State of the Unsound Mind 2017-2018
A One-year Reflection of Living with Bipolar
Cam’s State of Mind in February, 2018
We are now in the middle of February, a couple weeks past #BellLetsTalk Day. This time of year reminds me to reflect on my experiences in life with Bipolar Disorder, and gives me the opportunity to share my experience with others. With mental health being the topic of conversation in a lot of people’s recent chats, largely in part to Bell’s Initiative, it seems natural to be able to share my thoughts.
Going back one year, my 2017 started with some great promise. Having just finished a Job Training Program through Seneca College, I had lined up a potential career path with a start-up company selling web-marketing services. I also worked for a small IT company providing technical support for a Toronto-based client one day a week. This was amazing for me: to be able to balance two jobs, and finally feel like I had started a lifelong career. On that path, I would surely be able to afford to live a little more, and maybe even move into a place of my own. Who knew where I was headed… but it was in an optimistic direction.
I had started 2017 in a hypo-manic mood. I was excited about everything and elated to be accomplishing goals. I felt like I had found purpose in life, and it was wonderful. My health had improved over the time I had been hypo-manic as well. I was eating better and I was more active, as I had been in touch with an old Karate Sensei from my childhood and started training again. Things were going great, and I am sure my healthy living contributed to a healthier mind. I had endless amounts of energy to expend and needed very little rest.
My contract with the IT company had been going for a few months before I started the new job in web-marketing sales. The peak of my hypo-mania seemed to be that first week at the new job. I was learning new sales material, methods, and software, and passing the testing on such subjects at a rapid pace. I was on overdrive, and I couldn’t get enough of learning. After only two weeks on the job, I was ahead of schedule on the training material.
However, toward the end of February this feeling of tiredness crept over me. By the beginning of March, I felt like I had burned a year’s supply of power in the short time I had been working full time. I was exhausted: almost like I had attained liftoff and the fuel tank somehow detached early. At the same time, I started an inextinguishable fire that would burn my short-lived success to the ground.
Within weeks of having a flourishing career that had heightened my mood and level of happiness, I began to torch the early development of these fruitions. Sometime in early March, I called in sick to my new job for the first time. At this point I felt physically sick, but looking back it was probably more psychological. Although my employer had openly stated that mental health days were fine and encouraged, I don’t think I felt comfortable enough with my new boss to reveal the underlying reason for my absence. It was as if a dark force had disabled me from doing anything.
Things declined quickly. One day missing work turned into two. Two turned into a week, then a month, until finally I was sent a termination of employment letter in the mail from my web-marketing sales job. All the time things were getting worse, and I stopped keeping both my bosses in the loop.
At some point during this collapse in my mood I was scheduled to go on vacation with my family to Mexico for March Break and my birthday. I had been looking forward to this trip for months. We knew before Christmas that we were all going to paradise for a week as a family. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I began getting anxious, and even contemplated bailing on the trip. My depression had killed the vibe and anticipation. Both of my bosses knew I was going on said trip well in advance, so not showing up to work that week was not unexpected. However, I never returned to work after I returned from Mexico. I told my boss at the IT Company that I needed a mental health day the week we arrived home. And the pattern of not going to work, or even communicating why I would be absent, continued. I ended up losing both jobs.
So what was I doing during this unexplained absence? Most likely I was in bed. On the days I didn’t show up for work, I would stay in bed until well after the work day was over. I would get up at some point to eat and visit the toilet, but would go days without showering. My negative thoughts consumed me: I failed at starting a career, I slept through a family vacation, I couldn’t be bothered to put in any effort, my energy level was depleted, and the list goes on. I withdrew from friends and was useless at replying to their texts or calls in a reasonable timeframe. Eventually I had zero communication with those I would normally see on a regular basis. At this point in the cycle, my negative mood was feeding itself with my general lack of ability to do anything. I had nothing to talk about with anyone, nothing to share or contribute in a conversation, so I didn’t reach out to anyone. I had seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth. This is depression.
This state of misery continued for most of the summer. At some point in August I poked my head out of my cave and came out of hibernation. I reached out to friends I hadn’t spoken to for months. And I remember making an effort to leave the house. I went to a Blue Jays game, went up to cottage country, and I socialized more. I am lucky to have such great friends: friends who don’t care that I take a leave of absence from the relationship. My closest friends will show up to my house unannounced and wake me up when I am not answering my phone. I am grateful to my friends and family who care so much.
Once September rolled around, I had a sliver of energy that started a chain reaction. I ended up texting that old Karate Sensei of mine, and asked him if I could train again. I had plenty of free time, so when he asked me if I was interested in working for him I was more than happy to accept his offer. I helped run the before and after school program for the kids in Karate. This worked out well for me, as they only needed me for limited hours. Sadly, it meant early mornings, but I fit a nap in at mid-day most days. It wasn’t the blast off of a new career, but it kept me busy and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I decided to leave the job after the Christmas Break due to complications with the business. Eventually the business closed.
Christmas was great, and I got to spend time with family. I am a proud uncle to a beautiful niece, who is turning two years old in April. I most enjoy playing with toys that I had when I was a kid, as well as the cool new toys that weren’t around when I was her age. I can’t wait until she can speak full sentences, although with new words every time I see her, it’s still very exciting.
I started off 2018 in a fairly level mood. Although I still tend to sleep the days away, it’s more out of boredom than being depressed. I look forward to what comes next, whatever that is. I hope to maintain some level of motivation to pursue the next adventure. I continue to share my story so that others can read about it, and also share their own experiences with mental health struggles. It is my hope that by being open and honest about what it’s like to live with Bipolar, it opens a conversation. Thanks for reading.