It’s been a year since my diagnosis. I would love to say I am already free of the disorder but I feel it more keenly now than ever. Since then, I have learned to somehow accept who I am and what this disorder has done to my personality. I still have moments where I wish that I did not have this illness. But I just keep trying to move forward and advance in spite of it.
Around a month ago, I was rushed to the emergency room four times in a single week because of panic attacks that ensued from an uncontrolled manic phase. I was strongly advised, nay, pushed to resign from my job. Most therapists recommend that people with this disorder, in order for their therapy to work, work on a part-time basis or at least on a less stressful environment (i.e. no excessive overtime or killer deadlines). I disobeyed the recommendation, and I am miraculously surviving thanks to those short but sweet visits to EDSA shrine each morning before I go to work.
Basing from that limitation, I have to say that I am a suicidal person for keeping my current job. At one point, I just wanted to throw in the towel and look for an easier job. I googled “bipolar workers in the corporate world” and “bipolar at work” in an effort to find people like me. I found some useful sites, but it was not enough to paint a picture of what a bipolar lifestyle in a demanding job looks like. It’s hell on earth on some days, and utopia on the others. There is hardly an in between.
So what’s it like so far?
For one, my medications are making me so hungry and fat and a little older. These side effects break my heart. So far, I have tried Valpros, Epival, and Depakote. They are all monsters that keep me from writing with a steady hand. I can’t even hold a glass of water steadily. I get hungry, and when mixed with asthma medication I even got some mild seizure attacks. I tried not taking my medications from November last year to February but the panic attacks got worse and I really fell apart even at work. Today, I just settle with eating minimal rice to help cancel the Depakote pounds. And well, I accepted the fact that they are maintenance medication until I decide to get pregnant and/or survive without having fulltime work.
Second, career advancement in a corporate or office setting is a daily mountain to climb. There are days when I risk bursting into tears while seated in my office desk. I get so self-absorbed that I don’t get to read the verbal cues of my bosses or colleagues. These things can get misinterpreted easily. Sometimes, I get so spaced out because my neurons are all dried out (this is also the reason why bipolar patients are required a full 8-10 hours of sleep each night) in the middle of the day. And even mild forms of work pressure become an emotional trigger that explodes inside and makes me suffer in an indescribable depth. Sometimes, I tend to overthink, misinterpret, and blurt out strange stuff in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation. This is also why I prefer to just keep quiet, lest I say something wrong and embarrass myself.
Third, coffee and alcohol intake is out of the question. Night outs with colleagues have to be declined; sleepiness has to be combated with water and little else. I cannot collect Starbucks stickers without risking another emergency room trip. This is supposedly healthy living but there is little good health in the bipolar mind.
When I am in a manic mood, I can do a lot of things on the job. But once I swing to the other end, I am just a walking zombie. I count it to God’s goodness that I manage to get to work and survive on those low days. The zigzag pattern of my moods is quite tiresome to track so I trashed the mood diary and switched to just crying when sad and laughing when I am happy.
One year in the treatment and one would think that there is progress. Awareness, perhaps.
There is still that inner demon luring me to jump off the building when it hurts so bad, or go AWOL on my job, abandon my loved ones, change my sim card, and live in an obscure place where I can no longer be traced. I have just learned to face him, anyway. And I fight him back every single day, tears on my face and prayers in my head. He is invisible to everyone else, but so real to me.
I guess year one taught me one thing: Facing my inner demons.
For year two, I will work on killing them one by one.