I would like to share with you the worst couple of weeks I have had in years and their impact on my mental state.
It started about the second week of December when I interviewed at a local store for a part-time job. Everything seemed awesome. My store manager was a direct, no bullshit kind of guy who had overcome some mental health issues of his own. The job hours were perfectly suited to what I was looking towards. It would have had me in and outside on a regular basis, so no stagnation in four walls constantly. Rather easy going environment so long as you got your work done. Seemed great! Super stoked and happy about the prospect.
I’m offered a job. I go through my self-management practices that I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Being Bipolar, I know from previous experiences that I would often escalate when offered a new job. I would rocket up, be super excited, happy to get going, and then either get myself fired for saying inappropriate things thanks to hypomania removing the filter between my mouth and brain or crash into a mind numbing depression and be unable to function for a few days.
I purposefully avoid thinking about it for about the first 12 hours after I find out. Every time it comes to mind, I push it back out with something else that requires a lot of thought. Reading about economics and finance are my general haven for that. You don’t have to do anything that boring; but having a difficult subject to try and focus on can help derail the thought processes.
Make it through the job offer with no hints of an escalation! Success!
On Monday, December 21st, I go in for my orientation at about 9 A.M. At about 8 or 9 P.M. that night, I start feeling very off. By about two in the morning, my body is violently rejecting anything I had put into it that day. I am forced to call off of work my first scheduled day because my body is expelling everything from it, from both ends, with the force of a geyser.
I’m hoping this turns out to be a 24 hour bug. NOPE! I’m repeating this process for a good 48 hours until I am finally able to eat and actually keep things in my stomach. Though my stomach seems to be settled, my intestines weren’t quite finished with me. I tried to go into work that day. I was there for an hour going through training before I realized, “If I bend over or try to pick up something heavy, I’m going to shit myself.”
I get sent home because I can’t do my job. This goes on for about 5 more days. Maximum dosages of anti-diarrhea medicine don’t touch what’s going on in my intestines.
So, let’s rewind for a minute.
The day of my work orientation, I’m driving home and my engine makes three hard fires and then starts driving like a tank. I’m like, okay, I have a misfire. I get in to a mechanic some days later to find out that one of my cylinders has no compression and is scored severely. Diagnosis of trashed engine. $4500 that I don’t have for a remanufactured engine and installation or shop for a different used car. Only reason I’m not going to be driving a $500 beater is my folks were willing to help me with it.
On Day 2 of this ordeal, I get a call from Social Security. “We never received paperwork for reexamining your Disability case. You are going to lose your benefits if we don’t hear from you.” I immediately call and find out they sent me paperwork in JULY that I don’t remember ever seeing. The social worker I’m dealing with gives me until January 12th to file a new set of paperwork. (Seriously, be nice to these people. They are there to help you, even when they are giving you news you don’t want to hear.)
At this point; I’m stressed out about being sick, figuring I’ll lose my job for missing so much work in my probationary period, figuring out what I’m going to do about a vehicle with no credit and the couple hundred bucks I have, and the potential for losing Social Security and medical insurance.
I’m proactive about communicating with my work to show that I want to be there, that I want to work. My Store Manager decides he doesn’t want to fire me if I have a legitimate medical excuse (good guy, boss) even though I should be let go. Unfortunately, I can’t get in to get cleared to return to work, per company policy, until January 4th. I get cleared, I go in January 6th.
I’m like awesome, came out of this with my job intact! I go in, work on January 6th. January 7th, I report for work. I ended up losing the job anyways. Fun stuff.
The only response I could muster was laughter…for about five straight minutes. It was one of the deepest belly laughs I’ve had in years. Why?
No unwell cycle. Because of medication, the practices I learned through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and the things I’ve come up with for myself – no unwell cycle. Some depression, sure. But my brain isn’t screaming at me to kill myself nor is it running unchecked into mania. Ten years ago, the circumstances like this would have rocketed my brain into a severe unwell cycle and screwed me up for months; just like I’m sure it would for many of my readers out there.
Bipolar Disorder can be a daunting, intimidating illness. It is especially scary for people who are newly diagnosed or do not know much about their mental illness. The more you learn, the smaller the teeth on the monster become. It will always have some teeth. There is a possibility that I could have triggered and had an unwell cycle because of this no matter what I did. No one should be complacent in the management of the Disorder and making sure they keep it controlled. I identified that I was entering a turbulent time and responded with my contingency plans for dealing with my brain during them.
Knowledge, planning, and tools from the mental health industry are why I’m not out of my fucking mind right now. Anyone can learn to do these things. It’s a lot of work and it’s not easy. I don’t always get it right and neither will you. Derailing just one unwell cycle can greatly reduce the overall chaos in the life of a Bipolar person and their loved ones.
In other news, I’ll be using the time I have between applying for new jobs to begin working on my third e-book in earnest. The next to come will deal with my observations and suggestions in creating more harmonious Bipolar relationships (friends, family, love), identifying toxic situations and when it is time to let go, common mistakes I see people make regularly, strategies for dealing with different situations, and more! Like all my work, it will be written to be equally useful for mentally ill people and the people that love them.
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