When does “not giving up” become beating your head against the wall?


One of the great things about being the youngest child of a single mother in the 70's was that I was very spoiled. Yes I admit it. By the time all my siblings had grown up and moved out mom had enough money and shall I say little resistance to the my wants. I like most spoiled teens would not have admitted it back then, but I was.

The problem with being spoiled as a teen was that I never really had to work for anything. My mother did that. She tried with all her heart to teach me the value of hard work and of making a dollar. I have to say that the work ethic that dear woman had was second to none. She worked up until shortly before her death. Just because she believed that is what you did. Work for what you get. But in my younger years her teachings went right over my head.

In those years I was not a dedicated type. If I saw something as "to hard" I would just stop doing it. That included sports, work or anything else. A lot of that had to do with not liking what I was involved with. I didn't want to play football or basketball because I had a love of the game. I wanted to play to "cool".  I did love playing baseball but not enough to put in the practice and the work to be successful. That was the story of my life in a lot of ways back then. I wanted it, but just did not want to work for it.

Read How My Bipolar Past Affects My Hope For A Future.

Some of the things that I gave up on was my dream of being a disk jockey. I mean going to college to get your FCC license that was required back then was hard work. I got married instead. I was always interested in going into the Air Force. It was easier to get a good paying factory job that my soon to be father-in-law helped me get. But that job got hard. They wanted more work for the same pay. No raises in years. I could not go home and tell my wife that I quit, so I got myself fired. My marriage and life got hard so I had the deep desire to quit it. Well, it was not just that, there was a lot more to it then just that,  but it was a part of it. The marriage got hard because I was not happy. With life or anything. This was also what I later discovered to be the start of my dealings with depression, or Bipolar 2. That really caused things to get hard. The sex addiction, the violent temper problems that I did not try to solve, the taking things out on my wonderful and intelligent children because as I saw it back then were the cause of my hard life. It all came together.

This routine continued through a large part of my life. Then I did probably one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. That was enlist in the Air Force Reserves. Even though I was just a reservist or a weekend warrior as it is sometimes called I still had to go through basic training and the follow on tech schools that every other Airman had to do. I could still have quit. That was during a time when the military was not very active around the world and since we have an all voluntary military I could have easily claimed hardship and left. But I was bound and determined not to. I wanted to succeed at that. It was a long held dream and I was determined not to give up on it.

This is one of the reasons I am always telling young men and women who are looking for something new in life to consider the military.  Not only the time I spent with my fellow Airmen are memories that I will have for the rest of my life. Memories that always put a smile on my face and make me laugh. But what I learned about myself during basic training and tech school. 

The first thing I learned was that when I was determined to achieve something I found a way of doing it. This became clear on the confidence course (imagine that, maybe that's how they came up with the name) when after the first time I ran it I failed it. I missed four obstacles, you were only allowed to miss two. I spent the next week working on my upper body strength with the help of my flight. They always pushed me to do better, to do more push ups, more pull ups. On the day I went to do the course again they all told me I had it, that they didn't want me to come back a loser. So I missed two water hazards. Easy to do when your hands are sweaty and full of Texas sand. I pass all others after the second miss except for the next to last which was another water hazard. This one was the hanging rope over the water. The purpose was to pull yourself along a 100 ft rope with your ankles wrapped around the rope to take your weight off your hands. Well as soon as I put my ankles around the rope and pulled myself out over the water my ankles slipped and I was hanging over the pool with my feet in the water. The drill sergeant saw this and started telling me not to stop, keep pulling yourself, don't you give up. Well I pulled myself the entire 100 ft by my arms alone. I made it to the end and that gave me the confidence to make the next obstacle with ease. I really did not have time to think about it at the time as I had to get back to my flight and finish the day with them. Back at the dorm my T.I. told me heard what happened and asked me why it took me so long to show up at basic. He told me that an old fart like me (I was 33 at the time) should be showing the kids how to do it. I should be giving them inspiration not the other way around.

That took me to the next "obstacle" that could possibly stop my Air Force success. The final exam. I remember going into the test thinking "I just want to get the passing grade of 72". Please god let me get that number. I knew I had studied, I knew I had done it all. But I just did not have the confidence in myself. Well after getting back to the dorm the drill sergeant was reading the results. His way of rewarding the ones who did the best on the test was that the top ten scores were able to set on the couches in the day room the rest of basic training (you had to earn the right to do anything in basic, even go on base pass when other did.). So he was reading the names and then said "well here is a surprise, Finnearty, you scored 96, take a seat on the couch." Those two things that happened in during that 6 week period in Sant Antonio Texas did more to change my life than anything I had experienced before that. I do remember Sergeant Dunkin taking me to the side and telling me that he was glad I did so well and grew so much. He said he "was sure that I would be sent home when he first saw me." I have to say i completely understand after looking back on it. I you ever saw the movie Stripes with Bill Murray in it I would have to say that the day I got off the bus at Lackland I made his character look good. I had a pony tail and didn't give a crap for anything.  So the transformation from someone who didn't care about anything to someone who the drill sergeant said indeed did become an inspiration to the younger ones was one that I was not even expecting. I truly did not know what to expect when I joined, but I did not even think that would happen.

I came out on the other side feeling better than I have felt in a long time. Rested, knowing my heart was okay and on the proper medications. Things were good.

This lesson of not giving up stayed with me into the time I went to college. I have always been a believer that if you love something it is easy to do, if you hate it that task will be hard. So when I had to take the three subjects that I absolutely hate I thought, Here we go again. But even though I hated accounting, algebra, and biology I put forth my best efforts. I studied, worked and did it all again. That paid off. My grades for those classes were 3.2, 2.9, and 2.8. Well not a genius, but I did pass them. That was another notch in my confidence. I once again learned that just because you don't like something don't stop giving it your best. It will pay off.

The other side of that equation was also proven to be correct. I loved design, graphics, marketing, communications and sociology. Those grades were all 3.9 or above. They just did not seem easy, they were fun. The assignments were fun everything was fun about them.

By now you are probably wondering why I went into this long explanation of my past. It is because I wanted you to understand how I came into the don't give up and always, always give it your best. The same lesson my dear mother tried to teach me over 40 years ago.

After college I did what everyone does, I applied to many places. None of them wanted me. No experience, etc. So I remembered the old saying that it takes a job to get a job. I applied anyplace that I could, everyplace that I could. I was hired by a national retailer that has a very bad reputation for the way it treats it's employees. But hey, I was only going to be there a few months, just long enough to get my dream job. Well that was four years ago. I am still at that same place. I am still looking for that dream job. That job where I can use my skills to help a business grow it's online and offline marketing. But it is a lot my fault. I have a tendency to get "comfortable" in a job and just give up. Well I have not completely given up, I just got lazy.

I mean I still worked on websites, still grew my talents and moved forward to a certain extent. But in other ways I gave up. Besides I have a job. It pays better than other places in the town so I should give it 100% and not quit because I don't like it. That I have done. My supervisors, store manager and better yet my fellow employees respect my work ethic and my work. I am the one that they point to when it comes to training people to do certain tasks. I the one they point to when it comes to doing certain high profile tasks. All the things that I have taught myself to do, and been taught by others are coming out. Don't give up, do your best, be your best and be a pillar of quality.

This brings me to the last four months in my life. I have been feeling really bad. Having gone through heart problems I felt as though I was having those problems again. All the symptoms. Chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, leg pains and the dreaded fatigue. Oh the fatigue, the never ending relentless fatigue. Sleeping for 10 hours a day at least. I did not even have the energy to do the things I love to do. Got to concerts, go to local music festivals. I had only the energy to do some small things around the house and sleep.

So one night I finally gave in and let my wife call the squad to take me to the hospital. Just to find out what I already knew. My heart had finally given up the ghost. But that is not what happened. They found nothing. The only thing that it could have been was that my Thyroid was way off. So on the synthetic thyroid medicine I went. They also said that it could have been a lot of physical and emotional stress along with the thyroid and my Bipolar depression that all came together in one horrific batch of problems. The orders that I received when leaving the hospital were simple. Take it easy, less stress both physical and mental and take your medication. Easy enough.

I came out on the other side feeling better than I have felt in a long time. Rested, knowing my heart was okay and on the proper medications. Things were good. So back to work. But within days some of those feelings came back, although not as bad. Why was this happening again. I once again did not have the energy to go to a local event that is the highlight of my year. Why was I once again feeling the same way.  I got a clean bill of health from the doctors. Well it became painfully clear as to why. One thing has not changed out of all of the situation. My highly stressful job. 

My second day back to work there were only two people to do the job of four. We were instructed that the store manager said that not having enough people was no excuse for things not getting done. We just had to step up our game and work harder. This after going months on end with being under staffed. If two people could not do the job of four then they should give more. Really?

My thought process is that giving 110% every day for months on end was not good enough. We were being told that we had to give more every day. The job had to get done and there were no excuses for it not getting done. Right down my alley, when the going gets tough etc. But it became clear that a 59 year old man working night shift going all out every night was more than I could give. Or is it? 

After all, I learned that you don't give up. You give it your all and more. That is your key to success. But what if your employer does not appreciate your attitude. They expect it. The employers attitude is that if you give us 110% tonight why can't you do it every night? That then becomes the standard so to go above and beyond you have to give 120%. That then becomes the standard and so on. No thank you, no keep up the good work,  no sign of appreciation from the top management at all. So I say is this just me? Am I the only one feeling this way? I look around and all the employees my age are feeling the same way. They are all having health problems, they are all talking about the same problems. So it is not just me.

Now I am am trying to find out if I am once again am wanting to quit something because it is to hard, or because it is the right thing to do. I feel that I have proven that I am not a quitter, that I give my all to my responsibilities and more. I do feel like I am at this point banging my head against the wall. 

The Cambridge Dictionary describes banging your head against a wall as "to do, say, or ask for something repeatedly but to be unable to change a situation:" and that is exactly where I feel that I am at when it comes to my job. How much can an employee give to a company without saying, enough? All through my life I have seen people work at jobs for 20, 30 or more years and not think a thing about it. So am I just being soft? Am I once again saying it is to hard I can't do it. So I plug away. 

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant

I am now however thinking that maybe I gave up on doing what I love for the easy thing. For the comfortable thing. Staying at a job that I already have. For the sake of not quitting I am actually ruining not only my quality of life but making things harder on my wife. How? Because she works at the same place. She too is giving her all for a company that does not appreciate her hard work and dedication. She too has the same drive, the "don't give up under any circumstances" philosophy. She too is banging her head against a wall. But she is one of those who can see the big picture. She does it so she can have her home, her family, her animals. She is the type that her family and her animals are her world. She would no sooner give up one of her animals than give up her family. That is what she sees when she goes to work. That is what I see to. But how much longer can my body take this pounding without saying enough?

But does it have to be either/or? Can't we have our happy little family and jobs that we enjoy doing? Well, that is one that Bobbi has going for her. She does enjoy her job, it just makes her mad that they expect more and more from her without appreciation. She feels that she gets that appreciation from our current direct supervisor. Which I have to say is true. Our current supervisor does appreciate all that people do for her. She too is one of the employees that does not get appreciation from our store manager.

So I feel like I am banging my head against a wall. The old adage is that if you perceive something as being real it is. But I believe this is more than a perception. This is reality. But the sad truth to that reality is that if you bang your head against a wall long enough it will eventually have an affect on you. You will either quit because of the pain, or you will die from your injuries. I don't feel like letting the latter be the case here.


About the author

Bradley Finnearty


I am a certified webmaster who has lived a life dealing with bipolar depression. My goal is to not only help others dealing with bipolar and depression but to help those around them to understand what is going with their loved ones. I write about how I deal with it and hope that it inspires you to understand that you don't have to let it control you. You control it. I write the way I talk. I want you to feel like I am talking with you in a conversation, not preaching at you in a way that makes you feel like you have to do what I tell you. I hope you enjoy my blog posts about not only bipolar but all things that I write about.

What about you? Does anything in this post ring a bell with you? Have you ever been in a situation where felt like you should just change the road your on? Have you ever been employed by someone who just wanted more and more without giving you any appreciation for what you have given them? 

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