Saturday, January 16, 2021

Trying to Get Some Good ZZZZZZ's

So... I got a call from my sleep doctor the other day. It was a little bit of good news couched in bad news. First, some background...

I have severe sleep apnea. I was first diagnosed with it by one doctor in the early 2000s... then again with another in about 2010.. and then again with still another in 2018. 

Why did I go to three different doctors for the same diagnosis? Your first thought might be that I didn't believe the first two. But I knew I had it before it was confirmed through the first sleep test I experienced (which was a nightmare, by the way, as was all the others).

Switching doctors had nothing to do with the diagnosis. It had everything to do with the treatment, or lack of useful treatment, to be specific. Nothing the doctors encouraged me to do worked for me, and not for lack of trying.

The first doctor immediately prescribed a CPap. I tried so hard to use that CPap but had no success. It was more than not liking the way it felt... I literally felt suffocated. 

Somehow I found out that an ENT could help figure out what was going on. I'll never forget the end of that visit. The ENT was so mad, telling me at the end of the appointment something along the lines of, "These sleep specialists make me so mad. They never check with us to make sure that a patient is able to handle a CPap before they prescribe it."

Yes, I was one of those he was thinking about in that statement. I actually had several issues that made a CPap not a good fit. These issues were structural, not just emotional/mental (like I just didn't like using it). So I gave up and figured I'd just have to deal with it somehow.

A few years later I was so incredibly tired that I knew I couldn't ignore it. I found a new neurologist and went through all of the testing again. I told him at the first appointment that I literally already knew that CPAP wouldn't work, that an ENT had confirmed it. 

What did he do? He told me that I should try another type of CPAP (BiPAP) with the newest, latest mask would make it work. And he prescribed it for me anyway.

So I bought another CPAP unit and went through all the hassles of trying it again. The newest, latest mask didn't work so I tried other kinds (which I had tried the last time). Was it really too much for him to believe that my physical issues didn't just go away in that period of time?

One thing, though, he did listen to me when I told him I tried it but it didn't work. He suggested a mouth guard, an appliance to keep my lower jaw forward, which would help open my airway. 

This appliance was a pain to obtain and it wasn't covered by insurance, so it was extremely expensive on my meager salary. But if it worked, it would be worth it.

It wasn't fun to use, but I was able to tolerate it. I did yet another excruciating sleep study to check for its effectiveness. I knew I wasn't as tired during the day so I was ready to hear some great news.

It wasn't. I still had severe sleep apnea. So I figured why go to all that trouble to use the thing if it wasn't helping me? I abandoned that treatment too.

Fast forward even more years... I had a couple of people who saw me sleep say that I stopped breathing, a lot. I heard of a new surgery for sleep apnea that totally bypassed the oral/nasal routes that I had tried to compensate for before. So I decided to try again.

Thankfully, this time I found a truly amazing sleep specialist. For one, she didn't make me go through a sleep study to confirm what I already knew I had. Furthermore, she really, really read through my records and figured out some issues that the other doctors hadn't found. 

We looked into the surgery that I was hoping to get, but I'm not a candidate due to some other health problems. So she convinced me to try the CPAP once again, with an even better model, a brand new, just came-on-the-market mask, and settings that would accommodate my physical issues.

I was again encouraged that this treatment would work. But once again, it didn't. I just couldn't do it. I really tried, but it was to no avail.

But my doctor didn't give up on me. She asked if I wanted to try an oral appliance. I told her that I tried it before and it didn't help. She told me that the other doctor had misrepresented the data from that sleep study... it had helped but was not helping the numbers get to a point where it wasn't a problem.

That really upset me. If I had known that it was helping, even a little, I would have kept wearing that mouth guard. But that's in the distant past. It was time to see what I could do now.

Again, the process of getting a new, custom-fitted mouth guard was a royal pain. I won't go into all the details, but it took almost a year to get it done (COVID didn't help but it wasn't the only obstruction). 

So, finally, I get it and start using it. It seems to be helping and I have more energy than before. So I had yet another sleep study to see how much it was helping.

And that brings me to the day earlier this week. I got a call from this doctor explaining the results of my sleep study. Her first words were, "What am I going to do with you?"

My heart sank. It turns out that it is helping, but again, not nearly enough. Because I know it is helping, I'm going to wear it, even though it's not curing anything.

But it's really discouraging. If you read this blog any at all, you know that I'm extremely overweight. The sleep apnea is part of the reason I'm so overweight, as being really tired all the time makes it extremely hard to exercise consistently. But on the other hand, being overweight makes the sleep apnea much worse.

It's a chicken and egg situation. If I lost weight, the sleep apnea would improve. But until I get the sleep apnea under control, it's extremely difficult to lose weight.

This is why I sometimes wonder if I can keep going on like this. Every time I get something fixed or treated with my physical and mental issues, something new pops up, often from the treatment itself.

However, I will. I have too much to live for to give up. It's hard, so very hard, to keep dealing with the myriad of diagnoses that I have, but the other choice is not an option. I'm not a quitter. 

I'm also very thankful that she's not giving up either... on me. She's still trying to figure out something that will help, even with all of my other physical and mental issues that makes this thing so hard to treat.

I hope that if you are going through a similar struggle, you'll know you aren't alone. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Disappointment

 Disclaimer... In this post, I'm going to sound like I'm the most selfish person in the world... But with this blog, I'm trying to be honest about who I am and what I'm going through so that others know they aren't alone in having these same feelings. So I'm planning to share the truth even if it doesn't put me in the best light.

I'm sad... disappointed... frustrated... It's Christmas Day, 2020. I'm at my boyfriend's parents' home in another state and today I'm supposed to be having Christmas with his extended family, the vast majority of whom I didn't meet until this week and about half that I still haven't met even after five days here.

But I don't know what's going to happen. You see, his dad had a TIA (mini-stroke) on Wednesday morning. He was in the hospital two days and was released last night. He was doing well and it looked like he dodged the bullet of having lasting damage.

Overnight things changed. I'm an early bird so I was awake when my boyfriend's parents woke up. At first, I thought that my boyfriend's dad was just weak... until my boyfriend's mom told me that he could barely move his right side and that she was considering taking him back to the hospital.

My first concern was for them - and I was also worried about the long-term affects of the stroke. 

The embarrassing admission I have is that this thought was quickly followed by: So now what's going to happen with the family gathering I have been both excited about and dreading for at least six months?

I don't want it to sound like all I'm thinking about is myself, but I already had to cancel the main activity I was looking forward to - going on a river cruise to look for dolphins, manatee, and other wildlife. As a photographer with a foot injury, this was right up my alley. I could sit, enjoy the wildlife, and take lots of photos without having to deal with my injury. 

We were scheduled to go the day he had the TIA. With it being Christmas week, he was already booked for the few slots he had left, so rescheduling wasn't even a possibility... and with my boyfriend's dad's condition, we had no idea how long he'd be in the hospital anyway.

So, like I warned you about, I'm being incredibly selfish with this admission, but I'm so sad that my plans have been ruined. My boyfriend and I have been dating almost four years now and this is the first time he's been able to get off work long enough and the right time of year for us to come down. I wanted to cram in so much this week, as it's the first vacation I've gone on in several years too. 

But instead, I'm doing a lot of what I'd be doing at home... playing Candy Crush, watching stuff on my phone (with earbuds so I don't disturb anyone), culling photos on my laptop, and blogging. I'm doing these things on a less comfortable bed than mine or at the kitchen table with not very comfortable kitchen chairs and a laptop. 

At home, I have a comfy bed, a cushy desk chair, a huge monitor (for photo editing), and all I need. At home, even though it's Christmas week, I can work some. At home, I can go to the gym and swim or take a long, hot bath (stress relievers for me).

One more thing... with COVID, we can't even go to the hospital to relieve his mom or help in any way. We are stuck at his house, waiting on updates.

I am so upset but even as I admit that I feel bad that my major emotion has to do with me. I feel like I should be more concerned about his dad's health and how his mom is handling all this. Don't get me wrong, I am both of those things. But I was really hoping to just have a fun time this week - and that's blown to bits. 

All I can do is try to make the best of it and try, try, try to not focus on all the bad. 

(I'll be so glad when 2020 is over...)

Using a Wheelchair for the First Time

If you have read this blog recently, you know that I had a major ankle injury this past summer. The only way I could walk for even a few steps the first two months was to use a walker and I'm still recovering several months later (it's now December).  

I am to the point where I can walk on level surfaces without too much of an issue. If I'm going places where I don't know what types of surfaces and varying heights I'll be walking on, I wear an ankle brace and take a cane. 

But for very long distances, like going to a zoo, I knew a brace with a cane wouldn't cut it. I realized the only way I could get around was to get a wheelchair. 

My last blog post discussed the whole process of getting ready for a trip to meet my boyfriend's family, which I knew would involve at least one instance of needing to do lots of walking. This included buying a wheelchair because I knew that I couldn't count on them having one at the place(s) we visited, and even if they did, it might not be a heavy-duty one (which I need because of my weight). 

So I ordered it. There was a lot of nervousness surrounding whether it would arrive in time for the trip with all of the delivery delays surrounding a COVID Christmas. I had decided it made more sense to get it delivered to my boyfriend's parents' home in case it arrived after we left. Still, I was very relieved when I got a confirmation that it had been delivered.

But getting it at his parent's house caused a new dilemma... I was nervous about sitting in it for the first time. I knew it had measurements and was supposed to be big enough to fit me - and heavy-duty enough to not bend under my weight - but until I sat in it, I wouldn't know for sure. 

I ended up waiting until everyone was asleep to try it out for the first time. I sat in it and was so relieved when I realized it was the size it advertised as well as being very sturdy. Only then was I able to start getting excited about going to the zoo with his family.

The closer I got to actually getting to the zoo, the more nervous I started feeling... again. What would it be like to have to be wheeled around? Would there be places I couldn't get to because they weren't accessible? Would I get judgmental looks because I am so overweight and I "should" be walking?

I'd love to say that when answering those questions, it turned out that there had been nothing to worry about. I can't say that's true. It wasn't fun to be wheeled around (more about that later). Most of the zoo was accessible but there was one place I had to go on a very shaky lift and a couple of other places I had to get out and walk (which was difficult with my ankle). I got looks but I didn't feel a lot of judgment (some, but not a lot).

About being wheeled around... you need to know that this type of wheelchair has small wheels so it fits easier into a car. This meant that when my boyfriend, who is also a photographer, wanted to get a shot of something quickly, he'd park my wheelchair and just leave me there. I was stuck because I can't move it on my own.

Sometimes this meant that I couldn't get the shot I wanted, because I either had to try to get up and walk (which was very difficult) or just miss it and wait for him to come back. It didn't happen much as he takes great care of me, but there were a few times he did this. 

I didn't get mad at him; however, I was really mad about the situation. I kept beating myself up for letting this happen. Though the ankle injury wasn't my fault, I felt that if I was a typical size, I'd be fully recovered by now. 

When I can step back (pun intended) and analyze my feelings, I know that even incredibly fit athletes have injuries where they have to be in a wheelchair for a time. I know that I'm a food addict and didn't realize this for 50 of my 52 years on earth. I know that I have other medical conditions that contributed both to my injury and my weight. But at the zoo, I continued to beat myself up. 

On the other hand, it was nice to be able to get around the zoo without worrying about whether I'd be able to walk the next day due to straining my ankle. It's also a relief to know that if my ankle gets worse or something comes up where I normally would have to do a lot of walking, I have a way to get around. 

My hope is that when I get home from this trip, I'll be able to store the wheelchair and not need it for a very long time, if ever. But it is nice to know that I have it if I need it. So I'm thankful for my wheelchair, even though it would be so much better to not need it at all.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

When Someone With Anxiety is Getting Ready to Visit the Boyfriend's Family for the First Time

Two weeks from tomorrow we'll be on the road. So many emotions are going through my head... fear, excitement, anxiety, hope, and a myriad of others. You see, for the first time in the 3 1/2 years since I met my boyfriend, we are going to visit his family for Christmas.

When he first told me he could get off work and that we were going, I was excited. His parents still live in the house he grew up in - and I've wanted to see it. He has a huge, close family and I've wanted to meet them. Plus it's a chance to do something different for Christmas and get out of town, which is a huge treat because of being home so much due to COVID.

Then the anxiety started. He made an offhand comment about how his sister doesn't like anybody... it's the first time I realized I might not be liked by his family. When we first planned it, COVID issues should have no longer been a factor... they still are. 

The worries multiplied... What were we going to do each day? Where were we going to stay? Will my ankle handle the activities planned? Will my mental illnesses get in the way? What about my weight - will that be an issue? How will I deal with my new meal plan in the midst of lots of food and also not wanting to draw attention to myself?

I'm thankful that the work I've been doing with therapy, support groups, and my sponsor kicked in. I decided I needed to be proactive concerning the trip. I'm so proud of myself for both realizing that and for actually taking those steps.

For one thing, after discussing it, we decided that we needed to drive instead of fly as well as stay in a hotel instead of with his family. 

There are many reasons driving makes more sense to me as someone with anxiety. For one thing, my car is an extension of home. It's something familiar when almost nothing will be familiar for eight days. 

It's also practical - both on a general level and concerning my anxiety issues. I'm very overweight so with some cars the seatbelts are tight. I won't have to worry about that embarrassing and safety issue if I have my own car. 

This will also give me somewhere to escape if I get overwhelmed with his family. He has a large, loud, multigenerational family and I know enough about myself to know that the noise could be hard to deal with. Having my own car gives me a place to go - either to just sit in the car for a while or to head back early to the hotel if needed... without inconveniencing anyone.

Staying at a hotel gives me even more of a chance to breathe. I don't have to have "guest behavior" every minute if I have a space I can relax in. Even though I know the family is sincere when they say that it's not a bother to stay with them, I'll still feel that I am intruding. Until I get to the point in my recovery that I truly accept that I'm not always in someone's way, this is a great way to deal with those feelings within myself.

There's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of staying at a hotel. Yes, we are saving money by not flying, but gas adds up so it's not that much cheaper (especially considering flights are inexpensive right now). I wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my mental health was worth it... I am worth it.

In addition, there's the ankle injury I had earlier this summer. I recently got to the place where I could walk on it without a lot of pain but not for long periods of time. My boyfriend's family has already expressed an interest in taking us to some attractions that involve a great deal of walking. 

I felt both a lot of fear and sadness when I first heard. I hate to be a bother and the thought of making everyone change their plans because of my health and needs is at the top of the list of ways I could be a hassle. At first, I  just hoped I could somehow make it with the new brace my doctor ordered for me and a cane that I bought for "just in case" times.

Then I did more walking to test my ankle and I realized that this was a pipe dream. There's no way I can make it around their zoo, for example, without being in a lot of pain and possibly re-injuring my foot. I was looking at the website for one attraction we might go to... and wondering how I could possibly walk that much... when I considered renting a wheelchair. 

However, remember how I mentioned I'm very overweight? Though I've been too scared to test them out, I'm almost positive most regular size wheelchairs are too small for me. When I reflected on this, I got pretty discouraged and very, very sad until I decided how I needed to be proactive in this area too. 

My ankle could be an issue for a very long time and hoping it would get better won't just make it get better. I have other health issues that come into play both in how long it takes to heal as well as how much I will eventually recover. So I decided to go online to see how much it would be to buy a heavy-duty wheelchair.

This decision is also scary. A very overweight person in a wheelchair carries a lot of stigma. It doesn't matter if there's an injury involved... I know that many people will see me and think, "She is lazy and has no willpower. If she just would stop eating and start walking instead of coasting along in a wheelchair, she wouldn't need it." 

That stigma, that issue, is for another blog. All I can do now is know that even though it will be a pain to deal with both physically (I'd much rather walk than be pushed in a wheelchair, and it also won't be fun to have to find room for it in the car) as well as emotionally (trying to not be embarrassed when people see me riding instead of walking), it's something I need right now. 

Like the hotel, there's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of buying a wheelchair. It makes sense to not rent one each time I need one at an attraction in the long run but right now, it's an investment. I again wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my physical health was worth it... I am worth it.

It's hard to understand that I am important. It's hard to believe that I'm worth others going to the trouble of dealing with my issues. It's hard to spend money on myself and what I need. It's hard to recognize that I'm doing the best I can and it doesn't matter what others think.

But I'm getting there. I might not be at the place where I can take all of this in stride, but at least I'm now at the point where I think proactively about what needs to be done to make a trip like this the best it can be... for me. And I'm worth making that happen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Holidays are Coming! :-(

This is my second Thanksgiving/Christmas season in Eating Disorder recovery, but my first where I am really working a program. I started in a support group for eating issues about this time last year (Oct 2019) so I was attending meetings during Thanksgiving and Christmas but wasn't actively trying to control this addiction. This year it's different.

I've been incredibly depressed and stressed recently and this morning I figured out at least part of the reason why - the holidays are coming! I'm not that far into my active program and so I'm still learning how to handle food challenges that come up in the course of everyday life. Add to that having social anxiety disorder (where food is the main way I cope with social situations) and I realized I'm dreading the holidays incredibly, especially Thanksgiving.

It still amazes me how I can give advice on recovery to others but totally forget it when it comes to myself. I do a newsletter for one support group I'm a part of and each year the November issue is about how to stay sober during the holidays. There are several great tips that I learned through research and share in the article, but the very first tip I list is, "Before the holidays hit, make a plan." 

However, this idea completely slipped my mind when thinking about how I would cope with the upcoming family gatherings that surround food. It took two appointments less than an hour apart this morning - one with my therapist and one with my nutritionist - to be reminded of this simple but important fact.

I still haven't totally fleshed out what "making a plan" means for me this holiday season, but I have started with a couple of things. 

To help with my food addiction, I decided to talk to family members to see what will be served. After getting the menu, I can decide what I want to bring that are healthier alternatives for what is already there. I don't plan on bringing a full meal for myself, but having some options I know I will like but aren't horrible for me should make mealtime easier.

Also, my nutritionist gave me permission to give myself grace and to remember that it's only one day. Even if I do "blow it," I don't need to spend the next week beating myself up. All that does is make me feel I should just give up completely. She encouraged me to celebrate each good choice and know that even if I make some bad choices, it's not the end of the world. I can try again the next day, or even as early as the next meal.

Having some accountability before and after a family function can also be useful. If I call my sponsor or another friend in one of the programs I'm in before I walk in (getting a much-needed pep talk beforehand) and then commit to calling as soon as I leave (to hopefully discuss how great I did), then I'm more likely to make better choices. Everyone loves to be praised for the good job they did - or encouraged that it's not the worst thing if it didn't go as well as hoped.

To help with my social anxiety, one thing I do is to park my car in such a way that I can leave if needed without having to move cars around. This "escape plan" reduces my anxiety by giving me an out without having to bother anyone. 

Another is a pre-emptive strike. This year I'm visiting my boyfriend's family the week before and including Christmas. I've only met one family member so far because they live out of state. We had planned to stay with family but after deciding that I need to make choices to decrease my anxiety, I realized that the money I spend on a hotel will be well worth it. There are just too many unknowns and by choosing this option, I can control one of them.

During family functions, I have given myself permission to walk outside or find a quiet place to decompress if the noise gets too overwhelming. It's important that I remember that I don't have to be in the middle of everything going on. I also try to help others so that the focus changes from my anxiety to meeting another's need.

I can't predict the future and thus, can't tell if Thanksgiving and Christmas will go well or not, but with a plan in place, at least I have a shot of making them the best they can be - even though I'm an addict with mental health issues.




Thursday, November 12, 2020

Depression Really Gets You Down

I have several mental illnesses as well as many physical health conditions. But the one that rules my life, especially lately, has been depression.

Even though I have major depression, I have had many accomplishments in my 52 years on the earth. I graduated with the highest GPA in my class for both my bachelor's and master's degrees. I was a single mom throughout the vast majority of my daughter's life and did most of it without a lot of support (financial, emotional, physical) from my ex. I am both a published photographer and writer.

So I'm what many would call "functional" in spite of my health challenges. I am able to do photography or writing work when I am bale to get work (unfortunately with COVID those are still few and far between). I am in a long-term, wonderful relationship with an amazing man. My finances, though not abundant, are in order. I am involved in several service positions and have been told by others that I'm a big help to them. 

But if you look past the surface, my life is a wreck. Internally, I'm a hot mess.

Every day lately, it's been a huge accomplishment for me to just make it out of bed. I consider it a good day if I haven't broken down in tears within an entire 24 hours. (Nothing wrong with breaking down in tears but I'm tired of being so sad all of the time.) Hygiene is going by the wayside in that I do what I have to do as far as bathing and dressing go but it's not only a big effort to do so, I do the absolute minimum. 

As difficult as those things are to deal with, what gets me more is how I just feel numb all of the time. I just don't care... and I'm one who usually cares a LOT - about people, about excelling at what I do, about my friends and family, about my environment, about keeping stuff clean and organized, about helping others. 

You know that symptom of depression where you no longer find joy in the things that you used to love? It's something you can't understand until you have felt that nothingness yourself. It makes no sense... how can you suddenly, without warning, not be passionate about things you have been passionate about for years? 

Writing and photography are two of these passions. But at the moment it's all I can do to make myself write something as simple as this blog... and I definitely don't pick up a camera unless I'm being paid to do it right now. 

I sit at my desk for hours and do "stuff". I know I'm doing something because I'm not sitting staring at the screen for those hours, but it never feels like I've accomplished a single thing at the end of the day. I even make sure to write down what I've accomplished every day, hoping that the joy of a long list will help. 

It doesn't. I can have a page of items that I have been able to tick off my to-do list and it just doesn't matter.

Last night I realized it has gone deeper than usual in that relationships are being affected. I love my long-term boyfriend more than anyone other than my daughter and right now I don't even want to see him. I don't find happiness when I get to visit with my daughter. Part of it is the over-riding numb feeling I have; part of it is that I'm tired of dragging them down with me into this pit. 

I escape into seemingly endless videos and old TV shows, usually while I'm still  trying to be "productive". That may not be unusual for many of us nowadays, but this is not my norm. I can probably count on one hand the number of TV shows I've watched by myself in the previous six months before this one, much less entire series. Now I watch something for hours each night. 

You are probably thinking that I need a therapist... or a psychiatrist... or meds... or God... or exercise... or alleviating my stress... or any of the myriad of things that do help some people in my situation. The thing is, none of those things seem to help me. 

I've been working with therapists for decades. I haven't found a psychiatrist who does anything other than push meds - and I've tried just about all of the prescriptions for depression out there and they don't work for me. I am a Christian and rely on my God to make it through each day, but this relationship doesn't change my mood. Exercise not only makes me feel worse because I get sore easily, but it's also out of the question at the moment due to an ankle injury. My living situation, finances, and work are all stressful and there's no way to really change these at the moment. 

So what do I do to keep from wanting to just give up completely?

I blog when I don't feel like it. I bathe even when it takes a major effort to do so. I get out of bed even when I feel like a lead weight on top of me. I research, and research, and research more to hopefully find a better psychiatrist who can actually make a difference. I pray and connect with others who share my beliefs. I brainstorm ideas on how to alleviate my stress. 

Basically, I keep going.

Even though it feels like this will never end, I know that one day it will. I just have to keep going until it does.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Self-Employment with Invisible Illnesses

In the 40 or so years I've been working (and I do count babysitting as my first "job"), my job path has taken many twists and turns. I have tried and thought about a variety of options for a career - wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, being a full-time nanny, thinking about majoring in math in college, volunteering as a DJ at a local college radio station, working a short stint as a professional audio engineer, and several others. I finally decided on teaching.

I won't go into the details, but burn-out, government interference in the teaching profession, and my mental illnesses and health issues all led to my leaving that career. 

However, a former teacher who has spent her whole life working with children but is now completely burnt out in that area doesn't have many other job possibilities. I never worked in food service or at a desk; technology has changed so much that my audio engineering days are long gone; plus I don't have the money to go back and get another degree in math or another field.

My dream was always to be a professional photographer and/or writer. In the past, I didn't have the self-confidence that I could make it so I opted for the safe route of a salaried career path. I did side work as a photographer for a long time and even got published a few times in a local newspaper. I wrote journals and essays for myself, always wondering if one day my writing could be published. Even as the realization came that I needed to leave teaching, I still thought I wouldn't be able to make it by working for myself.

Through the encouragement of family and friends, circumstances that made it the right time to try, many "God-coincidences", and a LOT of trial and error, my photography business started taking off. Then my writing also started becoming a good means of income. It's still not to the point I can make a living off solely my photography and writing, but I'm doing so much better than I ever dreamed. 

That said, there are a lot of pros and cons of working for yourself when you are also dealing with mental illnesses and several invisible health conditions. I've listed a few I've dealt with in case you are considering doing the same thing.

Pro... The freedom to set your own hours: If I'm extremely depressed or my anxiety is getting the best of me, I can do what I need to do for myself without having to clock in every day at the same time. Having flexibility also allows for the many doctor visits that go with having more than one chronic health condition.

Con... The freedom to set your own hours: Sometimes it can be hard to not work, especially when I'm in a hypomanic cycle. I get obsessed and have a hard time stopping, even when I need to eat or take a break. Not having set times to clock in and out means I often work evenings and weekends. Other times it can be hard to make myself sit at my desk at all and even when I do, my focus is all over the place. 

Pro... Not getting a steady paycheck: Working on your own means that you have the potential to make a lot more than in some jobs, especially one that pays minimum wage - the only kind of work I could get as one who is burned out with my initial career and who hasn't really trained for anything else. The sky is the limit if you work enough hours and hard enough.

Con... Not getting a steady paycheck: As Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of my most impactful mental health issues, not having a steady paycheck can add a lot to the anxiety I already feel on a daily basis. Even though I've recently built up a small savings cushion for the first time since working for myself, there is ALWAYS the anxiety that it could be wiped out at any moment if I can't get more work. There is also the issue of not being able to get certain financial perks, like a loan or a credit card, if you can't prove a regular income.

Pro... No day is the same: Every job is different. Each photography shoot, each writing assignment, each mystery shop, each Uber or Lyft ride... each one has unique aspects and I'm always having to be on my game to do each one to the best of my ability. 

Con... No day is the same: Again, my anxiety comes into play with not knowing the conditions I'm going to deal with in each individual job. There are times I wish I knew what I was going to be doing each day; what environmental conditions I would have to deal with; and exactly how long it would be until my work was completed for the day.

Pro... Being a business owner without training: Everything from marketing to social media to doing taxes means expanding my horizons and learning a lot of new information. As one who loves to figure out how to do something new as well as not having to rely on others, it can be fun to figure out the aspects of working on your own like building a website, designing a marketable logo, or producing a brochure of your work.

Con... Being a business owner without training: Sometimes it's extremely easy to get overwhelmed. That research I mentioned earlier is fun but it's also something that takes a lot of time, which is something in short measure if you are working for yourself. Every hour I spend on that website... or logo... or brochure... is taking away from time used actually earning income (though I always recognize that it's those kinds of things that are the way to get income later). 

Pro... Learning how to rely on God: As a Christian, I very much believe that God will take care of me. This means not always finding that provision in the exact way or timing I'd prefer (I would love a lot bigger savings account and often nicer "stuff") but I do know that what I need will somehow be there when I need it. This has made me realize that I can get by with much less than I thought I needed and has helped me appreciate what I already have.

Con... Learning how to rely on God: It's a great lesson to learn but it's HARD. My anxiety leads to many nights of tossing and turning when I wonder if I'm ever going to get more work. Fear of not having that steady paycheck or what the next work assignment will bring can overwhelm me at times. But I do know there's no other way to learn something like that kind of reliance except for living it.

As you see, there are pros and cons with the exact same points in every aspect of not holding a traditional job. Though it's not for everyone, for those with multiple mental and physical health needs, working for yourself is definitely something that should be considered as a means to doing what is needed to make it.