When I was diagnosed with manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) our primary concern was just getting it under control so that I could function. That’s a low bar, especially considering I was a high school student at the time. I’m definitely not saying high school is easy in any way, least of all psychologically, but that’s all I had to worry about. Once it was “under control” I was just expected to carry on like everyone else, like I was fine. It’s accepted, even more now than it was in the 90s when I was diagnosed, that daily tasks can be more difficult with these issues, but in reality it is so much more than that. Every single day is fucking exhausting. And it’s only getting more so as I age.
At 15 I was diagnosed, treated, counseled, and then told to carry on as a “normal” teenager. Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a degree, get a job, make it on your own. Simple enough, right? Well, now in my mid-thirties, having graduated college and been “on my own” for well over a decade, I’m actually starting to wonder if I made the right choices for my sanity.
My doctor, councilors over the years, family, basically everyone, says I am “high functioning”. I’m not just succeeding for someone with bipolar disorder, but I’m considered successful for someone in general. Everyone wonders sometimes if they chose the right career/life/path, that’s not new. We all want to somehow love, or at least not hate, what we spend half of our waking hours doing, and to enjoy the rest of our time too. But for those of us more deeply effected by external stimuli, is loving a job even a good idea? Is aiming to succeed by everyone’s standards a reasonable goal?
I have a challenging existence, even more than it could be, because I made it that way. Instead of choosing a stable, repetitive, low stress job, I chose the opposite. And I chose it because I love it! I love math and science and engineering, rockets and space and technology, solving problems and learning, doing, experiencing everything I possibly can in my chosen field, and in life in general. My up and down, risk taking, excitement seeking, manic depressive personality draws me to this career. And yet the instability of work contracts, the intense deadlines, big decisions that affect other people, and consistently high demanding work performance is possibly the worst daily environment I could subject myself to. And they expect me to be nice to other people while I’m at it! This is not even considering being an adult with responsibilities, bills, chores, etc.
As a result, every 2-4 years I seem to destabilize and it becomes a race to unload whatever excess responsibilities I’ve taken on, fix my meds, and get me back on track before I fuck it all up. I falter, and then I look around and hope no one noticed. Yes there are “protections” in place to make sure these episodes don’t result in me losing my job or whatever, but I prefer not be reliant on people being made to overlook these issues.
So, my current existential bullshit is this: am I making life harder than it needs to be by wanting to succeed, have a career I love, and be a functioning adult to boot? The answer is yes. But I guess it’s too late to go another way now.