Bipolar Disorder Makes Me Feel Like a 'Human Fuel Tank'

I begin my week the same way. I am optimistic and positive. Monday has not reared its ugly head and I have no obligations.

Cue Monday and my alarm clock.

It’s still dark. I know my son will be awake soon and I have to make him breakfast, help him dress and drive him to preschool.

I start off with a full emotional “fuel tank.” Carrying out this routine five consecutive mornings with no break easily uses one fourth of my fuel for the week.

I am finishing my college degree online. For at least one test per semester per class, I am required to drive to campus and take my test in person. Due to a mild agoraphobia associated with my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I rarely leave my house unless it’s absolutely critical. I had two tests this week and I had to commute over four hours total, excluding the hours spent in mental preparation to ready myself to leave my house. Routinely having severe panic attacks while driving in congested traffic, it was agonizing.

I could transfer to a college nearby, but few of my credits will transfer and starting a new school at age 30 is daunting and leaves a pit of dread in my stomach. My college is familiar with my bipolar disorder and anxiety and very helpful in that regard. That’s another fourth of my tank this week if I am being conservative.

Fast forward to Friday. Seems like a great week because I only used half of my fuel! But life likes to toss curveballs. I bought my son a toy and as we went to the car, the keys got locked inside. Here I am in the middle of a hot parking lot, surrounded by noise and traffic and people, with a preschooler who is asking me lots of questions and looking at his mommy for reassurance. I salvaged the afternoon with milkshakes and letting him look at fish. Easily another quarter of a tank.

The last bit of my fuel is spent on having a night out with friends. I definitely had fun and needed those connections, but it was entirely too much in one week and I was zapped.

Whether it’s spoons or my fuel tank theory, mental illness can take so much of us. I have to hold it together until I have somewhere private to break down. Daily obligations and my own goals push me beyond my capacity. There are weekends I do not leave my bed so I can refuel for the next week.

Cue Sunday and my naïve optimism.

The week begins again.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via grinvalds.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Bipolar Disorder

Beautiful young woman with sunglasses and hat, retro style. Pop art. Summer holiday. concept

Having Bipolar Disorder Taught Me I Don't Have to Be 'Perfect' on the Inside

For as long as I can remember I’ve been striving for perfection on the inside, instead of the outside. It seems counterintuitive to say this because most of the time we’re taught that perfection comes from outward appearances. When I was younger this rang true, but now it seems all I want is to feel [...]
digital painting portrait of beautiful girl, oil on canvas texture

To the Couple Who Asked Me if There Was a 'Test' for Bipolar Disorder

You wanted to know information about your son’s bipolar disorder. At first you asked specific questions about the illness and I did my best to answer them. You told me about your son and I was impressed with his accomplishments and sorry to hear he was struggling. One of your questions stuck with me. Is [...]
A woman with flowers surrounding her

When Springtime Spells Disaster for Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Ah, spring is just around the corner. It’s so close I can feel it! But for me, that feeling of springtime can often lead to the most difficult phase of bipolar — the dreaded mixed state. Don’t get me wrong or view me as ungrateful… theoretically I love the blooming flowers, buds on the trees, [...]
young woman sitting by a window looking sad

My Worries About Having a Baby as a Woman With Bipolar Disorder

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. I’m terrified. No. Make that petrified. How do you hold two entirely separate things, one in each hand, and weigh the importance of one over the other? How do you wrap your head around the possibility that you might not even be able [...]