Yesterday I came to the swift conclusion that I needed to take something of an emergency mental health day today.
Working full time again for the first time in over a year has definitely given me the opportunity to take a more in-depth look at my relationship with working. I mean, I’ve known for a while that it is something that I struggle with… but why is that exactly? What is it that seems to be holding me back from being able to function like anyone else at work?
Is it the mood swings? The blips of psychosis? My reaction to stress? The social aspect? Being unable to perform the work itself?
As it turns out, it doesn’t look like there is one simple answer, or just one aspect of bipolar disorder or anxiety that is causing the real problem. The real issue is a columniation of several things, which is what has been making my attempt to counterbalance it so difficult.
1. Obsessive Thinking
Once I get a thought in my head, it can be very, very difficult to let go of it. Usually the more upsetting the thought, the more difficult it is to drop. I think this fact is one of the major reasons I was tagged with the diagnosis of OCD as a teenager.
Think of it like this, my mind is like an Etch A Sketch, and where most people can draw a nice angular picture and then shake the Etch A Sketch to erase it, mine is more like those old Etch A Sketches that have less of that magical erasing “dust” inside that erases the picture. So when I shake mine, the image is still there.
I might shake the Etch A Sketch until I’m blue in the face, but it takes a seriously long time to erase anything… and once I do, it is the sort of erasure where the outline is still visible, and the image lingers while another is drawn over the top of it.
So, I’ve gotten a lot better at recognizing this happening, and just full on “willing” myself to let go of these thoughts, but the best I can really do to hit a reset button here is to leave whatever I’m doing, do something else, and replace that thought with a new one.
I have had situations at work where this is easily done, but I have now had others where I have not been able to “erase” these negative sorts of thoughts (or re-analyzing something over and over again) and they’ve followed me home, through sleep, and back to work again.
2. Out of Proportion Reactions
What I noticed yesterday is that if, by some miracle, I can erase the sort of obsession I’m having over an event or conversation or task, my mind is put somewhat at ease, but everything the obsession was masking comes through with full force.
If I’m upset by something that I am obsessing about, and then manage to stop obsessing, what’s left are all of the out of proportion emotional reactions that went with the situation that upset me.
This is where the whole bipolar thing really starts to step in.
And unfortunately, a situation that would cause person A to be upset is usually one that will cause me to not only be upset, but trigger something of a landslide of intense, inappropriate emotions.
This what how I wound up yesterday in the midst of one of the wonkiest mixed moments I think I’ve ever had.
3. The Social Game
I am an avid Survivor fan, and I would say there are few places that similarly challenge a person’s social skills the way a corporate office does.
Right off the bat, offices make me uncomfortable. Cubicles, and all that. But once there are people in those cubicles, it is like Sarah kryptonite.
I’ve been trying my best to contend with interacting with a lot of people every day, but many of these people have their own agendas. In addition, many of them do not know of my sensitivity to meandering gossip and bullshit, let alone some of the uncomfortable, inappropriate things I’ve heard… so the more I am there, the more frequently I am triggered by upsetting topics or situations.
It becomes very difficult, then, to forget the upsetting content (obsessive thinking) and the emotions triggered by them create something of a new beast, a stand-in for me… who is somehow both rude and vulnerable, and might shout anything without warning. I become quite alienating after getting riled up, and that adds another layer to the complexity to the issue. I become alienating, people do not like me, and when I return a day or two later, back to being your average joe, ready to act as if nothing ever happened, the mood in the room has drastically changed.
Then, people don’t want to be around me. They don’t want to get lunch or talk or get coffee. In a lineup, they pick everyone except me, and I find myself on the sidelines.
Which is upsetting. And starts the whole roller coaster over again.
For me, tight deadlines and having a lot of work to do is pressure. Having to delegate to a bunch of people who don’t like me… now that’s stress. Pressure is something that I tend to handle ok, but stress is another story entirely.
4. Function Loss
By the time I reach something akin to yesterday’s mixed episode, my ability to do my work goes out the window.
When I was having that manic episode a couple weeks ago, my memory suddenly decided it just wasn’t going to work, and I found myself in a number of pickles trying to pick up the pieces of everything that was happening around me.
And I mean that very seriously, I measured the same hat about 20 times and still couldn’t figure out what I was doing, even after having spent the weeks leading up to that point doing what I needed to correctly.
Yesterday it took everything I had to keep from crawling up under my desk to take a nap, I had a huge energy drain (followed by an energy spike, and another energy drain and spike) and I could hardly keep my eyes open.
Forgetting how to do my job (or being so out of whack I can’t complete tasks) is something that really scares me because it is something I seem to have no control over.
So, to anyone curious as to how my work is being effected, this is something of a quick and dirty breakdown. Really, this is simply me trying to understand what the obstacles are to help formulate the best plan I can to try to take them on. At this point, what I’m facing in the social arena spans far beyond what I mentioned here, but today is meant to be a relaxing day so I’m opting to forgo writing about it.
I feel like it is important for me to find a way to do what I realistically can do. This job may not exactly be realistic, but I don’t think I’m in a position yet to figure that out.
Still gathering data, and… you know. Werkin.