I think I'm losing my mind
February 25, 2012 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I still have my eyesight (for now), but the diagnosis has triggered serious anger and midlife crisis issues.

I posted late last year about a retinal disorder (possible detachment). I saw a retinal expert at a well respected university hospital twice and he says that my retinal condition is stable, but otherwise cannot give long-term reassurance. I am having psychological issues.

I am feeling angry at everyone and everything. I just can't take it anymore. I am angry at the 90yo writer whose novel I agreed to type up and edit in my free time (Project #1). Doing the typing makes me angry, since he doesn't have a computer, won't use a word processor, and expects me to type as if it were still the Mad Men era, even though I'm being paid to do it. The substance of the novel irritates me since I disagree with it for political reasons. It might euphemistically be called "heritage fiction." It is being self-published on Amazon. I am fantasizing about trashing it. Did I mention that he still kills off his gay characters?

I am editing a much larger project (Project #2) in my own field in which I, the editor, am at the mercy of procrastinating contributors (most of who are academics, world class procrastinators). A major deadline is approaching.

I can't stand my day job anymore either. I am a school librarian and so besides everything else that needs to be done in the 2 libraries I manage w/o assistants, I spend time picking up books and putting them back in order when the kids push the books around or put them back in the wrong place, spines inward. I am not their mom. It is, however, a job that I can't just quit. I have little confidence in finding another that pays at the same level.

The political news makes me angry too. Two words. Rick Santorum. The thought that Rick Santorum could get elected and that I live in a Catholic neighborhood where many people might support Rick Santorum. I cannot go out and spray paint the nearby Catholic school with RICK SANTORUM SUCKS DOGS even though I would like to.

I am lesbian/bi and live in the closet. This is now making me extremely angry all by itself. I can hardly come out without fear of losing my job. I am tired of living in a straight world, where the city paper can run Ask Amy but not Dan Savage, where people on the bus look at me funny because I have a short haircut, where my right to marry a woman exists only in a few states and even there is threatened by right-wingers.

The real thing that is making me so angry is the thought that I am slowly going blind. I'm a highly visual person who enjoys reading and whose careers have depended on reading and whose pleasures depend on sight. I'm not even musical.

I feel that my productive life may have become too short to put up with all this crap. I want to ditch the day job and the writer (Project #1) and/or take my savings and move out of the Catholic neighborhood into the city (giving me an excuse to drop the writer, since the only reason I'm doing this is that I'm his neighbor). Unfortunately, in this state I don't trust my judgment. It seems foolish to squander my savings on an apartment or condo when I may need them for when I have to exist on disability payments.

Did I mention that I'm living with my parents. I feel that my anger with the writer guy is projection, displacement, what have you.

I need a diagnosis. The possibilities are (a) physical eyestrain from my slowly deteriorating vision is making me exhausted and angry; (b) it's hormones, since I am over 40; (c) life changes or therapy for this life situation.

I know I should drop one or more of these commitments, probably the writer. I have a terrible time saying no to people, even though I want to belt out the line from Amy Winehouse's "Rehab": NO NO NO!

I have not told my supervisors at work about my vision problem, since I figure they'll start searching for a new librarian. What I want is some time off to get Project #2 into shape and get my head together. My supervisors at Project #2 don't know about the vision issue either. Nor does the writer guy.

I also need social support. I don't have lesbian/bisexual friends; due to the commitments on my free time (Projects #1 and 2), going out and socializing is somewhere near the bottom.
posted by bad grammar to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How legible is the writing for the book? Could it be scanned and machine read? De-typo-ifying could be much easier than simply typing.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2012

What do you have in your life that is positive right now? Any people or hobbies that make you glad/relaxed?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:56 PM on February 25, 2012

Also unless the money from the writer guy's project is awesome, I would just ditch it right now. Take him what you have so far and tell him you're sorry, you won't be able to continue with the project since you have too many other things going with work etc right now. Give him the phone number of a local college English department and he can call and see if they have any students who would be willing to do typing and editing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2012 [11 favorites]

You have a lot on your plate; it is no wonder you feel overwhelmed. Your life must feel like it is out of your control, but it isn't, you can do a lot to improve all the situations you have found yourself in. You mention seeing one expert, have you gone for a second opinion anywhere? I was told as a young adult that I was going to go blind relatively soon; it was horrible and stressful (I'm a librarian too, so my eyesight was also important to me). I was lucky that my disease did not progress the way they expected and my sight has been stable for fifteen years.

It sounds like you need to see about taking a stress leave from your school library job. Are you unionised or have an association you can approach for information?

For project #1, you are being paid, turn around and outsource it to someone else - you don't need to tell the author right now, or you can set it up and give it to him as fait accompli. If he isn't paying you enough for you to hire someone else then tell him you just can't afford to do it anymore.

You mentioned getting disability payments in the future but needing your savings to supplement it. Have you looked into what the threshold for saving is before they deny you disability payments and expect you to exhaust your savings? It might be more financially prudent to follow your plan to purchase an affordable apartment.

You aren't living a queer-friendly place, I would not be able to live there so I admire your strength in enduring it for the sake of your family. But I think you need to be among your people. Being able to be honest about who you are, and accepted for that, will be such a weight off your shoulders. Have you looked at the job markets in queer-friendly areas?

You have done so well in coping with many stressors over the past year; I admire your strength, but now you need to put the focus on you, your happiness, and your future.
posted by saucysault at 1:07 PM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

You need therapy, not Ask MeFi. I don't mean that to be mean -- but look at how much you're angry at; what you can change is not the world.
posted by ellF at 1:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

For project #1, you are being paid, turn around and outsource it to someone else - you don't need to tell the author right now, or you can set it up and give it to him as fait accompli. If he isn't paying you enough for you to hire someone else then tell him you just can't afford to do it anymore.

Better yet, scan it into separate pages, familiarize yourself with Amazon's Digital Turk program, pay people in the third world pennies per page to type it up, get it off your hands, and make a tidy profit.
posted by jayder at 1:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might not be looking for sympathy right now, but I just wanted to say that I'm really sorry for your pain. Sometimes, life keeps kicking us in ways that don't feel good.

I don't think that the secret to life is always trying to control our world, or feeling that we have some responsibility to do so, despite our inability to do so. It's learning to let go of those things we can't control, and reacting to the things we can.

One of the things, I think, that does help us manage an uncontrollable world (at least from an emotional perspective) is to have a really good support structure. This is the first thing that came to mind for me as you were detailing your situation. Besides eliminating things that might be pressing too hard from "all directions," so to speak, I would put this at priority #1. The secret is finding people that you can really "unload" on, because I get the feeling that your anger is something that is really seeking an outlet, which is totally fine. It is really hard to find friends that you can do this with at times, but sometimes good counseling can serve this specific function. It helps you find a place to put that anger when there aren't good places in life to put it (at least not without doing some damage to us or others). Part of this process of relieving anger, too, is grieving perhaps for those things that really suck but we can't change. A good counselor can help with that, as well.

So, part of this is figuring out what to manage what you can in life, and what you can't. The other part is finding a person who sees you as being worthwhile, and who understands your pain while knowing everything about you, and who can help you grieve/find an outlet for the pain that you are feeling. It's way okay to ask for these things if you aren't getting them, by the way. I've become convinced lately that showing people that they matter is the sin qua non of life and flourshing. If we need to give these things for others to thrive, it's okay to ask for them, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:14 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to make this anonymous, you can ask the mods to do so using the "contact" link at the bottom right of this page.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2012

I feel that my productive life may have become too short to put up with all this crap. I want to ditch the day job and the writer (Project #1) and/or take my savings and move out of the Catholic neighborhood into the city (giving me an excuse to drop the writer, since the only reason I'm doing this is that I'm his neighbor).

I say you do it. Live your life. Take chances.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:53 PM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

My sympathies. I think it's really normal to feel knocked for a loop; it hasn't been long at all since you've been dealing with this. In your shoes, I'd go see a financial advisor about the whole apartment/disability question. Among other things, getting your own place might make you feel more like you are moving forward.

And totally kick that writer to the curb-- or outsource him-- and spend the time doing something you enjoy. It sounds like you have a lot of work in your life and not much fun. Cook, listen to music. I know the editing project you still have will expand to fill the time available but at least do something to make yourself happy in the short term and make a priority to free up more time, not less.
posted by BibiRose at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're not going crazy -- you're going sane in a crazy world. You don't need fixing. You need to use some of the energy of your anger (which is righteous, correct and just) to change enough of your circumstances so that you aren't paralyzed with seething frustration all day. You can't do it all at once, but you can do it one little thing at a time:

start some kind of student internship program to get a little help in the library -- I used to work in the library reshelving books instead of sitting in study hall;

ditch or farm out Project #1;

for a while, just stop paying attention to subjects in the news (you know who I'm talking about) that irritate you -- you don't need to know it, you can't do anything to change it, and it'll just ruin your day;

definitely work on moving.

You have every right to be angry about all of these things. Some of them you can fix, some you can't. If you work on fixing the things you have some control over, maybe the rest will be a bit easier to put up with.
posted by Corvid at 2:34 PM on February 25, 2012

I think you are so angry because you feel like people are just allowed to make your life harder and make it suck all the time, and yet you are never allowed to rock their little boats in return. You always have to be super accommodating, polite and patient. You can never bite back.

I think your discomfort with saying "no" to people might actually be a lot easier to change than you think. It also gets easier and easier with practice.

It is okay for you to just quit the 90 year old writer project today. Right now. If you want, you can tell him you've received a diagnosis that means you have to reduce strain on your eyes. Or if you don't want to share that with him, just tell him you need to let him know your circumstances have changed and you won't be able to do it anymore. And you can bring him to the senior center and they can help him find someone to do it. No apologies, if he is mad that's really tough, it was nice of you to do as much as you did to this point as it is.
posted by cairdeas at 2:44 PM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Anonymize -- you don't need more stress at the moment.
Compartmentalize your thinking. Promise yourself: only one shit show at a time. You are piling on right now, and as REAL as the pile is, there is no practical way to take a breath and plan at this pace/rate of thinking about it all.
Get rid of the old guy.
And then, job #1 is to live where you can be fully you, in whatever capacity. The best thing about that will be that no matter what happens, healthwise, you will have found a community that belongs to you, and to which you belong.
Don't go down the path of certain darkness, literally. You never never know.
Read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. It's time to own the moment you are in.
posted by thinkpiece at 3:19 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to use some of the energy of your anger (which is righteous, correct and just)

I actually disagree that it is any of these things, at least all at the same time. You have personal, deepseated issues that are being inflamed by a number of purely circumstantial conditions, most of which would prove to be somewhat within your control if you weren't feeling so angry/depressed/powerless.

Taken on their own, any one of these things would prove to be be an aggravating, but totally navigable and/or temporary, concern. If you just deal with these matters one by one as if THEY are the problems, more will just surface to replace them. You are the common denominator here, you need to get help so that you can roll with the punches of life -- and ultimately be able to see for yourself how righteous or just your own anger is, and whether you need to do anything about it except simply withstand it.

Please see a therapist. Explain to them what's going on with your medical situation. Tell them what you've told us here today. If they don't seem helpful, go see another one. As many as it takes.
posted by hermitosis at 3:22 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, live life NOW!

As nearly everyone has mentioned, kick the writer to the curb or outsource. That will take a WORLD of anxiety and anger off your shoulders.

Send out an email telling your procrastinating contributors that they will forgo publication if they don't get their shit to you in a timely manner. Give them a concrete deadline that needs to be met prior to the publish deadline. Tell them that anything arriving after your deadline either goes in WITHOUT editing, or doesn't go in at all. Then don't stress about it. If you're feeling kind, you can give them one more reminder later, but you're not THEIR mother either. After that, it's THEIR problem. They're adults, quit letting them treat you like their parent. What's the worse that could happen? You get fired or pulled off the project. So what, you hate it anyway.

Go to the principal and talk to them about bringing a good student in to TEACH them a little about library science. Tell him/her you want volunteers on their study hall hour or part of it, to learn the numbering system, how to research, etc. In college I took an elective library course that taught me so much more than I ever knew about how to research and find things. It opened up a whole 'nother world in the library for me, and was great fun. I'm sure you could find things online about hard copy research as well as digital. Help the kids find things they want to read. I would have loved that as a kid. Devious agenda: Part of the time the kids spend there could also be used for clean-up and shelving, thus freeing you up to do more interesting things. If the in-school thing won't fly, start a library club that meets after school. It can be done. If your school won't let you, then they're assholes that are also limiting the kids, and you need to be out of there.

Stay away from the news and the political issues for now. There's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Why let it anger you and ruin your day? What will be, will be, and all that is demanded of you is to get out and vote.

I think you need to get to a place where you can allow yourself the freedom of your sexuality. By that I mean acknowledging that it's a part of you and being comfortable with it. Sounds like you're keeping it hidden and that part of you is unexpressed, thus making you very uncomfortable in your skin. I would say given your age and vision issues, NOW is the time to find a way to move to the city and be yourself. You never know what the world may offer. You may find a situation with a gay lover or roommate that will allow you to live a comfortable, productive life on a disability income. Yes, you DEFINITELY need the social support! Anyone would be angry and frustrated if they didn't have friends they could be comfortable with in their own skin.

At forty, living with your parents, being in the position of an older child--and yes, living with your parents puts you in that position, no matter what your age. You need your own space, your own things around you, and breathing room to be yourself, as an adult. You need to start pursuing a job where you would like to live--another part of town, a different city, just somewhere that you can have your own space and be yourself. Start your planning; save for the move, the rental on the apartment. Look for another job. Summer is coming up, you've got lots of time to find something for next year. Develop a kick-ass resume. You have writing skills that you can use to better yourself. Figure out where you want to be, and how you're going to get there.

If you're having hormonal issues, do something about it. Pursue a medical solution or look at alternative ways of dealing with it, and solve it so that you can put that to bed.

Nothing is irreversible. You're living at home now, if worse comes to worse, you could return home to the safe space. If it would happen, so be it. But you are still young. You're intelligent, and you know how to research and be active in pursuing what you need. There are programs and jobs for people with disabilities. It sucks to have to deal with the vision issue, but remind yourself that you are strong, and you can do this. You still have preparation time. Do your due diligence and find a town or city that you can get the help you will need. The vision thing may be sooner or later, nobody really knows. But if you don't break out now, while you can, I believe you will regret it and be angry about it for the rest of your life.

For right now, you might consider therapy. It could help you siphon off some of the unproductive anger that is burning up all your energy and start letting you use that drive and energy to focus on what you need.

Good luck. I know you can do what it takes to be strong and to make your life better
posted by BlueHorse at 4:02 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think what happens when people get possibly life altering news, is the frank moment of clarity about the choices, and compromises, small and big, that we have made in our lives. And we see that perhaps we have given away too much of ourselves. Said yes, when we meant no. Said maybe when we meant hell no. Said no when we meant no, but someone wound up doing it anyway. Often for people who, in the big scheme of things, were neither sufficiently appreciative nor aware of our sacrifice for our tastes, or even if they were, it wasn't worth it to us anyway. That is when I think anger takes on the flavor of resentment towards others, and self loathing towards ourselves.

But hermitosis is right - individually, except for the unknown about your health, each of these situations is partially the result of a decision you made, regardless of the pressures, and addressable. The fact that you feel each of them as a poison thorn in your side suggests that your fear and anger has really thrown you for a loop. And why wouldn't it? What you've learned is very frightening. But please do get a second opinion from a doctor first or perhaps see if the first doctor has some more advice beyond long term reassurances about how individuals cope - the doctor must see this a lot - certainly they know of resources or support?

And if you can and if you haven't already, consider finding the support of a therapist, who is basically someone in your corner. You kind of sound like you need someone in your corner right now who can talk with you and stand by you as you sort out your fear and anger, and take small steps get align your life with YOUR values and needs right now.

Good luck.
posted by It's a Parasox at 4:16 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depression can present as anger instead of (or as well as) sadness. Also, fantasies of fleeing (your job, your home, your networks, your life...) are pretty common in clinical depression.

See a therapist. See a doctor. And meanwhile, do everything you can to be nice to yourself.
posted by lollusc at 4:23 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Be calm. Breathe. Rest. You don't need to sort all this out right this minute.

What have your doctors said about your likely prognosis for the future? Because - and I totally appreciate IANYD and may well be missing a lot here - it seems like even the worst-case scenario your doctors predicted in your last question was not as bad as the one you're predicting for yourself. If what you're looking at is recovery time after an operation and possible - possible, if an operation fails - loss of vision in one eye, you don't need to be planning for total blindness and losing your vision to a point where you're unable to read and write. That's not to minimize what you are facing, which does indeed sound horrible - just to suggest that possibly your brain is making up worst-case scenarios just to worry you further, and you don't need that right now.

I say this as someone with monocular vision (and not-great visual acuity) - it's fine. It's not even close to blindness. I read and write without any asssistive tech, I'm legally allowed to drive, it really doesn't get in the way of anything except seeing 3D movies. Of course I hope you don't lose any vision at all, but even if you end up where I am, you will really and truly be fine.

I also say this as someone who's been in the position, more recently, of having bizarre and unpredictable vision issues that doctors weren't helping me with, and I absolutely sympathise with how horribly frightening and frustrating it is to deal with that. It is awful. It can really take up a lot of your energy, and make you way less inclined to continue putting up with other unnecessarily stressful things in life.

It sounds like you've got an awful lot of stressful things in your life right now, none of which you actually need to keep on putting up with. If your life is making you crazy, start changing it (drop the 90-year-old's book? Ask for some time off? Move? Change jobs, even if the next one is lower-paid?) and keep on changing it until it's got to a place you can deal with. Because the way you explain it here, it sounds like some part of you might be holding this fear of "any day now, you're going to lose all your vision and be blind!" over your head just to force you to make life-changes you need to make for your own sanity.
posted by Catseye at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2012

I agree with the others in this thread who are recommending therapy. It sounds as though you've reached a point where a number of problems in your life have come to a head. Some of these are external (I'm with you on the Santorum hate!) but your ability to deal with these would be helped by addressing the internal issues in therapy.

However the main reason I'm posting is to reassure you that this eye issue really isn't worth getting hung up about. Yes, you are at higher-than-average risk of retinal detachment. So are people with severe near-sightedness or those who've had cataract surgery. The kind of vision loss you're at risk of is not an insidious, gradual, bilateral visual decline like in conditions such as macular degeneration or progressive optic neuropathies. It is not going to cause physical eyestrain as you worried about above. Retinal detachment can be blinding, but if noticed early (I'm sure both google and your ophthalmologist have told you the signs to be aware of) there's still a fair chance of keeping useful central vision in that eye. Plus, you also mentioned that the ophthalmologist felt the other eye wasn't nearly as bad.

I don't want to minimise your concerns about your eyes, I just think that unless there's something else the ophthalmologist said that you haven't shared it really isn't something that should keep you up at night. Put it this way: if an ophthalmologist was given this diagnosis, with all of their knowledge about eye conditions they wouldn't start thinking about early retirement or lining up low vision services. In fact they'd probably keep operating (providing they didn't run into further complications) and they'd have the support of both their certifying board and medical defense attorney. If one of their clinic employees came to them and disclosed this problem they wouldn't start looking for a replacement staff member either.

Let this diagnosis be a catalyst for seeking help for your other problems, but don't allow it to weigh on you more than that.
posted by teem at 6:34 PM on February 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful and heartfelt answers.

As for the writer, I'm putting him off for now until after a major deadline on Project #2 and after spring break (which I need to do research). I have not got around emotionally to saying no to him altogether because I feel that he has no one else; he has another editor but she doesn't live close by, and his family lives out of state.

The anger I'm feeling towards him is probably displaced anger at my parents, whom I see aging in small ways. Neither presently is seriously ill or cognitively impaired, and both are still working, but I see them starting to downshift and forget small stuff and it makes me both worried for them and angry (envious of the downshifting).

I plan to start badgering the contributors to Project #2.

I agree that I probably need therapy, friends, or both.

This is a highly conventional, competitive metropolitan area and I'm not sure how I would go about finding friends to whom my situation doesn't appear monstrous (gut reaction which polite people would never express). Being gay/lesbian/bi is one rather common form of alienation; such people might be conventional and competitive in other respects. If you've read my other posts, as some of you have, you know I also have a hearing disability (oral communication, not signing). That is undoubtedly the oldest source of the anger.

As for time off from the school, this school is an SE school. Whatever happens to me, the students (at-risk, learning disabilities, mental illnesses) have it worse, which makes it hard to make a case for myself. The only time I could credibly ask for time off is the scheduled upgrade of the library catalog in a month's time, a major changeover that will probably take a week.

As for my vision, my condition is known as traction caused by the detachment of the vitreous humor from the retina. The vitreous pulls on the retina. This means that I see weak flashes of light around one or more edges of my visual field. They are quite weak -- it takes about ten minutes in the dark after lights out for me to see them. The doctor does not think these are serious. They do not appear every night. But seeing these flashes is making it hard for me to fall asleep and I suspect that some of the irritation and stress I'm feeling is due to lack of sleep (I must get up at 5:45 am for work during the week).
posted by bad grammar at 7:46 PM on February 25, 2012

I have no solutions to this that aren't easy, I am sorry to say, but it sounds like why everything sucks boils down to this:

(a) You need to move somewhere that isn't home with your parents in a bigoted community and has another job, but:
(b) with your eye problem, plus whatever other reasons (probably money, I guess), you feel like you can't move. And frankly, I"d be right there with you on freaking out about spending the money that you'll need for when you're on disability. I don't know how to get past that fear.

But...it sounds like moving would solve most of your problems. And given that you sound freaking miserable right now, it might be worth the money to just try to move and job hunt already. As for not having friends in the city...well, maybe use the Internet? Look at local web sites, meet the folks that patronize them? Go visit there occasionally now?

Your judgment doesn't sound that off to me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 PM on February 25, 2012

Being gay/lesbian/bi is one rather common form of alienation; such people might be conventional and competitive in other respects.

Ancedata, but my experience over the past twenty years has been that the queer community, especially the lesbian community, is incredibly inclusive of people with physical and mental disabilities. The community is not made of perfect beings but I can't think of any other community I have been a part of that is as accepting of diverse people with strengths in non-conventional ways.
posted by saucysault at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2012

bad grammar, I am so sorry you are dealing with such a stressful situation. I cannot imagine how hard this all must be.

But you need to give yourself permission to put yourself first for a while. You know how in the airplane they say, "Put the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose first, then help others?" You need to give yourself a break now so that you can be there for the people who need you later, and in the long haul.

May I also recommend a short-term media fast? It can really help to give yourself a break from the weight of knowing about the world's problems while you are dealing with personal challenges.

My dream for you is that you would take a week off, go somewhere quiet, and bring books and movies and games that made you feel happy and serene. Recharge your batteries and let your frayed nerves restore themselves. It sounds like even a few lower-stress days might help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:25 AM on February 26, 2012

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