Friday, June 12, 2009

Falling off the Rungs

Two of the hardest things about being bi polar is how it affects your relationships, and how if affects your work. I was told recently I was turned down for a position I really had my heart set on in campus ministry, and also had an interview today that I totally bumbled up and don't expect to get a call back for. With stress being such a trigger, I find myself wondering if there are certain jobs I would just not be cut out for.

I remember after college when I moved back home I briefly got a job working as a counselor for sexually-abused children. I was deeply depressed at the time, and I found I was more of a liability at the job because of my depression and inability to face crisis situations, and so I felt I needed to tell my boss what I was going through, and resign. I felt like such a failure, it was all I could do while driving home not to careen my car into a tree.

I faced similar feelings today after realizing that I might not be cut out for the very jobs I thought I would be so good at. My dad slugged through years of teaching while depressed simply by being stubborn, knowing he had a family to support, and that quitting was not an option. Work is hard enough; working while you are depressed is torturous. And interviewing while you are depressed feels like professional suicide.

This was posted on a Bi-polar support group site I read recently, to which I could really relate:

"I was always career minded. However, being Bipolar has now disrupted my career one too many times. Up until 7 years ago I was climbing the corporate ladder with a packaging company until I had a psychotic episode for the first time. I had to quit work for 6 months and then I scored another job with another company. But the same thing happened again. I had a hypermanic episode and became psychotic again and had to quit work. I have been through the same cycle now 5 times where I find work, get the job, relapse and loose the job. The last job lasted 2 days before relapsing again. I guess a sales career was too much pressure. What I want to know is what opportunities are out there for people like me (us) where it seems stress is a trigger. I get so depressed about my illness and the thought of going through this again is scarey. Is there other employment options that are out there that doesn't require any experience and is rewarding? I have been unemployed now for over 7 months since the last episode but it has really been 18 months since I was full time employed. What can I do? What is there to do?"

I hope to never have to go through another psychotic episode, one that has me hospitalized and forced me into taking a leave of absence from work. Thankfully my relationships are in order...I have a supportive family and an understanding, supportive girlfriend. Some people don't have this, and I don't want it to be something I take lightly or for granted. Even though I hate taking medications, I feel like I am on a pretty good set now that allows me relative stability, even with the occassional dips into depression I am presently experiencing.

But the dips are unnerving...will this spiral out of control and leave me jobless? Will I be able to do what is required of me? Can I even tell my boss of my illness, or is this something I need to keep hidden? Will I ever find work that is meaningful, or do I have to limit myself to what I can realistically do without undue stress? I know I have gifts. I know I have talents. I know I am called to do something. But being bi polar does not make this process any easier. Then again, maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill...


Anonymous said...

seriously consider nutrition as a factor. try a nutritionist, it may really help. i was diagnosed with all types of things for a while, including bi-polar. i took a really good look at what i was putting into my body and tried different diets until i found something that really works for me. today, i am happy to say that i am stable, med-free and i do work a very stressful job and i do it well. i handle my stress by staying OFF the caffeine, drugs, hard liquor and junk, eating a lot of natural, grass fed animal products, lots of veggies, not a lot of carbs and sugar, doing mediation, getting plenty of exercise and sunlight, forgiving myself when i don't stick with things sometimes and going to therapy. i'm not saying your situation is not bad, i'm just saying it's possible. you can do the job you want to do. it's just not going to be easy, and yes, it will mean having to go through the uncomfortable process of overhauling your life-your diet, your addictions, your bad habits--really assessing the things that you are really able to change in your life. this is hard and most people won't do it because they don't want to give up coffee or cigarettes. i had a good psychiatrist who was well versed in new research and he told me to try to avoid wheat and dairy (i still eat dairy, though). he also encouraged me to try fish oil and meditation ALONG with the medication i was taking. this is not common, i know. there should be more like him out there. and i'm sorry to say this, but a lot of the christian dogma did not help me at all. all the guilt and blame and shame and always being made to feel that this was some "punishment" from God, you need to discard that thinking. even if you put a different spin to it and say it is a "test," it still leaves you as a the powerless test subject of some omnipotent dominant-male God. this type of dogma creates self-hatred even if we may not realize that's where the self-hatred may be coming from. it renders your mind impotent because all of you power is outside of yourself and you have no control over anything in your life. this is not true. you don't have control over everything, but you can make peace with your God and get some of your power back. i know you are probably going to be offended by that, but i just had to say it. there is this tendency to take on a "martyr" mentality and accept symptoms that can be ameliorated because christians may feel they have to "carry their cross." yes, i do believe there is a spiritual aspect, and spirituality does help--healthy spirituality--but there is a spiritual aspect to everything-- diabetes, cancer. it doesn't take away the physical facts. anyway, check out the mood cure, it has some interesting info about some of the stuff i am talking about. i am not saying what worked for my body will work for you, i am just saying that you don't have to look at this illness as a chronic debilitating thing. i do believe it is a chemical imbalance, but who is to say you can't achieve balance? you just have to find your own balance-- be it with medications or not. sorry this is long. please look up studies on people whose schizophrenic symptoms were eased after they eliminated wheat gluten from their diet and how exercise performed better than anti-depressants in depression studies-- my psychiatrist told me about this-- not some website. but here is a website. this is not spam. i am a real person 4 time psychiatric hospitalization for psychosis. taking a serious look at nutrition/philosophy/lifestyle does work. i'm sure you've tried a lot of stuff before, but please don't just tell me it hasn't worked at all and you just gave up, because have you, honestly? the only thing we can do in this life is try. there not enough of trying. once you stop trying that is the end of life-- and your religion may call that sacrifice but i call it self-hatred and self-betrayal, because, deep down, your body- your soul-- wants to be well-- and wants to keep trying.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Rob,

I'm so sorry about the job! I'm glad things are going better and you're right, it's great to have support. I don't have much experience with bipolar episodes, but I do have a lot of artists/writer friends who experience them. I think of that sort of thing as a strange gift from God in that William Blake way (not to romanticize it either -- I know it's difficult), but society has a way of turning something they don't understand into a stigma. Hang in there and hope all is going well this week!