The Normal Bipolar


So I have been sitting around (literally) trying to figure out if I am back to “normal”. Before you rush in and tell me there is no such thing as “normal”, give me a chance here.

I want to sort of compare life before and after this last depression/ breakdown. How was I before and how am I now?

I tried to figure out what normal meant. There are some crazy, abnormal people walking around out there who do not have mental illness. You know, the co-worker who takes your stapler and does not bring it back? That guy.

When you’ve had as much therapy as I have, you start to recognize somewhat normal vs. needs to get into therapy NOW. I feel much healthier mentally than many of the people I meet. You may know the feeling. But I’ve got to compare myself to something…and I guess I’ll have to guess what is the average way non-bipolar people handle life.

I can’t hold a job. This to me is not normal. Most people my age are working or are choosing not to work for some reason. (As an aside, school is starting up around here soon. I’ll pop up an archived post about my missing school. It’s kind of sad.) I know I could organize a classroom and get ready for the kids. I could do a lot of the paperwork without trouble. I could show up, although I wouldn’t be the one with the most make-up on. But I could not stay all day. I’d get pretty tired after just a couple of hours on my feet. If another adult said something unkind to me, I might cry. Not a good behavior for a teacher.

I don’t think I can even do volunteer work. Driving to church or the food bank on a regular schedule seems overwhelming. And something inside me doesn’t WANT to volunteer. Isn’t that selfish? I’m glad to bring in canned goods or give money, but don’t want to give of myself. I’m just not ready to work for free.

I went through a lot of training to be a speaker for NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). I don’t like to do that. I get a bit panicked over how I am viewed after I give my talk. And I have to dress up and put the dreaded make-up on. (Not to mention shower!) If it seems like I am fixated on make-up, I am right now. My daughter told me I need to be wearing some…not a lot…but some as part of my recovery. And she is right, I do look better with some on.

I look pretty normal. If you don’t count me being overweight, I blend in perfectly in a crowd. And hey, I am losing weight. Eight pounds now.

So back to my abnormalities.

I can’t handle jury duty. I had my doctor write an excuse for me. I thought I might cry, or get in a panic situation. I just couldn’t sit all day or sit on a jury. I’ve done it before and know what it takes.

I have trouble driving. That’s not normal for my age. I’m okay once I get in the car, but I still prefer to be driven everywhere. I haven’t tried the freeway yet, and have just stayed around about a five mile radius of the house. The good news is this is getting better. I can go a little further each time. Today I drove to lunch and back.

I am super physically dependent on my meds. I get ill (sweating, headache, loopy feeling) if I miss them or I am late. Yesterday, I forgot them until noon and my whole day was off. My night meds are what get me to sleep. If I’m having a tough day, I have a Klonopin. Usually it helps.

I struggle with shaking hands. Filling out a form, signing a check, or holding a teacup is near impossible. Normal people can fill out the form at the doctor’s office.

When my day is planned, I plan two things out of the house. That’s all I can do. Stringing three things together is too much.

My free time is on the couch or in bed. Aren’t “normal” people up and moving around the house doing things?

A few years ago I hopped a plane (okay, I was manic) and flew across the country alone to see a singer’s concert I liked. No way would I travel alone now.

I do the basics of self-care. I don’t use fancy lotions or do some sort of face routine for wrinkles. I clean myself and wash my hair and comb it and it’s what you get. I am doing a little make-up so that’s a good sign.

Sitting in an academic class is beyond me. I am interested to see if I can sit in this quilting class I am starting.

Life is hard in grocery stores. I send my husband. I shop online for clothes and avoid Costco. I used to love it. Crowds get me now.

I constantly relive the “bad” things I have done while manic. Some people don’t let me forget. If I throw out my mania, I’ve been a pretty good person.

I wake up at 2 or 3 and ruminate on life.

My conclusion is that normal is still far beyond me. I think I am still fighting a bit of depression.

On the positive side, I went to a crafts store today. I bought needles for my sewing machine, thread, a pair of left-handed scissors, and a little fabric to practice on. I’m going to give the quilting a try.

You guys are the best…may your day be normal.

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