Bipolar II — Handling the Swings, Finding the Balance

For years I wondered what was wrong with me… especially when I got so down in the dumps, as I’d be crying non stop and contemplating something between suicide and running away, and then a few days later, or weeks later, life would be wonderful, I’d have this sense of unstoppable calm, and so my life would go…

Only a few years ago did someone finally suggest that I might have Bipolar disorder. No, not Bipolar I, which means extreme mood swings all the way to mania when you’re off your rocker. No, this was Bipolar II, which included swings of depression and hypomania, but without the extreme mania.

For a while, I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve been diagnosed with just about every disorder in the book, so why would this one be right? Then — every time I felt myself on one end or the other of my mood spectrum, I had to accept it. This explained a heck of a lot. This explained how some months I excelled in my jobs and other months I couldn’t get myself out of bed, and I’d ultimately lose my job.

But knowing what is wrong doesn’t solve what IS wrong. I hate to be all “woe is me” because it’s not like that… in a way I like my mood swings because they make life interesting. I don’t have control over them, but I find I appreciate the highs as much as I do because I clearly remember the lows.

However, when it comes to my career, I don’t have time to be all over the map like this. And I’m terrible at hiding how I’m feeling… especially when I feel hopeless. All I want to do is stay in bed all day and hide from the world, so getting myself to the office is extremely hard. Once I’m there, it’s hard to focus and get anything done.

But those are my “bad” days. On my good days I can be extremely productive. And unless I’m stuck in a depressive phase, my productivity tends to balance out. Which is good… it means I have a chance of keeping a job, and I’ve learned how to force myself out of bed and get to the office even on the worst days.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a career better suited for folks like me. After all, actors, artists, writers even are known for feeling deeply. How many actors do we read about daily that are doing something clearly inspired by some sort of manic or depressive episode? It’s not great for them, but at least that’s expected when you’re in a career that involves feeling.

I find it difficult to be in careers that involve NOT feeling. It’s very hard to balance caring without caring too much. I can be really passionate about something, a project, an idea, but when no one will listen, when no one cares about what I have to say, I get depressed and feel broken. Or I just take my work as what it is — work — and don’t let myself get too invested. But without that investment, I find it hard to focus, to spend 8-10 hrs a day sitting behind a computer, trying to be part of the machine that is the business. I loose myself, my passion, and I admit the quality of my work very quickly goes downhill.

I don’t know if I’ve found the right career path yet, but I’ve come to accept that I’m just going to be one of those people who has a few dozen careers over their lifetime. The important thing is that I can survive the highs and lows while maintaining the quality of my work, and to really push towards productivity when I’m at the right place between depression and hypomania.

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One comment

  1. Collette says:

    I just wanted to let you know, I walk through the motions exactly as you. Ive not yet been diagnosed but only because I haven't been to the Dr about any symptoms since I was 20 (I'm 42 now) In my spare time I have found that a way to express myself creatively is paramount to me feeling any sort of stable "normal" So I took up photography and do about 1-2 shoots every two months, It's not lucrative enough that I could do it full time, I too am sitting here at work behind a computer but one does what one must to pay the bills. many differnet jobs is a sign of this illness, as it's difficult for us to remain challenged and involved in something we don't care enough about. I have had various and sundry jobs. My job is a cust service rep for a majo telecomm company. My career and passion is as a photographer. So know youre not alaone, and hey Catherine Zeta Jones just caame out, as it were, so here's to even more company in the club.
    Good luck to all three of us I say. Collette

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