Bipolar · mental health

Trying to Rise Above

Years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and was hospitalized for my second manic episode, I was considered disabled and approved for Social Security. I’m not the one who signed myself up for it. A social worker got my parents to sign me up when I was 19. My episode was severe. Before this episode, I was working at the same job for over a year and putting in 50 hours a week. I worked ten days back to back and then someone assaulted me. It triggered a manic episode, and I had a lot of anger. But I also wasn’t on medication at the time.

During my hospitalization, I was put back on meds, stronger ones and more of them. I can’t even remember all the medications I’ve tried. I became a zombie. I was very confused. I couldn’t do the things I used to be good at. I didn’t know black from white anymore.

For years I was on disability. It wasn’t much. Eventually I started working part time to supplement my income. My dad was my payee and he discouraged me from working too much, because then I would lose my benefits. I felt like I would never go anywhere in life. I didn’t have a college degree, so I worked retail. I turned down hours for a while but eventually accepted a promotion to management that included full time hours. During this time I was taking a medication that worked, and also in a committed relationship with a supportive partner. Eventually my job became too toxic and the low wages weren’t worth it, so I quit and got a better job. This time I got paid more to work in an office.

The office job lasted a couple years until there were mass layoffs due to the economy. Then I went back to college. It had been years since I pulled out of school due to my first manic episode. When I went back, I was surprised that I was able to get straight A’s again. I was a good student when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure if I could still do it. Turns out, I could. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to school full time and not work. I was afraid that if I had to work through school, I would get overwhelmed and it might trigger an episode. I notice that when I’m overworked and over-scheduled, manic episodes tend to happen.

I graduated college a few years ago, with honors. I was able to secure a competitive full-time job in the field I majored in. But it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. I stopped taking bipolar meds because my doctor said I wasn’t disabled and I wasn’t bipolar. I thought if you are bipolar, it’s for life, but she said I must have been misdiagnosed before I started seeing her. I mentioned this in a previous post. After going off meds, I started to slip, due to many factors.

I didn’t work for awhile and now I’m trying once again to put my life back together. It isn’t easy. I envy people whose lives never got off track.¬†Sometimes I feel like my best just isn’t good enough. Everyday things that most people are able to do, are hard for me. Just taking care of my basic needs is difficult. I can feel judgmental vibes from some of my coworkers, who don’t know my whole story. It’s not their business anyway. It’s not easy to stay positive all the time.

I know I have come a long way despite having setbacks. I imagine how far I could go if I had never had those setbacks. Perhaps I could have a successful career by now, instead of always having to start over at the beginning.

Bipolar · mental health

Salvaging Situations

I’ve come a long way in the past year. A year ago, I was in a place where I felt unable to react calmly to upsetting situations. All I could do was react to extremes. I was taking Latuda, that newish bipolar medication that I had seen commercials on TV for. It was really expensive even with my copay and a discount card. I took it for the better part of a year, and it never even helped. It may work for others, but it didn’t for me.

Eventually, I took a more proactive approach and insisted to my newish doctor that I change back to a medication that had always worked for me in the past, Abilify. I was able to get a discount card that made the copay for a month-long supply only $5. I am not a doctor, but this is just what has worked for me and my brain chemistry.¬†¬†Everybody is different though. Don’t take my word for it over a doctor.

For about a year I was unable to work because I was too unstable. I have Bipolar 1, and I had a manic episode that lasted about 6 months, followed by a severe depression that was just as long. But last May, I went back to the workforce in a low-stress job. I worked that job full time for a few months and have now scaled back to a part-time job at a different place so I can have more time for self-care.

A couple weeks ago, I ran out of my medications, and was too lazy to get them refilled on time. I went a few days without my meds, and I noticed that it definitely had an effect. I felt a lot more anxiety, and less in control. I finally refilled them and have been making sure to take them religiously morning and night for the past week. I am starting to feel much better.

Sometimes when I get anxiety, I get this impending feeling of doom that I can read people’s minds, and that they are thinking bad things about me. There have been times in the past when the feeling was so overwhelmingly strong, that I felt there was nothing I could do to fix it, especially in a work situation. But now, I’m feeling more optimistic. I feel like perhaps there are things I can improve about my performance at work, and I still have time to make an effort at that and possibly turn things around. I’m trying to take a proactive approach to my life. I don’t have to just let things happen to me. I can control my destiny!