I don’t know what’s going on with me.
I’m sure that it doesn’t help that I have terrible insomnia and am generally always tired.
This morning I meant to hit the snooze but apparently turned off my alarm. I woke up at 9:17am and I usually leave the house at 9:15am to get to work. Thankfully we leave in time to get to work 10-15 minutes early so we can walk up the hill from the parking lot and I can drop off my lunch and get settled before logging in and signing into my phone. And someone was looking out for me because I hit every green light on the way to pick up the girl who carpools with me and I was only five minutes late to get her. And because it was Halloween people had brought some food so it was okay that I didn’t eat breakfast and just grabbed some soup from the cupboard for lunch.
But it still scared me.
I’ve been noticing a troubling pattern since I graduated. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the pattern has existed for years, but I had always attributed it to stress: midterms, a heavy class load, family conflicts, the show coming up soon, etc.
That’s part of the reason I decided to take time off school and get a job – I thought I was just burnt out.
And I’m sure I was and I’m sure that all of those legitimate sources of stress only exacerbated this pattern I am noticing now, but in their absence there is no convenient excuse to brush it off as “nothing.”
I will be “normal” for days at a time – happy enough with my life, feeling positive about the future, certain I am able to handle the things I need to get done. Then seemingly out of nowhere I will feel depressed again – irritable, anxious, pessimistic, overwhelmed. But there’s rarely anything in between. I am either “good” or “bad.” It’s like I alternate between experiencing the glass being half empty and half full even when nothing within the glass is actually changing.
And sometimes an event will mark the shift in such a cycle – like my car accident – but it still happens whether or not there is any catalyst I can ascertain.
Which is the part that frightens me.
Because if I don’t know what is causing it, there isn’t much for me to do but treat the symptoms when they start to appear. Which is really frustrating. I know that means paying closer attention to my mind and body and what they are telling me, too. Something I have never been particularly good at doing.
But it’s difficult to feel this anxiety in my chest, seemingly coming from nowhere, and to know that I haven’t showered for three days, and to feel so overwhelmed by the thought of cooking anything so I will have dinner to eat tomorrow when I get home from work. I just want to crawl under the covers and make the world disappear.
And I used to be able to do that.
I am wondering if part of the difficulty I am facing is that even if being in school was more stressful than not, the FLEXIBILITY being in school allowed me in how I arranged my life left me better equipped to handle these fluctuations? What I mean is, if there was a day I did oversleep like this morning, I could make a choice when I woke up of whether I was just going to miss class today rather than throwing on clothes and running out the door.
And if I DID choose to go to class, I could just as easily go in my pajamas and come back to my room to sleep in an hour or an hour or a half. So much of the work in college and graduate school is self-directed that if I really just needed to spend the afternoon in bed watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I could do that and put off my work until tomorrow. I could save up whatever energy I might have for whatever was most important – be it a test or a class or a paper or rehearsal that evening – and do what needed to be done when I invariably had a burst of energy again in a few days.
In other words, I could choose to do what I HAD to for a few hours on a given day and spend the rest of the attending to myself and not spending my limited energy resources.
I don’t have that luxury now. I have to get up and out the door at the same time five days a week and be AT work for eight hours in a row every day. In college, even if I had to spend eight hours a day doing something, I could divide them up and have breaks in between. And it’s true at work that I can read or do puzzles between calls, but I always have to be ready to switch gears and take the next call coming over my headset. And I am thinking that maybe the reason that summers were always hardest for me in college was that I had to follow a more rigid schedule like I do now because I spent the summers working.
And while I think it’s true that outside stressors or things like PMS or my back sprain acting up can make these energy and mood fluctuations worse, I am realizing they will happen NO MATTER WHAT.
I actually think that being able to go to rehearsal every night throughout college and expel some of that extra energy and emotion through theatre was actually a useful mental health management tool for me. Without that outlet, that energy is as likely to manifest itself as negative anxiety as it is to be energy I can put to use to accomplish tasks.
It seems like every time I read about bipolar I find myself nodding my head yes. I know I’ve never had a full-on manic episode (Bipolar I) but it is possible that I am experiencing some form of rapid-cycling and high functioning Bipolar II or Cyclothymia.
And in some ways it feels ridiculous to write that because I know self-diagnosis isn’t really a thing. But I can go from “everything is just fine” to “I can’t handle my life AT ALL” in less than a day with NO outside stimulus. And that doesn’t seem normal. Beyond which, my “normal” is a high-energy state where I feel good about myself and the world and get a lot of things done.
And I don’t really know what to do about it. I was trying to go to therapy again but I chose to only have to get up early one day a week for therapy vs. every day for work and with my insomnia the way it is, I missed my last appointment because I couldn’t get up. Beyond which I was going to see a graduate student because being a guinea pig of sorts allows cheap therapy, and it is difficult enough to get any mental illness diagnoses when the symptoms are severe – let alone trying to figure out what’s going on when I can mostly function well enough to get by. Plus I feel like a lot of the therapists I’ve tried to see come across as patronizing and judgmental to me, which makes it hard for me to open up and to want to keep going back.
I just don’t know what to do.
Should I look for a job with more flexible hours that’s more project-based?
Should I try to find a psychiatrist?
All I know is that when I think of having to go to work like this for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t seem doable right now. I will see about requesting a day off next week when I go into work tomorrow and see how that helps.
For right now, though, I think I need to learn to accept these fluctuations without layering negative self-talk and self-doubt on top of anxiety and depression.
I need to be okay with not getting things done and not feeling guilty about that. I need to be able to cut myself a break.
But right now, as I sit here feeling like a broken vase that someone’s put back together with masking tape, that’s easier said than done.