Mental Health and Independence

mental health and independence

I’ve dealt with mania and depression my entire life, but never to the degree that it was 12ish or so years ago before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The several years after diagnosis was even worse as we tried to find the right med cocktail that would work for me. The seizures, anxiety attacks, crying for no reason, the impulsive-dangerous behavior – all of it beat the crap out of me. It was a miserable time in my life for many reasons. I didn’t become suicidal, after all, just because I was feeling sad one day. One thing I had an extremely difficult time with was accepting my limitations, and humbling myself. My loss of independence. I touched on this in a post I did recently regarding I don’t know what, but I’ve been digging deeper in my mind since then and it’s left me with some pretty uncomfortable feelings.

Getting There and Back

Let’s start with getting around. I discussed this the other day so I won’t go too much into it, but this is a San Francisco Cable Carbiggie. I once lived in Stockton California which is just south of Sacramento and is over 300 miles north of Los Angeles. I was in a long distance relationship with a guy who lived in LA and never thought twice of driving 5 ½ hours south and another 5 ½ hours north again a couple of times a month. It was a straight shot down the interstate. Eventually I took a job in LA and getting to be with him was an added bonus…well, I thought it’d be a bonus, but that’s for a discussion on another day.

As part of my job, I took groups of my employees on tours through San Francisco about 4 times a year. Anyone who’s driven through the beautiful city knows how difficult it is to get around the twisting turning roads and up and over the hills. I had to do that in a stretch van that held 12 people. I always had a good time.

When the bottom fell out on my life, those days were no more. I got too confused and disoriented just trying to ride a bus, much less maneuvering around a major city. If not through the help of many of my friends at our church, I would have never made it to my numerous doctors’ appointments. Without them I don’t know what I would have done.

Getting and Keeping a Job

My last job that I worked was managing a coffee house for a chain primarily here on the west coast (not Starbucks.) I was given the honor of managing our flagship store in Beverly Hills. When the seizures started happening I wound up not showing up on a regular basis leaving my staff shorthanded in an extremely busy store. This store was close to the home of owner of the corporation so it was his hang out. Unfortunately, on one of the days I didn’t show up, he was in line and had to wait 15 minutes for a cup of coffee. I was immediately on his shit list. Fortunately, I had a good relationship with my district manager who listened to me when I asked to transfer to one of the beautiful café’s we had here in the Los Angeles bay. She had faith in me and wanted to get me out from under the owner’s nose, so it was a win, win for all. Eventually, the seizures, mood swings and disassociation followed me and I had to go on total disability. That was about 9 or 10 years ago and I haven’t worked a day since.

Back to School

man studying
Out of work, I decided to go back to college. Man, was that a bad terrible idea. I’ve never been a good student, but it was absurd to think I could handle the stress. The school bent over backwards to accommodate me. I was allowed to record all lectures, I was provided tutors for free and I was given longer times to complete tests. None of that made a damn difference. When a project or assignment came due I would have severe panic attacks and would have to drop out of the class. For two years I remained on academic suspension and eventually dropped out.

man paying bills

Bills, Bills, Bills

I was never great with bills, but I did have a very flawed system in order that I at least would know how much I had in the bank. My hubby, Maurice, now handles all of that and I stay purposely ignorant because I don’t think I can handle it. Just last week I had to pay my dermatologist, my ears, nose and throat guy, copay on my cpap and supplies, lab work that was done over a year ago, and the copay with my therapist. On top of all that I received a bill from Los Angeles county for copays on all my pdoc visits over the past year. That came out of the blue since I was told a year ago that I was in a county program that covered all my copays. How in the world will I pay for it all? Maurice assures me we’re okay, but I’m not so comfortable with that. I constantly worry about our money, yet prefer not to know.

Keep That Sunny Side Up

I’m proud of the things I’ve been able to take back and handle on my own, but I’m angry and frustrated that I am nowhere near true independence. The likelihood is that I never will. The people around me are loving and happy to accommodate, but I still hate it. Being a student of Buddhism, I understand the importance of acceptance and staying in the now, but this damn disease takes me to my limits. On the plus side, despite my whining, I truly am optimistic. I believe that someday I will reach total acceptance and humility, it’s just not going to be when I want it. That’s because I want it now.

What have you had to give up that has taken away some of your independence?

21 comments on Mental Health and Independence

  1. I had to give up the job and taking care of the bills. I know school wouldn’t go well if I tried – I can barely pay attention to my kid’s teacher’s ten minute spiel on back to school night. Lol. I can also no longer do the grocery shopping because of my bipolar/anxiety. I try to focus on the things I can still do though like get a few items from the store at a time, visit with others, cook/bake, clean, make appointments, stuff like that.

    1. I use to have problems with grocery stores. I usually would have a panic attack and run out the door. Now I’m fine with them. Good for you for focusing on the things you can do. I think I’m successful most of the time, but a couple of things got to me this week which was the catalyst for this post.

  2. Wow, Bradley, after I learned more about you reading this post, I continue to marvel at what you’ve been through.

    I can’t help but think of Veruca from “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” screeching “I want a golden goose nooooooooooowwww!”

    I too want all of “it” now. For me “it” consists of most of the confidence I had pre-bipolar depression. I’m slowly, slowly getting it back, but I know it will never be the same. In any case, don’t let go of the optimism about reaching total acceptance and humility. By stating that at the close of this post, you gave me hope and will inspire others as well. XoXo

    1. Now, now, now..that’s what this old noggin keeps telling me. I got a ways to go, but I’ve come a long way too. That’s what I need to hold on to.

  3. I don’t drive on the highway, and driving in general gives me anxiety. It makes it really hard to socialize and find a job when you live in a city with urban sprawl that you need the highway to get around in. I blame distrust in my little neon’s ability to properly accelerate and go to places further away than my mental health place without the oil light coming on. But I know somehow it has to do with my illness since before my breakdown I drove everywhere. I used to enjoy driving. Without I feel hobbled and like a shadow of myself. Much of my recovery has been learning how to live with myself as this new being. So much has changed, for good and bad. It’s that acceptance that you speak of.

    1. Highways are terrible. I use to laugh at people who are afraid to drive on highways, but I guess karma is a bitch because I’m one of them now.

  4. Thanks for this post Bradley. I can really relate to it. At this point I’ve had to give up working, and therefore independence. I think the hardest part is the loss of dignity. Our culture celebrates people who put in their 9 to 5 and antagonizes people who don’t. And that’s been really hard. But, like you, I am a student of spirituality/Buddhism, and I am trying to use this experience as part of my practice.

    1. Not working is the big one. I feel guilty sometimes when I think about living on disability. I feel like I owe society something.

      1. Right. That is the big one. There’s different ways to look at it though. I try to remember the kind of people we are–loving partners/family members/friends, or encouraging bloggers. I think that gives so much to society. But it’s hard to look at it that way sometimes.

  5. I wanted to work part-time when we moved down here to the south. I haven’t been able to. Stressful situations are unavoidable in a job and stress triggers anxiety which triggers bipolar swings–usually depression. Cooking big meals for family and friends is a thing of the past. The cognitive difficulties from the bipolar and the meds makes multitasking difficult and cooking is multitasking. I set timers for everything I’m cooking and allow myself plenty of extra prep time. My husband is a people person–he thrives on the interaction. I know he’d love to have people over for dinner all the time but I just can’t do it. I can manage it once in a while, especially if he bar-b-ques the meat. And being with people is exhausting and makes me anxious. He understands and doesn’t complain–he’s an angel.

    1. He is an angel. I hear so many horror stories where family members have no understanding or empathy at all. Hang on to this one.

  6. I struggle with things I never thought I’d struggle with. Anxiety disorder has taken away a lot of things I used to enjoy; roller coasters, driving, especially long road trips, caving, skiing, sledding, heights — a lot of motion-oriented things I cannot do with guaranteed pleasure anymore. I sometimes try anyway, because one doesn’t want to give up fun, but it’s been my experience that I can ruin a perfectly good day by trying to have ‘fun.’ Bleh. To be honest, anxiety (or CBT) has given me things too, like gratitude, especially for things I at least had the pleasure of doing before anxiety took over.
    I’ve gotten better with driving, but then, I freak out when it’s dark or rainy — better than I was five years ago, but not where I want to be.
    I’ve learned to cope with stores much more. I used to suffer so much in large shops. Total sensory overload. I still avoid them, but I can handle it now and again.
    I really appreciate your tales. I find comfort in them. I love how candid you are.

    1. It is disheartening to read the things you’ve found restrictive, because I can relate to them all. Looks like you were quite the adventurer.

      I’ve learned to cope with stores too. Still don’t like them because of the sensory overload, but I make it through them okay. It usually helps if I let Maurice go through the line while I walk around and wait for him where the bagger stands.

      1. It helps me not to be alone. That is the one thing I can say with certainty.
        I am glad we both have mates to share our burdens.

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