Monday, June 6, 2022

Dealing with Jury Duty with Mental and Physical Issues

Jury duty. Back when I was in another career and was a single mom to boot, I always asked to be released from serving jury duty. It wasn't that I didn't want to serve... it was that it was difficult to find a sub for several days in a row and I had no one to take care of my daughter. It was never an issue to get out of it.

So when I found out I had jury duty as a freelancer, I was torn. Like I said, I had always wanted to serve. It seemed like it would be very interesting to see what goes on in an actual trial (as some of my past obsessive periods concentrated on law shows and books).

However, I knew that a week (or more if I got chosen for a big case) would be extremely rough on my income plus, on the slight chance I was sequestered, it would be difficult for my parents. 

The weeks before I was supposed to serve, I was extremely busy and let making the decision to try to get out of it slip away. Finally, with only a few days left before I had to be there for my first day, I realized it would be better on everyone to see if I could get out of it.

When I didn't receive a release from duty, I thought it was my procrastination that got me to that point. When I arrived, though, I found out that jury trials were still extremely backed up due to COVID-19. No one was released, no matter what the reason, as they needed every jury available.

So I resigned myself to going... only to hit one of the worst manic cycles I've ever experienced the weekend before I was to start on Monday. I got almost no sleep and as my mania usually involves anxiety and not euphoria, needless to say, I was not fit to make major decisions that could affect another's life for years.

I knew from my earlier research about the possibility of asking for a release that major mental or physical issues could cause you to be released so when a judge came in to hear excuses, I got in line.

This judge was extremely kind and told me that, yes, I was right, I wouldn't be fit for jury duty in my present state. He apologized profusely when he said that he couldn't release me, though. The judge in the case had to. He assured me it would happen but not until I got chosen for a trial.

So the wait began.

One article I read said that jury duty was a great thing for freelancers. You are able to work without the constant interruptions of a regular business day. I wanted to make the best of this situation, so I tried to have that attitude.

I had brought my laptop and lots of other work I could do. In theory, there wasn't a lot of difference between waiting to be called and working at home. But in practice, I found out it was very different.

Several factors made it difficult, including a less-than-ideal workspace. I had a vent blowing cold air straight on me. At the point I thought I couldn't stand being cold anymore, I walked around to find another spot with a desk only to find them either occupied or with the same issue.

I'm hot-natured but during this time I was absolutely freezing. I finally asked if I could run to my car and get a rainjacket I had in there for emergencies. Though it didn't provide warmth, it was a windbreaker and was able to deflect some of the air blowing on me.

Another was that I had to constantly listen for my name to be called. I brought earbuds so that I could review the recordings of interviews to find quotes for various articles I needed to finish. I couldn't use the earbuds because I had a big fear of missing my name being called and being embarrassed as they hunted me down.

However, by far the biggest issue was that I was manic... and at the same time exhausted. I know that typical mania means you can go without sleep for days and not be sleepy. My "hypomania" isn't like that. I need much less sleep than normal, but I get tired, sometimes really tired, the next day. 

I usually can't go to sleep when I'm that tired, but the few times I'm in that horrible state, I often take some time off of trying to get work done and I do other things where I'm moving around and focusing on an activity instead of working at my desk. These are times I do some of my best cleaning and organizing.

Obviously, there was nothing to clean or organize in the large jury holding room. I just had to sit and try to stay awake and keep from shivering, while also not being able to accomplish any work tasks.

I...

was...

MISERABLE!

Every second seemed like an hour. They couldn't call me soon enough, as the earlier judge had told me that I could leave after the judge on a case released me. Group after group was called until there were only about enough left for one final jury pool left in the room. Finally, those few people left were called... and I was one of them.

Even though it was almost the end of the business day at this point, I was just ready to get out of there and get to a courtroom. Because of where my desk was (I had been able to find somewhere warmer after so many had left), I was second in line to the courtroom.

Then we were told amazing news! There wasn't time to start the next step in the jury selection process, so we were going to get to go home early. I was especially excited because I had a car inspection that I needed to get done and that gave me time to do it that day. 

I held my backpack and waited as they gave final instructions on where to go the next day and which parking pass to choose depending on which parking deck you had parked in.

I heard these instructions... but then promptly forgot them. Between the lack of sleep, being so cold all day, the anxiety that I felt which didn't allow me to work to pass the time, and the overall stress of the day, I couldn't hold a thought in my head. 

When they dismissed us, I realized I didn't know which parking pass to pick up. I asked the one person in front of me and got the correct one. Then we walked out. The person in front of me headed down the stairs.

I was incredibly confused. I thought we were going to a courtroom - so why did he go down the stairs.

Then I did something that embarrassed me to no end when I realized what I had done... I asked which courtroom we were supposed to go to. I was told that we were dismissed for the day and that we would find out in the morning.

That was one of the lowest points I've ever had directly resulting from my mental illness. I am smart... technically in the gifted category of intelligence. I had a 4.0 GPA with my Master's and I was the top student in both my bachelor's and master's programs. I was a whiz at math in school and won several math tournaments. I pick up new knowledge quickly.

Yet, I couldn't hold simple instructions in my head for even five minutes that afternoon.

I somehow made it to my car before I lost it. I cried and cried. I was so scared that I was losing it completely and that this could be the beginning of some kind of psychotic break. 

I stayed there as car after car wound around the parking deck and left. Finally, I was calm enough and awake enough that I felt it was safe to drive.

The next day I ended up having to stay the entire day but once I told the judge about what was going on with me, I was dismissed and didn't have to come back.

What would I have done differently if I knew then what I know now?

I'm not sure. Though it wouldn't have mattered about being excused before the actual week of duty because no-one was excused, I possibly could have asked more questions when I tried to get out of it.

However, the more I think about it, I don't know what I could have asked. How would know to ask if it was freezing cold in there, or what happened if you were wearing earbuds and your name was called, or if you had bipolar disorder and arrived in a manic state? 

I guess the only takeaway from all this is that even though it was a no-good, very bad, horrible day (and I wish I could have gone to Australia), I made it through. I didn't have the feared psychotic break. I got a little more sleep that night and the next day I knew to get there early enough to find a place away from the dreaded vents. 

In other words, once again that darn serenity prayer came to the rescue. I tried to control those things that I could change but survive through the things I couldn't. 

And like so many other bad memories I have, one day this will fade away and all I'll keep from the experience is that knowledge that I did, in fact, make it... and can do so again if/when needed.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

What If It All Goes Away?

Nothing has changed in the last 24 hours. I haven't had anyone insult my photography or writing, tell lies about my character, or leave my life. Actually, it's been a pretty good day.

No, the change has been in me. I've hit another low cycle. Being in a low cycle has made circumstances that normally would be neutral extremely negative. But I can't blame my low cycle for everything I'm feeling.

I have realized how arrogant I've been over what I've accomplished lately. Yes, I've worked hard. Yes, I've gotten experience through hours and hours of practice. Yes, I've analyzed my work to see how it could be better.

But none of that is how I've gotten to where I am now professionally. It's been God. Some might call it circumstances; some might call it luck; some fate... but I believe in a Higher Power and my Higher Power is God. 

You might be wondering why I titled a post about my arrogance "What If It All Goes Away?" It was one of those realizations that hit me in the head today. I've lost basically everything at different times in my life. Each time God has been with me and provided. 

But each time this life-shattering event has occurred has led to one thing - my pride being exposed. I have always felt I needed to be the best in whatever I did. Second place wasn't good enough. While that provides success in life, it's diametrically opposed to God's plan. 

The only way to really live out His will is to not be looking at my success - it will only be to look to Him. And if it does "all go away," I am finally starting to realize that it will be okay.



Sunday, March 20, 2022

Apps that Help Me Make it Through the Day (Part 2)

I don't know your definition of "later," but my guess is that it's not over four months. Yet, that's how long it's been since I wrote the first part of this post. If you want to read about some of the other apps that help me each day, look for a post with the same title on November 10, 2021.

So... I'm finally getting back to sharing more about this idea. 

On a side note, if you want to read something really ironic, read my post from February 5, 2022. You'll see why almost immediately after checking it out.

Let's go back to the topic at hand (or at a magnetic stand, as that's where my phone is right now.)

GOOGLE CALENDAR...

Like Chrome, I found the wonders of Google Calendar years ago. There have been several times I've tried to switch to something newer and flashier, but I've always gone back to it.

The best part of this calendar for me is that I can divide schedules into who is affected by them. I'm a very visual person and I can also get overwhelmed easily. Putting my daughter's schedule and my schedule and reminders of when things like bills are due and other tasks is too much for me to be able to focus in the next activity, depending on how I'm doing at the moment. 

Let me give an example of how I use Google Calendar:

When my daughter was younger, there were activities she had that I didn't have to be with her (like Colorguard practice after school). So I made three different "calendars" to take care of this issue. One calendar was for activities I wasn't involved in; a second was for items that I did by myself, and another was for those times we were both included. This part of this system had several advantages.

Why did she need one by herself, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you. My daughter has a lot of health issues and goes to the doctor a good bit. I needed to know when she was free when scheduling an appointment. So when I'm scheduling an appointment, I show all of the three calendars I mentioned. However, if I really need to focus on what I'm doing for the next week, I show only my calendar. 

Bills were another calendar. When my anxiety was high, I didn't need to look at all of the upcoming bills, so I would hide that one during those times. 

I now have one for my boyfriend, for those activities he participates in without me - again, so I won't ever accidentally plan something for a time he's already busy. But like with my daughter, I can also hide his when I need to focus purely on my schedule.

The color-coding provided also helps. You can assign each calendar its own color. I would do little tricks to remember categories - like with the three calendar example, my color was blue, my daughter's was red (our favorite colors) and the one for us together was purple. Bills are a yucky green and work activities were a nicer shade but still green to symbolize getting paid for that time. You probably get the idea.

MONDAY.COM...

While Chrome and Google Calendar have been my friends for over a decade, Monday.com is a new kid on the block.

As a freelance writer and photographer (as well as an odd job person), there are many steps in order to complete each project. I have tried making up various spreadsheets, lists, calendars, and other methods to try to tame this beast. Finally, I got tired of it and decided to dedicate a day to looking for a work organizer app.

I tried many that day. I would find one I thought I liked, get the trial version, start loading my info, only to find out it wouldn't work for my situation. Then I happened upon Monday.com. 

Monday.com has a LOT of templates. I had to mess around with it for a bit before I found a template that I could personalize to meet my needs, but so far it's really fitting the bill.

The only way I can easily describe it is that it's like a spreadsheet that has incredible versatility on what is included in each column. There are drop-down menus, fill-in-the-blank, file holders, upcoming date, and status update options. Once you create a work item, the whole row can be moved into various categories; in my case, this means whether I need to do something soon on a project, or everything might be ready to go but I just have to wait, or it's finished but I want to keep the information in case I work with that client again.

I'm probably not explaining it well, but I highly recommend it. It's one that I'm willing to pay for if I have to - it's that important to me - but so far I've been able to do a LOT with the free version. Look it up if you need a program like that. I know it's worth it to at least check it out.

(And by the way, they have a wonderful app for your phone, so you can access where you are on a project on the go).

BANKING APPS (choose your bank)...

Even though banking apps are really common now, even for normies, there is a specific reason I love them... depositing checks. Keeping up with how much is in a certain account is important, but my social anxiety keeps me from getting out many days unless it's necessary. Being able to skip a trip to the bank helps me get back to the comfort of home that much faster.

Okay... this post included an additional three apps that I love. I have a lot more but I won't bore you with all of them. However, I will provide some insight on a few more that help me... later. (LOL!)