I’ve really had to take a look at myself over the last 2 months. Started about 3 weeks prior to a hospitalization if I’m honest. I know I was having symptoms, I just did not want to acknowledge that fact. I can see it all fairly clearly now…AFTER. The stress at work was piling up. I was ALLOWING the stress at work to pile up. While being an independent worker is good, and we all used to put it on our resume as an attribute, I think it depends on which definition you are using. My definition means take on all tasks at full boar, do not ask for help and always GO! Go above and beyond. Set your mission and embark. If the boss suggests you don’t have to do it all “independently” she is not being sincere. This is what she truly wants. This is the office culture. This is the only way I know how to do it. Sure, I am a team player as well. I mean I think I am. I play well with others, I really do. I can hold group discussions, set agendas, meet deadlines. I just compare myself to those in my group. If they are already on task #2, despite the fact I already have tasks prior to these new tasks they don’t have, then I must not be pulling my weight. Exit the lunch break. No time for a break. I do eat lunch. Believe me you don’t want to see me without food in my system. I just do it while doing 2-100 other things I absolutely must do.
In a nutshell, I am a perfectionist and it often times gets in my way. I think it can be a good quality, if under control. I’m typically not under control. Panic in the mornings over my to do list. Paralysis when writing my to do list. Silent tears in the bathroom stall. Inability to sleep. Inability to turn my work brain off. These are all signs I was unwilling to admit to…even to myself. Throw a trip to visit my incredibly dysfunctional in laws in the mix and I was sure to fall apart sooner or later.
I have been off work for just about 2 months steeped in psychosis, depression and suicidal impulses. I still get up at the same time. I actually might even get up earlier. I am really trying to workout consistently. I attend an outpatient group 5 days a week, but for only half the day.
With this break in work, and time to reflect, I feel I know how I need to approach it once I return. I really am not anywhere near stable enough to show my face. Week after week I fax over a work extension to my HR department. Week after week I kindly text my supervisor letting her know I won’t be in on the date we discussed. I do want to return. I really do. I just need it to be successful. I need to feel good about something right about now. I need to feel I can handle the stress of the job in a healthy way. The intense stress just sets off a firestorm of bipolar symptoms.
So, what’s the fancy plan I keep alluding to?
- Take all breaks OUTSIDE my office
- Dial down the expectations of perfection
- DO NOT take things personally
- DO NOT check work email after 5
- Write a to do list for the following day at the end of the day (to eliminate rumination)
- Perform one task at a time
- ASK FOR HELP WHEN NEEDED
- SLOW DOWN AND BREATHE
It’s a job. Of course I want to do well. I want to feel good about myself. But, setting myself up for a lovely stay at the psych hospital is no longer an option. This is going to be a challenge. Somethings I can implement right away, somethings will take time. But, I do feel like I can implement them. I truly see how my behavior affects my stress level. Don’t get me wrong the job is stressful, as are most, I think I just add 50 lb weights to the process and I can’t sustain that pressure. I look forward to the opportunity to slow down and enjoy my job a little more. Really appreciate the reasons I took it in the first place. Get back to basics. Going in Stable is key. Maintaining that stability is paramount. It all begins with me.