Let me be me

Coping with bipolar at work is difficult. Rage, memory loss, fatigue and tears are my downfall in others’ eyes. Because I have a problem with rage I try to not talk at all. I’ve had many complaints and sat in the manager’s office far too often. So, if my mouth is closed maybe nothing will slip out. I won’t have the chance to offend or confuse. If I want to stay out of trouble, if I want to keep my job, I need to keep my mouth shut.

Keep your mouth shut

Keep your mouth shut

Keep your mouth shut

is my daily mantra to avoid exhibitions of rage.

Crying is seen as a ‘weakness’ so I cannot let the tears slip out. I cannot go to the bathroom and cry. The reaction to red eyes and nose would draw a collective eye-rolling and I’m ignored for the remainder of the day. So I lock the sorrow in my throat, where it seeps and brews until the drive home. I often wonder what other drivers must think of me, sobbing and snivelling in peak hour traffic.

Memory loss is humiliating and costly. I make big mistakes that result in financial loss. It could one day cost me my job. I have to keep a diary of my day to day, minute by minute work output, not only to cover my back, but to act as a reminder of what I have and haven’t done. I have a checklist taped to my desk, ticking off the tasks one by one. There is also a white board to one side. This white board is a graphic representation of my check list. I have to draw pictures, like a child, of the elements of my workload. And I have to tick off this check ‘list’ too. Despite all this, I still forget. Then I want to cry. But I can’t. Then I feel angry, but I can’t afford to.

I live in constant fear of losing my job, suppressing every emotion along the way. Constant restraint. It’s exhausting. Not a comfortable way to spend 8 hours daily. Its not healthy either. But I have bipolar and this is how I have to behave at work in order to keep my job to keep a roof over my head, a medical aid, medications, and a full tummy. I wish I could be myself. Just for a while. With no apologies. Just for a while.

-3 Doors Down (Let Me Be Myself)


Isolated by rage and stigma

This has been a difficult week for me. I want to say traumatic but some people would think I’m being overly dramatic. I am having problems with an internet service provider. I have been verbally abused, intimidated, dodged, transferred from one department to the other and lied to. Repeatedly. My complaints go unanswered by the company, even though I’m well within my legal right and could actually sue them.

In judgement of rage

So naturally suffering from bipolar rage, I had a blowout [here] but the resulting fallout is I have plummeted into depression. I mean, I was depressed to begin with. Now this. And my co-workers think I’m a lunatic. This is what they told me – I didn’t handle the situation properly;  I should have spoken nicer, acted better and if I had done those things I would have received a better response. But if I receive a phone call from the company and I am screamed at right off the bat and not given a chance to talk, OF COURSE I’M GONNA SCREAM BACK. I still asked this woman “are you intimidating me”? Her reply was “Yes. I am intimidating you”. How am I going to respond to that? Of course I’m going to get fucking angry.

I feel powerless. About the situation and in an emotional sense. Which in and of itself is distressing and hopeless. I don’t know where the line is between passive or aggressive. I swing to either extremes without ever finding a calm, cool foothold in the middle. I get the feeling I’m not allowed to be angry… ever….  That my anger is dismissed – oh, she’s not getting angry because she has just cause to be, but because she’s ‘bipolar’. Does that make any sense?

When living in the real world

I am entitled to get angry when someone is being unjust with me. But why am I the only one held accountable, blamed? Why has no one said – that saleswoman was a bitch; good for you for standing up for yourself; asserting your rights? No, the finger is pointed squarely in my direction. I am the one at fault! I have behaved inappropriately. And I have to sit surrounded by these judgements and assumptions all day long.

I feel ‘less than’ my co-workers because I react differently, because I have bipolar. I feel invisible, diminished, judged, shamed, inferior, incapable, truly disabled and barely tolerated. I am overshadow by self-doubt, paranoia and self-loathing with a mix of suicide ideation. Its a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario to live in their world. When I’m myself, I’m accused of being awful. And when I’m silent I’m accused of not participating. So I try not to exist. I would rather retreat into silence. If I don’t open my mouth, I will not ripple the water. I thought yesterday counted for something. But it didn’t. Stigma is still alive and well because I am living and working amongst it. I can literally say, I have been silenced by stigma.

Rage episode brings about advocacy

Today has beaten me. I’m black and blue and trailing blood.


The culprit? Another rage episode. That’s what my doc calls it – a rage episode. This is my worst symptom second only to insomnia. At work I am rather notorious in the temper arena, in the past having been called in by management for numerous accounts of “unacceptable behaviour”. I’ve worked very hard on strategies to temper that temper, but it would appear my current instability has breathed new life into it. My biggest trigger is when I feel something unfair or unjust is being done to me. Which is what happened to me today while dealing with an internet provider.

Advice isn’t always a bipolar fit

But ordinary folk don’t understand this side of bipolar – the uncontrollable rage. They offer advice (or judgment depending on the person). Suggestions of:

all you need to do is ….xyz
maybe if you this…..
or maybe if you didn’t do that…….
you don’t have to get so upset
it’ll blow over in the morning….
just put a smile on your face
its not bad, you’re blowing it out of proportion…..
maybe if you spoke nicely…..
remember you attract more bees with honey…….

After the unexpected outburst I disappeared into the toilets to cry, giving opportunity for my co-workers to talk about me. You know that abrupt silence mid-conversation as you walk through the door? Yep, I’m already deeply ashamed, and now I’m marginalised. I felt demolished by the whole incident. But I took a deep breathe, apologised for my behaviour and, punctuated by crying-hiccups, tried to explain triggers and episodes in this particular instance.

Once the dust had settled

I tried to explain ME. That I don’t enjoy behaving in an inappropriate manner; that its not something I choose. I explained I have strategies in place to prevent being put into those triggering situations, but sometimes things in life pop up and are beyond the containment of my strategies. I tried to explain that I couldn’t follow their advice because my brain simply doesn’t work that way. I ended the conversation with – I don’t choose it, it’s just the way I am.

They seemed sympathetic and I can only hope that what I said brought about a better understanding of ME, and a greater tolerance of bipolar disorder. So despite the bruises, bumps and lumps of a traumatic day, there came an opportunity to advocate for bipolar. I hope I did us proud.


In the wake of rage

*trigger warning – a long post, lots of words – ADD/ADHD sufferers may be excused. Peppered with ‘vulgar’ language*

Rage. It’s a core bipolar symptom that greatly impacts my life. It’s rarely spoken about, much like hypersexuality, because it is a symptom shrouded in shame, humiliation, remorse and regret. This post has been difficult to write, difficult to face and all the more difficult to post. I’m airing my dirty laundry for all the internet to see. I hope this post can educate the uniformed friend/parent/spouse/partner/work colleague/manager or innocent bystander, and can provide validation for anyone else who also struggles with rage.

A strategy sidelined
Managing this illness involves having strategies to avoid triggers. I knew my old landlord would find some way to not pay back my deposit. I knew this because he had revealed himself to be a lying, cheating, bullshit speaking conman. In anticipation of moving day I knew his behaviour would trigger my own. I had a perfectly good strategy – since my father kept insisting on helping me move, I gave him the job of outgoing inspection and key handover. I briefed him on the lack of maintenance and the risk that I would fly into a rage should I have to deal with that man. But when the day came, my father, in all his controlling glory, insisted I be present. I was raised by him to be codependent, a people-pleaser and compliant, so I did what I was told. Old habits die hard.

The landlord began talking. About 3 words in, I lost my shit COMPLETELY. When that rage breaks the surface, I’m not expecting it. I don’t anticipate it. There is no thought behind what I say or how I behave. It just projectile vomits out my mouth with a will of its own. And once the fury has been unleashed, I don’t really remember much of what I say. But it has been said and the damage is done. I know it frightens people, I can see that. I know it’s abusive because I’ve seen the damage. I am most certainly not proud of myself.

Shame and blame
My father witnessed this rage episode in all its filthy, dirty glory and things will never be the same again. By the time we got back to the car I was still ranting about what an asshole the landlord was. My father turned on me and screamed “For fucksake Pieces, shut the fuck up!”. My father doesn’t swear. I apologised several times over the course of the following week. I tried to explain that what he saw was a symptom. I was desperate, I was grovelling. For his forgiveness, for his love, for his acceptance. All I got was The Silent Treatment. Then exactly a week later he sent me this text:

Hi Pieces. I don’t think you can comprehend just how traumatised I was when I witnessed your totally unacceptable behaviour towards M(landlord) on the day you moved. It actually was a shock hearing MY daughter use such abusive language. I acknowledge that I “lost it” (due to the fact that you continued with the vulgar language [sorry to butt in here, but I never once used the word CUNT so I don’t understand where he gets ‘vulgar’ from] and in turn I swore at you, which I regret and apologise for. All this has not been easy for me to put behind me, but time is a great healer, so let’s move on now.

Let’s move on? LET’S FUCKING MOVE ON? Maybe he’s the one with bipolar because that sure as shit sounds fucking delusional! And speaking of traumatised? WHAT ABOUT ME? YOUR OWN DAUGHTER? YOUR ONLY CHILD? You’ve abused and traumatised me my entire fucking life!!!!!!!!!!! Oops I did it again – was that vulgar? Anyway, detach, detach, detach. I carefully considered my response and went with:

Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Sleep tight x

No apologies for my biology
In the wake of rage I feel deeply ashamed, remorseful, embarrassed, guilty, confused. So if you love me, don’t blame and shame me. I do enough of that to myself already. On my About page I say “I offer no apology for my own biology”. While there’s no excuse for my behaviour, because strategies can easily avoid the trigger – which I happen to do successfully at work. The one thing I will not do, is apologise for behaviour that is a concrete symptom of an illness that is beyond my control. Who tells a tuburculosis patient to stop coughing! Or someone with a broken leg to stop using crutches? Or a cancer patient undergoing chemo to stop losing their hair? Bipolar is not a choice, it’s a genetic illness. Symtoms are not a choice. They are part of a complex neurobiological disease. Apologising for exhibiting this symptom, in my opinion, is expecting me to apologise for having blue eyes, a different accent, being righthanded, having brown hair or being knocked-kneed.

I had warned him. But he insisted on doing things his way – it’s always his way or the highway. This disaster could have been avoided. I had a strategy. I thought I had a voice. But as is with my father that voice is never heard. I complied and chaos ensued. And he lays the blame squarely at my feet because he is ignorant and uneducated about my illness. Well he chose his way for the last time, and I’m hittin’ the highway. My pleasing days are over. I don’t want his ‘love’ or approval. The cost is too high. I have plenty of people who like me just the way I am. Well, maybe not plenty, but enough.

But god’s honest truth be told, I AM ashamed. I’m deeply ashamed of the person I become when rage overtakes. Which is why this piece of me was so difficult to reveal.


I am a human being
capable of doing terrible things


Let me explain the madness

Firstly, I’m sorry I’ve had you all concerned about my wellfare (again). Ohmygod when is this chick gonna get her shit together! Well, probably never. But you were all there for me during my meltdown and I thank you for putting up with me and loving me no matter what. As of right now, I’m good. I have a strategy, the emotional crisis is over, and hopefully I can shed some light on what went down that had me so derailed.

Let’s start at the beginning. I wrote this poem last night, never expecting the shit to hit the fan this morning.

The Landlord

you call me ‘needy’?
you seedy little man
with your doomsday prepper plans
and your hens and your chickens
your unacknowledged fear that sickens
you are greedy and sleazy, and your text messages are leery

you think you have power?
you’ve never seen a bipolar shower rage against your misbehave
you creepy little runt
friendliness all a front
for what you stand to gain
lording over your domain
you are tight-fisted and your image of me is twisted

you’ve pegged me wrong ‘cos I am strong
don’t underestimate my fight
my bark is silent compared to my bite


Before the shit hit the fan

Crime in South Africa is horrific. I’m sure our reputation recedes this preamble. A favourite criminal pastime is carjacking. As you arrive at your driveway, the crooks jump out the bushes, and feel nothing to kill you in exchange for your car. So every homeowner/renter has an automatic gate and a clear verge. As you approach your driveway you press your little remote, the gate opens, and you swoop into the safety of your property unscathed.

Meet my landlord:
He’s a doomsday prepper, ex-cop negotiator turned real-estate agent (bullshitter) who claims to own many properties. He claims he can sum up a person in the first 10 seconds of meeting them, a super power courtesy of his super duper police negotiator skills . His ‘professional’ judgement – Lover is a narcissist (duh) and apparently I’m needy.

(He first met me when I was going through venlafaxine withdrawal.  So that’s obviously what going through the withdrawal looks like – needy. Hmm, yesss, needy to vomit, neeeedy to shit myself, neeeedy to scratch at the imaginary bugs on my arms. Yes, neeeeedy)

I’ve been living here for 5 months now and my firsthand experience with him is, he’s controlling and likes to play mind games. My gut finds him creepy, overfamiliar and bordering on inappropriate. He is tight-fisted and won’t spend money to fix ANYTHING. He’ll drag it out for as long as possible. He is a LIAR. And I DESPISE liars. He dodges things, selective in what he does and doesn’t do. I’ve been asking for a copy of my lease since I moved in and…. nothing.

There were two main problems discovered on settling in here:
-electrical fault with the lights – fire danger. Took him 3 months with much hounding to get it fixed.
-automatic gate kept getting stuck, personal safety danger. Well, the gate is now so bad it doesn’t open at all. I have to park my car in the road, walk up the drive, making sure there’s no evil lurking in his jungle of a verge, and wrestle with the gate to get it open. Its heavy and hard to manhandle. And then when I work late, do this in the dark. Lovely

For FIVE MONTHS NOW, he’s had me like a donkey with a carrot on a string – promises, quotes, ordering parts. But lately its been excuses “too expensive” and “its not in my budget”. Now for a bipolar with a penchant for rage? I’ve been very fucking patient thus far.

So the issue at hand is my personal safety. Let’s talk hijacking. If I’m hijacked and they happen to kill me…. need I say, you all know I’m suicidal… you know where I’m going with this. BUT, while its not in his budget to fix his rent-paying tenant’s gate, its not in my fucking budget to have my car stolen AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I TOLD HIM TODAY.… after I broke a perfect good pair of fucking shoes trying to open his fucking stupid gate. I was pulling and pushing so hard, I PULLED THE SOLES OF MY SHOES RIGHT OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!


Aaaand there goes the shit hitting the fan

I shouted for him over the fence. No response. I send texts. No response. Only when I was at work did I receive a response that he demands a meeting with me to “set some things straight”. Let’s add to his personal traits that HE’S A FUCKING COWARD AND A BULLY. I phoned him. My friend was with me, she said I did everything right. There will be no meeting. I told him he intimidates me and I just want a copy of my lease and the gate fixed. He’s lied about the terms of the lease. Originally it was a 12 month lease. Now he says its a month to month ie if I don’t like the gate I must fuck off. Which is exactly what I’m gonna do. My oath to god, I signed a 12 month lease. When Lover left me with this rental its been the biggest problem for me. And now he changes the rules. Because it suits him.  All this time I’ve been struggling AND HE KNEW IT, and now he tells me oooooh no, its a month to month.  If I’d known that I would have left months ago.  Also, I felt it was a veiled threat that he wants to evict me.  I said “so are you saying you want me gone” and all he would reply was “I can’t say that”????? What kinda answer is I “can’t” say that? Well, my world fell apart.  Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and had a great fall.  But with a little help from my friends and Linkin Park today, Pieces has been put back together again.  I will be moving in with my friend in August until I can find a LOVELY place to stay.


Moral of the story

I am done with men (ab)using and controlling me for their own agendas. He wanted me to be needy for the benefit of his own ego. So he could be the knight in rusty armour (its not in his budget to buy polish to shine his armour) that would ‘rescue’ me. But that’s not who I am. And we discussed ‘who am I’ in therapy today.


Wishes for a kinder year

May your bipolar not consume you
May your mania be worthwhile
May your nights not be too sleepless
And your rage not volatile

May your depression leave not linger
May your meds respond in style
May your anxiety release its grip
And leave you with a smile

May the train always stop at your station
May the taxi be on time
Your chocolate never melted
And no one tell you “but you look just fine?”

Here’s to breathing, hoping and above all coping. May 2016 be a year that is kind.

Pardon me, some rage slipped out

I finally burrowed out of my dark flat into the brightness of the real world today. To go shopping. At a (dreaded) shopping mall.

Skinny people everywhere

Skinny people everywhere


Between the plastic manequins draped with the latest skinny fashions, the traumatic change rooms and the queue’s, I never try anything on. I cross my fingers and hope it fits. Wandering aimlessly, I can’t imagine fitting into that streamlined dress, or that cotton top, or that jersey, t-shirt, jacket……. My eating disorders ricochet inside my head. Convinced I resemble a starving Etheopian with Kwashiorkor, I gave up, my mood low and my feet aching.

My round pot belly is out of proportion to the rest of my body

My round pot belly is out of proportion to the rest of my body


But I needed one of those one terabyte thingies. The salesman tells me the special’s sold out. I look at him, waiting for options. He looks back at me, blinking. I say, well don’t you have any in the back? He goes off and returns with an older gentleman who tells me the same thing, madam we are out of stock, but you can take this one instead. And the genius points to a more expensive brand. Oh, for the same price though, I enquire. He says no. I say, well then that’s not a choice, you are forcing me to purchase the more expensive brand. He says, sorry we’re out of stock, his gaze shifts into the distance and he starts picking his nose.

WELL, my brain goes ENGAGE RAGE. I have a vague recollection of loud words coming hot and fast off my tongue while waving my hands above my head in a muddy impression of “Cheaters vs Jerseylisious”. I ranted about Mr Big Corporation preying on the General Consumer, we’re a ‘lamb to the slaughter’ being reduced to impotent victims yadda yadda . I know I stamped my foot at one point. That sent the first saleman running, yes running like Usain Bolt, away from me and to the safe enclave of his fellow colleagues a few feet away.

Even I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of my rage

Even I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of my rage



But I did need the terabyte thingie. So I cursed the older salesman who had by this stage taken his finger out his nose and was staring at me with a slack jaw. I don’t recall what else I shouted, but the fiasco finished off with a Shame on you, SHAME ON YOU, dressing down to the older salesman, before I wobbled away, shaking, jerking, twitching, to the cashier.

This is why I don’t like shopping. Between the change room lighting, people pushing and bumping, long queue’s and sore feet, keeping vigilant for pick-pocketers, my tolerance wears thin, triggers start popping, and all it takes is a salesman absentmindedly fingering his nose, to set me off.


A public expression of madness

As we were getting ready to leave work today, the new girl stated that she is scared of me. I frighten her is what she said “…I don’t ever wanna get on your bad side… what I’m saying is I don’t ever want to get in a fight with you”.

angry woman


I am absolutely destroyed by this observation, simply because its not the first time I’ve heard it. My aggression has frightened friends, family members, co-workers. Even an innocent stranger, bank clerk or cashier is not immune to the force of my rage. I live in a small suburb and am slowly running out of places I can shop in. I’m too ashamed of my behaviour to return to those places that have born witness to previous outbursts. ‘Cos believe me, they’ll remember me, and probably call Security.

It comes out of N-O-W-H-E-R-E. There is no build-up of irritation. Snap your fingers – that’s how quick it is. Something flips, and I become someone I don’t recognise. My medications have affected my ability to find/remember words, to express myself fluently. But in my aggressive state, words fly out of my mouth with agility and speed.


Present in the moment, is a separate part of me shocked and wondering what the hell just happened? Logically going “WTF Pieces! What’s happening, how are you talking so fast, stop being so nasty, turn around, walk away before its too late, runnnnnn, runnnnnn Pieces, run! But its always too late.

temperA heavy weight of shame follows an outburst of rage. I have verbally assaulted and abused someone. Nothing, even bipolar, justifies my vile behaviour. My meds have systematically been increased over the years in an attempt to quell the public expression of madness. I don’t experience the rage as often as I used to, but… it’s still there… lurking in the dark, waiting …..

And set loose it was today, apparently. A work colleague and I had a brief exchange. And now I have frightened the new girl. On more than one occasion I’ve been called into the manager’s office to address my “unacceptable behaviour”. And now I’m worried sick about tomorrow. I’m constantly worried about loosing my job. Honestly, the safest thing for me at work is to just not talk.

Does anyone else have difficulty with this symptom? I’d love to hear from you….

They’re ba-aaack!

False alarm! They’re alive! My feelings are aliveeeeeeeee!

I won’t bore you with details, but, needless to say I was a little (possibly alot) overcome by my newly court-declared ‘divorced’ status. I think I just went numb for a while, a bit depressed. Maybe my feelings were ‘amputated’ to preserve the state of my psyche. Dunno. But that’s the diagnosis I’m going with.

Rest assured, today has seen a fresh batch of drizzly tears, steaming anger, jokes and giggles. All within a 45min period………no, just joking. Not. Yes, I am. Not…..no, I’m kidding. Okay, I’ll stop the silliness…..seriously. The morning started with me in tears signing the house over to Mr X, the nice conveyancing lady gently patting me on the knee.

Lunchtime had me telling my friend my woes. She told me I was lucky, not many people get a second chance. That I need to grab hold of this new beginning and embrace it. Do all the things I’ve wanted to do. She encouraged me to let go of the fear, and really live. At first I wanted to give her a swift kick in the chops. But… she’s my best friend. And…..she’s my ONLY friend. She’s also the type of friend that tells me what I need to hear, even when she knows I don’t want to hear it. And I’m the type of friend that understands she’s doing it because she loves me, and wants the best for me. And anyway, she always right. So butt kicking bypassed, we moved on to jokes and giggles.

Just before hometime saw me seething with rage. Just work stuff, nothing important. But that rush of white-hot blood and adrenaline had me all shaking-hands, wobbly-head angry. And it was with that, that I knew my feelings were alive again. Long may they last!