COVID-19, Laid Off and Mental Health…OH My!

As many of you saw on Thursday, I was laid off from my job as a marketing project manager. I honestly did not see it coming and was completely blindsided. I found out later that a total of 300 people were laid off from the company due to the COVID-19 pandemic and their bottom line. As a survivor of the 2008 recession and breast cancer survivor, I know this will be an even tougher road due to so much uncertainty about our health.

I’m a realist and see the massive layoff numbers, especially now that I am part of that number. It’s not about being capable or skilled at this time. Many of us who are laid off are more than capable and skilled. That’s the issue. The competition will be much like the recession days; extremely fierce. Plus, many companies are implementing hiring freezes except for healthcare, technology and food industries.

I’ve been a mixed bag of emotions since Thursday – furious, scared, disbelief, anxious. I initially got more upset being told to be strong. I know people meant it in a loving and kind way and weren’t sure what to say. I’m sure I came across unintentionally a little snappy when responding to texts and messages. You see, I already AM strong. How much stronger do I need to be to survive in this world? I never set out to be a modern-day Hercules.

I’ve spent this entire weekend doing major self-care so I wouldn’t complete snap or fall into a serious depression. What’s hardest for me to deal with is feeling completely disrespected by my former manager and bigger boss. So, here’s what I’ve done to cope and change my mindset so I can focus on next steps come Monday morning.

  1. I needed to feel in control of my space, so I did OCD cleaning from top to bottom. I pushed through my chronic pain which has been sky high because I needed that control.
  2. I purged of all the logo’d work stuff (water bottles, bags, backpacks, notepads) which really made me feel good.
  3. I must’ve vacuumed five different times. Each time I shouted all the things I wanted to say out loud to my former manager and bigger boss but never could to their faces.
  4. As thoughts of them would enter my mind, I would quickly replace it with a positive thought of the amazing people I got to meet and hangout with for the past two years.
  5. I thought about how one of the regional vice presidents called me after I emailed him personally thank him for being such a great light and inspiration in the office. His beautiful words to me brought me to tears. He’s just a good man and a father figure in the office.
  6. I thought about all of YOU who reached out to me with posts, texts, emails, DMs and calls and thought how blessed I am to have people who care, even those who’ve never met me in-person.
  7. I thought about how I managed to push through chemo brain and be on point almost every day and make big decisions and lead conference calls and meetings.
  8. I read tons of inspirational quotes, prayed, read some self-help books on my bookshelf about transition and struggles.
  9. I’ve watched my favorite action movies and TV shows with a fierce female lead that I love so much. Those who know me well, know that Alias is my go-to series every single time. I just connect with Jennifer Garner’s character Sydney on so many levels. I even have an autographed script of the pilot, autographed picture of Jennifer Garner and the Alias books. Yeah, I’ve been obsessed from day one.
  10. I’ve spent time remembering the many, many trials I’ve already survived and still standing. I’m reminding myself that even when I want to give up, I must push forward because I have purpose in this life. Though I don’t know how my purpose will fully flourish, I’m trusting God’s plan.

All the above has helped me get to a decent place mentally and emotionally. I haven’t been able to verbally talk to many people this weekend. I knew I needed to work on my mindset so I wouldn’t go ballistic or cry uncontrollably. So again, I apologize for unintentionally sounding snappy in my texts or DMs.

Being laid off during this COVID-19 pandemic is downright shitty. I allowed myself to get angry and then release it. It’s so ironic that I literally am a Cancer (birthday July 3rd), so I crawled into my shell this weekend so I could emerge with a plan of action and focus come Monday. Again, I’m already a strong and resilient person and know I’ll get through this. It’s just a tough pill to swallow because I was hoping for a somewhat stable 2020 financially, professionally and physically since last year was a complete bust.

Here are the top quotes that have brought comfort to me. I may have some printed to look at often…can you guess which one (s)?

So like Dorothy’s “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” line, I cautiously step into Monday thinking of COVID-19, networking, revising my current resume, trying to get my breast cancer scans rescheduled for this week before I lose my company health insurance, waiting for my official work end date so I can file for unemployment, reviewing Medicaid and ACA and bills.  

On the bright side, I have time to write and submit to my huge list of publications that I have been aching to do. Most of all, I know that I am not alone in this struggle and calm enough to fully reach out to friends to lean on. I love y’all!

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Raging Against Myself

I’ve had many issues arise before my leave of absence from work and during that were beyond my control and have caused full blown panic attacks. I seem to need more and more time alone in pure silence to calm my thoughts and breathing. Then I thought about how I’m like that 90’s band name Raging Against the Machine. Only, I realized that I seem to be raging against myself.

Why?

Going through cancer while single has literally thrown me off the ledge. Let the rage fest begin.

I rage over constantly fighting my body to just function properly.

  • I can no longer just get up and go anymore. It takes so long to get ready in the mornings because of the chemo induced fibromyalgia and neuropathy. I never thought I would have to deal with this level of chronic pain on a daily basis. There is no real relief from it.

I rage that my life continues to be difficult without breaks. The hits never seem to cease.

  • Just when I think the pieces on my path are finally aligning, I get hit with another problem or infection that causes me to take three steps back instead of forward.

I rage over the never-ending medical bills post-cancer.

  • Why aren’t there more financial resources for post treatment? I found so many grants to help during my active treatment and one-year post but nothing now that I’m three years post. These are lifelong struggles which require many doctor appointments, tests and medications. The financial strain on a single income is suffocating.

I rage over being chronically single with zero strength to even ponder dating again.

  • I honestly don’t think I can ever date again. I have a zero-sex drive. I’m in freaking menopause. I don’t even want to be touched because it hurts thanks to the fibromyalgia. Plus, how I can date someone in the regular world ever again? It was hard enough pre-cancer to find a good fit at the right time. I can’t even have regular conversations because it always reverts to cancer.

I rage that any PTO from work has never been used to take a vacation and have fun. Instead, those days are used for doctor appointments, surgeries or sick days. 

  • How ironic that I finally had to request a leave of absence from work because my body literally gave up on me. I’ve been hit with an infection and chronic pain every single month since October 2018. No wonder I basically keeled over and couldn’t go on. Will my immune system ever be semi decent?

I rage over our healthcare system and having to fight the billing departments from multiple cancer centers and question or review charges.

  • The visceral stress from opening the mailbox and seeing a billing statement and/or invoice almost daily wears on me. Plus, I already pay such a high deductible. I don’t have the strength to work multiple jobs and gain multiple streams of income by myself. It takes everything I have to go work for 8-10 hours a day.

I rage over the hundreds of times I’ve had to advocate for myself to be heard with doctors.

  • I’ve been treated at multiple cancer centers and have seen multiple oncologists and specialists until I was finally heard. I’m sick of so many saying, “That doesn’t typically happen to cancer patients” or “I don’t think this pain is from your treatments.” When are these providers going to learn that every BODY is different? When will they realize they don’t fully understand the long-term side effects that stem from chemo and radiation?

I rage over those inside and outside cancer land who try to “fix” my chronic pain with essential oils, supplements and more unsolicited advice.

  • I’m disgusted by those who give unsolicited advice and think they have the cure to end my chronic pain or whatever else is going on. It’s like these people think I haven’t already tried many of the things they claim “cured” them. Why can’t I just talk about it? Why do I have to justify to non-medical people why I don’t want their unsolicited advice?

I rage over the family life I never knew I wanted and now can never have thanks to my cancer treatments and being medically induced into menopause years ahead of schedule.

  • When your choices are essentially taken away, the grief of wondering what could have been is palpable. It’s so hurtful when people tell me to foster or adopt. It’s like they completely ignore the fact that I am single!!! I can barely take care of myself and my cat, let alone be there for a child alone. Show some sensitivity! Hear me instead of trying to make me feel better.

I rage over physically looking like a completely different woman with these chemo curls. They aren’t natural to me.

  • I truly struggle over “this hair.” Sure, I know it looks cute like a baby giraffe, but it is NOT my natural hair!!! I didn’t grow up with naturally curly hair. Chemo did this, not nature. I didn’t ask for this. The PTSD I feel every single time I look in the mirror tightens my chest and causes tears. My thick eyebrows pre-cancer now must be filled in with a brow pencil. I don’t care that no one else sees the flaws and damage. I am the one who must live with them.

I rage that the treatments, surgeries and pressure to work full-time have visibly aged my face and body by at least five years.

  • It took over two years for the dark circles to fade. I’m in a constant state of fatigue. It shows in my face. My former baby face has been through an unwelcomed war. I see the wear and tear it has caused.

I rage that I no longer know why I’m fighting so hard to stay in this world with no physical legacy.

  • I feel survivors’ guilt so deeply after hearing someone is diagnosed as stage IV and have a husband and children. So, what about those single, childless people? What do we have to live for if not family? Why should we keep fighting to exist in pain when there will never be children or grandchildren? Who do we share our memories with? What is our purpose?

Finally, I rage that after all these years on earth, I’ve become what I always feared – alone and ordinary.

  • How do I stop having survivors’ envy? I see so many survivors running marathons, jumping out of planes, traveling and other really physical activities when I can barely walk the two-mile trail in the park. Why didn’t my body heal and become stronger? If anything, I feel I get physically weaker each day. How is that surviving and thriving?

Though I often feel alone with my rage, I know there must be others who suffer through this in silence. I wish I had the right coping skills to help all of us get through the daily insanity. That’s the hardest part. I want to take action but don’t know how. My current therapist says I’m doing the right things to cope, but I often don’t feel like I’m doing enough. Is this it?

I rage because at the end of the day, I just want to matter and be remembered and LIVE instead of just existing.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Lessons learned from falling over the edge

Last week was another tough one to get through. I’ve been having difficulty getting my short-term disability claim approved. What set me over the edge was a call from the benefits specialist last Wednesday. He’s the one assigned to my claim. He received the paperwork from the Northside Primary Care office but was surprised by the physician’s statement. All she wrote was I was suffering from anxiety, depression and bipolar. WTF?!

I literally lost it for a few minutes. She mentioned nothing about the chronic pain, chronic fatigue or the number of infections I’ve suffered almost every month for the past six months. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had punched hard in the gut. Why?

I posted in my Facebook cancer support groups of what transpired to get thoughts on it. Many said maybe she was trying to set me up for permanent disability or maybe she wrote the wrong thing and it was meant for another patient. All those comments were disheartening and concerning. I had left messages for the doctor and her nurse via phone and through the portal. No response.

Why would a doctor write this and not notify me first?

Since Monday was a holiday, I let it go. I called first thing on Tuesday and asked to speak to her supervisor. In the end, I spoke directly with the clinical director. He said he would review my case, speak with the doctor and get back to me later that day. I was impressed because he kept his word and called that evening.

He explained that she wrote that diagnosis in her physician’s statement in order to get me approved. I said that all well and good, but she did not reference anything else. He agreed she should’ve notified me what she planning to put in her statement. The issue is nothing she said backed up what Emory Palliative Care and I wrote. How could she leave all the rest out?

The clinical director was impressive. He told me he would call my benefits specialist to clear up any confusion and send whatever additional paperwork that was requested. He told me he would call me Wednesday.

I received the call yesterday evening. The clinical director told me what he said to the benefits specialist, that my claim is being reviewed by the insurance’s doctors and now waiting on a decision. He answered all questions, kept that original doctor’s diagnosis and added the rest of what we discussed.

I told him the issue is the doctor never notified me or returned any of my calls. He agreed. At that point, I felt heard and can let this go. I did tell him to notate in my file that I never want to be treated by that doctor again.

So, now I’m waiting on a decision from the insurance company. I’ve been without income going on four weeks. Thank God for my previous church and my mother. That’s the only reason I can even breathe and finally not stress. Do I feel guilty and ashamed for asking for financial help? A little. I also know when to let pride go and ask for what I need.

My emotions are finally stable again thanks to Lexapro. I realized last week that I needed to get back on an antidepressant. I needed that buffer it gives me to handle the intensity of my emotions. I didn’t want to and fought it at first, but know I made the right decision. The Lexapro in the morning and CBD oil with THC in the evening helps take the edge off.

Putting my health first continues to come at a cost. I was born premature and sick from birth. It’s exhausting and expensive taking care of myself. There have been moments where I’ve felt strong and even invincible. Those days are long gone.

All I can do now is prep for my surgery on Monday, work on understanding this chronic pain and taking care of my mental health. Maybe that is the lesson I needed to learn. I can no longer continue to let these difficult and painful hits to my life completely through me off course and into a tailspin. I need to stop being so reactive so I can focus on being proactive.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

The struggle continues…

No real blog post tonight either. This pic sums up the past few weeks perfectly, which I posted on my social media Friday.

Pic for Blog for 9.30.18

I have spent this day actually sleeping and then working on a safety plan for my mental health this week.

Working on letting go of wishing I could go back into the past.

Working on embracing the silence instead of trying to fill it.

Working on not allowing other people’s stress become my own.

Working on feeling the smile and not faking it.

Sept/Oct are painful months due to so many cancerversaries and other painful memories that are being compounded with other bullshit now.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie