In spite of some recent medication scares and fluctuations, extremely stressful times at work, and injuries and other difficult circumstances, I’ve been able to maintain my illness rather well. I’ve stuck through the discontinuation of a drug I have had such success with, and then reintroducing it several weeks later. I’ve managed to keep my cool with my job, even though under a lot of pressure and extra hours. I been worried about my knee injury, and somewhat angry at the circumstances that prevent me from having adequate medical coverage, but I’ve suffered through, and hopefully without too many complaints.
Still, I can go from ‘life is good’ to ‘what the hell happened” in 1.3 seconds.
When my Doctor told me that the rash I was experiencing was from the Lamictal, my mood immediately sank like a rock. I had done so well with this drug! And I haven’t had much success with any of the alternatives. The rash however can be fatal, and I knew I didn’t have a choice. And now I had to start all over again trying to find a combination that could control my mood swings. That’s definitely a depressing event.
The pressure at work is unbelievable. Management keeps changing our deadlines while reducing the headcount needed to meet them. This job is stressful enough on its own. I deal with resolving major issues with the largest corporations. My contact with them starts with a problem. That’s why they’ve been escalated to me in the first place; something is not working the way it should, and I’m responsible for making it right. By the time it gets to me, the customer is already pissed off, and frequently unloads their frustration and anger on me. To make it even better, these are large customers and they spend a significant amount of money with us. So the salespeople (Who of course get their commissions from the big sales) freak out when one of their customers is upset. So they come down on me like a ton of bricks, demanding immediate response and instant resolution to the problem. It doesn’t matter that I have 100 other customers I’m trying to help; theirs is the number one priority. Just like everybody else. I’m literally yelled at for 10 to 14 hours a day, every day. My boss has been fairly understanding about the situation, but now we’ve gotten so far behind it’s starting to affect her performance and she’s putting on the pressure.
All this stress does a couple of things. I have to maintain such a hectic pace to try to keep up, adrenalin pours into my body and gets me moving way too fast. The disappointment of not being able to do what’s expected brings me down. I have a true empathy with the customers, and not being able to resolve their issues the way I would want mine resolved bothers me. And then there’s an anger I feel. I get angry at the sales people for not understanding that we’re doing the best we can to help them all, and really angry at management for just making our jobs more and more difficult.
To make it even more annoying, I don’t even work for them. I’m a contractor, so I just work here, not employed by them. I don’t (can’t) get benefits from the contracting agency, and no matter how hard I work, I have no hope of converting to a FTE. I’ve been here for over two and a half years, and am constantly being told what a bang-up job I’m doing; then I’m told they aren’t hiring. Period.
And yet, I’m coping.
The knee injury has also been a problem. First, there’s just dealing with the pain. I’ve got a major tear in the meniscus, which causes extreme pain and its cartilage so it can’t heal on its own. With a tear this bad, it almost always requires surgery to really fix. Refer to the previous paragraph; I have no health coverage. Even if I could afford the $10’s of thousands of dollars something like that costs, no Doctor will even take me on as a patient. Being a specialist, they are under no obligation to either. I’m just SOL. But, even though it won’t ever truly heal, the inflammation that goes along with it will eventually calm down and it will become tolerable.
To add insult to injury, my therapist has had some personal things to deal with, and I haven’t been to see her in almost a month. So with all I have going on, I’m on my own. I certainly don’t fault her for having a personal life, and having to be out of the office to take care of her own issues. I sympathize; I truly do. It doesn’t change the fact however that I’m having to do without the therapy I’ve come to depend on.
But here’s the thing; I haven’t gone off the deep end.
Honestly though? I can go from ‘life is good’ to ‘what the hell happened’ in 1.3 seconds. And vice versa; my mood can change in a heartbeat.
Uh oh. That sounds too familiar. Bipolar illness is all about mood swings. And mood swings are what I’m experiencing.
But there is a difference. On either end of the spectrum, neither mood is inappropriate on extreme. Stuff happens. Life can be hard. A big disappointment or daily strain can kill an otherwise good day. Likewise, receiving good news, being recognized for hard work, even the satisfaction that small successes can bring can instantly make you feel better.
I call that normal.
The disappointments that bring me down,are just that; being down. There have been times (Many times) where this kind of pressure has generated a deep depression. And having to maintain a frenzied pace can easily get out of control resulting in a manic episode. Being bipolar isn’t about having mood swings, it’s having extreme and uncontrollable mood swings. And that is not what’s happening.
Part of learning to live with this disease is recognizing that things do happen, and accepting them as a part of life. In the past, when my mood started sinking, I would immediately think it was the beginning of another depression, and it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve learned how to give myself permission to have a bad day. And I may have to run at 100 miles per hour to get through a day, I have the skills to turn it down when the day is over.
Normal means you have reasonable reactions to unreasonable situations. Extreme or inappropriate reaction is what this disorder does. And you know what?
It’s nice to feel normal.