November 2018 Update

I haven’t been putting off writing a blog post per say… More I have been really struggling on coming up with a good topic. Life is going really well, and I am trying to steer myself in a certain professional direction. This direction makes me feel obligated to post more technical things, but I know that my current audience is not technical. I guess that means that I will just keep going the way I have going starting with just a simple life update.

Life has been treating Maxi and I very well. We are our own special sort of family living together in Vineyard Utah. My mom thinks that it is kind of a cop-out to consider Maxi and my baby, but what does she know, she only had like 75 kids. I am a proud Dog Mom! I take care of my little puppers and he takes care of me, and is absolutely adorable. I never knew I was such a dog lover.

Work is going really well! I love my job! I love my place of work! Nav, a FinTech startup in Utah, has really given me a lot of opportunity to learn and grow. About two months ago I moved from a Software Engineering team to a Data Science team. For my non-technical readers, this means that instead on building out software services that perform data ingress tasks, I will be using math, statistics, algorithms and fancy machine learning models to learn and extract business value from data. I have taken a head first dive into this field trying to learn and read as much as possible to advance my skills and be a real contribution to the company.

I am also working on giving back to the Utah tech community. Back in September I started the Utah Chapter of the Women Who Go  organization. I have been organizing local MeetUps to help women and new developers gain the skills needed to start careers in software. I have also given talks at the Utah Go Users Group as well as at BYU.

Well, Maxi is begging to go to bed to I guess that ends the update! Until next time!


Trying to Find Strength

Names have been changes

Yesterday just before 7pm my phone rang. Heading out the door with my pup so he could do his business, I went back to my office to get the phone. I NEVER answer the phone when I do not recognize the phone number, but for some reason I did this time.

Hello, Miriah?

This is Alejandro Sans…

My heart dropped

I have dated few people in my life, but this Alejandro Sans left me scared. We went out for just a few weeks, but in that time he managed to take advantage me in almost every possible way. While dating him I lost all sense of value and self worth.

Blaming myself for being trapped in such a horrible situation, I took out my emotions on those closest to me. Those to whom I wanted to express my pain to but couldn’t. In just a few short weeks, I lost myself, and the results of that relationship and the other occasions form the following months made me lose the will to live.

Honestly, I have no idea how Alejandro Sans had my number, he didn’t even have a phone when we were dating. Each tries to contact me over social media I block him. Yesterday, I blocked the number he used to call. I have done everything I can to avoid him and forget him, but I know that is not enough. In therapy, we have discussed what happened, but I am hesitant to work through the pain because I don’t want to relive it. I want it to have never happened.

Never in my life did I think I would be in a position like this. Now, I just think of those who get trapped in situations similar to or worse than what I went through. They may be enduring pain for months, years or even a lifetime. I grieve for them. I cannot imagine that pain, and I admire them for their undying strength to overcome. Strength much stronger than my own.

I am grateful for my loving parents who have been undying examples of love and respect. I am happy that they can celebrate their 46th anniversary this weekend. Additionally, I am grateful for my Maxi dog. He has given me so much strength and will in the few short months that I have had him. He is the most amazing blessing to me. Lastly, I am grateful for the strength I have found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is why I am alive to day and how I find the strength to continue daily.

My Dog Max

I don’t know why I’ve been putting this off for so long, but I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I feel like my last post needs a follow up.

Man’s Best Friend

This is a picture of the ad that I sent my sister. I just fell in love with that face!

I have been looking at getting a dog for a while. I figured since I live alone, I should go ahead and get a dog. Well, truthfully, I thought that a dog would help with my mental health. Give me a companion, a friend, and if nothing else, a reason to get out of the house when the goings get tough. So, I talked to my therapist, and with his approval I started looking for an emotional support dog.

So I was looking everywhere – at shelters, at rescues, and on classifieds. After my previous experience with a shelter dog, I focused mostly on classifieds, looking for young dogs that were potty trained and that owners were giving away for free.

An image of the text that I sent to my sister telling her about my love at first sight experience.

One day I came across the cutest post ever for borkies. This is a designer breed that isn’t recognized really by anybody. It’s kind of new. It’s a cross between a beagle and a Yorkshire terrier. Beagle + yorkie = borkie.

Well the picture on the ad was of the most adorable puppy that I have ever seen in my entire life. To top it off, the dogs were not thousands of dollars like most pure bred puppies featured on the ads. Within the week I had a new puppy.

Oliver Maximus Peterson

Well it’s been a couple of months, and can I say this dog has been probably one of the best things that I’ve done in a long time. He makes me so happy (except when he pees on my bed then I have a panic attack). He is the cutest thing. He is super smart and relatively obedient (we’re working on that). He loves to run, which is good for me since I love to run outside. He loves people, so my huge family is not a big deal for him. He is very good with dogs. He has no issues when I go to work, but loves when I work from home. He is a snuggler when he’s tired. Anyway he has just been a super incredible blessing for me.

I don’t know if I would recommend that just anyone get a dog. I also don’t know If I would recommend an emotional support dog. Max is an amazing puppy and he has been just what I needed right now. I have a lot of stuff that I am working through – a lot of emotional baggage- and having someone who needs me, loves me, and is always there for me has been incredibly beneficial. I can say without a doubt Max has made me the happiest girl in the world.

Almost Done

I promise this is not a plug, but he also has an instagram account. This is mostly because if he didn’t have one my instagram account would be full of puppy pics. So, if you think my puppy is as cute as I do feel free to follow him there. https://www.instagram.com/maxtheborkie/

How to Save a Life

So this past Saturday I had a major panic attack. The worst I can remember. While I was in the thick of it… horrible hysteria… I couldn’t even put together a complete sentence, my mother called me. She dropped everything to come and help me through it.

I have struggled with mental illness all my life. On my mission I was fortunate enough to have a brief window of relief. I had only two panic attacks on my mission, both very early on, and I thought when I go home that I had basically been cured. I was not, and when I fell, I fell hard.

A Walk to the Past

There was a time in the not to distant past where I went to a very dark place. I felt like I was worthless, a failure. From my perspective I couldn’t do anything right. I had gotten it in my head that my closet loved ones were annoyed and angered by my existence. It seemed that even my parent’s lives would be better if I wasn’t around. Suicide became a reoccurring thought. It was more than an escape from the emotional pain it was in, I thought I would be doing a favor to my loved ones if I was out of their hair.

Suicide is often considered taboo. Which, in my opinion is very counter productive. I was lucky enough to have been able to escape the horrible suicidal thought pattern without too much external intervention, but that was honestly luck. My plan was to wait for someone to notice or acknowledge my suffering, when they were ready, when my problems wouldn’t inconvenience them.

When someone is struggling in life I find that more often than not they just need a friend. Someone who can be there without being an inconvenience. On Saturday my mother was there for me without a thought about all she had to do. She was willing to talk about how I was feeling, with out  judgement, without solutions, with just ears. To be there and to show me that she loves me.

Hard Topics

So, when it comes to addressing taboo topics, the only solution is to address them. To talk to communicate. To talk about them before they are an issue. To talk about them with love and understanding. It takes being proactive when something is out of whack.

When I was at my lowest I planned my suicide twice. Each time I got to the  point of execution my mother was there. She noticed a problem and inserted herself into my life. She saved my life. So I invite us to follow her example and be present and involved in the lives of those around us. To observe and act.

Young Dumb and Broke: My search for a paying job

So as reference previously I quit grad school to pursue a career in Software Development. Before leaving Oklahoma I had applied for more that 60 jobs and by the week after Christmas I had applied to well over 160. As a graduate student, the stipend was pretty slim so I was looking to get a job quickly to pay bills and such because my savings had been exhausted by the moved back to Utah.

The Interviewing Process

After the New Year several companies reached out with online assessments and phone interviews. One particular day I had two phone interviews and an in-person interview in Orem. One of the phone interviews was scheduled in the half hour before the in-person interview, so I had the phone interview on the 45 min drive down. I thought the phone interview went great!  By the end I had a second interview with that company later that week.

The following interview went ok. It was a little weird. I walked in and there was one man in the office with an empty boxes and half-put-together chairs. The interview was weird. I had the eebee-geebees. Later that night I received a phone call from the company CEO and the second interview was set.

I completed both second interviews, but only one company was ready to make an offer. The creepy one without furniture… but I thought a paying job was a paying job… or so I thought.

Working

My one month tenure at Rural Data Centers, the company in Orem, was not what was promised. I was hired as the QA team manager with the opportunity to move up to a mid-level developer within 3 months. Well, I had no team, and nothing to QA. I worked alone in the office since all developers were remote, and my boss loitered in my office all day talking my ear off about his several previous businesses that ran out of money.

The first pay-day came around. On the way down I was talking to my younger sister about a previous job she had that did not pay her on time. I told her that even though my job was uncomfortable and weird at least it paid…

An hour later boss came in with a great story. The client was upset because the developers did not complete the website by the deadline; therefore the client decided not to pay my boss so I could not be paid. I was mad… I almost walked out that day, but after talking to my brother I decided to stay because the job would help build my resume.

Fast forward two weeks. I received an email from the company that gave me the phone interview. They were interested in hiring me I just needed to complete a small project. I did everything I could to finish that project. When my first and second paycheck from Rural Data Centers bounced I quit and started my current job at Nav.

The Paying Job

I was so blessed that Nav contacted me when it did. Although I am still owed 3 paychecks from Rural Data Centers, if Nav had not contacted me when they did I would have missed several bill payments and overdrawn both of my checking accounts. It had gotten to the point that my only job requirement is that it paid and Nav has been much more than a paying job. 

At Nav I am working as an Associate Engineer. I am doing a lot of on the job training and loving every second of it. The office is full of incredibly friendly and enthused people. There are no lies or stories. I get paid. Most importantly I have learned an incredible amount about scaling, software development, Go, and command line (to name a few).

I think the moral of the story is that we cannot accept a job just because it pays. Sometimes we have to hold out for something better. If I had waited I may have started at Nav sooner, or I may have a different job. I am happy with where I am though. Glad for this growing experience and good story to tell at parties. 

When the Game of Life is too Real

Just when you think that you have your life all figured out, God seems to throw a wrench in your plan. Over the past several years I feel like I have been playing a game. That doesn’t sound too bad, if the goal is only to get to the end of the game. Unfortunately I am a strategist, a planner, so when everything is up to the roll of the die, my strategies are pointless.

The explanation

I have many sub-goals in my life, but I would say that my life defining purpose is to follow my patriarchal blessing. For those readers who are not of the LDS faith, a patriarchal blessing is a priesthood blessing that any member can receive once in their life. This blessing contains personalized guidance from God to help the receiver achieve their greatest potential in this life and live with our Heavenly Father again in the next life.

Since I received my blessing 10 years ago, I have worked hard to follow the guidance of this blessing. I have fasted, prayed, attended the temple; I have done all things in my power to assure that my life choices were inline with this blessing. That is why I chose at 17 to study physics. That is why I quit my developer job to focus on my physics research. That is why I dropped my second major to graduate a year early. That is why I ended the only positive dating relationship I have ever been in to pursue graduate school. That is why I moved away from my family to study physics at the University of Oklahoma. Everything I was choosing seemed to be right and correct, but after trying so hard to follow “God’s plan for me” that turn ended, and I had to roll the die again.

While I was in Oklahoma life was rough. I was the perfect graduate student. I studied day and night, worked hard as a TA, join a research group early and started doing research in the lab. I made connections in extra curricular groups. I invested in the next 5 to 7 years of my live.  Despite all of my efforts to succeed, success just always seemed to be beyond my grasp.

The Roll of the Die

Just after I moved I started to experience major anxiety. Worse than I had in a long time. I was having daily panic attacks. I was quickly rendered unable to be productive at all, and despite all my best efforts, it took months for me  to receive professional help.

So with medication and therapy I hoped things would magically get better. A lot of prayers were sent out in desperation, and with time I found an answer. That answer though, was a complete 180 from where I was-a career change. My answer was to quit. I mean not really, I do plan on going back to school and getting a PhD, but not in physics. I don’t know what it will be in, the world of possibilities is endless. That is what scares me.

So at Christmas break I moved home. Well, not really home, my gracious brother and sister-in-law

This is my brother, sister-in-law and their children.

have allowed me to move into their house as I redirect my life. I have recently taken a job as a QA analyst for a tech company. I hope to use this job to lengthen my coding skills as I search for a new career.

I am now searching for purpose again. I why to know why everything that felt so right for so long was actually so wrong. I want to know what to do with my life; I need a new plan now. Alas, that is not what I need right now. So for the time being I will be in the wilderness, like Nephi, looking for the promised land.

One For my Sister

There are very few people in this world to whom I am actually attached to, and by that I mean whom I love more than myself. Obviously one is Jesus Christ. Next my parents, but this story isn’t about them. It is about the one person who I would literally take a bullet for.

Just a Little Backstory

According to my mother some 8-9 years after she had her 7th child she felt like there was someone missing from her family. She would knee down to family prayer and that feeling would hit her every time, but she pushed it away. She had 7 kids already and was in her 40s. She said, that one day her oldest daughter echoed the same sentiments that someone was missing. So voila I was born.

Me and my little sister. I am the one in the back. She is rocking shades in the front.

It did not take my parents long to realize that I would never be able to function alone in the world, so they decided to bless me with a younger sister. What a blessing? I was almost the youngest child. Almost the most loved and adored in the family, but alas, I cannot express enough gratitude to my parents for realizing that I needed someone to teach me how to appear somewhat normal.

Throughout the years my little sister has been my rock, my strength, and one of my greatest struggles (she threw a remote at my face once-I still have the scar). We grew up sharing a room and many life experiences. There were many times when she was my only friend. Additionally, I attribute all of my people skills to her. She has been there through everything, good and bad, and I have no clue what I would do without her.

I have been a classic big sister when it comes to her. I am practically the youngest child in my family, but being “big” sister has always been very important to me. I always tried to live in a way that I was a good example to her. I hoped to protecter her from the evils of the worlds, and to help her always be stronger than me. The truth is that she never needed my help doing that.

So about a month ago my baby girl got married. Basically she left me for someone else. She moved on, just leaving me behind.

For a long time that is how I felt about her relationship with her then boyfriend, now husband. I was hurt by how easy it was for her to leave me behind; never even considering how hard it was for me to loose my best friend. I knew that this was a dangerous relationship, and if I had not moved out of state I don’t know how things would have turned out, but thankfully I did move. Missing her became easier. Loving her became easier. Understanding her became easier.

When I traveled back for her wedding everything was different. It was not about me, but about her and family. I am soooo amazingly happy for my sister and her new husband. The day of her wedding was amazing. I loved it, and I HATE weddings. I am so excited for her new life and the adventures that await.

I Am Not My Condition-Managing my Anxiety

I find that most life defining moments get burned into the long term easy access memory. So I am going to share one of there life defining experiences. It has been hard for me to talk about my anxiety my entire life, but I am making the sacrifice to hopefully benefit myself and maybe one other person.

Here is the Story

I jolted awake. I was disoriented and tired, but all I could hear was a blaring screech that I had never heard before. Unsure of what was happening, my heart started racing. I whispered to my sister, who slept on the bottom bunk of our bed, trying to wake her up. Scared, I crawled off the bed and down to to the floor. Now awake, I still did not recognize the noise, but I was convinced it was the fire alarm. My mind raced from thought to thought, “how were going to get out of the house”, “why wasn’t anyone else awake”, “was I going to have to wake anybody up”, “what would we wear”. That was when I started to hyperventilate and cry. I don’t know how my dad woke up, but as I remember it, I walked out of my room slowly, hoping to not die, and my dad came and found me. He found the alarm clock going off( it had been reset by a recent power outage, and took me to bed  to calm down.

I was 10 years old when this happened. This was the first panic attack that ever remember. Starting from that day I had daily panic attacks for several months, and for the past 23 years I have struggled with frequent anxiety and panics attacks.

For along time I was ashamed of my anxiety. I was 11 when my mother talked to my pediatrician about coping methods. I did not want to go to counseling because of the fear that my friends would find out. To me it was a sign of weakness, and at an age when bullying and peer pressure had just started to emerge, I did not anyone to know that I was broken. I kept it a secret for years. Only my immediate family knew of my struggle.

My Anxiety now

To a certain extent I am still ashamed of my anxiety. And if any of your read my Autism post you can see that in a lot of ways I am a mess, but that is perfectly ok and good, because I am a strong, powerful woman.

Recently, I have come to understand a lot about who I am and how to appreciate myself. I have mentioned before that I have attended counseling sessions and received psychotherapy. Despite these efforts, my recent move to Oklahoma has sent me on a tail spin and my anxiety has started spinning out of control. And, although I am trying to take efforts to control my symptoms it has not been enough.

The Social Situation

Anxiety, bipolar disorder, MDD, or whatever it may be are all over the internet right now. We are broadcasting them all over the place in efforts to promote mental health awareness. The internet does a good job of promoting these disorders but a horrible job of helping us understand what they are; neither does it encourage us to take appropriate action to manage the symptoms and live functioning lives. It gives us the idea that mental health is a condition hopeless condition that ruins lives.

I have suffered from this idea as well, always scared of when it would strike again and taking no real action to deal with it. For a long time I thought that if I had enough faith, or prayed hard enough I would not suffer from anxiety and the panic attacks would stop. This led to thinking that when praying and faith didn’t work to calm me down, it was a reflection of my worth, my importance to God or my faith to me healed. I had created the reality that anxiety was me letting Satan in to my life and that I was incapable of blocking him out. This lead to a whole mess of self worth issues and could have ended up much worse.

The Moral of the Story

I am writing this post for several reasons. One is to help those who have a similar train of thought. It is 100% incorrect. Mental illness is an illness. It is not a question of faith, nor a reflection of spirituality or devotion to Christ. It is an illness. Like and illness there isn’t always a cause or reason. Sometimes it just happens

Also, we should treat is as an illness. Someone with diabetes doesn’t just accept a diagnosis and pray to not die. That person will actively change a lifestyle, take medicine, or seek treatment. Mental illness has to be actively managed, not passively acknowledged. That is actually counter productive and makes it worse.

My parents and younger sister Christmas 2016

Second, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are one of many struggling to function everyday despite facing severe challenges. It is hard, I know. There are good days, and sometimes there are very, very, very bad days. For me, taking action has been hard. Accepting that I need help, that I need more that just will power is hard, but I have not been alone for these years. I have had a wonderful family who has been there to support me at every step of the way, and even though they may be long distance now, they continue to show unfailing love as I work to manage my symptoms.

I think that we live in a society that proliferates mental illness. Also, I think that it affects more people than it every has before. I have realized for me to become functioning I have to be proactive in managing my symptoms. I wish I could say that I have more of a success story, but for now, I do have hope.

Note: Strength in My Faith

I do not want to discount in anyway the comfort that can be attained through ones faith. The atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost have incredible power. At many times in my life I have relied upon one of all of these things to do things out of my power. Just in the past year I have had some of the hardest times in my life and it was my faith in my Savior and his plan that allowed me to carry through and receive immense blessings. I do believe that Christ suffered to be able to relate to, understand, and help us through all of life’s struggles, including mental illness. He has helped me with my anxiety and also strengthened my faith.

I know that this power is amazing. I also know that our Heavenly Father ultimately wants us to live happy productive lives. To do that we are not restricted to only resources provided by religion. It is only one tool in the toolbox for combating mental illness and making us the best versions of ourselves. To become the best versions of ourselves we sometimes have to look outside ourselves and depend on other things that are also part of our tool box. The important thing like I said is actively managing symptoms and taking actions to improve. Each person will do that in their own unique way, and that is how it should be.

Waiting on the World to Change

I have a lot to say, and I really don’t have a right or witty way to start.

Last January I was in a dark place. I was definitely taking a toll on me, and I decided that the best thing for me to do was seek help. I went to BYU’s counseling and psychological services and started talking to one of the counselors. After just a few meetings, two I think (actually in the first meeting she asked me if I always talked loud, which, unless I am mumbling, I am pretty sure I am yelling), she  noticed some peculiarities. She handed me her copy of the DSM (this is a book that defines all psychological disorders and their symptoms) and had me read a section. As I read that section she asked me to read the symptoms outlined in that section and look for any that applied to me. I remember reading things:

I failure to make peer relations, and I thought about all through school and I can count on one hand the number of friends that I made on my own who were friends of friends or forced by living situations;

Impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors and I thought about how I never make I contact, and how I had to train myself in the mirror to control the faces I made when interacting with people

A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people. I thought about how I struggled to relate and find commonalities with anyone, especially on my mission.

Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals I thought about how I struggle with when my plan or schedule changes, how I cannot handle breaks from school because it isn’t my routine, my normal.

Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms. Only my mother knows how I shake my leg, pick my scabs, and get on my phone just to swipe around on the screen.

After I finish my therapist said that one of the other PhD candidates in her psychology program was running a study and asked if I would be interested in participating. Curious about what she saw, I said yes. She talked to the other candidate and got me into his study.

The study was for ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now when I first heard her mention autism I was definitely surprised. I pictured the non-communicative kid with autism on the episode of House who required full-time care from both parents. The only picture of autism that most people have.

I was wrong. ASD has been defined to capture everything from low-functioning non-communicative autism to Asperger’s syndrome. There are lots of variations in the severity and symptoms which is why there are tests and psychologists specialized specifically for diagnosing someone with ASD.

It has been 8 months since being on the spectrum was suggested to me. I have done a lot of research, and in my humble and non-qualified opinion, autism fits. I have looked at my awkwardness in school, around people, all the time. I miss social cues. I fight change because it gives me major anxiety. I am unable to recognize the volume of my voice and the appropriate behavior(include what to say and not to say) in different social situations. I do not sympathize with, struggle to relate to and make emotional connections with people. Autism fits.

I was tested as part of the autism study last April and results have been slow in coming. I still have not clue whether I am officially on the spectrum or not, but yet I have still been having trouble coming to terms with this. The change that I feel is coming, but most likely isn’t. I feel like the test will comeback negative, and that I will have just gone back and psycho-analyzed my life self-diagnosing myself for nothing. I don’t know if I will be able to come to terms with being on the spectrum or if I’ll be able to come to terms with the fact that I am just plain awkward without any real reason why. 

I know, superficially that a report from the study saying whatever it says doesn’t change who I am or who I have been for the past 23 1/2 years, but I keep thinking that it will. If the blog is to represent how a I feel and tell the story of my life, this is exactly where I am. Just kind of up in the air. Waiting for a finish, an end, a line of a few words to define my life. I feel like and can’t move forward with or without them. So here I wait, with my hands tied, all things up in the air, hoping that nothing comes crashing down.