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How Bipolar Disorder Affects My Professional Life

Every night before bed, I take my Xanax just as prescribed and slip into a dreamless, black void. I wake in the same position I fell asleep in, groggy and feeling like I only took a small nap. Nine hours of sleep should be enough, but it never is. On more than one occasion I have turned off my alarm and then fallen back asleep because I don’t have enough energy to keep my eyes open. I can’t even count the number of times I have been late for work because I just could not wake up.

Mornings are always the same for me. I have to take a quick shower and if I’m lucky, I have time to blow dry and straighten my hair. On very rare occasions I have time to dress myself up in makeup and jewelry; all the things I buy myself to feel and look normal. My coworkers notice it, too. I know it has to bother them that I’m late nearly every day, and they always notice when I actually had time to get ready that morning. I always feel great about myself when I get compliments about my hair or makeup or even just that I “look nice today.” I like to feel accepted.

I work with people all day long, helping them on public computers, sending faxes, making copies, scanning, etc. I can only work around 25 hours a week because the more hours I work, the more I retreat inside of myself because my anxiety becomes uncontrollable. On a good day, I can make it through work without taking a Xanax, which is usually when I’m between my hypomania and depression. The bad days, though, which greatly outnumber the good, I am forced by intrusive thoughts, debilitating panic attacks, and nonsensical rage to go home early or just not go to work at all. I know I am lucky that I have not been fired the past three years I have been employed at my job, and I am grateful that I was hired at such a wonderful establishment.

On the days I don’t work, I end up doing one of three different things:

1. The depressive days — I sleep all day, finally waking up sometime after 5 p.m., probably getting around 15 hours of sleep. I may take a shower when I get up, but I generally stay in my PJs all day and watch TV with my fur-babies, only getting up to let them out.

2. The hypomanic days — I’m up already before I’ve even slept, or if I try really hard, I might get an hour or two of sleep. Sometimes I lie in bed and just scroll through my newsfeed trying to quiet my mind. After I make myself get up, I have to keep going, so I usually find a new way to move around all of my furniture and rearrange it all by myself. These days I find I have energy to play with my dogs and I often find myself trying to do new things, like finally take them to a dog park, or spend money I don’t have on dog toys. I get myself into too much by making commitments that I can’t keep when I’m not hypomanic, or appointments I know I’ll miss if they’re the next week when the depression sets in. By the end of these days, I can be exhausted, but sleep can be
difficult for a few days until I finally tire out

3. In between — I don’t get as much done these days as I do when I am hypomanic, but I do feel good and I can think, and that’s how I prefer to feel. When I am between episodes, I can settle myself into a book and read for hours. I have so much focus, I feel like I did before my symptoms of bipolar disorder became prevalent. I don’t argue with anyone, and I can do anything that requires concentration or a time commitment. I feel great these days.

After almost a whole year of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, I am starting to pick up on my triggers and understand why I am feeling the way I do and what can help me feel better and keep me out of trouble. Sometimes I just want to give up and quit my job because of the guilt of making my coworkers wait on me to get on with their days. Sometimes I feel on top of the world, like I’m an unstoppable force. And then there are the days where I feel like me, and I couldn’t be happier. This is what I live with, and it’s a struggle every day.

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