I have only collected unemployment benefits twice in my life – once when I was laid of from Trans-World Entertainment because they closed the store I was a manager at (The Wall), and after I was off short term disability with Lowe’s and they had given away my position in the interim. Both of those times I had a valid and both of those times I felt no guilt. I have been paying into the system since I was 17 years old — I thought it wasn’t too selfish to dip into a little bit of what I had put in. but an interesting thing happened when I was receiving benefits from Lowe’s.
I was still recovering from my mental breakdown and things were far from being smooth and normal. After my wife made the decision for me that I wasn’t going back to work, I filed for short term disability. After a few weeks of putting in the proper paperwork, I was approved and started getting a small check every 2 weeks. It was during this time that I was still trying to get a handle on everything. I wasn’t sleeping at night because of my anxiety. I was worried about everything. My mind would race and I couldn’t do anything to slow it down. I was worried about money, I was worried about being the sole caregiver for my son, I was worried about what everyone thought of me back at my store when I just stopped showing up anymore, and I was worried about being a failure to my family. I tried coping with these feelings by trying to find a little pleasure in life. My office was pretty much off limits during the bedtime hours because of my suicidal thoughts that tended to manifest themselves when I was up there alone. So I was stuck going to bed every night with my wife as insurance that I would not go up there. I promised her I wouldn’t and to the best of my recollection, I did not break that promise. So what I ended up doing was watching TV. I started watching a show I had heard of on Hulu called ‘Community’. everyone said it was fantastic and I thought watching an established comedy series would life my mood a bit. I was right about that. I enjoyed watching a few episodes each night and actually looked forward to bedtime after a while knowing I could watch the show. Then a few things started to happen. First, there was a series of Geico commercials that would be shown during the show. I can’t find a good archive, but here is one of the commercials from Vimeo. It may seem like a harmless commercial, but it would really get my mind going and set me off. I would think about those guys playing guitar at the end, and for some weird reason, the guy with the beard in particular. I would look at them at the end saying their little lines and playing guitar, and think to myself, “Those guys get paid to do that. They have a job. Here I am laying in bed watching TV, getting a very small check because I was a quitter and can’t make it to work without having a meltdown, and making my wife support us through a job that barely puts food on our table. What kind of man am I to let all of this happen?”
Yeah, that’s pretty fucked up. But that is sadly how my mind works. I felt that way for a few months and then once I got onto unemployment and and the checks I was receiving were very respectable, the stress started to lessen and lessen. But about a 9 months later when the checks stopped, those feelings came back. and to be honest, they’ve never really gone away since. And that’s pretty fucked up as well.
I’ve been working part time since November. I actually like my job and made enough to get us through 99% of Jess’s unpaid maternity leave. I work about 20 hours a week now, and it’s not something I dread. True, I hate the actual act of leaving my family and going to work (who doesn’t) but I don’t hate my job, which is something I can’t remember the last time saying. With all of that in mind, I feel like that guy laying in bed thinking about how he doesn’t have a job and needs one to support his family. I’m a stay at home dad who is raising a 5 year old and a 5 month old. I cook, I clean (for the most part), I do laundry, and I spend as much quality time with them as I can. But because the check that I get every 2 weeks isn’t what I was getting on unemployment somehow makes me feel like a failure. I know this is in-my-head bullshit, but that’s how I feel. I’m not sure how to get this shit out of my head and I know this is something to flesh out in one of my therapy sessions. I take care of my kids and I work at a real job when I’m not. My therapist tells me every session that I’m a good father, good husband, and I’m doing the best I can for my family. As much as I want to believe her 100%, my brain is broken and won’t let me. These are the times I really hate my brain.
So where am I going with all of this? Nowhere, and nowhere fast. I’m running in circles and making great time. Until I can figure out a way to sort this all out in my head, I’m just going to have to deal with it the best I can. Some days I can’t get off of the couch because I feel like a total failure, and other days you can’t slow me down. This is the life of being bipolar.
I know this isn’t a fun post or something that most people would want to know, but I felt it needed to be written about. I’ve been thinking about a post like this for a long time and here I am at 2:30am writing this on my laptop, back in my attic office. Sometimes posts like this aren’t for my readers but for me. I’ve been making blog posts for 13 years now. This has become a record of my life. Sometimes unpopular stories need to be told so that I can look back on them years from now and see how much progress I have made. To quote Ramirez from ‘Highlander 2’, “Most people have a full measure of life… and most people just watch it slowly drip away.” It’s important to write about the times we watch our life slowly drip away so that we can remember to live what life we have left to the fullest.