I’ve been mostly absent from WordPress for quite a while now, except the occasional post, mostly diet-related. I’ve been under a great deal of stress, and have been having trouble expressing myself in certain ways. It’s also been difficult for me to do certain basic activities of daily living, and more difficult to do even more complex chores and tasks, that many people do easily. Multitasking? Overwhelming! Stuff is falling through the cracks, overlooked, and clumsily handled, if handled.
In this post, I’d like to focus on the difficulties of multitasking for some people with bipolar disorder. Though this can seem quite easy for some with the disorder who are stable, or even mildly hypomanic, this skill/ability can become next to impossible at other times. Mania can bring with it distractability, racing thoughts, disorientation and other thought disorders, as well as memory issues. Depression can make concentration and memory difficult, slow thinking, cognitive “numbing”, or over focus on negative or hopeless thinking.
Some bipolar medications are also known to cause cognitive impairment to various degrees. It can be difficult to remember basic things, like words we’ve uttered thousands of times. It can be next to impossible to even read without forgetting what you’ve read seconds after reading it. Words like “carelessness”, “confusion”, and many others can be associated with cognitive impairment, too. Combine cognitive difficulties from medications, and those from the bipolar illness itself…Ugh!
Multitasking is often cited on resumes or CVs as a strong point to be considered by potential employers. The fact is, to at least some reasonable degree, it is crucial in life. Those who are particularly good at it, achieve more, and usually with less stress than people without that talent or capability. Sometimes I shake my head in astonishment at how some women can work 40 to even 60 plus hours per week at a job, raise two or three children (taking them to all kinds of activities), do housework, cooking, exercise, spend time with a spouse or partner, find time to have fun, relax, etc., etc. Does this seem normal to you? Do you do even more than this?
An inability or difficulty to handle many things at the same time is disabling. Literally! When faced with such expectations, some people with bipolar disorder literally breakdown with anxiety or become ill in various other ways. Even a small percentage of some peoples’ tasks can be severely overwhelming to me. I can’t tell you how many times I have cooked, to find that I’ve left a stove burner on for hours, or even two days! I know this is a major issue for me. I try to be extra extra careful, and yet it happens again, and again. Some days I manage to straighten up the house, run a few errands, play a lot with my pet, do some reading and writing, and cook dinner, then I feel totally and utterly spent. And that’s without a paying job! Not even a part-time job! This is a reality for some people with mental illness.
Pushing myself too much often makes me clumsy. Stress is the culprit. I have broken many things in my house over the years because of it. I have even experienced falls and injuries when I’m so mentally overwhelmed by responsibilities, that I can barely walk or think straight.
A couple of days ago, I realized that I was running out of one of my medications. I thought I had more in my closet, but found there were none. I get that medication by mail order. Mail order has great benefits, but last-minute orders require more than a few days for delivery. I said “I’m going to run out too soon!” I had to call my doctor to call in an “interim” supply to a brick and mortar pharmacy. The brick and mortar pharmacy said I’d have to pay full price for the interim supply because my insurance company wouldn’t cover it. The pharmacist there then asked “Why do you get your medications mail-order?” Well, for one thing, they give 90-day supplies. That means I don’t have to run to the pharmacy all of the time. That becomes a big deal when you take SEVEN different medications that run out at different times. Sometimes there’s no way to coordinate them. Sometimes your dosages change. It’s like a job in itself to handle, especially if you have cognitive issues going on. I’m not old yet. I don’t want anyone else to have to manage my pill boxes. I have to get that right. It’s important.
The above are just a few examples of how my bipolar illness and medications make life harder for me than it is for other people. I didn’t mention some things that I’m even embarrassed or ashamed of.
Going off medications is not an option for me. The alternative would be far worse of a situation than taking them, believe me. Though some people with bipolar disorder can and do function fully in life, or even excel, we’re not all the same. But it’s not necessarily a sad tragedy for those who function below the norm. The brain can heal over time with patience, with therapy, the right medications, luck, and “endurance training”. I’m a glass half full kind of gal. I know that people can simplify life, as much as possible, to ease burdens, and concentrate on just a couple things, doing them extremely well. Acceptance of where we are at the current time is important, but progress is possible. Baby steps forward are usually better than leaps, for people with bipolar disorder.