How do they do it?

How do they do it? The ones with demanding and successful careers? The people with bipolar disorder who are surgeons and paediatricians, marketing managers and teachers, nurses and truck drivers. How do they manage their life? How do they juggle their illness plus the side effects of their medication plus their jobs that require a specific set of highly demanding skills, recollection and fine motor skills? How the bloody hell?

I could never be a surgeon, a welder or a make-up artist. My hands shake too much. You should see me in the bathroom in the mornings. I’m a nightmare drawing in my eyebrows. I’m a danger to myself wielding a mascara brush. And lipstick? No, we just won’t go there.

I could never be a pediatrician, a dentist or a mechanic. How do they remember the technicalities and details, so much information to be retained in order to do their job. How on earth could I be a bank teller or a hairdresser or the manager of an advertising agency when I can’t even remember what I did a half hour ago.

And a teacher? Forget it. I’d be so worried I’ll throw a rage in front of the students. And where do all of these professionals get their energy to be so industrious and accomplished? Granted I have a smidge of a demanding job, but by the end of Wednesday I’m exhausted. And I still have another 2 days to get through!

And please, where are all these accomplished bipolars with such successful work lives? Are they urban myths – I only hear about them secondhand from the boss of the accounts department whose uncle’s cousin’s friend’s father is a lawyer and he has bipolar disorder and he copes just fine. The only bipolars I personally know of are on disability and then there’s me, who claws and scrapes through each day like groundhog torture.

So I call bullshit to all these ‘well-informed’ ordinary folk who insult me by suggesting I could do better, work harder, smarter and that the world is my fucking oyster…. You’re a clever girl, you could do anything….. All I can say is, you don’t wanna KNOW what I think YOU can do.

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21 comments

  1. I hear you! I’ve had great jobs, a successful career, then bam! The Bipolar Monster rears its head, I lose my job…and have to start all over again. I even tried running my own business, but same old scenario! I would love to be successful, I know I’m clever, I know I’m good at my job but being Bipolar makes doing the job almost impossible long term, and I haven’t been able to work full time without a manic wind under me for years!

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      1. No definitely not alien…I had this exact conversation with my Husband yesterday in fact as I haven’t worked for 7 months and am freaking out about how I will cope when I go back!

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      2. That is a bit of a scary step. I’m doing loads better in my job now that I’m properly medicated. I think that’s all we can do. And we just take a deep breath and step out. One of my favourite mantra’s is – I’m the bravest person I know. Maybe repeat that to yourself when you start your new job?

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  2. I feel the same! Me 1.0 was an HR professional with a great career before bi-polar set in. Me now…can’t keep a job for more than 6 months and I’m barely making a living. The degradation of having to ask my son to help me pay bills…ugh. My thoughts are muddled, my memory is shot, and I shake badly as well. And I am quite tired of the bullshit pushing people around me who say I just need to TRY harder. They have no idea what this monster is like and what it and the meds do to me. UGH! Thank you for sharing. It is good for us all to know we are not alone. (((hugs)))

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    1. Oh I KNOW. That ‘try harder’ gets me! Thank you for your comment (and also for the reblog). I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to know it’s not just me. Instead of taking sick leave, I take a lot of my annual leave JUST TO SLEEP. I book a half day here, full day there. And in a strange way I feel even more pressured than everyone else as far as my behavior is concerned. It’s like because they know about it, I get called out for things others wouldn’t be. *sigh* such is life…..

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  3. How indeed is it done? Sometimes I can be up and about, barely sleeping, multitasking, scheduling post to last three months – but oh now, since August actually, I sometimes amaze my own self by my struggles to do even the mundane. Soon, another difficult transition again, I hope I make it really! Cheers to all in the house 🙂

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    1. You’ve been hard hit by the passing of your brother. I can imagine it takes a huge toll on you. I also work in cycles of energy but alas these days, I find myself getting beaten by the confusion. Thanks Marie, for your comment. Its reassuring to know someone else experiences the same difficulties

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  4. For me I call it a successful day when I function enough to get out of bed and actually go to my job. It’s not a particularly demanding or “successful” career choice, but it pays bills and I still have employment after 2 years (and many sick days off) at it.

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    1. I’m in exactly the same boat as you. By the weekend I’m so tired I sleep all day Saturday. And if I don’t do that, I pay for it the following week. Thank you so much for the comment. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone 🙂

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  5. I would love to know. I certainly can’t hold down a job, I barely manage a voluntary job one day a fortnight. I sometimes think the only way I will ever have a successful career is if I find something that can fit around the illness. How many jobs let you choose whatever hours you want, don’t mind delusional ramblings and let you have months off when you can’t face leaving the house though? I definitely have better control of the bipolar now and I do have some hope that one day I will be able to have the career I want but I’m not sure if I’m just fooling myself.
    I think the problem is that people talk about people with bipolar as a homogeneous group. The illness manifests in so many different ways. Some people rarely have episodes and are totally well in between. Maybe for those people a successful and demanding career is achievable but it is much harder for people with more severe and frequent episodes and less stability in ‘well’ periods. Then there are the co morbid illness, personality traits, levels of support received…

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    1. I LOVE the point you make. We’re not all the same so should never be compared with the boss’s uncle’s friend’s aunty Daphne who is a psychologist. Excellent, excellent! Thank you Lauren for shedding some new light on this for me 🙂 🙂

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  6. I LOVE what you wrote!!! I had a moderately successful career, but it seemed like I was always starting over. At times I was high-functioning, but I always ultimately sabotaged myself with my lack of emotional control. Losing my temper and burning bridges. Now, I don’t work at all and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do it again. So YEAH I totally understand what you’re talking about!!

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    1. I have to say, I often thought – what is wrong with me that I struggle so much with my job/I’m so tired etc. But we all seem to be in similar predicaments. You and Marie mention the ability for high functioning and then the wheels come off. That happens to me too. I’ve had more than a few meetings with the hobnobs and getting a dressing down for crying/anger. My greatest fear is losing my job. So I always feel like I’m walking a precarious tightrope. Thanks for you comments BF! 🙂 Its good to know I’m not the only one

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  7. When my illness is well managed, I can do anything … when it isn’t, I don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning! I think so much of what we do professionally becomes rote, so even in the worst of times we. can manage – probably even true for doctors, but it is a scary thought.

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    1. Ahhh! So it is not an urban myth afterall? It sounds like you could be one of the fortunate few who copes well professionally. For you, the post is a scary thought. For me its a reality. Oh well, who wants to have an urban myth anyway. Keep going strong 🙂

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