Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's happening again

It's showtime. It's time to call on those coping resources, May. You need to sort out the real and the fictional reactions in your brain, the rational and the chemically sparked. Take a deep breath, stay aware. Don't get pulled into the dark side of bipolar management. You aren't doing anything wrong, you can only control so much of what is coming, can be aware, bite your tongue, and above all else, you must rely on the data. Are you reacting to what is really happening? Are threats real or perceived? Look at the data, May. Don't let yourself react before you have monitored your own status.

Lisa said this would happen. She's been popping red flag warnings around my psyche for weeks, mostly because I am more than willing to overlook the obvious in situations like this--especially if it means slowing down. Slowing down means I'm sick. Slowing down means I can't keep up. Slowing down means I'm losing and nobody else is going to lag behind to nudge me along. I can't cut back, slow down, nurture myself blah, blah, blah. It only reminds me that I am so terribly defective and afflicted with something that is incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't have it.

Anxiety. I need to analyze the anxiety. The anxiety is coming from inside. Why am I anxious? Biological: Not enough down time, perceived inability to excel (I have to excel so that if I slip back, I'm still where most people are at "normal"), lack of sleep, time change, daylight slipping off to spend the winter south of the Equator, absorbing the anxiety of others, feeling totally overwhelmed by work with no end in sight and no option to delegate. Fear of failure. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of my mood tanking or of misinterpreting the words, actions, or even demeanor of those around me. I'm a little bit paranoid, and that's often the start of melting down and not keeping my misfiring neurons together. Crap. Paranoia. It's a big red flag flapping right in my face.

I hate it when I can't keep up. I feel like I can't keep up because it's hard to think straight when you don't sleep very much. I am not allowed to fail or fall behind at work. I'm just not, and no matter what my boss says, she lies. She says one thing and demands another. She cuts me no slack. Her definition of being accommodating is that I have a job in spite of having times when I can't be super dooper over-achieving May. I should have come in as a far more mediocre performer and then I wouldn't be held to such a high standard. I am not allowed to fall behind. I'm being judged all the time, not just by those I work with, but by the larger community that works with my program. Back off, people. It's stressing me out.

How the brain goes awry: A coworker says of our shared space, "I need more storage. Can we work together to figure out a way to make more room so both of us have a place for things?" What I heard: "You're an inconsiderate space hog who has taken all of the storage, leaving no place for my things. I work in this space, but you've claimed every corner for yourself. Something of mine got stolen because it was left out in plain view and that's your fault because I had no place to put my things away." Deeper issue: I hate sharing my work space and I do so with resentment, but I am still capable of playing nice. Nagging thought: I was there first. By a lot.

I know I'm falling behind rapidly at work. This is not BP-related, it's just work volume and my occasional incompetence. I am one person doing far more work than the position requires as it is outlined on paper. I don't live on paper and neither does my job. When my brain gets full, it...just...stops...working. "Where is that report, May? Laura needed it yesterday." Heard: "You screw-up slacker. How dare you take a sick day when you had work due? Laura is freaking out and it's all your fault, you irresponsible fuck up. You only care about yourself, and this is one more example of that. I come in when I have a fever. What makes you so special that staying home sick is appropriate?? It's only appropriate for other people, and maybe for me when I need it. Take a sick day when your work is finished." That, ladies and gentlemen, is the bipolar brain in its finest moment, rerouting input and letting the amygdala direct the neuronal traffic into all of the wrong transmitters. Can I stop it from happening? Is it just that I should take a long, deep breath of "rational?"If I could, would I down $600 worth of pharmaceuticals every month? The most I can do is step back, analyze, and compare my reactions to the data before me. Where paranoia surfaces, big, big trouble is usually coming.

The smallest mention of my shortcomings or tiniest misstep resonates in my brain like a frontal attack. It is a horrible, frightening feeling because although I can analyze the data, I can't avoid the initial reaction. These interpretations spark an inner dialogue that grows and swells and becomes a deafening crush of rapid thoughts that won't quiet themselves, leaving my brain unavailable to tend to the other tasks of living and functioning in the real world. How the FUCK do people like my boss conclude that this nonsense is even remotely voluntary, a conscious choice? No. The conscious part lays in trying to mitigate whatever behavior surfaces in an inappropriate way. Nobody sees this. They only see the inappropriate reaction without consideration for why it's there in the first place. They know if they don't like my mood or what I say or do, well, it is obviously meant as an insult directed toward them. They don't realize that they are so insignificant to me when I'm cycling, I couldn't work up the intellectual effort to consciously insult anyone. People are so self-centered. I am struggling to keep my brain straight, but they only feel indignance when I don't fit the parameters of their expectations.

I feel short of breath. Is it my asthma? Is it my anxiety? Is it that I'm subconsciously trying to stop myself from breathing in another thought, another piece of data that I have process before I can feel safe in producing a reaction?

I will rely on the data. I will compare my thoughts and reactions to the external events that trigger them. I will step carefully. I will pray to the cosmic forces to help me keep my thoughts to myslef, those snakes and lizards that slide so easily past my lips to shock those around me. I will watch my mouth. Better yet, I think I'll just keep my mouth shut for awhile while I try to convince myself that nobody is plotting against me.

Let it pass. Let it pass. Let is pass. Please, let it just pass.

Life should not require this much thought. Self-monitoring is perhaps the most exhausting mental exercise of all.

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