Bipolar disorder is tricky. I had a good nights sleep. I was well prepared for my first appointment. I made breakfast. The sun was shining. Somewhere on my 25 minute drive I began crying. I don’t remember thinking about anything. I don’t remember feeling anxious. I just remember tears streaming down my face. I swear I have no understanding why.
I made it through the appointment, but not without some stumbles. I wasn’t able to give direction to my vendor very clearly. It showed in the email he sent back-incorrectly done. However, it’s all fixable.
i was just fighting back tears ever since the car ride. I sit in a cubicle in a wide open room where there is no where to hide. I run to the bathroom but it’s full of women. I sat in the farthest corner of the courtyard sunglasses on, but someone came by. The more I had to force them away the heavier they were. Then the flash flood. As quickly, yet slowly, as I could I packed up my work bag. My back to most of my coworkers I walked out. In my car I just let loose. Why is this happening? I don’t even feel able to think much less ruminate.
My husband just kept repeating you said you slept well. And I did. Symptoms don’t disappear due to good sleep. There isn’t always a reason!! I want to yell. It often doesn’t make sense!! All I can do is let the tears fall. I could search for a reason, but why? It’s bipolar disorder.
I have a full time job. I cannot profess that I love it, that it’s my passion, but I do care. In fact, I think I care too much. I am so driven to do well, some may say be perfect, that it’s becoming harmful. I’m not looking for attention, applause or accolades. It’s simply in my DNA to want to do so well it’s sometimes painful. I mean I’m good at my job. Been at my agency for over 15 yeas. Coworkers tell me I’m well liked and highly regarded. I’m a project manager. I put my blood, sweat and tears into my projects.
That is not necessarily a good thing. Let me explain.
The blood and sweat is from the self harm I have started doing to cope with the anxiety. Tears are from the self doubt and fear I truly am not doing a good job. I’m just putting on an act. My ability to work with people is a sham. My ability to stay organized and follow a project all the way through is a hoax.
I feel such self imposed pressure to complete the project even if I am not given the information or direction I need from superiors. I find ways to go around and get the info. Just recently I did this and was met with the stark statement of “stay in your own lane.” Not only am I confused by that statement but angered. My supervisor is not only new to my agency w 1.5 yrs under her belt, but new to politics of resource development and the world of developmental disabilities.
When she said this to me In Front of her supervisor and another supervisor I froze. Felt betrayed. My old very seasoned supervisor would never say this to me. I looked at each of them and they just stared back. I gathered my 150 page program design I have been working on for over 6 months and said, okay. I got in my car and went home.
I began to fear they wanted me fired. Maybe they were trying to get me to quit. I suddenly felt like I crossed a line that I didn’t know was there. My anxiety was through the roof. I need this job. I need these benefits for my medication.
I reached out to my boss and made an appt w her the next afternoon. My development team was setting up for an event off site. I cried in my car as I drove over to the location. I was not in charge of this task, but quickly fell into the role once we arrived for set up. This is not like me. I do not take over things. Many of my coworkers are new and look to me for help as it is, so maybe it came off naturally. I don’t really know. I feel like I can’t read situations and don’t know when I’m stepping on people’s toes anymore.
My afternoon appointment with my boss got cancelled as she went home sick. I knew for sure she was avoiding me. All the uncertainty and fear is just fuel for my chaotic mind. Thoughts racing. Heart pounding. I don’t think I slept at all that night.
The event came and went. I was on autopilot buzzing around. Solving problems. Greeting families. Schmoozing w vendors. I barely remember it. But once I got to the safety of my home an explosion occurred. My mind broke apart. My body lost control. The biggest most intense panic attack took over my being. I couldn’t breathe. I was throwing up. I was hearing voices. I was lost in a circular pattern of thinking and incoherent. My husband had to shake me a few times to bring me back to reality. It scared him. It scared me. He demanded I quit my job. We would figure something out. There was no need for this kind of reaction to a job.
Here’s the thing. I’m not so sure this is only related to the job. I did some neuropsych testing…6 hrs of it. Part of it was like an IQ test and I did not do well. I felt like a complete failure and my cognitive skills are disappearing. I don’t have the results yet, but I am terrified of what they might say. That truly my cognitive deficits are abnormal for my age or whatever. I am also afraid I’m going to get slapped w another diagnosis. Self stigma looms large in my head. I had not shared any of those fears w my husband, kept them bottled up.
Being told to stay in my lane just means I am fucking up. Maybe I’m not doing as good of a job as I think I am. Maybe I am a sham. And soon, it’s going to be presented to me in black and white.
It doesn’t take long for me to search my memory bank and remember myself pre-diagnosis of bipolar. There is a small window of time that I felt I had reached my best self. I had overcome bulimia and sought treatment for my alcoholism. In my new found sobriety my teeny tiny world began to open up. I was no longer consumed with secrets and lies. I could wake up in the morning. I could remember what I did and or said the night before. I dove into exercise and my job. I picked up my long lost tennis racket and began to play competitively. My marriage was no longer on the rocks. Life was a breeze. I had forgotten the depression that plagued me throughout my teenage years as I really didn’t have a name for it back then. I had forgotten the suicidal thoughts I experienced in college. I forgot about my now husband, then boyfriend, hospitalizing me within months of knowing me. I simply believed I was a new and different person. Probably. Most likely. Cured.
So, I either didn’t see or refused to see the depression coming for me within 3 years of my new found lust for life. I pushed that much harder at my job, in my obsession for tennis, and in my physical training. Meanwhile I had to pull over to the side of the road often to allow for panic, anxiety and all out sobbing. I hid from my husband and people who really knew me. I could fake it at work and around the court. Until I couldn’t.
I will never forget the collapse in my mind. A good friend started stalking me, in a good way, and I fessed up. Amongst other things, she told me to get some Vitamin B12. I didn’t know why at the time, but that snippet of advice was all I heard. Dutifully, I stopped at Walgreens to get my vitamins but somehow emerged w vodka as well. My drink of choice. I sat in my car and cried uncontrollably as I downed this liquid nightmare. In a moment of pure desperation I called my husband and told him where I was and I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. He called my friend.
When I arrived home all I could do was cry. I was stunned. I couldn’t explain my behavior, my thinking, my pain. All I knew is I could not be a depressed alcoholic again. In another most desperate moment, I locked myself in the bathroom and nearly ended my life.
I don’t have to tell you what followed. Emergency room visit. Hospitalization. Leave of absence from work. I but a shell of my best self. I chased that best self for many years. Riddled in shame and sometimes disgust at myself because I couldn’t get there. Seemingly couldn’t get there.
I would say just in this last two weeks I had a breakthrough. Instead of chasing, i’m adapting. It’s okay I can no longer get up for 5:30am bootcamp. I can go at 5:30pm. It doesn’t make me less of a person. It’s okay I sometimes miss my hiking group because I can’t muster the energy, or my anxiety is high. I am trying. Sincerely trying.
My best self is ever changing, like the tides. Some days I am stronger than others. Some days I can dance and forget my “troubles.” And other days the best I got is getting from the bed to the couch. I no longer need to compare myself to yesterday. The current is going forward and I’m going with it. Best is relative. In fact, I think I’m going to practice being myself, whatever that means in the moment, and always strive for better, whatever that means in the moment.
I am constantly learning how to take care of myself. I’m not very good at it. Self compassion is a challenge. About a month ago I finally broke down and joined a hiking club. I had been contemplating joining for 5-6 months always coming up w excuses as to why it wouldn’t work out. The dominating factor was always fear. Fear they wouldn’t like me, fear I would fall into the darkness and stop going, fear I wouldn’t fit in.
The hikng commitment is Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I have to say it’s going pretty good. The folks are a bit older than me and not quite in as good of shape. This group is meant to be social as well as physical. I have trouble slowing down and tend to run up ahead of the group. While this is encouraged, to get a good workout, I miss out on the real reason I joined. Connection. I am such a competitive person that when I get on the trail the all or nothing brain kicks in and I must go at least 5 miles. I have a watch that both spurns me on and scorns me when I don’t reach this distance.
Somewhere in finding my place within the hikng group I decided this level of activity is not enough and I joined a bootcamp class. I worked out with this bootcamp for years just prior to my epic fall into bipolar disorder. So now I’m doing bootcamp Monday, Wednesday, Friday on top of hiking. Gotta fill the void somehow right?! There are worse ways to fight isolation and loneliness.
Well, I gave in and took last night off from hiking. My body was so tired and sore. We did a rather rigorous workout on Wednesday. I could barely walk. I knew if I hiked I would have no energy for Friday. So I told myself it was okay to rest and take a day off. Me. I did that for me.
The lesson could also be more isn’t always better. I am happy to be off the couch. I’m happy to be physically active again. I hope to be more social in my group. But really I hope to take good care of myself one day at a time.
I am a writing fool. I know I’m stressed when I begin to think in posts. Words and thoughts splattered on my ceiling. Ideas. Thoughts. All careening together. If I do not hurry I might miss one. Probably already have as its too fast. As I write them I think they are amazing and weave a poetic masterpiece. I don’t read or edit. Just type as fast as possible and capture the fire within. Perhaps they make no sense. Perhaps they are full of wonderment and awe. When words come at me, speak to me, begin to tell a story I didn’t know was coming I find that fascinating. i give in to the word show that graces my ceiling as sleep escapes me. Not quite fireworks. I guess a literary explosion.
I know your name
I sense your fear
Feel your rage
Your laughter is a cover
Your violence the stage
Incredibly hard to carry
Your wicked hate
The dark chasm of your mind
The ceaseless beating
From your own thoughts
Your skin is too tight
No room to breathe
We are not so different
You and me
The wrath of the darkness
Follows me too
The echo chamber of insults
Throws daggers my way
Blood red impressions
Left on the walls
As I crawl across the room
You see the demon also
Knows my name
Has me knee deep in the game
Of cruelty and dare
The one defining difference
Is I am my own victim
But a bully just the same
Can we lay down our arms
Call a truce of sorts
I’ll own my transgressions
You forgive the past
That led you here
Masks set aside
As real as it gets
I dare you to honor yourself
If only for a day
Take heed in compassion
That’s bound to come your way
In the mirror I stare
With new vision
Hope and regret will always
Remain in collision
But we can be the victor
And rise above
Set sail on a new journey
Of self love
Role of the bully
Firmly cast aside
No longer needing to hide
Stepping out in bold fashion
No longer held captive
No more a slave
To our broken mind
As you stand
I’ll listen for your name
The tantalizing taste of sunshine
the tease of wind through my hair
My pale freckled skin threatens to burn
under this warm umbrella
of glistening sun
The vast blue ocean is a temptress
Throwing stark cold waters at my feet
only to then take the frigid relief away
As if playing a game of hide and seek
My footprints scattered
And disappearing in the raw rough sand
Small translucent pebbles
Tickle my toes
Salty fragrance and wave spatter
Tingle my nose and lips
Seagulls light up the expanse
And forage in droves
Crashing yet cradling
The brilliant crystal Aqua
Unsuspecting prey plucked
From the dark depths
Then floating on thin air
Humanity invokes privilege
Stepping on the sacred blue beauty
To test balance
And live out a fantasy
Carried by brute strength
Of mother natures grandiosity
To the soft billowy froth
Lining the shore
So many souls saved
By the sheer incandescence
Of this illustrious creation
The bounty of gratitude
Emanating from free radicles
In the space between
The calming sea and glorious sky
I am feeling a bit lost right now. I have a full time job which gives me structure and accountability. Plus it can be a social environment which I am sorely lacking. Our office is moving and there has been delay after delay. Today marks two weeks working from home. I can’t get out of bed. I can’t produce. Yesterday I could barely function. I went to my local coffee shop for a change of scene but felt completely overwhelmed. Sitting outside I could hear the overhead radio, birds chirping, cars honked no and people chatting at such a high pace and volume I think I shut down. I stared down at my paperwork but could not process. Didn’t know where to start, how to start, or what to even look for. I sat frozen for almost an hour.
Im still contending w symptoms of feeling detached. Disconnected. Separate. My dear boss, who has been amazingly supportive of me and my issues, has left the job. She and I had a deal of sorts. I could contact her in the morning before work and request to work from home if I was having an emotional day that didn’t lend itself to being in the office. There were days I forced myself into the office w tear stained eyes and she would send me home to work. I now have a new boss, who was actually my officemate. I never disclosed to her I am bipolar. Something held me back, don’t know why. But now I feel like I need to be transparent w her too. I’m hoping we can strike the same deal. I am nervous. For some reason I don’t feel as safe. I’m feeling terribly vulnerable.
For the bigger picture I believe it’s the right thing to do. I miss several days of work. Right now, she sees me as having a strong work ethic. When I’m not there she doesn’t know I may be cowering in the corner of my room, or crying on the bathroom floor, or hearing voices telling me it’s time to go. She thinks I’m at home churning out good work. She respects me. To have her support is paramount to me continuing to produce good quality work when I can. Knowing she understands sometimes I just can’t and it’s not because I don’t want to, will bring me a sense of relief. But, of course I don’t know if that is how she will react or not. The reality is she is not my old boss and she may have different views and standards and expectations.
I better stop now as I can feel myself flooded with anxiety as I write those words. It’s scary to put yourself out there in a professional environment. Did you have to do it?? Do you have any helpful tips to share?
To have bipolar disorder is to always be on guard. On guard for symptoms and mood swings and side effects. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar 1 w psychotic features for 3 years now. I still experience new and different symptoms. The spectrum is vast and wide.
Just recently I was experiencing this feeling of being separate, detached from my body and from you. It was if I was floating above myself watching interactions. I was physically shaking hands with people, but could not feel the touch. I saw my mouth to be moving, but could not understand the words I was uttering. Another time I felt like I was walking around in a glass box. I could see out but sights and sounds were muffled and tainted. The next day I felt like I was on a movie set. I was standing still, but all the world was scurrying around me. I wasn’t actually in the world, I was watching the world.
I could feel no connection, no tether to my environment. I was stumbling around a barren wasteland while seeing others thriving. I sat across from my husband in our living room but felt like I was in a dark cave far away.
This sudden way of being was scary and confusing. I contacted my doctor who told me I was experiencing derealisation. It can be a symptom of depression. I wasn’t necessarily feeling depressed. Mostly numb. I just didn’t feel in my body. Certainly not present. Even pounding the hiking trail I could not feel the ground below me.
My therapist recommended a grounding technique of tapping into my 5 senses. Looking for 5 things I could see. Listening for 5 sounds I could hear…etc. It worked somewhat.
Sometimes trying to explain these symptoms to a loved one is challenging because I don’t understand it myself. Invisible illnesses can be hard to put into words sometimes. For that reason, I try to keep a line of communication open with my doctor. She often helps to put things into perspective for me or puts a name to the chaos I am feeling. I find that super helpful as my mind likes to race around and create scenarios that most likely aren’t true. By reaching out, I can be armed with the correct information and hopefully get my symptoms under control.