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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.

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Thinkstock photo via grinvalds.