Following up on my post the other day about where to go from here in my job search, or from a larger perspective, my career choice, I first want to thank those of you who read, liked, and especially those who shared their thoughts with me. I’d been more frozen than ever since writing it. And then today I read a comment from Kim that helped me break through. I started replying to her comment and realized it was a post in and of itself. Thank you, girl, for the light I needed just when I needed it.

Heartless Machines at Work

I mentioned vaguely in Part 1 that a factor in all this was choosing “happiness and health over material wealth”. That wasn’t a complete exaggeration, and maybe if I’d been more explicit the whole post might have made more sense. The health issue I’m referring to is that I’m bipolar II. Though I’ve written about it in my blog, so it may seem like I’m open about it, you might say I’m a closeted bipolar (as I’m pretty sure most of us bipolars are). I also have a tendency to believe I’m fine and hide the disease waaayyy back in a dark, dank corner of the closet even from myself when I can. And so, even though that’s one of the major things I’m trying to calculate into my 2+2 equation, I conveniently left it out the other day. Does it make more sense now why I was having trouble with the math?

To paraphrase Kim, you approach career choices differently depending on which end of the bipolar spectrum you’re living in at the time. When depressed, I’ll undervalue my skills and believe I’m not qualified to be the organ grinder’s monkey. Actually, I’m NOT qualified to be the organ grinder’s monkey – I have no idea at all what that job entails. When hypomanic, I’ll apply for fifty jobs exactly like the one I recently lost, possibly with a slightly increased degree of difficultly, take 42 phone interviews, schedule as many in person interviews as I can get, demand a salary that includes an increase from what I was making at my last job (forget that I’m making minimum wage on limited unemployment checks at the moment), consider relocations overseas because I’ve always loved to travel, think about businesses I want to start, and write 2 great new novels with my left hand while responding to emails. Okay, yes, that was over the top, but so am I when I’m hypomanic and I wanted to give you a taste of it. And, sadly, only the last little bit and the numbers were the part that was over the top.

I’m finally, after being diagnosed for a little over 10 years now, recognizing that I can’t totally ignore the fact that my bipolar-itis is a disability, and cannot be ignored when it comes to my career. It’s affected me time and again with absences for short-term disability, and even hospitalization in one instance. Yet I have a “gift” for conveniently forgetting that and honestly, sincerely, with all my heart believing each and every time I start again that it will be different this time. I will be able to handle it all this time – somehow, magically. The wand has waved and it’s a fresh start and now I know my triggers, etc., etc., etc. Any of my bipolar compadres who are reading, I think you know what I mean. And because we bipolars are so good at wearing “the mask”, that super charisma that comes from the hypomania, I’ve been able to not only sustain this fiction for 10 years, but to a large extent build a continually rising arc to my career path – ever increasing the pressure, responsibility, expectations – just making the stakes higher, feeding the highs and making the crashes worse and worse.

Until last March. I won’t say I hit rock bottom then (that was another time), but in March the castle in the sky I’d built all came crashing down. There are still a lot of people out there who believe the queen is still in residence in the castle, perfectly ready, willing, and able to pick up the scepter again. But this time I think I know better. I’m really scared and this time I DON’T believe I can do it again and that this time it would all be different. This time I’m not just paranoid that people might see behind the mask, I’m pretty sure some will – and maybe already have – because it’s tattered around the edges and wearing thin in places. And being “unstable” is not allowed for consultants to the federal government or financial institutions. You must be tough, competent, and reliable.

Even on my best days it’s that word “reliable” that gets me. The problem is that bipolar don’t play that; it’s got a lot of personalities – sulky, audacious, withdrawn, dramatic, whatever it’s feeling it likes to jump out of the closet and smack you in the face until you pay attention to it. The one thing it isn’t – and that it doesn’t make you – is reliable. When properly medicated and doing all the right lifestyle things, the beast is mostly tamed. But it’s still a beast, and like all beasts, unpredictable…unreliable. The most well-trained beast can be triggered and lash out. And a beast will always BE a beast, never a pussycat. Just ask Siegfried and Roy.

Thus my hesitation. I’m trying to be smart. Inventory my transferable skills, determine what type of work environment would be best for me given my (god I HATE this word) limitations, and make a change for the better. Knowing it’s probably, almost certainly going to mean less money. That it’s going to take more time to do it this way. And the temptations to just do the “easy” thing and pursue something like my old job just keep rolling in. Every day is a damn struggle. Most days I’m frankly amazed I get out of bed at all, let alone mentally arm-wrestle with my job search to-do list.

I almost always manage to mark off at least one task per day – but because sometimes the tasks fall in the “Health & Happiness” column and some, sometimes (I do have to satisfy Unemployment rules is my excuse) still fall in the “I’m Still Queen Dammit” column, I feel like I’m working at cross-purposes. So “frozen” is really not the right description for where I am. It’s more like I’m doing a cha cha with myself in some sort of surreal dance marathon to the death; and I’m about to drop from mental exhaustion. And, okay, now I get it – I have to retire my crown and let someone else be Queen; it doesn’t mean this doesn’t suck. Freakin’, frackin’ limitations.

Sorry this ended up so negative. Kim, I really am grateful even if it doesn’t sound it. This was cathartic and I think I’ll quietly go try to leech a little more of this poison off without exposing the rest of you to the ugliness. Love, the former Queen.