Jan 30, 2007

I had my first day at work yesterday. It went pretty well considering I spent the whole shift in front of a computer screen. I have to complete an online training program before I can assume my duties. However, it really felt like old times.

I could see myself slipping into that tendency I have always had: to be the best damned worker the company has ever had or will have. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, but, for me, it causes an extremely fast burnout rate. And, it also makes the other employees hate your guts after a while. They see you busting your ass, wonder what the hell is wrong with you, and then you find yourself suggesting ways in which they could spend their time more productively. What really happens next is you suddenly find yourself responsible for more than your share of the work because the guys upstairs know you'll do it. Then you get resentful because your work load is bigger than everyone else's. Not to mention the stress and pressure you put on yourself. This tendency is bi-product of bipolar disorder, which I have.

A lot of people think, I am sure, that bi-polar disorder, like most mental health issues, is just a trumped up way to excuse certain behaviours. I beg to disagree. Bi-polar disorder, for me, means super highs, where I feel I can do anything. I remember one time driving down the road, knowing I had discovered the solution to balance the nation's deficit. I had to discuss this with the president. I knew if I could just set down face to face with the guy, that we could work out this plan, and all would be well. Then just as quickly I had figured out the cause for some disease. I knew it was true. By the time I got home, I had already considered other ways to correct the world. Looking at the day to day life that awaited me at home seemed so trivial. I realized or admitted that I was bipolar some 30 years ago. I have been on medication ever since. Some of it worked, some of it didn't. But, it was always a hit and miss kind of thing.

You experiment with different combinations of drugs and find the cocktail that works for you. The key to success is giving up that wonderful feeling of being the smartest, most accomplished person in the world. You find yourself, usually on reflection, providing unwanted advice to people. You can be the funniest, most outrageous person in any room, but you never know if people are laughing with you or at you.
Then of course there are the down times, where you wish you had never been born, cry endlessly over nothing, and burrow away in your particular hideaway and avoid the world. This is the depressive stage. I described it one time as being in a black hole and having no way to get out.

But, there is hope. With medication, I am more stable, meaning my mood still fluctuates, but not at the extremes as it did. It is hard for bi-polar people to stick to a drug regimen. The highs are so seductive. You don't feel the need to eat or sleep, your mind is teaming with ideas, which are in reality racing thoughts.
The biggest eye-opener for me was having my kids. You can't be floating around in space and be a good mother. You can't crawl into bed and hide and be a good mother. I look back and wonder how much I damaged them, but I try to tell myself I did not do too bad of a job. Of course, for me, with the depression came anxiety. I'm not talking about being worried about paying a bill on time. I mean driving down the road and telling yourself, over and over, that you will not run into another car. Finding yourself somewhere breaking out in a cold sweat, heart pounding, consumed with irrational fear, afraid you're going to pass out and then everyone will know what a lunatic you are. I felt this way in the library, for God's sake, one time. It sucks. But, somehow you learn to hide it for a long time, until you can't. Its amazing when you start talking to your friends about it, how many of them say they have felt like that at times too.
And, like many other people with a mental illness, like heart disease or cancer, it has a tendency to run in the family. Some of the things I have done in my life I can't even believe, and I was there! Its not an excuse. You have to accept your responsibility in all of this and take the necessary steps to correct it. I often ask the people closest to me how they feel about my actions or mood. Sometimes this is the only way I can find out where I am at on the mood scale. Through feedback.
So, now, armed with knowledge, and controlled with medication, I don't feel I need to be the best worker anymore. I only need to do my job, and that's it. I don't have to point out where other's have not done their job. Or suggest new and exciting ways the whole company can improve. I don't have to be the best. I just have to be me.
I may lose some readers for my candor here, because they may find my credibility is questionable. But, I've been dealing with that for awhile and have learned to take it in stride. Any time I go to a doctor, for my angina, for instance, they immediately assume it is related to my mental problems. I went to three or four doctors describing my symptoms with my colon cancer, before one of them would actually take me seriously. And that doctor was a psychiatrist!! It's frustrating at times, and it brings with it a certain amount of shame. But, I am learning to live with it all. I will, however, always take my medication. Its nicer being just me.

It can happen to anyone.

read more about it:


The Future Was Yesterday said...

Although I'm not bi-polar, I do tend to try to be good at my job. This led to more and more assignments, which were outside my assigned duties. When I complained about it, and asked "why am I being given all these extra things to do?", the answer was insightful, to me at least. "Because you can do them."

Businesses answer to incompetence is to overburden talented workers.

Spadoman said...

You do a great service to many with this post. Thank you so much for sharing with us. You have it nailed, the symptoms and behaviors. In my life, it's the feeling of powerlessness that keeps you down there and doesn't allow you to get up for air.

I have tried meds four different times. I can never stay with them. I think what I really need is the right doctor. I have tried like hell to write down my feelings so the right medication can be prescribed. But at the VA they have procedure. This is the pill you start with, this is the dose. If that don't work, go on this dose, and so on and so forth. It has never worked for me.

Look for a post this week on a revelation I had earlier about this very subject. You helped me tremendously as I know I am not alone. We're really all in this together, aren't we?

Peace my friend

just me said...

I'm glad my post helped you. The VA's policy sounds like the VA to tell the truth. But, it does take a lot of trial and error. And it can be a very lonely experience. But hang in there. I have to say I am very proud of you, because a lot of men will not even admit they need help.
Blessings to you