Apparently it’s World Bipolar Day. I didn’t know this as I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. I clawed at the covers as the cold empty room closed in on me. The sun was illuminating the window shade but the stale stench of darkness overcame the light. I begged for sleep to take me away, but I laid there wide eyed all day long cursing bipolar disorder. Bipolar shouting back with vulgar memories, racing thoughts, tears, and hopelessness. I tossed and turned like a rag doll. I could find no comfort. Grateful to be alone and so damn lonely at the same time. I unabashedly screamed into my pillow at one point and hung my head in shame the next. You should be at work! You are worthless! These statements ricocheting of the walls of my bedroom. I close the door so they don’t escape as I feel I deserve them. We have 4 ceiling fans in our house and I wonder which one can hold my weight. I count pill bottles in my head as I lack the energy to trace my fingers over each one.
This day is designed to raise awareness around stigma. Stigma from society, the media, the movies. To help get the word out folks with bipolar disorder are first and foremost people. People with unfortunate symptoms of a sometimes debilitating mental illness. It could be your neighbor or coworker. It’s an invisible illness that does both invisible and visible damage.
It seems today I am promoting self stigma. I had to call off work. I am not physically sick. I feel so unbelievably guilty that I can’t function in a professional environment today. I can’t think. I can’t move. Today I can’t get my job done. No one else knows this but me. It’s likely I could have the flu that’s going around. I’m not surrounded by tissues because I have allergies. I’m just displaying symptoms of bipolar that render me unable to be present at my job. It’s happened before and will probably happen again.
For me, today, it’s more like bipolar acceptance day. I would like to accept that these days come and they will go. I am still a good person. A good worker. Even though I couldn’t muster the energy to make dinner I am still a good wife. As the tears stream and stream some more for reasons unknown, I am reminded I am human. Tomorrow is a new day. If I close out this day, World Bipolar Day, crying into my pillow it’s a testament to the realities of the disorder. Sometimes each day is a struggle. Sometimes not. But ridding myself of my own stigma first will only make each day better.
Balance. The magic word that is missing in my life. Perhaps today I wouldn’t have lost my cool in my supervisors office. Statements like I’m working my ass off w nothing to show for it. Coworkers probably think I suck at my job as project manager as all of them have problems and are in delay. All of course accompanied by tears.
I push myself to the brink to satisfy the inner critic that is never satisfied. I put everything I got into my job. I feel like it’s all I got. It’s the only mechanism I still have that shows I have worth and a purpose in this world. When that goes south, it affects me deeply. All the friends have disappeared as I battle this fucking disease. No return phone calls. Not able to follow thru on plans has burnt them out or whatever.
It’s all black and white in my world. I’m a good worker or I’m not. I care tremendously about my job and my performance. My integrity. My reputation.
I used to play tennis, competitively until a devastating episode came along and knocked me out of the game. I used to go trail running til a manc episode on the trail landed me in the ER. A Saturday morning ritual romping through nature no longer calls to me. I am scared. It’s my responsibility to replace these activities. To help give my life balance. I just don’t do it. I don’t know why.
Yesterday I was flying high at work. Telling jokes, pulling pranks. My husband remarked today that last night I was moving fast and talking fast. I’ve had 3 nights of insomnia that probably perpetuated my emotional outburst in my supervisors office. I don’t want to stop giving it my all at work, striving to be the best worker I can be, producing quality work. That’s who I am. But it’s also dangerous for me to just throw myself aWay from 9-5 and not respect the bipolar symptoms that creep up.
I don’t know where to start. I just know it would better my life to have balance. When I crawl out of this dark hole I fell Into today, I’ll figure something out.
It’s not uncommon, to be afraid. In certain circumstances it is certainly warranted. It’s just that when I try to settle down at night, get cozy under the covers, take a few deep breaths, the wolf seems to come alive. I flip from side to side. Pull the covers up and down. Sometimes I even get up and pop another sleeping medication. The wolf waits my restlessness out. He pounces once again as I try to sink into the mattress.
Any and every scenario I had with a person at my job will get played and replayed. Any and every scenario I can think of for tomorrow or for two weeks out will get played and replayed. I can get lost in it. For example, I skipped therapy last night. Normally I have it every 2 weeks but yesterday I was just not interested in talking. So, obviously in 2 more weeks I would be scheduled to see her. I was hosting a full on tirade in my mind. How I was going to burst into her office and have oh so many rational things to say leaning toward opting out of therapy. I shake my head and yell stop. Turn over and fix the covers again. The movie reel spins and I’m thrown into yesterday when I was semi laughing about a very stressful situation I’m facing. Trying to make light of it I made a joke of channeling my boss, which to me is a good thing. Yet, as it plays and replays, I’m uncertain my choice of words was understood. I’m uncertain that I didn’t, quite accidentally, drenched in sarcasm, insult her. Did anyone notice? Did they talk about me and my betrayal of my boss when I left the room? I scan my mind for faces. Reactions. My mind churns and churns. The clock turns and turns. The wolf paces. On and on it goes.
i am a patient person in most regards. I am in the social service field and worked w some very challenging folks that would far exceed the patience of many. Beauracracy gets in my way often, but I can wait fairly easily. When it comes to myself I have no patience or tolerance. That’s dramatic. Let’s say I have far less. Bipolar seems to test me everyday. Someone asked me if I was in a mixed episode? Truth is I don’t know. And if that is the case, what do I do about it? What’s the difference between mixed and rapid cycling?
yesterday I was slammed at work. Intense somewhat contention phone call at 11, then meetings at 1 & 3. Sometimes this is too much for me and other times I could go all night. I was blurting things out in meetings I shouldn’t have, butting into people’s conversations, giddy in the hallway. After work I went to the store and bought binge food. Something I haven’t done in YEARS. After I stuffed my face, I started prepping for dinner, folding laundry and turning over my garden virtually at the same time. Oblivious. I cranked the radio and danced in the kitchen tracking mud from the garden.
Once I sat down around 7pm. The ringing n my ears was so loud. I burst into tears. Felt so alone and so incapable of handling life. I tried to close my eyes but could not. I took out the recycling. As my husbands beer bottles clanked into the bin and broke, I thought about cutting. Again something I haven’t even thought of in YEARS. I walked away.
My husband arrived home about 7:30 and I was on the couch exhausted. I feel all over the place, yet productive, yet out of control and on edge. But really, I just don’t want to keep living this way.
If the earth moved even a billionth of a centimeter I would feel it. I am that sensitive and tuned in right now. More accurately I’m in overdrive. Bustling and bumbling through my day like I’m the man about town with some serious shit to tackle. Deadlines are obliterated. Paperwork stacked and restocked. Calendar bursting w meetings and agendas I know nothing about. However, the start of my day is a wrestling match as I fight myself to get out of bed. I cry into the mirror as I curse my face, my hair, my being. Then I gather my things and skip to my car. Off to work I go. On the drive, tears stream. The overwhelm of existence and the expectation I participate in life hit me like a rolling thunder. The mind races as if to catch a tornado ravaging through towns. At the stop light I am forced to take a pause. Take a moment. Take stock. A few days this week I have contemplated running right through that red light and straight to the bridge that taunts me. The bridge that promises me free fall into the abyss. No more wrestling. No more crying. No more desperate need to show I am normal and do not harbor a mental illness. The light turns green. I turn left towards my office. I park wiping confused and tired tears from my eyes. This inner battle can’t be seen. My freshly pressed blouse and slacks wreak of secrets and botched professionalism. Yesterday I couldn’t utter the word bipolar to my officemate. Instead I used the term chronic illness. I have never used that terminology before in reference to myself. There are huge gaps in my memory due to me beating out “sick” for months at a time coupled with the usual memory issues of bipolar disorder. The gaps filled the room as she and I were cleaning out cabinets for our impending move. She is new and looking to me for guidance on various documents. My anxiety and frustration rose at the same time. My ego being poked. I finally looked at her and briefly explained my gaps. Soon after, I slammed my computer shut, grabbed my stuff and scurried away. Gave no notice to anyone I was leaving. Once again in my car at that red light. The bridge less than 15 minutes away. I turned in that direction. But, you know what there are probably 7-8 red lights down that path. One of those intersections leads me to my mental health clinic. I checked in the for he afternoon and freshened up on some DBT skills as well as attended a process group. There are so many ways I can go w my bipolar and lots of times I’m just spinning. Today. Somehow, I got myself where I really needed to be.
Do you know the moment the joyride is over? Is it when the tears come? When you feel the mud around your ankles? When your arms feel like bricks when you roll over in bed at 2 in the afternoon?
My fantastic joyride lasted about 2 weeks. Prior to that I was lost in a nightmare for about a month. Carrying around a bag full of medication bottles in my car, so I would be at the ready. Should suicidal fantasy need to become a reality I could take care of business easily. That kind of business, planning one’s demise, is never truly easy. At least not for me. But, I digress.
2 weeks of laughter, smiles, jokes, energy, self esteem, front and center in the world. Glorious nature capturing my soul and breathing new life into me. A lighthearted skip in my step as I shook hands with hypomania. Signing on for another round.
I think this is how I wanted it to be not quite what it was. Just a notch below hypomania only because I was aware of moments I needed to slow down. I took cues from others. I walked into my coworkers office so restless and feeling out of control. My best description was asking her to envision standing in the middle of an arcade twirling around. Every noise and movement amplified right inside my little befuddled brain. She offered to help me and put me in time out. Her office was dark and quiet. She set a timer for 5 minutes. Just the look on my face caused her to soften her tone and be encouraging. Just give it a try.
I wiggled and I labored to breathe consistently. Eyes fluttering. At 3 minutes she gave me a time check. All the sudden a montage of memories came roaring from behind me at a pace I could not control. Tears rolled down my cheeks. She whispered 2 minutes, you are doing great. As 5 minutes came and went I was finally settled and breathing. I took one more minute for good measure. The cacophony of noise that infiltrated my mind was significantly less. There was so much work to be done and I dove right back in.
This pattern continued all week. I kept getting faster and faster both inside my body and outside. I was having a great time all the while. Feeling super productive and super important.
Here comes Monday. Working from home as planned. got up at my regular time. Husband left. I went back to bed. Not feeling anything in particular. Just tired. Got up at 10am and did about 2 hrs of work and then back to bed. Back up at 3:30 only because I had therapy.
Tuesday arrives and I can’t get out of bed. My alarm blares and I can’t move. Husband comes to give it to me and I mumble I have a terrible headache. I text my boss and say I’ll be in by 10. That never happened. I stayed under my covers til mid afternoon. Again I feel nothing. Not depressed. Not hypomanic. Less than Blah!
The happy train has come to a screeching halt. Just like that. Hopefully the crash is lite. Good ol bipolar always wanting to be in control. Any tips on how to take control back?
Today is my birthday. If you know me at all, you know I would never declare such a thing in public. Attention is not my thing. But, I did something today I don’t normally do. I don’t seem to know how to do. SELF CARE. I took the day just for me. Not only that, but I made a plan and stuck to it. I didn’t allow guilt or shame or baggage get in the way. Racing thoughts tried to take over on the hiking trail, but I took deep breaths and inhaled the trees. I danced on the clouds. Tasted the sunshine through my beaming smile. I fancied the mustard in bloom. I forged ahead. I stopped. Whatever I needed to do to stay present. It’s so damn hard for me to be in the present moment.
The swirl of coffee tasted ever so good through my straw. I sat basking in the warmth of my Pisces sun. Cars bustling. People wrestling with their phones. Streetlights flashing. A quiet piece of me just watches. No agenda. My feet resting in this place for now. Practicing being okay alone. Being okay being me.
As I lay almost naked on the massage table demons crawled in the corner trying to lure me in. Past wreckage of bipolar episodes came slamming through my mind. Tears hang on my eyelashes. The air is thinning. The therapist put his hands on me and I awoke from the trance. Breathing once again. Pushing. Begging. Demanding the present moment swallow me and allow life to happen. Be in the now. The oil slathers and I try to let go.
The candle on my birthday cake flickers as I close my eyes and make my wish. Do I wish I didn’t have bipolar disorder. Sure. But that’s not my reality. I wish to be more at peace with the fact that I do have bipolar disorder. More at peace with the rapid cycling chaos that could crash the party at any time. As the clock turns and the day ends, I can proudly say my day of self care was a wild success!!