Tag Archives: Bipolar Employment

Moody Rachel Returns

I’ve hit a mini brick wall of mood symptoms again: tearfulness, irritability, low motivation, fatigue and general “can’t be bothered-ness”. I’m so tired and keep falling asleep and am getting ratty with my Chris (boyfriend). I hate being like that, I feel really guilty. I think I might be putting too much pressure on myself with regards to this blog and trying to make it brilliant. Right now I can’t do brilliant. Only average. That’ll have to do for now.

I’m feeling undeserving. I think this is just depressive negativity taking over. Undeserving of the good things in my life. I guess I’m starting to feel really guilty about my lack of contribution to the household finances in the last few months, so maybe it’s time to start thinking about earning money again.

But I just can’t think about working in a regular job again. I’ve had 14 years of being in and out of jobs that have just increased my Bipolar symptoms drastically or resulted in severe anxiety and panic attacks. I have never ended a job on a positive note- ever! I’ve always ended jobs due to health issues. I don’t want to just go back to this pattern. I want to earn money doing something I love. I just want to be happy and fulfilled whilst earning money. Is that too much to ask universe??!!!

Onto the more positive:

Going out for Italian tomorrow with Chris, then onto the IMAX cinema for The Dark Knight Rises. Chris has been going on about this film for the last year!!! Yes, a year!!! We’re both film geeks, but Chris just take sit to a whole other level when it comes to films that he loves. He booked the tickets 6 weeks ago. Chris at his geekiest.

It will be really great to go out on a date again. It’s been a long time and I’m gonna get dressed up and everything! (This doesn’t happen very often folks!) Chris has been on a bit of a downer recently (might be affecting my mood or vice verser) so I think we both need a bit of fun.

I really want to go on holiday to Center Parcs again. Center Parcs is my haven and I’ve been dreaming about lazing around the gorgeous spa, and stupidly-early morning walks around the forest to find deer. I honestly never feel so well as when I am at Center Parcs, it’s like the best medicine ever, but funner (yes, it’s a word in my Rachel dictionary)! It’s basically a whole holiday centre built into a massive forest. The accommodation is dotted around the forest in the most peaceful settings you can imagine. You wake up in the morning to find ducks, rabbits and squirrels on your patio. It’s like real-life Disney World!

Cars are not allowed on site except for loading/unloading which really helps create the magic. They have an amazing swimming pool with slides, rapids and wave machine which makes me feel like a kid again- not that difficult really!

There is just so much to do there, you could never be bored. I think I’ve done most of their activities now: horse-riding, archery, falconry, biking, nature walks, abseiling, shooting, canoeing, badminton, tennis, pool, snooker etc, etc. The spa is amazing too.

OK, well thinking about a holiday is making me feel a bit better so maybe I’ll go and do some more research.

Photo Credit: Toa55 via freedigitalphotos.net.

Time to Go

Why do we stay in situations that we know are unhealthy?
Maybe because it’s the easiest option for us? We’re scared to change? Fear of the unknown?

Work

Quitting my job has freed me from a toxic workplace that I had no idea was eating away at my soul. I hated going in. Most of my co-workers were stressed-out and obviously unhappy in their jobs, and life in general. It was so easy to become one of them. I felt I had friends and could fit in if I became one of them, I felt less alone.

This was all unconsciously done of course. But now I’m out of the situation, I look back and can’t believe how abusive I was to myself by forcing myself to go every day. And of course those co-workers were not really friends at all, just co-workers. My soul was screaming at me stop, stop, STOP- I can’t take anymore! My moods were swinging, I was hyper, aggressive, irritable, and very anxious (though I don’t think I would have admitted it at the time).

Why did I stay for two years?

I told myself that by working in this job I was contributing to society, that it was expected of everyone, that if I didn’t work I’d curl up in a lonely ball of depression and never come out from under the duvet. If I didn’t work, other people would reject me, criticize me, disapprove.

Well, so far, I’ve been nowhere near depression and have felt so well and healthy. I feel myself again. It’s amazing! Yes, people don’t necessarily approve of me for quitting. But I know I’m giving myself exactly what I need at the moment- which is a lot of R & R and me-time. I’m not forcing myself to do things anymore.

A New Challenge

Having let go of the reins on my job, I know I have to deal with bigger demons now.

Eating, food, sugar, addictive and emotional eating, stuffing down my emotions. I need to feel the pain inside me, not stuff it down.

I think this unhealthy situation I am in with my eating habits is far scarier for me to let go of.

Yeah I want to be healthy and full of energy and fit. I want to wear whatever I like and look good in everything! I want to enjoy the summer, not spend the entire time trying to cool down and avoiding doing things that will heat me up even more!

So why do I keep eating addictively????!!!

It’s easy to keep doing. It makes me feel good temporarily. It feels safe and comforting. I cling to it for security. When I was suicidal it would distract me from destructive thoughts and give some pleasure to my day, some small thing to look forward to, to keep me plodding through life. If I stop, will the pain come back? What’s underneath all the food and fat? Do I want to see? What if it’s too terrifying to imagine?

Am I ready to say goodbye yet? It doesn’t matter. I have to, for my health, and to recover love and compassion for myself through self-care.

Do You Really Want to be Here?

The things that are hurting us have such a forceful hold. Often we are blind to how destructive a situation or relationship is until we realise we can’t continue to live in this way. I felt like I was dying inside when I was working at my last job. I had to let it go.

The best way to tell if you need to let something go is to honestly answer the question:

Do you still want to be in this situation in a year’s time?

No? Well, that’s a salad for me then please…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

Photo Credits: Woman with Staple Gun Free Digital Photos; Salad Free Digital Photos

Healing at Home

I can’t believe how different I feel since quitting my job- I think it’s possibly the best thing I could have done.

I’m home everyday. I know that probably sounds extremely boring to many, but it’s been an absolute blessing where bipolar symptoms are concerned.

When I was working at the railway station I was in a chronic state of anxiety. Anxiety about getting into the city, being in the city with all the noise and traffic, dealing with stressed-out, negative people- it was inevitable I would become one of them. After work I was thoroughly shattered and would usually crash out on the bed for a few hours to recover.

I was constantly mood-swinging. Although the swings were probably smaller than they would have been without lamotrigine, they were still very disruptive. I virtually had no energy left to do the things I love. It was no way to live. I did not want to wake up in a years time in exactly the same position.

Quitting has freed me.

I love being at home and relaxing in bed with a good book. I love sitting on my laptop writing to anyone who’ll read my blog. I am so grateful that people do read my blog- so thank you so so much. I love playing the piano again and singing at the top of my lungs to Emilie Sande and Alanis Morrisette. I love walking my dog in the beautiful countryside and woodland everyday- nature is so healing. I love being around positive, high energy people who I am blessed to have in my life.

Aside from my usual anxiety issues, my mood hasn’t been this stable since I started the job two years ago.

And do you know what? I don’t feel GUILTY! (Well maybe a little tiny bit). Usually I would be beating myself up with:

“You should be working in a regular job like everyone else, you’re so lazy, what will people think of you?”

I DON’T CARE what people think!! This is so unlike me! I never thought I’d achieve that.

Only I know the pain bipolar and anxiety have caused me- I am not going to abuse myself by staying in a job that was making me ill. We are only here for our short lifetimes and I don’t want to spend my whole life being miserable.

Being in all the peace and quiet at home has brought up some issues from the past, relationship-based issues. I have been feeling the pain and hurt for some of these experiences- I guess these are the emotions that I suppressed at the time.

I sat in bed and cried the other day about a primary relationship that has been based on falsehood. I cried tears of loss and grief for the love that I never had. I accepted part of it and felt that I had let go of a little bit of pain from my past. I also wrote a letter to a “friend” expressing my anger with her (I didn’t post it) and I now feel another small part of me has healed.

I’ve been “feeling” my emotions a lot more; acknowledging them, accepting them and not burying them deep inside me. Whilst working I had no emotional strength to trawl through any pain brought up during the day. Everyday, working relationships would trigger past hurts to boil up inside me, but I had no energy to deal with them. I was stumbling along in life in a chaotic ball of churned up, unresolved hurt and pain. I’m still a ball of hurt and pain, but the ball is slowly shrinking.

I thoroughly believe in a higher power and I know in my heart that it is this higher power that is helping me to heal whilst I am in this relaxed state.

Photo Credit: Glasses Michelle Meiklejohn; Countryside Nick Coombs; Celestial FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Letting Go- I’m Free!

Two weeks ago I quit my job- I was being bullied and hadn’t even realised. I’d put up with being belittled and harassed and it wasn’t until I spoke up to a few trusted colleagues, who helped me to see what was really going on, that it dawned on me- “why the hell am I putting up with this?”

I’d been miserable and suicidal over the whole period of time it had gone on, I just wanted to hang onto my job because it was a safety net and my way of showing the world I could function as a “normal”member of society. I wasn’t being myself. I was counting the minutes until I could leave. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like this. I still don’t.

I wasn’t coping or functioning!

So I quit.

A weight lifted. I’m bloody terrified now, but over the last two weeks, little by little, I’m feeling remnants of the old me coming back. Hopefully within a few months I’ll be devoting myself to my passions again, the mask will completely lift and I’ll be able to be myself again. Thank you God!

I’m still terrified though! I have no money! I have enough to pay bills, buy food etc, which I am very grateful for, but nothing “spare”.

This is really making me stay at home which is actually a good thing. Usually I flit about in the city- spending money on silly things- basically wasting my cash. Buying “things” filled the void of emptiness. It was a coping mechanism to deal with depression. I could deny my feelings all I wanted if I raced around keeping busy.

Now I can’t shop or buy extra food to binge on.

Arrrrghhhh!! So scared! I’m having to feel things again. I know it’s gonna be a really good thing and help me to heal from past traumas. I know it’ll make me work on my passions again. But with all this comes emotional pain. I think I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end, but I think that’s the only way I’m ever going to change and get over my food and shopping addictions.

I’m ready.

Scared, but ready. Bring it on! ….er.. slowly….and in manageable chunks. Thanks.

Photo Credits: Free Girl by Andy Newson, Free Man by Graur Nazvan Ionut

Bipolar Disorder- Self-Acceptance

 

A life with Bipolar Disorder is always met with guilt at some stage, usually during depression. But the guilt I am feeling at the moment is less to do with a current episode and more to do with the lifestyle I lead.

 

Society would like us to be successful in the following areas:

– Work full-time

– Work to the highest level of our potential.

– To be financially independent.

 

As one of the Bipolar population, I most certainly don’t fit these criteria. Instead I:

– Work part time

– 16 hours a week.

– Receive benefits/welfare.

– Have no career.

– Am financially dependent on my partner for most things.

 

Today I realised how little I accept these aspects of my life and essentially feel guilty about living life this way, maybe even ashamed that I can’t reach my full career potential. According to society this would be classed as underachievement. In truth I think I’ve been thinking that due to my societal “failure” to fulfil these criteria, I am a failure and not as worthwhile or acceptable as individuals who function at a higher level of autonomy. I think to myself “I will be happy when I’m working full time in a job I love”, I never let myself be happy and accept myself NOW! So I am going to learn the following:

 

I am acceptable and worthwhile now!

 

By looking at my life from a more spiritual point of view, it is clear that our purpose on Earth is not necessarily to achieve top level management in the banking industry or become a top lawyer. In some ways we can be seen to be spreading kindness to others or love, caring and nurturing to our children, family and friends. These little acts of love can make a big difference to others. It is in these ways that we can shine our light in the world, with or without Bipolar.

I also believe that we have a lifelong course to complete in learning to love ourselves. I guess having Bipolar makes this job all the more difficult as we see so much of ourselves as flawed when we are irritable, angry and hopelessly depressed. But perhaps in this way, by overcoming more obstacles in this area, we are moving forward at a more advanced level on the evolutionary scale?

 

Perhaps our purpose is to help evolve in the realm of unconditional love for ourselves and therefore others?

 

So today I will look more at my positive attributes that may help to spread my light in the world, and the things that I can love about myself:

– Chatty/bubbly personality.

– Always smiling.

– Great sense of humour and charisma.

– Loving, king, warm-hearted, affectionate.

– Love meeting people and genuinely interested in others.

– Empathic and compassionate.

– Great conversation.

– Playful & lively & enthusiastic.

 

I am loveable now!!

Back from the Brink of Bipolar!

Song of the Day:  Disco by Dizzee Rascal (sooo not my usual taste, but it’s such a happy song!)

Well, it’s been a good couple of months since I last posted. Thanks for all the visits I’ve been getting whilst temporarily indisposed, I really appreciate all the interest. Thank you.

So I’ll briefly update you: major depressive episode!  ‘Nuff said really! I was off work until late December.

It’s so strange how the symptoms can vary each time I experience an episode. Most frequently in the past I’ve had a prevalence of self destructive thoughts- particularly that my existence in the world is a total mistake and I’m not meant to be here, I’m a total waste of space, etc, etc- you know the drill! I’m glad I don’t take it so seriously anymore, because it’s so easy to be fooled by that ego voice- it seems so real! Yeah, it does still take a hold, but I know not to trust the thoughts of self-destruction and I guess I’m much less likely to act on them than when I was first diagnosed at 18. Actually that’s a total lie- they still seem very real and very scary- it is just that I’ve learned not to act on it and them and that they do go away.

This time the thoughts were veering much more towards paranoia- mainly firmly believing that all my friends and colleagues were really totally against me and all hated me and laughed behind my back as soon as I left the room. My anxiety levels were fairly high, but not as much as in the past, although I did have a few panic attacks. 

However my main symptoms this time have been physical, namely psychomotor retardation and digestive issues- a new one for me! The retardation came on quickly just as I finished my last few days of work before a week off. I’d had mild depressive symptoms for a few weeks, which was why I booked the week off, to give myself a bit of recovery time. But as my week off progressed I was virtually unable to walk, except with a kind of shuffle. I really thought I was physically dying! Horrible.

The positive side to the physical symptoms is that at least people can actually SEE you’re ill. I really hate that mental illness, such as mild-moderate depression, can’t really be identified except by the people close to you. I think I’m especially good at putting on a happy face. I always believe that people think I’m making up the whole thing. Visible physical symptoms at least prove I’m not! I would also say that the retardation is easier to cope with than the intense anxiety, agitation, irritation and anger that you can experience either as part of dysphoric mania or agitated depression (are these two the same thing, or is it a mixed episode?)- particularly with self-destuctive thoughts too.  I think these times are the worst- too much energy focused in a particularly negative and possibly lethal direction.

Anyway, the depressive episode messed up a day at Center Parcs for my birthday, and I cancelled a trip to London too- I knew I’d be a panicky mess on the tube! I’m OK with London when I’m well, I wouldn’t say I enjoy all the people/the tube, etc, but I love all the theatres, concerts etc- there’s just so many great performances and events going on- I’ll risk a bit of anxiety for them!  But I didn’t want to risk panic attacks this time, which I felt were fairly inevitable! I seem to become mildly agorophobic when depressed, I don’t like being away from home/Norwich etc.

Anyway, since New Year I’ve been well on the mend and my confidence with work soon returned, despite all the anxiety of going back. My friend also managed to blag a free day at Center Parcs for us which made up for my birthday, and we had a really lovely Christmas with family. I feel grateful to be better, glad of a bit of sun despite the cold, extremely happy to be singing my heart out with a choir again and soooo lucky that I don’t have to work full-time! To all those Bipolar full-timers out there- I salute you!

Work Issues

Song of the Day: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

Photo Credit: jpellgen available under a  Creative Commons Licence.

I haven’t written for ages because I’m in denial about stuff that’s going on at work and trying to ignore it in the hope it’ll go away. Writing will make me face up to it all!

Over the last couple of months I’ve been experiencing mixed symptoms- high energy, excessive flirting, needing to be at way more social events, crying easily, angry and irritable, needing to be centre of attention, obsessive thoughts. Could be the switch from hypomania to dysphoric hypomania?? Who knows!

Anyway, during this time my boss left for a new job- she has always been really great about my mood swings and very supportive. However, our new manager is not. I don’t want to elaborate at this time. My anger is fizzing and bubbling below the service and ready to errupt and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to hang on to civilised behaviour. I feel like a pitbull forced to be on a lead all my life and am now being confronted with a pack of snarling opponents. I’m ready to strike!!

Having mulled it over for the last month I’ve decided the best thing to do is to find another job. This is a huge risk to me, as changing jobs in the past has usually led to panic attacks and worsening Bipolar symptoms. As far as hours, convenience and job role go, my current position is ideal. However, the relationship with this person is extremely stressful and kind of cancels out all these other factors.

At work I’ve had increased interpersonal sensitivity and emotional reactivity, but at home I’ve really struggled to process the intensity of the feelings that are rapidly surfacing. I’m so stressed! I’m really angry with the other person, but also with myself for reacting so badly and giving her what she ultimately wants; I feel exceptionally guilty for being angry (I was brought up to believe being angry is the root of all evil); I feel angry that this has happened when everything seemed to be going so well; I’m so worried about changing jobs; I’m scared and intimidated about going in to work now- I dread it. It’s all really getting on top of me and I don’t really know how to process all these feelings. I think there’s a link back to my first few school years when I was bullied, so a bit of trauma is thrown in the mix too.

My main coping mechanism has been eating- stuffing the feelings down with sugar, getting that lovely numbed-out feeling when overloaded. I look forward to the next packet of biscuits or chocolate bar- the pleasure makes me forget about the pain of the unprocessed emotions. But this can’t go on. I’ve put on another half stone which I can in no way afford to do. The eating has to stop and the painful emotions dealt with. I just have absolutely no clue how to go about dealing with them.

On the plus side, had a great long weekend last week and went to see Rihanna at the O2 with Chris- fantastic and VERY raunchy!!

Bipolar Disorder: Up and Down and Up and Down…….

Song of the Day: The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Levellers (after The Charlie Daniels Band).

(Photo Credit: M. Denyer available under a Creative Commons License.)

(The deer image is because I saw one on my dog walk this morning!)

I don’t usually blog about the day I’ve just had, but I wanted to today because it was so weird Bipolar-wise.

Got up this morning and felt great. Haven’t been sleeping quite as long as usual- probably 2 or 3 hours less a night, but pretty much felt my usual morning energy buzz. Got to work and I felt even more buzzy and started doing the Little Miss Chatterbox act with people at work. Very quickly after talking to each person I came across, I suddenly felt really over-emotional and would start to well up. There have been quite a lot of sad things happen to people at work this week and over the last month or two, so I think maybe I was picking up on that. But I just don’t understand why I felt so emotional when talking to people- it was so strange. It was like I could feel all their sadness myself, all at once. Like I was ultra-ultra sensitive.

Once I started to work I just couldn’t concentrate- my head was all buzzy- thoughts racing through my brain. All this I guess would normally point to hypomania and looking back I think I have been a bit hyper over the last few weeks, but certainly nothing major and I wouldn’t say noticeable by others. Anyway coz I was starting to well up all the time I went to my manager and had a bit of a chat, which helped calm me down a bit. I think I felt overwhelmed by all my emotions hitting me at once. Work after this came a little bit easier, but my focus was still way off and my brain started to slow down.

On the way home came the next twist- I could only walk really slowly with heavy legs feeling like they were wading through knee-deep mud. This is classic depression with me. My brain had slowed too and I was finding crossing the road difficult- another Rachel depression symptom- it’s like my brain is too slow to work out how fast a car is coming and judge whether it’s safe for me to cross or not- very peculiar and not a bit less frightening.

So what happened today- did I just crash from hypomania to depression in the space of a few hours? I’m not feeling low- possibly more agitated than low and less able to relax than usual. I’ve also noticed a return in my health anxiety- where I worry that I’m going to have a heart attack any second- this is horrible and I just can’t rationalise it away. I’m eating atrociously too at the moment. Arghhhhh what’s wrong with me- I feel really weird! Now I’m worried about tomorrow too because I’m going to be learning how to use the coffee machines- for 2 whole hours!  It will be good to do something different but not with the way I’m feeling at the moment!

Bipolar Disorder: Managing Home Life

Song of the Day: Fame by Irene Cara

(Photo Credit: Bruno Monginoux available under a Creative Commons License.)

Managing Home Life

It is essential for me when employed that things are as calm, balanced and enjoyable at home as possible. If work is stressful and challenging you really do need to come home to partners/family/roommates who are as understanding and supportive as possible and a house that is relaxing and fairly tidy and clean (doesn’t have to be spotless). Maintaining energy levels with healthy eating (which means regular cooking- something I’m pretty lazy about), some form of exercise and getting enough sunlight, is important too.

1. Relationships

If Chris and I have had a row over something- the tension between us can last a few days or even weeks. Going from a challenging work environment to a home filled with negativity can be miserable for anybody whether Bipolar or not. However if Bipolar, it can contribute to triggering symptoms.

I’ll often become more withdrawn at home and work, and more irritable. My usual behavioural warning signs or prodromal symptoms (see my post Bipolar Disorder- Prodromal Symptoms) will then kick in: not cooking, eating more junk food, increased sleep, watching more TV.

So it’s really important that Chris and I nip any relationship issues in the bud as early as possible and then inject some fun and humour back in; or if I’m properly depressed we fall back on our main common interest-films: we’ll either go to the cinema or watch a movie at home. Walking the dog together or having a drink at the pub can help us to relax too. Anything that connects us back together again is really helpful.

2. Housework

Boring, in my eyes, but essential to my mental wellbeing is keeping on top of housework- practically impossible when depressed. If the house is messy and needs cleaning I find it more difficult to relax.

If I’m not well I tend to try to do one task a day and only the bare essentials (that’s an ideal situation anyway- in reality I hardly do a thing-I’m such a liar!), rather than going all out for a few hours. Even when I am well, I’m happy enough with a tidy house, clean kitchen and bathroom. I’m not too precious about the garden being immaculate or the house being completely dust free! I guess how clean and tidy you want your home is a personal thing and there is a balance to be maintained between doing too much housework (thereby causing possibly more stress) and doing too little (stress can be caused by the environment being messy and disorganised). Some people enjoy housework and find it relaxing- wish that was me!

3. Energy Levels

Also important when I’m working (even when not working!) is maintaining my energy levels with proper nutrition, some sort of exercise (sigh- it must be done) and sunlight!

The diet part is my main challenge as I’ve developed Binge-Eating Disorder as a coping mechanism over the last 10 years; healthy eating doesn’t come easily! If I’ve had a sugar binge the night before work, by the time I arrive there the next morning the sugar low hits (a sugar hangover!) and I struggle with drowsiness and low mood- on top of being in a stressful work environment. I make life so hard for myself sometimes!

Exercise for me involves lots of dog-walking. That’s double the therapy because it sorts out getting enough sunlight too. Nature always does wonders for improving mood as well. I have found in the past that going regularly to the gym and doing fairly exhausting workouts can trigger hypomania and I get a bit obsessive about it. Dancing classes have been fun in the past- learning the steps and enjoying the music can help take your mind off the fact that you’re actually working out.

4. Relaxation and Quiet

I class myself as a sociable introvert- I need the company of others on a regular basis, and to feel part of a team/group, but I probably need double (or more) the amount of time alone.

I’ve got a whole room of my own at home and it is decorated with all the things that I love- pictures of wildlife/films I love, statues of angels, crystals, and all the books I can manage to fit in there. To me this is my relaxation room where I can shut the door and be alone, listen to music/meditate/do a bit of yoga/read. I love it and feel calm here. I love having space to myself and I think this also helps to maintain my sanity!

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Bipolar Disorder: Workplace Challenges Part 2

Song of the Day: That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morissette.

(Photo Credit: Lynne Kirton available under a Creative Commons Licence.)

Yesterday I posted Part 1 on Workplace Challenges, which looked at the problems involving being around people at work during Bipolar episodes. Today’s post covers other problems which may arise.

Inconsistency and Expectations

I’m usually hypomanic when I begin a new job (I often apply when I’m hypomanic coz everything seems so exciting!), therefore I work very quickly and intensely, getting lots of good quality work done in minimal time. I therefore set my standards high with work colleagues who come to expect this of me all the time. Inevitably I am unable to maintain these standards when my mood dips back down. This hasn’t been too big of an issue for my employers, but I think it affects me in that I set myself mini- timescales of when I expect to get tasks done by everyday. If I’m slower than last week, I do tend to judge myself and think that I’m not working well. Because I think like this, I expect others to think like this too- so end up putting way too much pressure on myself to match my hypomanic standards. I guess I even go so far as to think I am being judged as no good, by my employers, if I can’t keep it up- which I know is a load of rubbish!

Nowadays, if I feel myself rushing through tasks or putting increased pressure on myself to maintain overly high standards, I try to have a “cigarette” break (I don’t smoke) where I have a quick stretch outside in the fresh air, take a few deep breaths and just give myself a chance to calm down a bit. My usual warning signs that I’m over doing it are tense neck and shoulders, achy back muscles and headaches.

Flexibility 

No, not the foot behind the ear type- but the being able to change tasks at the last minute, work at different times and generally go with the flow-type. Flexibility and Bipolar just don’t seem to work well together, last minute changes can cause me more stress than usual.

Luckily in my job I don’t have to be flexible with my working hours or routine too much. But there are times when I have to share a computer so if it is in use I need to be flexible in finding other “paper-based” tasks to perform. These can often be “one-offs” my manager has requested. It’s so strange that a little change like this can really throw me: I suddenly feel insecure and unnerved! I think this must be pretty hard to understand for most people.

If I’m particularly Bipolar one week I will mention this to my boss who then knows if a task is likely to be stressful, so she will give me easier bits to do or ask what I would like to do. She never makes this seem like a big deal and is very relaxed about it, so I do think I’m lucky in that respect. But still, I need to learn to be flexible, so practice I must!

Concentration

Cropping up in both depression and hypomania, lack of concentration can be one of the killer problems at work.

When depressed your brain’s working too slowly or you’re thinking about morbid things or obsessing over the fact that “Phyllis” blanked you in the corridor or endlessly worrying, then concentration on work can be near-on impossible.

When hypomanic I myself can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes and usually end up flitting about from colleague to colleague as Little Miss Chatty, monopolising conversations and arranging social gatherings. Ooooh- I just remembered that I gossip way more too and get very excited about little office scandals! Any social contact serves only to increase my excitability and decrease my concentration even more. It’s difficult to stop though when you’re having so much fun! I do realise that earlier I said I work more quickly and intensely when hypomanic– this is only when left alone in the quiet.  Then if people are about I start to get a bit crazy! Therefore I guess in future I will try to spend more time alone when hyper- I ruin all my fun 😦

Toilet-Crying

One of my favourites this, when I’m depressed is to go into the toilet and cry my little heart out.  I’ll be sitting at my desk holding it all inside, then my eyes well up and I think “oh s**t”! I’m rubbish at holding it inside, so I find the best thing to do is just let it all out in private. Sometimes I’ll talk to one of the others if I’m feeling really bad and need to go home, but most of the time I’m learning to handle it better on my own now. Either way, when I get home it’s TLC time- hug from Chris, hug from the dog, music on the iPod, soak in the tub (ooh that rhymes…well kind of)!

Performance Anxiety

No not singing, dancing and acting anxiety– but the kind where you go all nervous and light-headed when the manager comes over to watch you work. A time when your brain is bound to fail you and you forget everything you’ve learnt since the age of 10, sometimes even how to string a sentence together.

This has been quite an issue for me, not necessarily with my current job, but more in customer service roles where customers expect you to be quick and efficient. This increases the anxiety you already feel from having them watch you, loads of pressure. Absolutely hate it and have decided I am not cut out for customers! I would often have panic attacks before going into work in these kind of roles. It’s funny though, because I really love people and chatting to them socially, strangers included, but when it comes to feeling some kind of expectation or judgment from them, I freak!

Talking on the telephone is the other one I hate- no idea why but it’s always made me really nervous. Maybe it’s because other people in the room can listen to what I’m saying. I always feel I’m being judged all the bloody time! As long as I never have to work in a customer-based call centre I’ll be fine!

The trials of Bipolar Disorder continue (sigh).