Adding It Up

The Chicken or The Egg

I’ve had this talk with my psychiatrist before. What begets what, exactly? Does the episode precipitate certain events based on behaviors or does the environment spark the episode?

There’s really no clear cut answer. My largest concern has been what seems like constant fatigue and body aches. Yes, those are symptomatic of a depressive episode, of which I am especially prone to. The doctor asked me, “Well, you tell me that you are a mother, you work, you go to school, you are a wife, and you are responsible for domestic duties. Consider the amount of stress you are under and your lifestyle in general.”

I have considered those things.

Breaking It Down
Let’s take a tour through my average day. I wake up and am solely responsible for getting my son out of bed, dressed, fed, and ready for the day. Three days a week, we have either Occupational Therapy, Developmental Therapy, or Speech Therapy. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder and likely Pervasive Development Disorder. But he’s too young to have a definitive Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

We do that, get him off to the babysitter, and then I have to make the mad dash to get ready and out the door for the hour commute to work. Then, there’s the whole matter of navigating Port Authority, Pittsburgh’s “premiere” public transportation system. For those of you who live in or near the city, I’m sure you’ve had at least one memorable encounter. Like when the bus was especially early or incredibly late. We all know this doesn’t work when there’s a connection in town. And in most cases, there is. It’s always a nightmare.

Honestly, work is the most enjoyable experience in my day. It’s mostly stress free. There are usually two or three teachers per classroom, which makes behavior management so much easier. Most of my students come in focused, enthusiastic, and ready to learn. And all of them are loving and affectionate toward me, much like I am toward them. My boss is great. She’s a very hands off boss who trusts her employees to run their own classrooms. My co-workers are hilarious and warm. Everything about that place feels like home and family.

This is not to say there aren’t problems. My students still have behavioral difficulties. Sometimes, I do have co-workers that rub me the wrong way or interfere in my lesson more than they should. New policies are implemented that I don’t like. And my boss doesn’t always give me gold stars. It’s just like any other workplace. The only exception is that I like what I do, the people I do it with, and where I do it. Makes it a little easier to bear.

Another hour to an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the babysitter’s. We go home and I get to cleaning and cooking. My husband comes home, we eat, and then the rest of the night, it’s up to me to care for our son.

And that’s my day. I usually have a couple of hours to fight sleep because that is the only time available for me to unwind. Sometimes, I just pass out from exhaustion.

Doesn’t sound like much to some of you, huh? I’m sure there are a decent number of readers that will scoff and say, “I do waaaay more than that in a day.” Yes, you likely do. And that is the core to this.

Adding It Back Up
Bipolar Disorder or too stressful of a lifestyle? Or both? Could it be possible that I take on more than I, personally, can?

Which brings me to the core of this. I get a lot of flack for not living up to expectations, or what others perceive to be “laziness”. And I think to myself, “Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I take on everything without having a breakdown?” Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t.

What I exampled above it only scratching the surface. I’m not going to go into a novel sized, pity-party sounding recount of every single snag in my life. Just add in all of the incidentals. A large unexpected bill, a tough toddler day, a rough patch in my marriage, a hard day at work, family troubles, financial difficulty, etc, etc. You can draw from your own experiences and know that there is much, much more.

Honestly, why can’t I perform all of the tasks and duties required of me? It doesn’t sound very complicated. Although, to me, it is. So I push myself harder. I medicate myself more, because I am convinced that my lacking is a result of my dysfunction.

In Reality?
Which is which? Can people without disorder handle everything? Or is this deficit actually a result of dysfunction? And if it is, can medication actually resolve that?

Or is it the reverse? The dysfunction is caused by overload and can only be resolved by reduction in responsibility and stress through delegation. And how do you go about telling people, “I need help. I can’t handle my life.”?

Shifting Gears

For the last two days, I have had the pleasure of describing to you bipolar depression through my very own eyes.  However, there has been a sudden shift.  And I’m actually terrified, for the first time, by a mood swing associated with my illness.

I know the signs.  I’ve been tracking them carefully for the last two years, meticulously recording them in journals.  I generally know the rhythm too.  A depressive episode will surely follow a manic episode.  That doesn’t not mean that I cannot have two depressive episodes in a row, but there is often a moratorium, varying in length that punctuates these episodes.  I have never experienced what I am experiencing now.

Yesterday, I described that the mood was lifting, little by little.  By midnight, I wasn’t tired.  It’s not too uncommon.  I’ve been known to pull longer evenings up until about 2 am.  But 2 am came and went and I was wide awake.  3 am passed without another thought.  I was caught in a flurry of ideas and determined to get them into some semblance of existence before they scurried away.  I wanted to share these ideas.  Yes, in the middle of the night.  4am came and I had to try to sleep.  I laid there, and laid there.  Finally, sleep came.

I jumped out of bed at 9am.  And for the first time in a very long time, I was ready to take on the world.  Although I was a little groggy at first, I was not at all missing the lost hours.  I was up for any challenge.  I felt like I was on top of the world!  I could finally finish everything I started and do everything that I never thought that I would find the time for.  I would spend time with my family and clean the house and cook dinner and… on and on.  I went to work with great enthusiasm for my students today and a firm hand at disciplining them.  I was in control.  I could do anything!

It hit me at about noon, when I wasn’t getting the least bit tired.  This may be the start of a manic episode.  The pieces were all there.  It was just up to me to put the picture together.

I often dread manic episodes when I see them coming.  I know that a debilitating depressive episode is on it’s way if the manic episode is particularly intense.  But once I’m in it, I don’t think of any of that.  I don’t think about tomorrow.  Nothing bad can happen to me.  Because I can handle it.  I can handle anything that comes my way.  And I’ll do it all while being charming and looking fabulous.  Besides, things, no matter how bleak, always seem to find a way to work out.  I can work it out without a doubt.

Reality ceases to exist in a manic episode.  Everyone is my best friend.  All new experiences are good experiences.  I require constant stimulation, and usually in the form of some creative outlet or though exchanging of ideas or information.  I become impulsive.  I’ll go somewhere for no reason.  I’ll call someone I haven’t talked to in ages for no reason. I’m so creative and alive!  I’M FINALLY ALIVE!

There’s rarely a downside to my manic episodes because they are usually hypomanic in nature.  I don’t gamble because I think it’s a waste of money.  I have the impulse to shop, but there’s never any money in my bank account anyway.  Sometimes, I’m hypersexual, but I won’t jeopardize my marriage if my husband isn’t willing to cooperate.  Sometimes I fantasize about it.  But that doesn’t hurt.  Usually, I just take care of business by myself.  It’s enough to tide me over until I can get the hubby to give in.

That’s not to say that there aren’t downsides at all.  If I am manic and in an extremely elevated mood, I have the tendency to become very irritable.  Especially when things start going wrong or someone tries to make me feel bad or antagonize me.   Believe me, it doesn’t take much.  And that’s when the impulsiveness becomes a problem.  I find myself compelled to do unreasonable things.  I’m pretty pissed at my husband right now.  We had a fight.  I’ll leave it at that.  He unfairly blames me and criticizes me.  I have a list a mile long for you, buddy.  I want to wake him up and pick a fight.  I want to start a riot.  I want to take a stand and pull out the couch downstairs so he can see that I’d rather sleep on a fold out couch than be remotely near him because I’m so disgusted.  I want to force these issues that he desperately wants to avoid.  Especially, my illness and our son’s special needs.  I want to get back at him for all of the times he made me feel bad and made my depression deepen.  I want to cut him out so that I don’t have to deal with his shit anymore.

I won’t.  I might if it keeps up.  Or if this manic episode gets any worse.  I don’t suppose that it will.  If it’s mixed, and I suspect that it might be, then I’ll be back in the throws of depression tomorrow.  But in the meantime, I’m not going to let him take me down.  I’m sick of it.  He’s a selfish. self-absorbed, arrogant, bastard-coasted bastard with bastard filling.  And one way or another, he will pay.

See?  Just two days ago I wouldn’t have been saying that.  I would’ve been moping and crying about how he yelled at me.  And how I love him and if he’s supposedly loves me, then why doesn’t he recognize my illness and why does he do things to make it worse?  I would’ve been trying to work it out instead of starting a war campaign.

We’ll see where this goes.  I love mania.  It helps me do all of the things I want, be a super person, and do the things I can’t when I’m just me.  And that’s what makes it dangerous.