It’s really great how well things have gone over the last year. Sure, I’ve had some ups and downs, but even with all the difficulties I’ve had, I’ve still managed to maintain well, and kept my mood appropriate. After so many years, it’s been really nice, and so encouraging that maybe, just maybe I’ve mastered this illness.
Why don’t I believe that?
If I’m honest, I feel like I’ve been here before. For years I lived without any noticeable symptoms. My career was going great, I was making really good money, had tons of friends, and even had the prerequisite trophy wife. I remember at the time feeling like I had finally arrived: I was living the dream.
But I have to ask myself: Really?
This time of my life was pre-diagnoses. Maybe I didn’t recognize any symptoms because I wasn’t aware that I had any. Now that I understand my mood swings better, I really wonder if I was doing as well as I believed. Thinking back, there was evidence of the illness even then. I now think I was mostly hypo-manic. Yes, I had a great job; I had several in fact. Through two or three jobs I would get angry about something and look for something new. And I was always able to find something new too. My personality was positive and confident. The bullshit factor was strong; I talked myself into positions I was in no way qualified for. I pushed myself hard, working 14 or more hours per day, every day. Working so hard and so long I was able to produce some really amazing results. Until I got mad, and moved on.
Hmmmm…Grandiose thinking perhaps? Yeah, maybe.
My anger threshold was very low. It didn’t take much at all to put me over the edge. At the slightest provocation I would go off on anybody, usually someone who really didn’t deserve it. I demanded excellence from everyone. From grocery store clerks to senior management, I would not tolerate anything less than I felt I deserved. I did not suffer idiots kindly; and they were all idiots. And when they didn’t perform to my expectations, I would go into a rage and tear the offending party a new asshole. And do NOT get in my way on the road. Very few things would piss me off more than a moron driving in the left hand lane slower than I wanted to go. So I would tailgate as close as I possibly could, until the fool caught on and moved out of the way. Never mind I wanted to go 20 Mph over the speed limit… just move and let me by! My closest friends were not immune either. If I felt like I had been slighted in any way, I would turn on them in a skinny minute. It’s my way, or the highway. In short; I was a complete asshole.
Does that sound just a little manic?
I had my down times too. When I decided to leave my job (or it was decided for me) if I didn’t immediately find something better I would go into a deep funk. I was not depressed mind you, it was just so sad that others couldn’t see my potential and value, lining up to entice me to join their team. In the rare occasions that I couldn’t get instant gratification I would withdraw and pout. I know I was OCD to the point of ridiculous. I’d get an idea in my head, and move heaven and earth until it was done.
So is now any different?
I feel good. I think my reactions and behaviors are entirely appropriate to the circumstances. I’ve been in the same job for almost 3 years, even though it’s neither highly responsible nor prestigious. I come to work, I do my job according to the way I’m told, and I go home. And when I’m home, I don’t think about work at all. It’s a job, and I’m doing it as well as need be. I’m developing a relationship that I’m very happy with. Obviously I’ve thought that before with all my marriages, not finding out until later that my happiness was really thorough rose colored glasses. I have much more insight now. I’ve learned to look for red flags, and listen to them. I watch how she responds to her own circumstances, and evaluate if they are what I think is appropriate. We fight from time to time. That’s actually a good thing I think. Nobody gets along 100% of the time, there will always be differences of opinion, and there will be days that one or both of you are just having bad days. In my previous relationships, we never fought. And it was simply because it wasn’t real, it was what I chose it to be.
Still, I wonder.
The people I’m closest to know of my illness, and also watch for extreme shifts in behaviors. That’s very important, and I rely on that a great deal. Nobody else can see inside my head however, and the subtle (and sometimes even not so subtle) changes aren’t always evident to anyone else. Or by the time they are, it’s too late. Not to mention, everybody has their own issues to deal with. I can’t expect anyone to always pay attention to how I’m acting. People get wrapped up in their own lives, and it’s unfair and unrealistic to think that my life is their only priority. The input and observations are important, but it’s not something I should hang my complete well being.
My Therapist is a very good litmus test. She has been with me through the worst of times and the best of times. She is a trained professional, knows what to look for and for at least an hour a week she’s totally focused on just me. I depend a great deal on her perspective. But I can’t completely trust that. I can’t completely trust anyone. Except for one person:
I have to trust myself.
And therein lies the problem. I don’t trust myself. Too many times in the past I’ve believed that my life is where it ought to be. Sometimes it’s felt like my illness was being managed, only to find out that it wasn’t going as well as I believed. It’s been a relatively short time that I’ve even acknowledged that I do have an illness, so how can I really judge my successes? If I don’t know I’m sick, how can I possibly know if I’m not being normal?
In spite of all that, I do believe that this time is different. I do have a lot of new knowledge about not only myself, but the illness in general. I have learned to listen very closely to my warning signs, and have come to understand just how important it is to act on them quickly and decisively. Honesty is key; with my friends, with my Therapist, and most importantly to myself. Hiding feelings or behaviors does no good whatsoever. Ignoring the signs and red flags does not make them go away. I have come to depend on my support system, and accept their help when it’s offered. But I know that in the end, there’s truly only one person I can completely trust. And trust has to be built over time, and earned; even when it’s trusting yourself. Am I doing as well as I hope and believe I am? Only time will tell. In the meantime however, I have to believe that whatever happens, if I’m just kidding myself or finally self aware, or even if I’ve got it totally wrong,
I trust that it will all be okay.