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Dancing Around Bipolar

Dancing Around Bipolar

Since leaving the last job, I’ve been more open about having bipolar. It had nothing to do with me leaving – the company restructured and eliminated my position – but I’ve noticed that I am more at ease now and don’t have to dance around it. I can’t list specific people I’ve spoken to about the bipolar for the first time, and, when trying to come up with examples for this post, I realized that’s the point. My general life has been easy and casual. I don’t need to keep a mental list of yes-they-know or hell-no. It’s lovely.

Things that I have to dance around in the everyday:

  • I don’t know how to open a bottle of wine or champagne – or choose a beer to serve. Never drank it, and someone else always knows how. This comes up a lot (and is something I should just figure out).
  • I don’t have kids. People push about this, at different times. Why don’t you have kids? And – You can always adopt. etc etc. Please, readers, don’t do this. There’s always a reason why someone does or does not have children, and it is always personal and none of your business unless s/he shares it with you.
  • My Facebook feed runs a lot bipolar posts because I follow some great bipolar groups that post a lot, like the excellent resource bphope. I can’t open Facebook in front of someone who shouldn’t know my history. That’s really why I stopped using Facebook a few years ago when I started a new job.
  • I need to get a lot of sleep, and a certain quality of sleep. Night, morning, weekends. Various people regularly comment about whether I look tired or similar. Let it go. It’s not actually helpful for either of us, and I’m not interested in your interpretations.
  • Some offices have group-wide weight loss initiatives. I could probably be more fit, but I’m not going to lose much weight. My weight is tied in with my medications.
  • I have to leave the office at 5:00pm once every other week. Therapy, duh. I don’t give a reason, am just sure to leave at the right time – the official end of the work day anyway – but a coworker had noticed and would remind me to leave. (Separate but related – I had thought more people in the general population go to therapy than actually do. When did this change?)
  • My medical appointments are not limited to psych. I have different doctors, appointments, and procedures that are not directly related to bipolar – except that I have other health issues because of the stress and/or strain of bipolar and the medications. It stands out when I have to leave for an appointment, even though I always make up the time.
  • I take some medications during the workday. I set med-language-absent alerts on my phone, and when it’s time I have to duck down, or bring a box into another room. I’ve tried to walk away from my desk with pills in my fist to be more discreet, but have been on hands and knees several times to find the ones I’ve dropped – so, not only am I on the ground during work, I’ve missed the dose if I can’t find them.

Do you have to cover up some things when at work, regardless of whether you have an illness? Things that you have to do in the day-to-day, but don’t want anyone to notice?

Unemployment, or: Spiraling Without a Schedule

Unemployment, or: Spiraling Without a Schedule

I am unemployed. My position has been eliminated. There will be no replacement.

Or so it says on the handmade sign that I posted on the bookcase next to my tv. I was fine the night-of, even thought that this could open me up to a great new position – with references! – because it was a no-fault dismissal.

Then, within 48 hours, I was spiraling into mania. I had lost my schedule: waking up at the same time because I need to be somewhere. Commuting on the subway and crossing off the same stops, walking above-ground between two lines, just to step outside for a bit. Picking up my iced coffee-with-hazlenut-creamer from Mo at the coffee truck on my corner. Buying half of an omelet and one sausage link from a buffet. Running my ID card through security. Checking my mood at 11:00am, when the “EVALUATE” alert pops up on my phone – do I need to take a certain med? or go for a walk? Deciding whether or not to get lunch (it doesn’t matter if I do or not, but having that option is lost when I am not working). Checking myself when the 4:00pm “EVALUATE” alarm pops up, this time usually taking that certain medication.

You get the idea. I was suddenly in one big void of space. Every day was like the other – every hour like the next and the one before. The only thing I was planning is my next meal, and I’m not usually interested in three meals a day, and even less interested in cooking. I didn’t really notice the change from early morning to afternoon to evening to night, because I spent all of it in my living room.

Two days after being downsized, I posted the “The position has been eliminated….” sign across from the couch, because I was thinking that I had done a terrible job, and I was a failure, and I had left so many open projects, and they’d all think that I was the worst ever, and on and on. It was all I could think, and I could do nothing except obsess over it. But the text on the sign is what I was told at the meeting, verbatim, and the sign constantly and consistently reminded me that it was a no-fault dismissal, and that the company hadn’t given me the opportunity to tie anything up or make any preparations for the staff to take over my work. It was their choice for me to leave that same day.

Three days after being downsized, I reached out to my psychiatrist and set up an appointment for the next available slot.

Yes, it’s great to know myself well enough that I can take that certain medication that I need at-will, and yes, it’s wonderful that I know when to reach out for help, etc etc. But I was still free-falling.

My doctor and I made a plan: Adding in a medication, yes, but most importantly creating a schedule for each day, especially setting certain activities for the same time every day. Wake up at the same time. Work on the job search for a few hours each morning, preferably away at the library or a coffee shop – get away from my apartment. Talk to one person every day, in person or on the phone. Exercise. Spend time downtown and go to museums or just walk around. Meet again the next week, rather than the usual two weeks.

This is the beginning. It’s been two months. Here is my plan for this week:

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“People are Depressed and Freaked Out” 

I’ve gotten more clicks in the past few weeks than expected – especially since I haven’t posted since 2014. So I Googled myself to see if my name was attached to this account in any way – people at my new job don’t know anything about the bipolar – but nothing came up. 

I told someone that this was odd, and he said “People are depressed and freaked out” – maybe that’s how they found the page.

So I guess this means I’m posting again. I’m going to write REAL NEWS about how to cope with the the fears around losing affordable insurance and what it means for our our financial health too. I’m going to write about what we can do to be heard when the administration makes decisions about healthcare. How even our small contributions of time or money can make a big impact. How everyone can alleviate some of the knee-jerk stress as all of the “Breaking News” alerts appear in our inboxes. How to evaluate and cope with the regular internal chemical changes and internal/external stresses that can cause an episode for those of us with mental health illnesses on a regular day – and then how to deal with all of that when it seems like the world has turned upside down. 

I stopped writing in 2014 because I thought I had nothing more to add to the conversation around bipolar and my own practices of creative coping. But we need more people to stand up and talk about what we need to do – those of us with bipolar, depression, anxiety and the many “etc etc” that I don’t underestimate – and the people who have never experienced such a visceral reaction to stress until the new administration took office.  

I’m back on. I’m not going away. I need to do this because I have the wisdom of 23 years with bipolar, and we all need to start talking about what we know is true.  Now. Right now. 

#mentalhealth, #mentalillness, #selfcare, #love, #reachout, #gethelp, #resist, #trump, #advocatingforchange, #affordablehealthcare, #obamacare

#RobinWilliams: Special Breaking Report

A Special News Report just broke into our network show: Robin Williams passed away.

My first reaction is that the media is sensationalizing his death because of the mental health connection. They did say, in that report, that he was suffering from a deep depression. In a few days, weeks, months, the connection to Robin Williams’ mental health may help us think about the different ways that depression, manic depression, and other mental illnesses challenge us, and may also shape the talents that we can share with others.

In the past decade or so, I’ve read a lot about Robin Williams and the way he embraces/struggles with his health, and how it is connected to his sense of humor and the way he works.

HOWEVER: Has another celebrity death been a Special News Report recently? Please tell me I’m wrong, that it’s about the person, and not the way he may have (or speculated about, or waiting to announce something officially about) died.

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Unsettling

It can be unsettling to be glum. Before March 2013, I’d have to do quite a bit of self-checks (How am I sleeping; Am I hungry/Not eating enough; Am I following my regular routine? What type of books do I read – Or can I not read at all? Am I speaking through my teeth/Unusually quiet/Answering questions inappropriately?)

I’m fine. Fine as in good, balanced. I have to think about what to talk with my psychiatrist about, instead of releasing all sorts of stuff, like I used to.

I’m stressed out about work, and my job search. It’s gray outside, but there’s no window. Ten huge boxes have just arrived for me, and I have to carry them up three flights of stairs. The usual stuff.

It’s disconcerting to be clinically okay for 14 months. I can’t help wondering – I’ve tried to not wonder, but it’s impossible to not know – about when the next episode will come.

Family & friends reading this – I’m doing well. Don’t worry, please. 😘 I’m at the office. You’ve heard enough about that.

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Watching “Elementary:” Mental Illness PSA

Bipolar in media:
PSA for IWillListen.org. IWillListen is a program through NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an excellent resource for consumers (people with mental illness), as well as family and friends.

Watching “Elementary” on demand: Season 2: Episode 19: The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville.

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What Do You Want To Know? It’s Been So Long….

It’s been a very long time.

When I started writing this blog, I did it because I wanted to share day-to-day things, by a person who happened to have bipolar disorder. Now, bipolar is everywhere: characters in movies, tv shows, even commercials. (Okay, the commercials are largely PSAs, but, hey, it’s helpful.)

My partner-in-crime and I have a special thing that we do whenever there’s a bipolar character – We shout “Bipolar!!” and his right and my left fists approach each other, then pull back like they’ve exploded. There are sounds, too. It’s pretty great.

We’ve been doing it a lot over the past year. Authors, screenwriters, playwrights are writing about their bipolar parents, siblings, friends, or selves. Sometimes it’s happy, a lot of the time there’s pain that just can’t be entirely fictional. I think it speaks to how far the conversation has come, and about the new generation of artists who grew up with the illness and can express it without the censure that surrounded mental illness. Mental illness affects about *one in every ten people (*did not look this up just now, but it’s close), so everyone knows someone affected. We all must. And now we can talk about it.

So – What do you want to hear about? A new question about life with bipolar? A list of tv and movie characters with bipolar disorder whenever I catch the reference? How to balance life and work, if you’ve just been diagnosed? Let me know, and I’ll start writing again.

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