It’s now two years since the early stages of this episode, and it’s hard not to look back, try to analyse what went wrong, when. Through the filter of having accepted my bipolar diagnosis, it’s all too easy to spot where things began to unravel, but I just didn’t have enough self-awareness. Here’s what I was thinking this time two years ago; and what I wish I’d been thinking.
WHAT I WAS THINKING:
I love my job. I thought that I would like management, hoped I’d be good at it, but after six months as Team Leader, I feel that I am a far better manager than I ever was a frontline professional. The work is interesting and varied. It involving lot of external meeting with other organisations, and I have developed friendships and contacts across the borough. Best of all, I love working for my boss. She’s inspirational, and I love that she places a lot of trust in me. Things are very busy at the moment, because we are preparing for an inspection, and it’s incredibly important we do well. There’s a lot of work to do before the inspectors arrive, and I don’t mind putting my hand up for more and more of it, because I know that I can do it, and do it well – to be honest, I don’t really trust my colleagues to complete tasks to the same standard. I am putting in a lot of extra hours to get it all done, but hey, once the inspection’s over, then I can relax.
I won’t deny that my job is stressful. But it’s a good kind of stress, the kind that only comes when I am doing something I love and giving it my all. It’s like the stress is a tremendous wave, and I am skilfully surfing the top of it. I may not be fully in control, but I am perfectly balanced. In the past I would worry about working this many hours; I used to be mentally quite fragile. But it has now been 7 years since depression has featured in my life. Somehow, I have cracked it: I have actually recovered. I should probably write a book about how I did this, so that all the people still suffering with depressed mood can learn from my experience. I’ve already realised I don’t need the antidepressants any more, and have started cutting down. I feel like I am finally living the life I was meant to live.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THINKING:
Hmmm – I should really keep an eye on this. I remember the last time I had that sensation of surfing. It was nine years ago, when I was working on Delivery Suite, and had the feeling that I was born to be a midwife, and that I had the best job in world. It was one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my life. But I remember too what came next. After my Delivery Suit placement finished, I went back in a community team. There came a day when a client got to me: her vulnerability; the abusive situation she was in; how powerless I felt to help her. I came home thinking about her, switched on my computer to distract myself before I’d even taken my uniform off. I was sitting on the wheelie office chair, staring at the monitor, when all at once it hit me that I was horribly depressed. The low which followed ensured I never went to back to clinical midwifery again, and rendered me temporarily unable to care for my own children. The surfing feeling is a risky one. Even if that that bipolar diagnosis 16 years ago still doesn’t seem right, something is up, and I can’t carry on as I am.
WHAT I WAS THINKING:
Everything and everyone is annoying me. This is supposed to be a holiday, and I looked forward to it all through all the weeks of inspection preparation, but I don’t feel in the least relaxed. I am sick of trying to organise everyone and everything. Why doesn’t anyone else take responsibility? I’m annoyed that I am annoyed, when this is costing us so bloody much. I’m annoyed by the way my partner sleeps peacefully while I lie awake for hours, my brain running back and forth over all the things that people have said or done – or failed to say or do – which irked me through the day. There’s no way I am going to tell my partner how I am feeling; he’s enjoying himself far too much and I don’t want to spoil it for him. But I can’t wait to get home and get back to work.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THIKING:
OK, something is seriously wrong here. When have I EVER felt like this during a family holiday? This much irritation at my own family, this much resentment over tasks like planning meals and cooking for the kids? Have I even asked the older kids of the family to help out with meals, etc? No. All this drama is taking place inside my head. I need to share it with my partner, let him know what’s going on, see how we can sort things out together so that I can start enjoying my holiday and unwind.
And what’s going on with the sleep? I haven’t slept so badly since – again, since nine years ago. Because after that very low mood, when I was sleeping 12 or 13 hours at night and then napping in the day, I suddenly switched to not being able to sleep. Just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bear to lie awake next to my ex-husband, so I spent each night downstairs on the sofa, feeling increasingly desperate as the hours ticked by without a wink. After weeks of no sleep at night, and days spent on the internet, obsessively involvedin chatrooms to the extent that I didn’t eat, my levels of panic and agitation spiralled out of control, and I ended up taking an overdose. I have been working hard, too hard, and although I hate to admit it, past experiences suggest I am beginning to become unwell. There is still time to get treatment, stop things unravelling. I am going to make some changes when we get home.