Daily Archives: January 1, 2017

New Year’s 2017

2016 has been a year of ups and downs for me.  I had a setback early in the year in February due to a medication change last October and went in the mental ward inpatient for the first time in five years.  I was depressed with vague thoughts of going to bed and not ever waking up—not nearly as elaborate a suicide plan as I had put into action on other attempts but one that came without the usual obsessions which worried me a bit.  So I went in before they could develop more fully and be more threatening. 

I came out with a prescription for my old medicine and approval of coverage for it by my health insurance plan.  I was elated but sobered by the fact that I had still slipped into a depression even after being in remission for so long.

 Life did not improve immediately—it was a slow climb back out of the trough.  Finally in October I began to improve and by Thanksgiving, praise God, I felt like remission had come again.  I was active in my life again and happy to be alive.  My anxiety levels dropped a great deal and I felt great.

Remission in bipolar disorder is much like remission in rheumatoid arthritis—it is not considered “cured” if your symptoms disappear.  It is assumed that you can have them return at any time, particularly if you step out of treatment.  I have continued my medication regimen with three-month checkups with my psychiatrist and continue counseling as well—if the combination worked to get me to remission, I feel there is no reason to stop it.

How long will this remission last?  I hope another five years or longer.   But in practical terms, I have no idea and no promise that I will stay at normal functioning.  All I can do is continue my treatment and map out a healthy plan for myself in the coming year. 

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago.  And I’m not sure my plans to continue in mental health are applicable to anyone but me. But I’m going to try to add more healthy habits to my routine in an effort to continue my remission. I hope to lower my caffeine intake and increase my exercise—lower caffeine contributes to lower anxiety and more exercise contributes to the production of healthy endorphins to regulate my mood.  I hope to surround myself with good friends, good music, and good books.  I hope to eat if not less, then better food that promotes healthy functioning.  But I have a great deal more of one attribute I did not have this time last year, and that is hope that life will continue to improve and that remission will become again a way of life.

 

 


Can I? Can’t I? Bipolar and Business

I work freelance at writing and editing, and as many of you know, that life is fraught with insecurity. How much work will I get? How much will I be paid for it? Will the check be enough to cover the mortgage and the health insurance? Anything else, like light and cable and phone, which I need in order to work from home?

Since  I’m bipolar, these questions are laced with more than the usual amount of anxiety. Especially since the progression toward my last major breakdown was a lot of what caused me to lose that 9–5, well-paying job. My attendance became spotty, my attention refused to focus, my relationships with coworkers went downhill, my evaluations took a turn for the worse, and I bailed.

I stayed immobilized for a long time, applied for disability (didn’t get it), then embarked on freelance work.

I’m much more stable now. I’ve have published this blog and my other one for over two years, and proved to myself that I can attend business meetings, at least once in a while. My paying work has built up to the point where we can at least live paycheck to paycheck, but not much more. Time to spread my wings?

So I started looking around for other jobs, in addition to my faithful, steady client who has sustained me for years now. First I asked them if they could send any more work my way. Then I started expanding my platform, as we say in the writing biz.

I joined LinkedIn. And there, one day, I saw a listing for someone who needed an editor. One with exactly my skillset. Precisely my experience. The kind of work I love to do.

But.

It was full-time, likely high-pressured, and 45 miles away (during rush hour). I knew those factors would make it impossible for me to succeed at the job, even if I got it.

But.

I wanted it. I wanted to have back the things I lost after my breakdown – my competence, my confidence, my pride. Oh, and the money too.

But.

Much as I wanted to, I couldn’t let myself apply for it. I didn’t want to trigger the kind of meltdown I had before. I didn’t want another period of literally years when I could do nothing – not work, not take care of myself, not cook, not read. Nothing.

So, with reluctance, I let the opportunity pass by. I went back to my blog posts and my irregular freelance work. I occasionally do some non-paying work for organizations like the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), or Sheknows.com, TheMighty.com, and even redtri.com. I lined up a gig editing a friend’s dissertation.

Then, as it sometimes happens, another opportunity appeared – a part-time paid position with a company that already knew my work. Steady work. Pay. Work at home. All this could be mine if I applied, passed the editing test, and was able to work the number of hours per week I rather optimistically said I could. I’ve taken the test (it was two hours long and grueling, the kind I used to give to other people). And now I wait, more or less patiently, never my best quality.

And while I wait, I wonder. Am I even capable of doing half-time paid work at home, plus my other freelance assignments, plus my blogs, plus the novel I’ve written about 1/3 of? Can I do the part-time job (if I get it), without my disorder screwing me up too badly to do it or anything else well? Is hypomania tricking me again? Do I have to give something up to get something better? Will it really be better?

The answer to all those questions is, “I don’t know.”

My disorder surely lost me the 9–5 job I once had. It made me give up the idea of trying for that similar job that seemed “just right.” But at least now I have some ambitions again.

Can I? Can’t I? This balancing act of higher ambitions and lowered expectations is delicate.

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: anxiety, bipolar disorder, blogging, business meetings, freelance work, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, working at home

Eighth Night

The ultimate night of Hanukkah, in the year 5777 from Creation.

And the ultimate night of the civil year 2016.

And the beginning of Yom Rishon, or First Day, that always begins after the sun sets on the Holy Shabbat.

Time to be doing.  Time to be getting up and going! 

I think about my life in the past.  I was always getting up and going, doing, and doing even more!  I was never satisfied with “good enough.”  It had to be perfect.  Everything had to be perfect.  No such thing as “good enough.”

Being sick is pure torment.  I forget all the time why it is that I’m not at work.  I jump up and head for the phone, gonna get some work happening around here, can’t be that hard…OUCH!  Who broke my fucking arm?  WHOA, what happened to my neck???  And somebody’s stabbing me in the heart….what the fuck is going on here?  Why can’t I just go the fuck to work like a normal human being?

Take away my ability to do meaningful work, and you take away my self-worth.  I have a hard time feeling like I’m worth a rat’s ass even on a good day, when I’ve gone in and saved lives…but when I’m stuck on the sidelines, I may as well be dead.  

It would be a lot easier if I could tell from one day to the next, how I am going to feel.  If I knew, for instance, that every Tuesday would be an OK day, that I would go to the bathroom like a mensch, and my shoulders wouldn’t cause me to squeak every time I reached for something, and my brain would not be either fogged over from depression or reeling with the electrical overload from mania…if I could count on every Tuesday being a good day, then it would be possible to get a volunteer gig for Tuesdays.  A volunteer thing would do wonders for my heart and mind.

Too bad I don’t have any good Tuesdays!  Or Wednesdays, Thursdays, etc.

I hate to whine.  I know some people are going to actually read this, and probably will go, oh, fer krissake will you stop whining and get on with it!

I feel the same way. 

It’s been 16 1/2 years since I fell off the balance beam.  I have held on to the notion that there must be some greater purpose in it.  That, you know, it must be part of the Grand Design, that certainly I would be one of those who Triumph Over Adversity.

That has not been the case, at least not so far.  I haven’t given up.  Where there’s life there’s, etc.  It’s just that things are gradually becoming more unpleasant.  I wonder when, and how, this thing will end?


As Real as it Gets

Sometimes I wonder if my life is real. Especially when I am feeling up. I question if it’s all a fantasy. Is my perspective really in line with reality?

I am planning to quit my job. I’m sacrificing a bit of security, in that throughout the last 4 years I have had numerous hospitalization and taken countless days off. Twice, since May 2013 I have taken 2 extended leaves lasting 3 months. It might help I have been st my job 17 years and have been a “model” employee. My perfectionism, workaholism, and the fact my identity is wrapped up in my work, probably played a major role.

I have 2 job opportunities in the proverbial hopper. I think they are legit. But, I fear they are not. My anxiety certainly tells me they are not. Paranoia creeps in and I think a new place of work can’t handle my “issues.” Should I be transparent and divulge I have bipolar disorder now? Should I wait? Should I just close my eyes and hope for the best? Everything is uncertain. I don’t do well with that. Its fodder for my restless brain.

I do feel like I know my current work situation is not healthy for me. Its taken me a long time to admit that. I always thought it was my fault I would become overly stressed and symptoms would arise. Turns out with bipolar disorder I am more susceptible to stress, which in turn can trigger either mania or depression. I can attest to both. I’ve reached heights of psychosis that were terrible frightening and lows of depression that were devastating.

I think it’s important to acknowledge I have to do my part. Utilize coping skills, communicate w my treatment team and take my medication. But, there is also a point where raising the white flag makes sense. Self care and self compassion need a place in my life. I can push and push. Pull and pull. Demand I do better. Work harder. Not allow stress to overtake me. But, there’s reality.

I am stressed. I am exhibiting symptoms despite my best efforts. Sure there will always be ups and downs, I’m the first to utter those words…damn roller coaster. But, if I can help myself avoid peaks and valleys, shouldn’t I at least try? If it turns out no matter what I do, this is my lot, this is my coaster..well, that’s for another day.

So, as I envision turning in my resignation letter, its bittersweet. I literally grew up at this agency. It was my first career type job. I was a young, naive 25 with a heart of gold ready to solve the issues that plague social service agencies. I was going to be the best social worker they had ever seen. I’ve made my mark. Its time to move on and put myself first.

The hopper I mentioned is as real as it gets. I’ve put myself out there. Maybe it’s a fantasy I get hired, maybe not. Its a resolution I find a new place for myself in 2017. I listen to my needs. Make time for self care and self compassion. Honor myself in a way I never have before. I’m going to let that unfold as it may. No expectations, just intentions this year.

Dancing with bipolar disorder can be exhilarating, fun, devastating, confusing, uncertain..but it’s definitely real. One step at a time. One day at a time. I’ll keep moving forward down the line.