The diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bi-polar disorder has changed my life in very profound ways.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the person I used to be; the way I worked at my job, the way I interacted with my friends and with strangers and just generally the way I dealt with life. Not only have I been considering the who I used to be, but also how that compares to who I am now.
I used to be a real estate professional. I worked as a licensed title insurance agent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you have ever purchased a house, you know title insurance even if you don’t realize it. I sat at the head of the conference table, making sure paperwork was filled out properly, making sure the money was distributed properly and problem solving, problem solving and more problem solving.
The old me multi-tasked. The old me was detail oriented. The old me finished what I started. I dressed for work, wore my high heels, did my makeup (sometimes), did my hair and bolted out the door in order to be at work early. I was heavy, but not too heavy to dash around in 4 inch heels.
During the last few years of this I started to see a therapist. I didn’t want to, but my doctor really wanted me on anxiety medication, which I REALLY didn’t want. The compromise was a therapist. As I look back I am thankful that I had such a good relationship with my doctor. If I hadn’t liked him or didn’t really respect him, then I probably wouldn’t have started therapy. Starting therapy when I did is probably what allowed me to hold on for as long as I did.
A few years after beginning therapy I moved to a new job. The economy was doing poorly and the real estate bubble had burst. Business was hard to come by. I was laid off from my old job, but thankfully was able to find this new one. Less money and less to do, but at least I had something, which was more then some people could say.
And then I had my first nervous breakdown. In my case, as is the case for a lot of people, the last straw was something ridiculous. My favorite radio station had started playing all Christmas music all the time. Thanksgiving was still 4 days away.
I spent a week in the psych ward. I spent 2 months in intensive out-patient therapy. I quit my job. I couldn’t work and do the therapy necessary at the same time.
My husband and I had decided to move south. I needed a calmer, slower paced environment and he needed a job with a future. We both needed more sunshine. I found a job in retail. Much less stress, and as a result, much less money. But, the much less stress was worth the lower paycheck.
But I still broke. Not a lot. Not enough to need inpatient hospitalization, but enough to have to leave my job.
And then, I broke again. All the way.
I spent another week in the psych ward. The doctors tweaked my medications and sent me home.
I started experiencing days and days of mania. It frightened me because it had never happened before (well, it had, I just hadn’t known that was what was happening). I had so much energy I could have run a marathon. But I couldn’t focus that energy enough to even clean the kitchen. That’s when the Bi-Polar was diagnosed.
Now, there is a whole new me.
The new me can do only one thing at a time. The new me has a hard time with the small things. The new me bounces from task to task. And, the new me is always tired.
But who’s to say that the old me was the better version?
Even just sitting down to write this blog is a learning experience for me. While taking a break from writing, I realized that I had been in the middle of emptying the dishwasher when I decided to sit down and write. How I had just managed to walk away from what I was doing and start doing something else is kind of mind-boggling for me. But, it’s also becoming a pattern.
I can’t work at a job outside the home. I need to rest too often and my moods are a crap shoot each and every day.
I recently saw a psychologist for testing to see if a job is even possible. He tested me for concentration (I’m on the 2nd day of working on on this blog entry), memory, task completion and a few other things. His opinion is that the last time I broke, I broke thoroughly and completely.
It was a devastating blow. I spent a week so depressed over the results I could barely leave my bed each day. It physically hurt. It could be years (and probably will be) before I am able to be certain enough of each day’s mood to venture out on a regular basis. Or be able to concentrate long enough to spend a few hours working at a job. I need to be able to rest a couple times an hour.
I’m not over it. Not by a long shot. I’m used to working, to contributing to the household income. To feeling useful.
But, I’m on my way to accepting it. It’s taking a lot of support from my husband and my therapist to get there, but I’m trying.
We moved here for the slower pace and I am trying to embrace that. I clip coupons and have been able to save a lot of money on groceries. I cook most days and have started baking. I have a garden.
My new activities have rest periods built in. They are slower paced activities. I spend a lot of time in the grocery store, because sometimes I just have to sit down for a bit. But, I get it done. My savings are my contribution to the household income. My garden provides not just a therapeutic activity, but free food for the home.
I yearn for the old days of working and feeling useful, but I am finding other ways to be useful. Being present for my family is good. When my grandfather was reaching the end of his life, I was able to be there and spend time with him, for which I will be eternally grateful.
The way I was doesn’t matter anymore. It is a fond memory, but I am also starting to see the deep cracks that have been present for a very long time. I filled them with chewing gum and duct tape, but even duct tape gives way eventually.
Now I’m picking at the cracks trying to see where they lead and trying to fill them with something more substantial then chewing gum. I’m trying to fill them with understanding, knowledge and acceptance.
I have a very long way to go. But, for better or worse, the old me is gone. She is a tool for me to use to understand the new me. But, I will never be her again. Accepting that, and figuring out who I am now is what matters.
It reminds me of a joke Steven Wright used to tell (I know…you young’uns have no idea who that is) about how everywhere is walking distance as long as you have the time.
I have the time.
Peace and love.