Bipolar disorder is 36 Jobs in 20 Years

I have held 36 jobs in the past 20 years.

I am told this is not unusual for someone struggling with mental illness like bipolar disorder. According to research, people who experience depression and cognitive dysfunction associated with bipolar disorder are more likely to have low job satisfaction, problems with being absent, and lower quality of work. Bipolar disorder and associated cognitive problems are linked to instability in employment.

Job Background:

I’m 36 years old. I got my first job in 2000; I was 16 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017. So, doing the math, 18 of those years, I was undiagnosed. Believe it or not, I have only been fired once, and it was after my diagnosis.

During that time, I’ve had lots of ideas about what I wanted to be and do for a career. Some were grandiose delusions, while others were feasible dreams if I could only keep it together. But that is the hardest part, keeping it together.

“Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by instability of mood — cycling episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression — that results in impaired “work and social functioning” — American Psychiatric Association

36 Jobs

I wish that I had an answer for all the job-hopping. It is embarrassing to see it written out. I have had some really great jobs, some interesting jobs, and really terrible ones. Each job held its challenges. I think the best way to explain it is to look at the list and share some of my struggles. The list is in no particular order, and some names have been changed for privacy’s sake.

  1. Waitress at Pizza Hut — This was my first job at 16. I got in more trouble than I care to mention, but only got caught for some of it. My mother made me quit this job. It was the right decision.
  2. DSL Support at SBC Global — I thought tech support was more fun if you show up drunk. I don’t know how I kept this job.
  3. Student Athletic Trainer at College — I thought that I wanted to be a physical therapist because I went through so much as a kid. I have bad knees and spent a great deal of time in physical therapy. What I learned was that people were gross. I don’t like touching sweaty, stinky athletes. I also don’t like dislocated bones.
  4. Lifeguard Public Pool (Twice) — I quit lifeguarding after saving a very obese woman from the deep end of the pool. She was drunk and decided that she could suddenly swim. I was not, and am still not a strong swimmer. I think we both almost drowned that day. I walked out after and never returned.
  5. Stall Mucker for a Dairy Farm — I enjoyed this job. It was nasty, and I always smelled, but it wasn’t a bad job. It was too bad that I suddenly decided to move.
  6. Collections Agent at Cingular Wireless — This was a terrible job. I was responsible for calling people after Hurricane Katrina and asking for money. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I quickly found another job.
  7. Salesperson for Cutco Cutlery — This is a pyramid scheme with really great knives. Don’t go there, but do buy them.
  8. Call Center Employee for OfficeMax — I almost got fired from here, but I quit before they had the chance. I was hanging up on customers.
  9. Call Center Employee for Military Bank — I quit and flew off to England.
  10. Call Center Employee for Boise Cascade — Paper is boring.
  11. Salesperson for Hibbett Sports — The boss kept calling me a dyke behind my back. I cursed him and quit.
  12. Item Counter for Regis — I don’t remember why I even started this job.
  13. Sales Agent for Sprint — I only lasted a week.
  14. Student Worker in the Textbook Store at University — I dislocated my arm working here, but they didn’t care. So I tried other things to get by.
  15. Textbook Buyer — This is a frustrating, low paying job that I kept for one semester.
  16. Tour Guide in a Cavern — I messed up a lot here. I brought a dog to work, and I made up some of the tour information to make it sound cooler. The company was not good for me after that, or so I thought.
  17. Salesperson for Sports Advertisements — This lasted a few weeks only.
  18. Salesperson for RadioShack inside a Sams — My boss was aggressive, and I cried a lot. This was a very depressing time for me. It didn’t work out.
  19. A dispatcher for Ambulance Service — I worked 48-hour shifts on the weekends. I was wired all weekend on coffee and things I won’t mention. Luckily I got kicked out of the apartment I was staying in, so I had to move and find a new job.
  20. Trainer and Specialist at Apple Retail — I think this is one of my better jobs, but I left it for greener pastures.
  21. Archaeologist — I got attacked by a rattlesnake and a wild hog. Then the company that employed me when bankrupt.
  22. Technology Instructor at Public Library — This is one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever had. My boss was a master manipulator who destroyed my self-confidence and left nothing. The worst part is that no one cared about me or their jobs. I wanted so badly for this to be a good fit. I want to help people.
  23. Office Staff at Local Marina — Turns out that I’m awful at telling people where to park a boat. I like to think I’m an educated person, but this job took skills that I simply do not possess.
  24. Program Assistant and Tour Guide at a Fossil Museum — I had a blast here, but had trouble with attendance. I was drinking too much and did not know that I had a great opportunity.
  25. Public Safety Dispatcher at a University — I learned how that ex-cops are mean…so very mean.
  26. Executive Assistant for a Physical Plant at a University — This was another great job that I left to pursue a degree that I wouldn’t use.
  27. Hostess and Cigar Saleswoman at a visitor center — I never showed up sober.
  28. Hostess at O’Charleys — Nascar fans and too much beer…I hated this job.
  29. Office Assistant for an Audiologist — I didn’t have the money to buy the clothes that he wanted me to wear. So he bought me clothes and I got weirded out and stopped showing up. He was just nice.
  30. Book Seller for Books-a-million — I lasted one day because they asked me to clean poop off the walls. I thought I was too good to do that.
  31. Freelance Writer for Tire Website and a Penis Enlargement Website — I wrote a lot of these articles.
  32. Kitchen Staff at Fazolis — I fell and hurt myself here. They didn’t need me after that. It was a good job, and I loved the food.
  33. Delivered Newspapers — Delivering papers in the countryside at 3 am is frightening when you have a small bladder and no bathroom.
  34. Operations Assistant at a Coding School — I got fired from here. It’s a long story, but they closed, and I was first to go.
  35. Scraped Pillboxes at a Senior Living Pharmacy — I cut myself pretty bad, and they suggested I leave. So I did.
  36. Self-Employed Technology Trainer. — I do this now. It is my side hustle, and I like to think that I’m doing a good job. I just need to find more clients.

Seeing it all written out, I’m still uneasy about it. I have never sought out this information, but when I started shredding old documents today and I started counting. The number multiplied. Had I looked back sooner, could I have seen how my disorder was affecting me?

The answer is that I’m not sure it would have helped. I could dwell on past, wallow in it even, but it won’t change where I am now. I have, in the past few years, taken big steps in my education and my personal life. I feel like I am taking a big step in being able to recognize this now. I could not have done this a couple of years ago, maybe not even a few months ago.

It is vital to have an honest discussion about your abilities and priorities as a person with bipolar disorder. Spend the time in therapy, take the medication that is right for you, and build a support network for those tougher than usual days. As your focus on stabilizing, your chances of enjoying your life more and holding down a good job improve dramatically.

Don’t count how many times you’ve done something wrong. Count how many times you’ve done something right. — Ash

References:

Changing Your Name

Changing Your Name

Why do we do it?

Write your name: Ashley Dowdy

Historically

In medieval England, most people were known only by one name, their Christian name, which was conferred at their baptism. I’m sure this grew tiresome as the population grew. There can only be so many Richards before it starts getting a little muddy. So, surnames appeared. These were often based on their occupation, lineage, or location. However, the wife taking the husband’s surname did not surface in English common law until the 19th century when a bunch of lawyers started considering the property involved. The doctrine of coverture surfaced, and women were considered one with their husbands and required to take the husband’s surname.

The problem with the coverture laws was that it prevented women from signing contracts, engaging in litgation, running a business, or owning real estate or personal property.

My Story

Write your name: Ashley Dowdy

My name is Ashley Elizabeth Ann Dowdy. Yes, I have two middle names, and yes, I know that I’m in trouble if someone says it all. However, I’ve not always been Ashley Dowdy. I was born Ashley Elizabeth Ann Waddle, a name acquired from my biological father. He was a terrible human being and disappeared from my life very early on, around middle school.

Don’t worry; this isn’t a sad story about growing up without a father. In fact, I have a wonderful father who came into my life when I was about five years old. Instead, this is article is about changing your name. For me, the process was easy. I, with the help of my mother, took $35 down to the courthouse, signed some papers, got them notarized, and voila I became Ashley Dowdy. The Dowdy name was my step-father’s last name. I took it to match my mother, brother, and sister.

Aside: Dowdy means not stylish, drab, unattractive, and old-fashioned. Before you question why I traded one difficult name for another. I challenge you to live through middle school with the last name Waddle. As a young adult I had to correct my avoidance of ducks by watching hundreds of videos about baby ducklings. 😁

The name change was a rite of passage for me. It happened in 2008, right when I was about to take a whirlwind trip to England. The reason I came home is very much another story, but it was beautiful seeing my name stamped in my passport and having the airline page me when I was running behind. I felt real and validated. It was the most beautiful feeling. I imagine people who change their names, for whatever reason, get the same tingle when they hear or see their new name.

After using my name for a while, the new wore away, but it was renewed when my wife and I discussed the name change that traditionally goes with getting married. Before I go any further, let me say that my wife and I are very headstrong individuals. Our names mean a lot to us. For me, it was the journey to obtaining it, and for her, it was stopping an archaic tradition. I agreed with her as well, and I think we both thought it was a heteronormative behavior that might lead to people believing we were sisters. So…neither of us changed our name. I’m okay with that.

Things To Know About Changing Your Name

  • State laws vary, so research the process.
  • Changing your name isn’t free, be ready to pay a fee.
  • You cannot change your name to commit fraud, evade the law, or avoid paying any debts.
  • In most cases, you don’t need a lawyer.
  • Always keep the notarized form, because you never when you’ll need it.
  • Make sure you can live with it because you can change your name to just about anything, even a single word like Cher or Madonna.

Unusual Name Changes

Pen Names/Nom De Plume

Archaeology + Apple + Educational Technology — An Epic Journey

Archaeology + Apple + Educational Technology — An Epic Journey

Ashley Dowdy, PhD

My first try at college did not go as planned. The second, third, fourth, and fifth time went even worse. So, I took a break, flew to England, got mugged, played in a castle, and worked nearly every hour of the day. Then one day, I found myself homesick.

I learned the value of hard work by working hard. ~ Margaret Mead

When I got home, I quickly discovered that my new work ethic helped me land a job at the Gray Fossil Site & Natural History Museum. It was an incredible opportunity, and everything began to fall into place after two years under their tutelage. I got accepted into the Anthropology department at Pennsylvania State University and moved again.

After two years of stretching my days and nights, I graduated and set out into the world to be an archaeologist whose exploits could earn a place beside Margaret Mead, Mary Leakey, Dian Fossey, and Jane Goodall. I got a field job with a Cultural Resource and Heritage Management Firm, and for a few months, I was digging holes in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Yep, I moved again.

I quickly learned that Texas heat means dehydration, sunburns in strange places, red dirt that never washes off, rattlesnakes, and wild hogs that do not want to be my friend. I was miserable, dirty, and done in by shovel test pits.

It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility. ~Yogi Berra

But as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The company that employed me lost their contract and kicked us all to the curb. Those that had been in the field for a while moved on. I just stood there, blinking into the sun, certain that I had made the biggest and most expensive mistake in my life.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. ~ Maya Angelou

After a few days of wallowing in despair, I took a giant leap in a new direction. I applied for a job in the Apple Store. I was incredibly unqualified, but we were out of money and living in my sister-in-law’s spare room. Computers scared me. I had destroyed every device I had owned, but I had to try.

I made it through the first interview, the second, and in the third interview, they hired me!

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them. ~ Steve Jobs

I worked for Apple for a little more than three years, and in that time, they taught me how to survive in a world of technology. They built me up, pushed me to be positive, and to be part of a team. With their support, my confidence rebuilt, and I took on a new direction in life. I completed my Masters in Higher Education and started working toward a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. I found technology, education, and a newfound respect for people trying to bring technology into their own lives.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~ Walt Disney

It was a bittersweet moment the day I left Apple, but I knew it was just the beginning of a new adventure. It would be an adventure that would take me through a harsh and unyielding terrain full of surprises, but on the other side, I found I was still pushing forward.

“There’s no short-cut in life, but with right knowledge, you can fast-track things to come to pass.” ~ Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Fast forward to seven years later, and I finally earned my Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Technology and a bonus Master of Philosophy in Education. In that time, I’ve been an assistant manager of a public library technology team, an operations assistant at a coding school, and now the owner of a side hustle called AshTech Training and Consulting. I teach people how to use their technology and consult on their technology purchases.

“The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.” ~ Unknown

With my degree, I have hopes of teaching at the college and graduate college level, but I’ve yet to find that job. I was told it could take six months or more before I do, due to the competitive nature of academia. While I search, I’m working on getting my dissertation research published, maintaining my side hustle, and now writing here. I’ll get to the plan for that in the next post.