I have a confession to make. I’m terrible about taking care of myself. Even when I’m in need, I worry that I’m taking resources that others need more desperately than I do. I put things off if I feel like I will even slightly inconvenience others. I will ignore my own needs and not take care of myself if I feel like someone may need me more. I rob myself emotionally and physically. It’s not a matter of pride either. I genuinely feel like I’m taking from someone else more in need of that support. I know I do this. It’s not healthy, but it’s always been my modus operandi.
I’ve done something for myself now and I’m not sure if was so much the wrong thing as the wrong timing. I’ve been looking back on this most recent battle with the depression, anxiety, and PTSD that currently have me in a chokehold. I examined decisions, incidents, and factors in my life that have most likely contributed to this. There’s a bitterly learned lesson that seems to have kicked it off…
I am a person of faith. I grew up in the church. I was there multiple times a week and my parents often had to look for me before we could leave because I was somewhere running my mouth with a friend or mentor. They joked that I locked the door when we left. Not surprisingly, because of that, prayer plays a pretty big role in my life. The lesson I learned is I should have stuck to my roots and prayed diligently before making a life changing decision based on the words “raise” and “promotion.”
This goes back to my old job. I had a job that I really liked. I loved the people I worked with and I was good at it. I came in each day, did my work, interacted with my co-workers when I felt like talking and listened to my iPod when I didn’t. I loved it. Then my supervisor asked me to come into her office. She offered me another job that in some ways seems suited to me and honestly, if it weren’t for my mental illness would be perfect. The job offered was a customer service job in medical billing. I immediately accepted even though she told me to think about it. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t pray about it. I just did it.
The job entailed, as most customer service jobs do, handling phone calls. I talked day in and day out with patients. I heard their stories, both happy and sad. I talked them through their frustrations and at times was the target of their anger. I also had a trainer who I’m sure is a perfectly lovely person to people she likes but rubbed me completely the wrong way by talking to me like I was an idiot for not already knowing the job and was as condescending as possible. Between the oil and water nature of that relationship and my identity as an emotional sponge, the door to my mental illness opened and the depression came roaring back. Once that happened the stress of the job started affecting me physically as well. My problems with ulcers which I have had since my early teens returned as I internalized the upset and frustration of that position. I no longer enjoyed getting up in the morning and heading into work. I ended up catching everything that came along because my immune system was affected by the stress. I eventually was laid off when the company had to make cuts due to losing some of the providers they billed for. I was upset that a job I had previously loved morphed into something I so dreaded that by the time I left I was glad to go.
I was out of work for five months after that. Finally, I was offered a contract position working for a hospital system Once again, it was customer service. This was so much worse. At my old job I dealt with patients who had much smaller bills from ancillary providers like the radiologist or pathologist. This job meant taking calls all day long from people faced with devastating diagnoses, high bills, seeing the very worst of what insurance companies can do to policy holders in order to protect their bottom line. I had the worst call I’ve ever taken about a month ago. I received a call from the mother of a teenage boy who had died over a year ago and they had donated his organs. Up until the papers are signed giving consent for the harvesting of the organs all charges are the responsibility of the patient’s family. This mother had been getting letters from the hospital every month for a year letting her know that her insurance still would not pay the bill. They were denying the claim. Their reason? The patient didn’t have prior authorization. What kind of heartless bastards deny because you didn’t get prior authorization for your child to die? I made it through the rest of the day but once I got home, I fell apart.
My health has taken a toll once again because of this job. I have missed weeks of work and had doctor bills and prescriptions that I feel certain I would not have had were it not for a job that guts me on a daily basis.
I simply cannot do this anymore. I have been praying in earnest about what to do. I love the people I work with but I cannot sacrifice my mental and physical health in order to do a job that breaks me every single day. I had talked to my leads at work last month and told them that I was looking for other work and explained why. This past Monday, I received a call from the branch manager of the agency I’m contacted through and when she asked how things were going I explained to her why I cannot keep doing this. I told her even if I was offered a position I would turn it down. I want to be in the medical field, but that job is killing me a little more every single day. The joy that I normally get from helping someone is drowned out by all of the heartbreak I see.
My contact ends on July 31. The hospital system and I both decided not to renew it. I don’t have another position lined up yet. I can’t afford to be out of work. I also can’t afford to put my sanity and health on the line. I trust that God will take care of me but I’m still scared and I still question my decision. I’m sending out resumes and applying for jobs and hoping against hope that I can find something starting August 1.
I did see something today that gave me hope that things will be okay. When I made the decision to move from SC to Idaho without ever having been here before I prayed really hard about the decision. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just the decision of that girl who was always ready to chew off her own arm to get out of her hometown but was God’s will instead. That answer came for me when people from the church my brother pastors took me out for a going away party. They gave me gifts and one of them was a journal with scripture at the bottom of each page. I opened it and was greeted with Joshua 1:9. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I came across that scripture again today in my Facebook feed. I’m going to hold tight to the belief that God has always taken care of me before and He will now.
I still have what Shel Silverstein called the “night time what ifs” though. They keep me up dancing in my head asking me what if I hadn’t done this or what if I do that or what if what I’ve done is the thing that’s going to bring everything crashing down around me. It’s not fun dealing with this shit and wondering if I’m right.
What I am sure of though is that it’s about damn time I started taking care of myself. I hope I was right to do this the way I have. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well and mine is getting close to dry. I’d rather have a bit of fear of the unknown than the knowledge that keeping up with what I’ve been doing is going to kill me inside.