Thursday, August 30, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder and Jobs/Careers: Part 2

Short Story Time: So, my landlords decided it would be fun to breed Dobermans. Don’t get me wrong I freaking love Dobbies. They’re super beautiful. Wanna know when they’re not so beautiful? When you have 3 adult dogs and 8 pups running around barking and whining outside of your bedroom window at 5:30 in the freaking morning and all you want to do is sleep so you’re not a zombie for work when you have to be there in an hour and a half. Egads people. E. Gads.

Thus endeth the rant. If I sound a bit snarky today, well, it’s because I am a bit snarky today.

Jobs and Borderline Personality Disorder

It can be tough. I see over and over how family and friends of people with BPD get down on those of us that have a harder time maintaining adequate employment.  Inevitably what I see is, “She’s just lazy and refuses to get to work on time,” or,  ”If he would just do [INSERT normal brain function that is impaired for us] it would be fine,”. There are plenty of other iterations but they all fall into the general category of: I don’t see why you can’t just grow up, be normal, and act like an “adult”.

  1. Because we’re not “normal” (whatever that is).
  2. Because there are a lot of things going on in our brains that make this whole “being an adult thing” kind of impaired. Like having the emotional development of a 3 year old. < ---- That’s actually what psychologists say. People with BPD tend to have a stunted emotional growth (often due to childhood trauma) which contributes to poor interpersonal development.
  3. This isn’t a helpful attitude. I get that it’s shitty for the Nons in our life too, but this is not helpful. We’re not dysfunctional on purpose. We didn’t choose to have the chemical responses that cause our brains to freak the hell out. What we need is to learn the kind of coping mechanisms that will allow us to be more functional. Blaming and shaming pretty much just makes us feel even more worthless and even more angry. When you feel worthless and you’re super pissed about it, that’s not going to end well for anyone. Just sayin’.

Not helpful face. Full of snark. (not me)

So why is it so difficult for some people with BPD to have steady employment? (Some People – this isn’t true of everyone, but it’s common enough).

Yanno all those things that hinder us in our day to day lives? Yeah those don’t magically go away when we punch in from 9a-5p (or 7a to 4p in my case). So now it’s even more important to hide it all.

So why’s it so hard?

·         Identity Issues
·         Paranoia
·         Criticism/Rejection
·         Splitting
·         Impulsive Behavior
·         Co-morbid symptoms
·         Poor Stress Response

I’m gonna start with…

Identity Issues

My job is super rad if you’re a giant nerd like I am. Not giant physically. Giant brain-wise. However.

“[People with BPD] may not have a clearly defined sense of who they are; as a result, it can be difficult to know where their job or career interests really lie. The Borderline person may be looking for an identity in their job: a job gives an identity to the person, instead of the person's identity leading to a job.

For instance, Susan cannot figure out what she wants to do, she has started several “careers” including teaching, script writing, retail, and medical technology, but nothing seems to be able to keep her interest. Susan keeps finding herself adding training classes and entry-level jobs to her resume. However, due to her identity issues, it is 10 years later and she is no closer to knowing what she wants to do for a living, nor has she finished any degree or certificate program. [1]

It’s one thing to tailor your personality and attitude to be work appropriate in a professional environment. It’s another thing to feel like you’re a completely different person, or that you have to be a completely different person in order to be accepted. It’s hard to be appropriate when you’re not sure who you’re supposed to be.

I don’t fit in at all. I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere or with anyone so I always feel out of place. Uncomfortable. No one would pick me out of a crowd and say, “Now that girl looks like a rocket scientist.” It’s actually kind of annoying when you see that cartoon double take people do when my friends tell them what I do.  I’m super quirky but I feel the need to be “normal” so I’ll be taken seriously. I have actively rebelled against this my entire life. The way I dress, the metal in my face, the ink on my skin, it doesn’t affect my brain or how that thinks. But I feel like I have to be different and I resent it hardcore.
Though I am finding that the more people get to know me (and I was a complete recluse for like my first 6 months holed up in my little office too self-conscious to talk to anyone, feeling like I’d be imposing on people if I joined them for coffee at break) they’re totally okay with my being an odd bird as long as I do my job. It only took me two years to figure this out b/c the thought of even showing a little bit of my quirkiness made me super anxious, I was sure I’d get fired, and uber paranoid.

Most people but on a business suit and a tie and skip off to work. I put on a Business Haven Suit and spend half my time wishing it wasn’t so damned itchy and three sizes too small. Horrible.  Speaking of paranoia…. 


I know people that are way more paranoid than I am but that doesn’t mean its fun. My real world paranoia is not fun. My work world paranoia is its own entity. It could star in its own psychological thriller. The whole movie you know for a friggin’ fact that there’s a horrible monster with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth and eyeballs that shoot fire and explode your genitals. The suspense music plays in the background, rising in pitch as you slowly inch around the corner, listening, fully tuned to defend yourself from the killer creature lurking around the bend, waiting to destroy your world. You don’t want to turn the corner but you know you have to because the copier is in another room and you need that document so you take a deep breath and… DUN DUN DUN… nothing happens b/c it’s just paranoia but now you’re sufficiently anxiety ridden as you get your copy. But wait, now you have to go back to your office, muahahahahahaha. Repeat for the next 8 hours. 5 days a week. For the rest of your life. Fail.

Despite having multiple degrees and advanced training in a state of the art field, I am constantly plagued by doubts. Remember when I talked about my Failure Schema? I never feel like anything I do is good enough. Everything I do should be better, and if it’s not, my job could be on the line. Even the most asinine suggestions make me paranoid and I fear I’ll be fired. The most minute criticism, not even criticism, sometimes just helpful suggestions or outside interest from other members of my team will make me paranoid. Paranoid that they’re questioning my ability, paranoid that I’m doing something wrong, paranoid that they think I’m not competent, paranoid that they’re looking to take credit for something I’ve been doing… the list goes on and on. The amount of additional stress that kind of paranoia puts on me is intense. Quite a few times (you’ve actually seen it if you go back far enough in my blog; for example.) I’ve been on the verge of quitting because the amount of stress and fear I’ve felt has been so intense. Anxiety. Gut wrenching, heart in your throat, instantaneous panic because there might be some remote possibility in some iteration of your daily ruminations that could maybe lead to your demise. Don’t even get me started on actual criticism…

Wait, that’s what I’m doing here. Stick around for the next episode. 

***Try not to take any of this as I'm making excuses for our behavior, so much as trying to explain the driving force behind where the behavior comes from. With understanding comes potential to fix the source, not just criticize the behavior. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder and Jobs/Careers: Part 1

I'm back! I promise! 

Considering I’ve been obsessing over financials and I’ve had to prioritize all my waking hours to accomplish the amount of work I have to do for the past week or so I thought it was fitting that today I talk about one of life’s inevitable challenges we with Borderline Personality face.

Getting and keeping a job.

It’s easier, er, less difficult, for some of us to get and maintain a job. For others it’s very difficult. It really depends on the severity of our mental health issues and whether we’re actively working on our mental health.

Having BPD does not necessarily limit your job choices, but it can create quite a lot of challenges. Like anyone, BPD or not, choosing a career and figuring out what you want to do with your life is going to depend on your particular skill set and what interests you. It’s important to remember that our mental health diagnosis doesn’t change the fact that we’re also just people and face the same challenges that many non-Borderline people face when choosing a career. Figuring out a career choice may be easy for some of us, while for others they might vacillate between majors or goals for years, changing throughout their lifetime. Even if we can find a good match career-wise that doesn’t make it “easy”.  Despite my BPD I’d still be considered high-functioning intellectually. Outside of my work environment I don’t know anyone that is capable of doing the kind of work I am doing. I have multiple engineering degrees and am working on one of the most advanced engineering projects in the world. I recognize I’m often the exception and not necessarily the rule. That doesn’t mean I always have an easy time of it either. Exactly the opposite actually.

BPD can present a lot of unique challenges in the work place. For instance; identity issues, feelings of rejection, paranoia, self-esteem problems, and the additional stress that comes from a job often result in making it difficult to find a solid sense of purpose or direction in the work place. This all contributes to why it can be difficult to find and keep a job with BPD. Considering how ambivalent we can be, how indecisive, even identifying life and career goals can be difficult.

Originally I was going to go to culinary school.  I love to cook and bake and wanted to be a professional chef. I was signed up, accepted, and had my move in date. About 2 months beforehand I had a major anxiety attack and couldn’t deal with the idea of going to culinary school.  I couldn’t deal with the thought of being judged on something I loved so much. I was afraid it would destroy my love for something I valued. I panicked. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life once I decided not to go to culinary school. To help me onto the path I’m on now I took my own anti-ambivalence advice. I had all of the options, so I just picked one to start with. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that point so I just started taking classes. I knew I was good at math and science, I like to work with my hands and create things ( not just theorize) so I almost generically chose engineering. I wasn’t sure if it would be something I’d love, but I knew it would provide me the ability to take care of myself. I picked a field and ran with it. I did change engineering majors to the one I eventually earned my Bachelors and Masters in but instead of dwelling on the limitless possibilities, instead of miring myself in my ambivalence, I just picked something I was good at and figured if I found out along the way I wanted to do something different I could change. But in the mean time I’d have a path to pursue that would allow me to function in the world.

My compulsive nature and my anxiety actually helped me excel in my studies because I was so afraid of failure. I was the kind of student that read whole text books before the course even started. I was constantly plagued with anxiety. I had zero social life. I was a recluse locked in my own academic prison. But I was an intelligent recluse. And it worked. I have an amazing grasp of the skills I need. Granted my ability to function around people took a pretty big blow, which is why this is a disorder and not just normal.

All those things that we deal with normally that make Borderline a personality disorder can affect us on the job. The big ones I deal with are:

Identity Issues

Others that are common for people to deal with are Splitting, the inability to separate work from personal life, impulsive behavior contributing to absenteeism, hell other co-morbid disorders like severe depression that make it difficult to even get out of bed sometimes. Oh, there’s more. These can all contribute to difficulty in interpersonal relationships within a structured working environment. That doesn’t mean we can’t maneuver it but it does mean it can be much more difficult at times.

Tomorrow I’ll probably post some Lucid Analysis (yay therapy!) but then I’ll pick right back up on this subject of things that contribute to the difficulties for us in the work place and how we can help ourselves…..

By the way, I’m feeling very guilty for having to take so much time away from blogging. This is the longest period of time I’ve taken without consistent blogging. I just haven’t had the time to write my articles with all the vacation stress, then immediately getting hit with having to move, finding a place, getting packed, getting caught up with all the work I’m now behind on because I took a vacation, and then of all things; jury duty. It’s just been one thing after another. I’ve had to prioritize in favor of my work, even though I’d much rather be doing this. Healthy choices though, right? That’s the goal.  As you can imagine I’m a big bundle of stress right now. I’m trying very hard to remember my healthy coping techniques, fighting off panic attacks, and get back on track though. I love writing this blog and I dearly want to get back to my daily schedule. 
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