Accepting (And Accommodating) Bipolar Disorder’s Limitations
I am still learning to accept the limitations that come with this disorder––especially when it comes to my ability to work and my ability to remember important things.
As someone with Bipolar Disorder Type II, I am still learning to accept the limitations that come with this disorder. After working mostly full-time for 19 years, I decided to step down to part-time last year. Ultimately, except for the cut in pay, it was the best decision for myself and my family. Even though we are counting our pennies more carefully these days, I am much healthier and in a better place mentally.
In many ways, I have always struggled with working full-time. I work in a position where I help the public, and I’m also an introvert. These two factors often lead to my feeling exhausted, both physically and mentally. Mental health days were something I had to utilize at times, just to stay caught up on sleep, and to reset myself for work the next day. I am happy to say that since I went part-time last year I have not needed to utilize any mental health days. I did have to take time off in January and February due to having the flu and shingles, but I have been able to stay well enough that I have been able to avoid mental health days. This doesn’t mean that I won’t have to utilize them in the future, but for now I am coping well.
Another limitation that I am learning to cope with is problems with memory due to some of the medications that I take. This symptom can often make working a challenge. My coping mechanism for the difficulties that come with retaining information is repetition. I often have to re-read an email 10-12 times and then reference it again later when the situation presents itself. This is frustrating, but necessary in order for me to retain the information. I also take notes on things I know I will have to retain later and this can help as well. I am learning Portuguese now through an app, and I have to repeat the lessons at least six times before the information starts to sink in. One of the frustrating things that comes with this diagnosis is not being able to remember conversations I’ve had with people. I often find myself repeating the same things to the same person again – simply because I’ve forgotten that we’ve already had that conversation. This is a frustrating symptom since it makes it seem like I haven’t paid attention to the conversation. However this is a symptom that I am learning to laugh off and make light of, so it doesn’t depress me too much about my capabilities.
Natasha Tracy, author of the Bipolar Burble blog, as well as guest blogger for bphope.com wrote a piece about the limitations that come with being Bipolar entitled “You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be? I Don’t Think So (And Neither Does Bipolar)”. For me, at least for now, I am limited to working part-time. My goal is to use some of my free days to volunteer in the mental health community. I attend support group meetings. I have two very part-time online jobs that take up a few hours a month. I socialize regularly with supports, acquaintances and friends to help myself stay stable. I exercise 4-5 times a week. I take my meds. And I still have limitations. I’ve made the decision to remain child-free in order to keep my stress levels in check. I try to keep the drama out of my life and my marriage. I still have days where I’m in a black mood, but I keep my distance from my husband in order to prevent blowing up at him. It is a process, this staying stable, and I am still learning to accept my limitations.
I’d love to hear in the comments section what you feel are your limitations, and how you have learned to accept and cope with them. I will continue to push myself to learn new things, but I have now accepted that it will take me longer in order to do so. I work part-time and I am child-free but it’s okay because lots of people do. It is okay that I’m not like everyone else, and I am still accepting this a day at a time.