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Friday, July 30, 2010

Work Sucks!

Hi-Ho! Hi-Ho! It's off to work we go! Hi-Hoooooooooooooooooooo...

When I first started looking for information on FTD I found nothing about exactly how all of these awful symptoms related to the work environment. Though my job was complicated, my behavior would be unacceptable in any workplace. This post is a difficult one to write on several levels. There is an emotional attachment to it, but that is not the main issue. It is complicated to organize because of the amount of information, and the form it was in. The original review is a 17 page document.

To make it easier for me I decided to directly copy my manager's comments from my year-end review, and then try to document how they relate to my bvFTD. If I remember I may comment on how I was feeling at the time. My manager was not a horrible person, and remember she did not know what was going on either.

I am not going to include my self-evaluation comments here in detail at this time. In summary my comments indicate that I was totally unaware that anything was wrong. I thought I was doing a great job, and getting everything done on time as requested. I was aware that I had somehow "marginalized" myself, and that I was having communication issues with the team, but other than that I was completely clueless about my own behavior, my cognitive decline, and the impact it was having on my job performance.

As a little background for those who may not know - I reported directly to the Managing Director for North America. All of our job titles were really stupid and British, but she would be the equivalent of a Division  President or Executive Vice President, and I would have been something like the North American Technical Support Manager or North American Operations Manager. Our group was a very small part of a very large global company.

My job consisted of managing all of the technical aspects of a couple ongoing market research projects dealing with more than 20 million data records. In short, my job had a lot of responsibility, and was extremely complicated.

In retrospect - I would have fired me. I think the only reason I was not fired was because my manager was located in New York City, and I was in Ohio. There was no way for her to know just how bad it really was for me. I was able to conceal much of it from those I worked with for a long time. Eventually it became obvious that something was wrong to everyone except me. Finally I was made aware of some issues with my memory, and went to see a neurologist.

Since bvFTD is a progressive disease things would have gotten worse, and not better. None of the improvements would have been made, and more issues would have surfaced. There is no way I would have survived in this or any job for another year. It is a miracle I lasted as long as I did.

The following comments are copied from my year-end review, but I have edited them to remove any names or confidential company information.

Lee did complete a KPI review presentation for the team which was well-received.  Leading up to the presentation, Lee needed to receive many reminders and repeated requests before it actually occurred – moving forward, Lee should look to fulfill goals without relying on other people to regularly remind him that they are outstanding.  He needs to demonstrate an ability to manage his own workload.

This one is obvious as it relates directly to Apathy, Organizing, and Planning. I was fully aware that I needed to do the presentation, but just kept putting it off. I thought about it a lot. It wasn't until my manager actually scheduled my presentation at a team meeting on a specific date that I finally got moving.


Lee has made an effort to improve the commentary with the KPI documents and should continue to evolve the comments so that they become more actionable and meaningful for the team.

Every time I made comments on the KPI's it generated questions or comments from the team in response. If I didn't make comments, I didn't have to answer a bunch of stupid questions. A KPI is supposed to be a 'Key Performance Indicator", but what I was supposed to include was quite useless, and redundant. I have dementia, but I am not stupid. Most of this was a total waste of time. It went to a bunch of sales oriented people who did not have the technical knowledge to understand the reports. The fewer comments I made, the less communication I had to deal with. This is consistent with my isolation, and my trying to limit interruptions.


A key element identified in Lee’s 20008 performance appraisal was the need for him to focus on building his knowledge across a few core elements of the mainstream business in 2009.  ... Lee was specifically asked to ensure that he and another employee were “interchangeable” and could back each other up during vacations as part of this core delivery objective.  In 2009, ad hoc client deliverable were impacted/delayed as Lee did not achieve this goal and work had to wait for another employee to become available.

This one is a direct result of both Apathy, and my Dysexecutive Syndrome. I simply could not learn the new processes and programs required for me to do the job, and kept putting it off. As a work-around I delegated the work, but that finally became obvious when the people I delegated to went on vacation, and jobs were postponed until their return. Subjectively I was again unaware anything was wrong, and knew I would learn it eventually when I really needed to. That was not to be. 


Lee has become less and less involved with the day-to-day data processing in 2009 – passing much of the workload onto other members of the team.  His attention to detail has not been consistent – with data errors being found by other team members because he is not proofing his work (again, a development need identified historically).

Dysexecutive Syndrome again. Actually there were no data errors in any of the work I processed, but as manager I was responsible for all of the data. The bottom line is that when I delegated the work, I no longer had the control to identify any errors in the processing and reporting. Even though I myself did not make the error, it was still my responsibility. My manager was not fully aware of what I did myself, and what was delegated.

 

Lee’s reliance on other employees increased as the year progressed – with another employee now doing the majority of the DP work for both services.  The team has struggled with this unexpected change and is looking for Lee to get a better handle on his own workload to reverse this situation.

Delegate! Delegate! It finally was catching up with me that I was no longer able to do the work myself.


Lee did not close the gap identified about his lack of new software knowledge and continued to rely on another employee to do all of the software package work for both services.  For 2010, Lee must become more active with taking on the responsibilities of new software for one project at a minimum.

Well Duh! I tried several times to learn the new software, but I just couldn't retain it. Dysexecutive Syndrome, especially ADHD-like Symptoms, and Memory. I could do it, but I couldn't remember it. I had to relearn it every time I used it. Just to make it even more interesting there was no written documentation. The software itself had a truly awful interface, and was not user friendly. Imagine using a program that requires a command line interface in this day and age. We are talking old DOS commands that went out in about 1995! But it was British, so it was obviously better ; )


As the year progressed, Lee delegated increasing amounts of workload to other team members and gradually began to remove himself from the team.  Lee’s ability to work effectively with other team members has deteriorated, with many instances where Lee has elected to work alone, to work from home, to ignore emails, and even to not speak to other members of the team around him for extended periods of time.

Wow! This sounds like a classic description of bvFTD. When I had to do something really complicated like writing programming instructions requiring uninterrupted concentration it was easier at home where I could limit distractions. I frequently did not answer emails, and almost never answered my phone. I guess people started to notice I was a little difficult to communicate with, so eventually most of them stopped trying. That worked for me. If I had to answer the phone, or an email, it totally derailed me, and I could not easily get back to what I had been working on.


Lee continues to struggle with communication issues - with many of the team members actively seeking alternative support rather than having to work with Lee.  Lee would benefit from taking a “teaching” approach and also operate with a more collaborative spirit.  This feedback is consistent with the feedback Lee received throughout 2008 with no noticeable improvement in 2009.

Yes, it was already starting to be noticeable in 2008. I was isolating myself, and it got progressively worse. I am not sure if the symptom actually got worse, of if I just got better at doing it. Probably both. In any case, I was limiting the number of interruptions as best I could. Again, I was totally unaware I was doing it, or for what reason.


Lee was asked to create a delivery timetable – this request was made multiple times through the year and raised again in October during the development plan discussion.  The final delivery timetable was delivered on December 9, 2009.

Dysexecutive Syndrome again. I had an impossible time planning timetables, and deadlines. I just could not figure out the steps in order, and how much time each step would take, and how much time that would add on the the project. These were pure torture for me.


Lee continues to struggle to provide realistic and actionable timelines.  He wants to be viewed as “exceeding” expectations so typically provides long lead-times.  However, by providing unrealistic timelines it is often perceived by the team that he does not have a good sense of what is involved in delivering against specific tasks.  He is creating the opposite impression than he is seeking to achieve.  I would encourage Lee to work on being able to commit to deadlines and to work constructively with the team overall to achieve “win-win” scenarios both internally and for clients.  Setting realistic timelines was identified in Lee’s 2008 performance reviews as a development need - Lee is encouraged to seek assistance from others in order to close this persistent performance gap.

My manager added a lot of crap in here trying to figure out my motivation. The truth is simple. I was unable to figure out and plan a realistic timeline. Dysexecutive Syndrome, and probably some Apathy.


Lee began the year with a lot of energy and a positive outlook.  He proactively created a database for a huge multi-million dollar client so that we could deliver in their preferred format should we have an opportunity to work with them.

Meant nothing. This was all processed with software and processes I was very familiar with, and I had automated most of it years ago.


As the year progressed, Lee became frustrated with the new platform implementation and removed himself from much of the workload.  He would regularly use negative language around the team and did not work in solidarity with the team.

The program sucks! The process sucks! The company that created it sucks! It is inferior in every way. That said, I should have been more involved and helped with the implementation of its sucky-ness. Negative language? Here is where that lack of emotional restraint came into play.

Lee did not deliver a “quality plan” containing the relevant checks.

And guess what? I never will!


Summary
Year-End Comments:  Manager Input:·    This has been a very challenging year for Lee.  His performance has continued to decline as the year has progressed.  Many of the same development areas identified in 2008 persisted in 2009 with little noticeable improvement.

Here it is in black and white - my symptoms were noticeable in 2008, and have gotten progressively worse over the past 2 years.


At his mid-year review Lee seemed unaware that he was missing some of the targets in his objectives.  In order to help ensure he was able to achieve his goals for the year, a development plan was build that contained suggestions for action plans for each objective.  Rather than taking this as constructive input offered as an aid, Lee took this as criticism and has gradually removed himself from interacting with the team.

This is also a classic symptom of bvFTD. I was totally unaware of my own deteriorating condition. I can see it in retrospect when it is pointed out to me, but at the time I was totally unaware anything was wrong. Note that it was now obvious to my manager located in New York City.

 

His relationships with both the Operations team and the Commercial team have deteriorated significantly with a growing reluctance from other team members to work with him.  This discord traces to communication issues (placing blame on others, perception that he is taking credit for others’ work, condescending communication), reluctance to be held accountable to a project plan, risk adversity with respect to being involved with “new” things – all consistent with development areas identified in 2008.

Deteriorating personal relationships? Difficult to work with? Getting worse, not better. Again a classic set of reactions to my behavioral symptoms of bvFTD. I sometimes got really angry, or upset with people, and I was unable to hide it.


Lee... struggles to take balanced feedback when there are opportunity areas.  Any feedback that can be perceived as “negative” causes Lee to become irate.  He is inclined to become obstructive and condescending to his peers as well as his manager.

Irate? She is being very kind. I really unloaded an emotional tirade on her that was totally inappropriate for the work environment. It was pure rage, and out of my control. This is an emotional symptom of bvFTD. This lack of emotional control is just one of the symptoms making it impossible to work.


This has been a year with a lot of critical milestones that are building towards a foundation for a new Worldpanel team.  Lee has struggled to adapt to understand and adapt to the changes taking place in the team.

Adapting to change? Change is bad! I am more comfortable with familiar surroundings, and familiar routines. Of course, I also was unable to learn any of the new stuff. That didn't help. Dysexecutive Syndrome.

Lee continues to have strength in data processing and has tremendous experience that can be leveraged within the team.  I would encourage Lee to continue focusing on the development areas identified in 2008 and reinforced through 2009.



Obviously I would not improve, and just continue to get worse until I was terminated. I have dementia, but I am not stupid. I still have tremendous knowledge and experience, but consistently leveraging it is no longer possible in any work environment.

I just naturally invented work-arounds to get through my work day. I used all kinds of notes, and reminders. I even had other people remind me to do stuff. It is really weird that I did not even notice the change. I had to leave myself notes when I left at the end of the day so I would know what to start on when I came in the next morning. I was the manager, so if I couldn't do it, I was able to delegate the job to someone who could.

When I was working on a project, I did not answer my phone, or any emails. I discouraged social interactions of any kind. I did not really take breaks or a lunch because if I got side tracked I was unable to start again. I modified my work hours so I had a shorter day because I got fatigued by late afternoon. Everything I did was basically some kind of work-around, but again I was totally unaware that I had made the changes to my routine or behavior. I guess these would be classed as "accommodations" I made for my disability.

Of course, some days were better than others. The problem was that I could not consistently perform even the basic requirements of my job, or any job for that matter. I was just lucky my boss was a couple states away or I would have been terminated, and lost all of my benefits, including my long term disability. Whew!

Comments are welcome.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My bvFTD Symptoms - Stress

Retreat! Never! Advance to rear!

(Everything here is my account of what happened to me, or my interpretation of stuff. Every case of FTD is different. Keep in mind as you read this that the person who wrote this has dementia.)

This has been a very stressful week. It is not the stress that was different, but how I reacted to it. In my past stress was, if not welcomed, at least not avoided, and I think I actually created it out of nothing sometimes just to make things more exciting. Type A personality much?

Not any more. This week when things got stressful, I automatically took steps to reduce my stress level. Since I could not do anything about the cause of the stress, I had to limit the stress from other sources.

I would never even have noticed this change in my behavior if it was not specifically listed on a web site regarding Social Security Disability as a debilitating symptom of organic brain disorders such as dementia. It asked something like: When under stress, do you run away, and avoid social contact?

Well, yes apparently I do!

To reduce my stress this week I retreated. By eliminating the stress of socializing, I made the stress I could not control more manageable. I became the "Happy Hermit".

I did not answer my phone most of the time, I kept the doors closed, and usually ignored the doorbell or anyone who knocked. My only social contact all week was meeting a friend for some low-stress Pizza (finally!).

This is not a symptom that I remember coming across before when researching FTD, but it is common to most brain disorders. Subjectively - It works!

I stayed in, avoided the heat and humidity, and caught up on some television. It was not bad at all from my perspective.

From the outside I can see where someone might worry about me. The best way to deal with this situation is to give me some time alone. I have always been a 'Lone Wolf", so I don't mind being alone. The peace and quiet is a great stress-reducer for me. This week it lasted a few days - from Sunday night to Thursday. It could have lasted longer, and that would be OK. After a week or so I think I better start looking for another way to reduce my stress.

The only other thing I noticed was that with the increased stress my ADHD-Like symptoms were also worse, which also made my memory seem worse, which made everything more difficult - which caused a little additional stress. Everything is connected.

So, I did not Retreat. I advanced to the rear. I guess I turned things around, huh?

(Har! Advance to the rear! Turn around! Har! I crack me up!)
Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guestbook and Miscellaneous Comments

I guess this is another Metablog - Blogging About The Blog

After much tussling with the program that lets me make changes to the layout of this Blog - I have added a new page on the right side. I can't change how it displays, just the order of the pages. It is a place to test posting a comment, a place to say "Hello", and a place to make a comment that doesn't fit anywhere else.

Hopefully it will be useful, and make it easier to post comments. If not, I will zap it.

Check it out, and give it a try.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Post On A Post - Metablog

 Metablog - blogging about the blog.

Just once I would like to get through a whole day without being reminded of the changes brought about by my bvFTD. I almost made it on Saturday, July 3rd.

As a reader, there is no way to tell what it takes for me to write some of these entries. For example, I started thinking about my post about watching the grass grow a few days before May 28th when I took the picture of the Catbird. It was almost 5 weeks in the making!

I had it all planned out, and then when I was about halfway through with it the phone rang. It totally derailed me, and I never got it all back the way I wanted it. I knew as soon as the phone rang that I would not be able to complete the project as I had planned it. Up until then I actually had felt like it was a pretty normal day. I had not even thought about my FTD induced changes. The whole rest of the day was pretty much of a loss after that. I just wandered around the house, tried to watch some TV, tried to read a little news online, but just never quite got my concentration back on track, or felt like doing much of anything.

I have several more pictures, and a couple stories I wanted to include. I may try to re-write it, and re-post it for comparison in the near future. It is a good example of not being able to switch between tasks very successfully, and then switch back again. It is probably a decent example of the attention difficulties I sometimes have.

As for now, I think I will just fix a couple typos I noticed, and leave it be. After all, if someone didn't know what happened, what is missing, and how long it took to get it done, it looks just fine. But I know. I know.

It is already too late for today, but maybe tomorrow will be the day that no symptom interferes with my daily living. I know there will be a day, and it had better be soon. I will celebrate it when I notice. Eventually I know that no such day will be possible at all.

Tick-tock!

Comments welcome.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Watching The Grass Grow

Watching The Grass Grow, and thinking about the things I am not going to do today.

I write about it all the time in this blog. I can sit for hours watching the grass grow. I pay the young gentleman next door to mow it when it gets too long. There is a little more to it than just that, but not much. What I mean when I say I was just watching the grass grow is that I am sitting on my deck under my guy-zebo. Relaxing. No stress. No pressure. Think... ZEN!
(The youngest of my two awesome sons named it the guy-zebo, and it stuck. Guys, and Heinlein-type women are welcome.)

I live in town, so I have a yard that is only about 50 x 90 feet, and part of that is occupied by an above-ground pool. There is a 6 foot privacy fence around it that is about ready to fall down in the next light breeze.  The local wildlife goes over, under, around, and through my fence. So, what I am saying is that there isn't all that much grass. But the grass I do have...  grows... and grows... and I watch it.

Yeah, maybe I have a few flowers too. They cheer me up.

There is actually a lot to see. For being in the middle of town, I have a lot of nature creeping into my yard. OK, some of the nature overflows into the neighbors yard, too. That is OK. I can still see it.

So, I was sitting on the deck one morning a few weeks ago, and I was thinking about writing this post. I made a list of the birds I saw.

Starlings - nesting in neighbors yard - yuck!
Mourning Doves - nesting in neighbors yard.
House Wrens - nesting in neighbors yard - beautiful song.
Carolina Wren - makes me up in the morning sometimes - really annoying hissy-whistle.
Mourning Doves
Lots of Robins - nesting all over the place. Family name is Turdus... that about says it all.
Hummingbird - were 3, only seen 1 female since the tornado.
Catbird -more on him later. 
House Finch - male looks like a Purple Finch with a rose colored head.
House Sparrow - really a finch, and a nuisance.
Goldfinches - I have no idea what they are doing in my yard, but they are bright yellow and pretty to watch.
Swallows - probably Barn Swallows - eatin those bugs.
I also hear Nighthawks after dark, but have not actually seen them.
Oh yeah, and a pair of Cardinals!


There are 3 bird  mimics in Ohio: The Northern Mockingbird, The Southern Mockingbird, and the Catbird. The first 2 are rarely found this far north, and the Catbird is the weakest of the 3. Well, this little Catbird sure tries. He sings a song that starts out like a Wren, then a Robin, and then a Cardinal, with a few of his own chirps and meows thrown in whenever he feels like it. He really sings his little heart out. It is really pleasant to hear.






 The male Cardinal is always singing, except when he is lurking in the vines on my fence hunting for bugs. He weaves in and out, and gets himself into some crazy positions as he works his way along the fence.









I also have a mole sent by the Devil to destroy my yard. I really miss my dog. He destroyed the yard even worse catching them, but he really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed his company.

Then there is the squirrel population. I have a few Fox Squirrels. A few Gray Squirrels, and some black variants of the Gray Squirrels. They are really kinda boring unless they fall off the telephone wire or something. I can hope.

And I have a couple adult rabbits, and a couple baby bunnies. That is why I also have a fence around my garden. It also keeps the weeds in.

One morning a few weeks ago, the baby bunny was racing around in my flower bed. He was zig-zagging in and out around and about the flowers at top speed - which is pretty fast if you are a baby bunny. I watched him, and the naturalist in me thought about how this type of play would help prepare him to evade a predator. Then I realized that was not what it was all about. He was racing around my flowers for the pure joy of it.  He was just happy to be a baby bunny on a beautiful morning.

So what does a baby bunny have to be so happy about? After all, the only thing on the food chain lower than a baby bunny is... Clover?

You can learn a lot from a baby bunny... I did.




Then the little frakker started eating my flowers, so I chased him into the neighbors yard. He can just be happy over there!








So, what I am saying is that when I am watching the grass grow, it isn't exactly boring. My backyard has a lot going on to fill a lazy day when there is Cotton In My Lime Jell-O. Sometimes my neighbor even stops by for a visit, and to complain about those bunnies eating the flowers. Shhhhhhh..... the bunnies are happier over there anyway.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My bvFTD Symptoms - Apathy To-Do

Motivation. To do, or not to do. To-do!



(Everything here is my account of what happened to me, or my interpretation of stuff. Every case of FTD is different. Keep in mind as you read this that the person who wrote this has dementia.)

I guess this apathy-thing needs another look. A comment on Apathy got me thinking about motivation, and reaching the threshold that initiates an action. What is it that make me do some things, and not others?

Well, first off there are good days, and days that are not so very good. My neurologist said I should expect to have some days which are more difficult. On those days I just take the day off and watch the grass grow. On days when I have cotton in my Lime Jell-O that is the best, and safest, course of action - or inaction.

Socialization is in a class by itself. It is surly at least partly related to apathy, but I think interacting with others is so reliant on emotions, and communication, and interpreting both that other factors may have a greater influence than Apathy. It just isn't the same as weeding the garden. There is much more emotional, and even cognitive, engagement necessary.

I read in What If It's Not Alzheimer's that apathy can be offset by another symptom - compulsive behavior. The comfort of sticking to a routine is highly motivating. Though in the context of the book it is described in the later stages of bvFTD.

I appear to be in the early stages. I do have apathy, and it does contribute to making it impossible to get things done in a normal amount of time. My ADHD-like symptoms, and cognitive decline also play a big part. Stuff is more difficult across the board, and I think we all try to avoid doing difficult stuff whenever we can. I just carry that a little farther.

Here in the house I have lived in for over 25 years I am in a highly structured environment. I know just where everything is (mostly!), and just what needs doing, and when, and how. I have all of the comfortable routines of the day-to-day stuff already built in. The routine itself seems to be a motivator, but I am not obsessive or compulsive to any great degree - or at least as I see it not any more than I ever was.

At this stage in my FTD it does not always take something huge to get me doing things. My to-do list is what gets me through right now on the day-to-day stuff. I make a list every day, or every few days, and cross things off as I get them completed.

I LOVE crossing stuff off my to-do list!

It give me a sense of accomplishment to cross things off the list. That is a really big motivator in itself. Of course the list also serves as a reminder to keep track of things I need to do.

If I do not get something done I carry it over to the next list. I do not like to do that, so it is a bit of negative reinforcement also. Kind of like nagging.

Writing for this blog is often on my to-do list. It is one of the things that often gets carried over to the next list. There is a note to write about how awesome my son is, but I just can't for the life of me think of anything to say. I wonder who could have added that to my list? Hmmm... after a while if it is something unimportant, and I am carrying it over from list to list, I just take it off my list.

Answering comments is easier. Probably like texting is easier than talking on the phone. Maybe "easier" isn't the right word... "more comfortable" is better. I am notified almost instantly via an email on my cell phone when someone leaves a comment. That is a built in reminder.

I have always been a procrastinator. I have always waited until the last minute to get things done. That was my pattern in school, and at work. I think I thrived under the pressure of the looming deadline.

Now things take longer, and I do not enjoy the stress or pressure like I used to. I think I am a little more worried that I might not be capable of doing stuff quickly at the last minute, so I now prefer to get things done ahead of time. That is a reality I have to make adjustments for. Again this (avoiding stress) in itself is a motivation.

Like everyone, I do the things I enjoy first. Those weeds are really lucky because... I HATE WEEDING!!!!

...but they are on my list.

Comments are welcome.