In my shoes

He said gently within the circle in his compassionate therapist voice, some people in your shoes with the type of bipolar disorder you have, choose to pursue long term disability at this point. My mouth may have fallen open. In my mind I was thinking, it’s over. I’ve truly lost the battle. My functioning level is decreasing in the eyes of my treatment team. I can feel myself debating his point, but I don’t know what I’m saying. The truth of the matter is I work for about 5 months consistently and well, then for some reason bipolar flares up and I’m off anywhere from 1-3 months. This has been occurring for 32 months or so. My employer has not given me a hard time and so far I have not lost my benefits. It should be noted I have been at my place of employment for about 16 years.
Let me tell you what I have lost: my core sense of self, self esteem, cognitive skills, confidence in my work abilities, decision making, and emotional control. Some days I don’t know who I am. Some days I feel so out of control I literally try to pull my hair out. Some days I am so hyper and energized I think I’m superwoman. The next day it could be that I barely can get out of bed. I just never know.
Hallucinations have me sidelined at the moment. Well a bit debilitated actually. When I see the graphic images I can’t breathe, sometimes I try to run for a knife, sometimes I cower in fear. Always always I cry hysterically. If they happen at night my husband grabs me and holds me tight. Talks to me. Reassures me. Slowly brings me back to reality. If they happen when he is not home, I become confused, disoriented, cry hysterically and it takes me well over 20 minutes to calm myself down. Often, it involves a phone call to my husband for assistance.
There are some good days. I feel like a fool because I thought my month long episode was over and the hallucinations had passed. When bam another graphic visual would knock me to the floor. Maybe you’re thinking every few days might be an improvement, and I wish I could say yes. But, the intensity and violence of the visions have increased. My ability to cope still wavering. I feel like I am going backwards. Just over a month ago I was only on one medication. Now I’m on 3. I will be out of work about 2 months total. I’m being talked to about long term disability. It is a sad day for me.
What have I gained? An even more loving and supportive husband than I had before. When I can’t sleep because of a nightmare or experience a hallucination he just hugs me, never complains as I interrupt his slumber. In fact he reiterates how much he loves me. Somehow i am able to let him in, share my pain. He hasn’t blamed me or shamed me once. I feel so very lucky to have him. I truly don’t think I would make it through this without him. I have enormous empathy for those who walk through the doors of the program I attend. They pour their hearts out each and everyday. Many are grieving a loved one. Many face depression and anxiety on a daily basis. Some feel profound Loss and don’t know why. Some, like me, battle the roller coaster of bipolar disorder. Each of us put aside our ego and share our dark secrets with strangers.
I’m lucky enough to have insurance that covers group therapy on an outpatient basis. It has been so helpful and I would argue at times it has saved my life. However, when my symptoms get to this level I am afraid to share. I’m afraid to divulge the details of my hallucinations. Also at this point, as I’m on my 4th week of a 2 week program., I get resentful. I resent that I still have to go. More so, that it’s all I got.
Bipolar disorder is painful at best. Notifying my boss for the 3rd time I won’t be returning on time, and in fact for several weeks, is devastating. That’s an awful strong word. But I think I define myself by my job. It’s a busy time and I’m part of a team. Sometimes it takes a village to pull off these projects. I want to be a pillar again, or at least in the fold. I struggle with an inner sense of purpose, so going to work fills that.
I cried myself to sleep last night as quietly as I could. This is not where I want to be in life in my early 40’s. I want to give up and I want to storm whoever or whatever that gave me this fucked up disorder. That would be my brain right. MY very own brain. I just want to take it out shake it, realign it, grease it, oil it..whatever. Put it back on straight and carry on like “before.”
Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance. This IS where I’m at. It could be worse, could be better. But here I am right now. I need to rest and recover. Those are the priorities. So I color in the mandalas to ease anxiety. I clean and reclean the house to stay busy. I go for walks to feel the sun on my face. I workout for the endorphins. I write to release the pain I don’t share. I am scared. So very scared. What if my illness is getting worse. What if I can’t return to my job or worse, what if I do and then fall apart again. My husband is steady on his feet and can carry me when I need it. I just don’t want to need it. Will acceptance really set me free?

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