So I've been thinking about stress and how to minimize it-- particularly with respect to my job. While I am teaching I am not stressed. I know what I am doing, I am flexible, I have a plan, but can change based on the students in front of me. It is when I am doing all the OTHER things that don't involve teaching that things can get dicy. Especially when there has been some kind of change-- a new supervisor, new/different expectations etc.
The OFP (Once and Future Psychologist) commented that I have done a really good job of making things work for me-- so my bipolar has not been much of a problem. And she's right. Which is probably one reason it took a while to figure out.
I looked through recommendations from the Job Accommodation Network on how employers can support bipolar employees.
And here is what I realized. I have a lot of these accommodations built in to the job/s I have created with the help of my boss. She has been very supportive since before diagnosis.
Here's what I've got from her:
self-paced work load
work from home during part of day or week
part-time work schedule
provide positive praise and reinforcement
develop strategies to deal with problems as they arise
Here are the things I wish I had:
Reminders of important deadlines
Several calendars marking meetings and deadlines
Written job instructions (for team lead--not the teaching part)
Sensitivity training for coworkers and supervisors (not so much sensitivity, but information)
Being able to make up time missed (not always possible)
Recognize that change of supervisors may be difficult
I realized that with the change to the new Big Boss, who doesn't know me from Eve and whose first interactions with me were Very Stressful I have had some of the rug pulled out from under me.
I am terrified of making mistakes because I am sure they will cost me any future jobs there. The fact that EVERY SATURDAY I come forty-five minutes before class starts (paid for 15 of those minutes) does not make me feel any more secure about the one time I was five minutes late. And I'm pretty convinced that whenever Big Boss looks at me, that's what he remembers too.
I have missed meetings with him. During this last mixed bipolar state. And I have not been open with him about my bipolar because... I don't know him from Adam and I don't know how to talk to him about this. But I'm starting to think that maybe I should. If it would help him understand that when things are on an even keel I AM NOT A COMPLETE DOOFUS.
But here's the thing: I'm not sure that these accommodations are things that are helpful to me because of my bipolar disorder. I'm pretty sure that the whole time thing has just been chronic with me forever. And I kind of don't care whether it is bipolar related or not-- I really do need more help from some quarter staying on top of anything that is out of my ordinary work week.
I think what my plan should be is to talk with my boss and see what she thinks about talking to Big Boss and then maybe having a meeting with the three of us because she has known me forever and really respects my work and crap.
I think it's a plan.
A really scary plan.
took my meds (112.whatever mg of venlafaxine, 450mg bupropion, 150mg lamotrigine)
tap danced a tiny bit. nothing to write home about.
texted 2 friends. will see one tomorrow (although the other friend got pneumonia and had to be hospitalized just so I would respond to her texts-- which I think is overkill. I'm just saying.)
Grateful Crap: four-year-old sleeping on my knee. Earlier she said, "Mama, I like it when it's just you and me. Just the two girls. That's what you need to be peaceful. And NO TALKING!"
I went to pick up the daughter from a friends. I got out of my car, walked about ten yards down the sidewalk and heard a sickening CRUNCH. When I turned I saw that I had rear-ended a car backing out of the driveway. WHAT? How could I rear-end them? That's when I noticed that my car had been rear-ended by another car.
It was icy and cold and slippery and the poor child who hit my car was almost a brand spanking new driver who learned to drive in California and this was his first winter driving on snow. If I hadn't been weepy and weird from my trigger hourly teacher stuff I might have handled it better.
As it was I had no idea what to do. It was a pretty straightforward sharing of insurance information situation. And no one was hurt. And there really was minimal damage. Still, I was quite shaken and really not happy about driving.
So I made spouse drive me to and from my concert in downtown Minneapolis because I could not see myself successfully navigating rush-hour traffic and then parking and then finding my way to the convention center on time.
Then I gracelessly outed myself to some bandmates when they asked if I'd been out so long due to the flu or pneumonia or something.
All better today.
But I gotta say it was a very surreal car crash experience.
Note: have been super compliant with meds. If I forget to take them before I drop children at bus, I go home afterwards to get them before I go on my way.
112.5mg venlafaxine (minus a bunch of beads-- I have it marked on my calendar)
I was going to write about getting all pissy and anxiety-ridden about a meeting that started later than I expected it to, ran longer than it should have and managed to touch on some of my trigger hot-button issues.
Hot button: lack of contract
So, setting aside the fact that I love my job, I like the hours I am working now and the things I am able to do are totally awesome. And I like the people I work with (wow, that is setting aside an awful lot, but bear with me.) I would like a contract for the whole job stability, benefits, PTO and sick leave... but those aren't the parts that bother me the most. It's the intangible crap that sends me for a loop.
When I am triggered by my persistent status as an hourly employee here are some common themes that go on continuous repeat.
So as my anxiety levels amped up, I sat at the meeting getting sadder and sadder looking at one of the administrators who chose not to hire me. And then I removed my beaded cuff and rubbed the skin raw on my wrist.
Casualties of medication adjustments (in addition to the usual spaciness and whatnot)
Did no mean to not post for almost a week. But it turns out that when you increase your level of mood stabilizer it is not actually magic. Although it really did feel like magic when my mixed state evaporated following my increase by 50mg.
However, I would not say that I have been top notch. Not hypomanic, but more the other way. And I guess this makes sense as a balancing of the equation. Mixed states are considered a form of mania-- so perhaps swinging into a bit of Depression crap makes sense. It is not fun, but it makes sense.
This past weekend some things happened. Don't recall what they were. I think-- oh yeah! I started my new semester of my child development class. And I have more than 32 students and it is totally awesome. So I did have something of a teaching high after teaching.
So also Tuesday I "came out" to a few more of my colleagues-- which was a really good thing because they were completely confused about why I was sometimes WAY above and beyond prepared... and sometimes I just wasn't there (sometimes literally). They want to know what they can do to be supportive. Which is fantastic. Have I mentioned that I work with amazing people?
It is difficult to cope with the things I have missed. Difficult to face the people I have disappointed. Difficult to acknowledge that I screwed up and then recover from it. Much easier to quit. Much easier to say that clearly I can NEVER be counted on so I should leave before I get kicked out.
70ish mg venlafaxine (continuing to decrease bead by bead every day)
When I was an infertility patient, well-meaning people would inevitably tell me charming stories about people who had gotten pregnant just as soon as they had signed the adoption papers. STOP! I know that you are thinking of some story that you know and you want to tell me about it. DON'T. Seriously. It does not help to hear these stories. In fact it feels terrible.
The bipolar equivalent of this is well-meaning people who ask me to describe bipolar disorder... and after I have tried to do so they immediately conclude, "Hey, I must be bipolar too!" Because they can't stop cleaning until their kitchen is just right, too.
And I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "YOU ARE NOT!!!!" because really, what do I know about them? And I have no vested interest in being the only bipolar person around.
But I must say it is unlikely that 75% of the people I meet suffer from bipolar disorder.
It is just also really hard to describe bipolar II when my particular hypomanic symptoms just don't sound that bad. I clean things. I garden. I do projects. I stay up late. These hardly seem like pathological symptoms. But there is a qualitative and quantitative difference in my activities surrounding a hypomanic shift.
Indicators that my hypomanic stuff is not so under control:
people think I am on speed - or joke that they want to be on whatever I'm taking
compulsion to shop at thrift stores (because I am a cheap, Quaker, bipolar person)
aerobic house cleaning
panic about leaving the house
panic about being without spouse
inattention to time/calendars/deadlines
cannot be reached by phone/email/text
staying up super late
extremely irritated by irritating sounds
reading smutty romance novels
All of these things sound like character traits rather than symptoms. But the difference between regular (slightly speedy) me and hypomanic me is that I cannot stop. And my inability to stop is what makes it a hypomanic episode. So if I can stop, I am not hypomanic. Savvy?
Indicators that my Depression stuff is not so under control
people think I am a melancholy drunk - except they will never see me to think this
will not leave my bed
spend much time under the covers
prefer it to always be dark
inability to leave house
inattention to time/calendars/deadlines
cannot be reached by phone/email/test
not reading. at all.
lack of libido
going to bed super early
being extremely tired all day
cannot smile convincingly
crying jags for no reason
These symptoms are more obviously not okay and are more likely to be spotted by friends and family.
Indicators that I am looking at a mixed state
people think I am on PCP
speedier than hypomania
rapid speech (sometimes unintelligible)
stuttering, use of the wrong words or words out of order
irrational and dangerous thinking
risky behaviors seem like good plans
My best advice is-- on the occasions when someone tells you that they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder-- do not tell them you must be bipolar too. If you think you might be, just go talk to your doctor. If it turns out that you are, you can bond about your diagnosis later.
I'm just saying.
Took my meds
70mg venlafaxine (minus some beads every day)
I came through the other side of my first experience with a "bipolar mixed state" and now have a fair handle on how different that feels for me than "dysphoric hypomania."
In both cases I have felt driven to do things. And Have been not so happy while I am super high energy. But there are definite differences
The day that I was the most frightened of my mental state was this past Friday. I for some idiotic reason did not manage to call the psychiatrist's office. I was afraid they would tell me there was nothing they could do I think. Not rational. Go figure.
So instead I raised my dose of lamotrigine. Monday I called to receive blessing of psychiatrist for my med change. Tuesday I received blessing and new prescription for 150mg lamotrigine every night.
Note: I am now so terrified of the effect that decreasing the venlafaxine had on me that I am following the advice of some random person who posted on the internet that the best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms was to...
"Count the number of beads inside a capsule and every day decrease by one bead."
Spouse caught me trying to count all the beads so I could count out all the beads minus one. So throughout the month that I am taking 3 pills of venlafaxine for a day, each day my dosage will decrease by some teeny tiny amount. This way I won't ever have a sudden drop of 37.5mg
current meds: 70mg venlafaxine - 2 beads, 450mg bupropion,
Quaker, teacher, parent,