I can eventually become friendly housemates (I planned to but I certainly do not now), and so on. I hope that my conduct will speak for itself when J tries to spin a different version of events.
As for our friend circle, I of course told M and A the full details of the conversation and how J responded. J had hurt M and A in the past, and I was the one who encouraged reconciliation then. So when I finally gave up on J, they decided to do so too.
Cue J's ignored calls to M and A. I think he's now realized that his momentary anger and ego got the best of him, and that when he burnt one bridge, he ended up burning all of them. For good.
I still feel bad for J. I understand he didn't choose his past. But:
Well, one last note of positivity and gratitude, after reflecting on a cathartic post.
I mentioned that I felt bad for J despite him being an asshole in the past and him revealing himself to be an even bigger asshole than I initially realized in our conversation.
He struggles with his own racial identity, resenting both his white and Black sides because both communities don't see him as one of their own. He grew up poor. He struggles with an insecure attachment style stemming from a disinterested white mother who raised him for the first half of his childhood and whom he rejected, and a Black military father who was absent for that first half and rejected him only to come back into the second half to take him from his mother to raise him in a distant state as a cold, disciplinarian parent who gave his love conditionally. Consequently, he has struggled to build and maintain true friendships throughout his life. Ultimately his anger and resentment pushes people away. And I hope that he eventually fully realizes that and is motivated to change.
Some people have it tough.
My childhood wasn't smooth; it was tumultuous. But I was and am fortunate in many ways. I had an extraordinarily strong woman as a mother whose love for me was powerful, constant, unconditional, and so clear. My grandmother, who raised my mother as a single mom herself after my grandfather died young, was also an extraordinarily strong woman who loved my mother and my uncles powerfully and unconditionally. And my uncles have loved me greatly too. Even though my father—whom my mother chose to divorce—was often an asshole, I felt that his love for me was flawed but still unconditional at its core.
I'm not a social butterfly. I'm a little shy and awkward. I can't walk out of a bar with a dozen new friends to hop to an after party. But my family taught me how to build strong one-on-one connections, and I have done so across my life. I have a dozen very close friends from different chapters of my life whom I keep in touch with a near-daily basis, and they tell me that they love me—not in a "lol love ya xoxo" way but in a "I love you. And I will drive three hours to pick you up in a storm" way—and I tell them I love them.
So I am held securely in life by both a long chain and a wide web of love, and I am fortunate. Even when things in life get stormy and stressful, I can always close my eyes, breathe, and draw calmness from the deep well of love that my family and friends have dug throughout my life. Reflecting on this, I am grateful.
I often want to respond to comments in these topics, but honestly don't know what to say most times, especially due to the fear of something I say somehow making things worse for that person. But I just wanted to say that I read your comments and deeply relate to them. I also have experience with ending toxic relationships too, due to my past addiction issues and the people I was friends with at the time not wanting to get out of that lifestyle. So I know how hard it can be, and how conflicting the emotions get when you cut ties with friends who are also struggling with their own issues. But decades later, despite how hard it was, I am actually glad that I managed to end those relationships, because it's my firm belief that if I hadn't I would very likely have fallen back into my old habits, and probably would have died by now due to that... like several of my former friends now unfortunately have.
And I'm also glad to hear that commenting was cathartic for you. Often times I wonder if I am just commenting into the void when nobody replies, but that catharsis, and the occasional connection I make to the people that do take the time to reply and open themselves up, is what drives me to keep doing it too.
Thank you for reading and replying. I too read others' comments and find myself at loss of what to say. I'll just upvote as my silent way of saying, "I hear you."
It took me quite some time to recognize J. as a narcissist. He's my first narcissist. When I finally realized, I started seriously reading literature on narcissism: everything he did fitted the definition to the tee. I interpreted his arrogance initially as self-confidence and healthy self-esteem. I didn't see that he was "lovebombing" others and me with compliments while never actually performing any acts of real love out of spontaneous kindness or empathy. Everything he did was to solicit our validation of him.
It took a year and half of data for the dots to connect and for me to go, oh.
The experience was eye-opening. I'm trying to not let my disappointment and irritation crystallize into mistrust and cynicism. While I'm on high alert for arrogant people who also "lovebomb" (narcissists?!), I want to remain open. The other day on the BART home, I decided to strike up on a conversation with some crust-punk-looking guy. We talked about our bikes. I have a fancy European e-bike. He has a beat-up road bike with those old-fashioned lever shifters. We exchanged names—his is Jake—and he flashed me a smile filled with silver teeth. He's not the kind of person I'd normally talk to. It was hard to hold a steady conversation; honestly he seemed kinda "out of it" and fried from a hard life of doing drugs. But it was good to have that momentary, authentic albeit brief human connection even if it's most unlikely I'll see him again.
I'm glad that you managed to free yourself from those toxic relationships. They slowly but surely bend your trajectory toward theirs. Ultimately, we get to choose our paths, even though it's often unclear how the next few or thousand steps will look like, but in many years the delta between trajectories becomes vast.
I used to hang with some skater kids back in early high school. I distanced myself from them. At the time, they were smoking weed and drinking alcohol and basing their identities around it. (I think marijuana is fine for adults.) And then they started pushing their boundaries into cocaine... then oxycontin... then other opioids. Anyway, they're all dead now, and that's all ancient history.
Man, the public health system in my region just has no therapy available. A few months ago I went to my nearest public health unit and the the therapist that I used to go came back after pregnancy but things were so hectic for her she she couldn't attend me. The occupational therapist that was a kind of plan B for this situation wasn't there either, she left the unit some time ago. Eventually someone suggested I go to CAPS (Brazilian thing) like I did in childhood but turnd out CAPS (at least for teens and older) is intended to replace hospices and while I have pretty bad mental health issues, I don't fit that profile. (Toddler/kid me seemingly was accepted because I was a non-verbal autistic kid and noone knew how severe my autism was gonna end up being). So that leaves me with having seen 3 different types of therapists, none of which I remained with for longer than a few months. What a nuisance! My parents said that at this point they're considering a personal/private therapist because otherwise I very likely won't be able to get any help at all.