I used to be a fun person.
Once upon a time, I enjoyed going out and spending a day with friends, shopping, seeing movies, even attending parties and other gatherings. I loved having big holiday get-togethers at home and making sure everything that wasn’t red hot or running for the hills was decorated in seasonally appropriate twinkle-lights. I even used to get a kick out of hosting birthday parties for the kids.
Now I’m quite possibly THE lamest person on the planet. I don’t go to parties because the experience of being in a crowded room is excruciating for me—there are too many people, too much light and noise, and I am so easily overstimulated it’s not even funny. I still do a couple of the major holidays because a) it’s tradition, and b) I don’t want to have to drive on a holiday if I can avoid it. But after working all week and using the vast majority of my energies to keep a roof over our heads, all I want is a day where I don’t have to go anywhere and I can lounge in my jammies, work in the yard, or hang out on the computer.
This is the price I pay for being what’s called a “high-functioning” bipolar. I can do what needs to be done to make the rent and put food on the table; I can even manage to go to the store for groceries on a Saturday afternoon and to Mass on most Sundays. But ask me to drive 30 miles one way for a visit or God forbid, participate in a social activity, and I’m apt to break out in a sweat and come up with a hundred excuses for why I can’t make it.
It’s not that I don’t want to go places and do things. Well, okay, it IS because I don’t want to, but I want to want to. Does that make sense?
Being high-functioning means that I can fake ‘normal’ really well. To look at me, to listen to me, you would never suspect that I am mentally ill. I can carry on a conversation and deal articulately with complex ideas. I know a little about a lot of things, and a lot about a few other things. I’m able to teach people how to do tasks, like giving themselves insulin injections or checking their blood pressure; I can discuss the issues of the day with intelligence; and I’m damn good at assessing both the physical and psychosocial aspects of peoples’ lives. It’s just that being a bipolar woman with a career means there’s not enough of me left over for much of anything else.
I’ve tried explaining this to a few folks without much success. But the fact that I am able to have a career doesn’t make the rest of my life work; if anything, it sucks the life right out of me and renders me too exhausted for play.
I’m not sure what the answer to this dilemma is, or even if there is one. It seems almost as though I’m issued a finite amount of energy at the beginning of each week, and by the time I get to Friday, ninety percent of it is gone. That leaves a mere 10 percent for the most important people in my life……including me. Something is very wrong with that picture. And high-functioning or not, I owe it to all of us to figure out a healthier balance between life and work; after all, when I’m on my deathbed I am NOT going to wish I’d spent more time at the office. Or in traffic. Or at war with myself.