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What happens when you are better at your job when you're crazy?


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Hi everyone,

 

Just found this board tonight and I like a little snark in my mental health support so I thought I'd join. Instead of the standard noob post I thought I'd pose a topic. I'm in a highly chaotic industry. It's fast-paced, sort of technical, creative on command, and in most cases requires you to consistently maintain the constantly re-prioritized workload of 3-4 normal people. I am a rapid cycling, mixed state bipolar with ADD and anxiety. So basically unless I'm in a major depression I'm like a pig in shit in this type of work. I thrive on the chaos. For most of my life I've been considered very "highly functioning" for whatever that's worth. At my peak I am a force of nature, especially while in a nice level of mania (the part before I decide people are plotting against me.) But as we all know, the fun part never lasts. In about 2004 I spun out after a long period of mania (before I started the whole rapid cycle thing) that became combative, disruptive and paranoid. I had not been fully diagnosed with bipolar yet (although I was suspicious), so I just assumed that those who had been out to get me....well....got me. 

 

I had a good reputation in the industry at the time and didn't have too much trouble finding a new job. However by that time I was both in a depression and quite traumatized at the feedback I had gotten in the "HR huddle session" (aka you're fired speech) about my combative behavior so I over corrected. I was meek, conflict averse, and would burst into tears at the absolute worst moments. Needless to say that lasted less than a year. I wouldn't call it an outright firing so much as getting paid to decide to quit. 

 

I took that severance money and took 2 months off (smart move) for sort of a self funded disability. I went on a pill cocktail scavenger hunt and eventually landed on Lamictal (350), Abilify (10) and Effexor (100 something) and a Xanax topper. Since then a couple of drs have been a bit confused by that cocktail but it at least seemed to calm me down. (wayyyyy  down if you know what I mean)

 

Cut to current day, I have enjoyed a long bit of stability (until recently) except for lots of weight gain and and a slow "underwater" feeling but maybe as close as I feel like I can get to being normal-ish. I'm back to a good job now,performing adequately, but the point of the story is (and there's a lot of blanks I will fill in later) When I'm medicated to what people feel is a proper dose, I feel like I suck at my job. I get so much less done, it's less innovative, and I'm much less charismatic about selling my ideas. I'm also very hard on myself. I don't know what else I would possibly do for a living at this point. Right now I'm only just starting on 1000 of Depakote (and 2 mg xanax for sleep) - started a week ago after a misguided  (but awesome) vacation from my drugs. Reading all about the weight gain (i need that like a hole in the head) but we are here to talk about work). Has anyone ever changed careers as a result of their "new" personality? Not making any rash moves b/c I know it takes a while to master a new cocktail, but I thought it was an interesting (if overly long) question to ask.

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After getting medicated, I got my first full-time permanent job.  Not what you'd call a "career change" so much but.  I'm not complaining (much).  My job's stressful and fast-paced, I find it's kinda what I need to keep me going.  I hanle it well depressed or going up, but I do my best to keep myself stable--too far in either direction and I simply would not be able to function.

 

No function, no job.  No job=very bad things.

 

So do what you can.  It takes time to get used to meds.  Meds take time to get used to.  Hopefully you'll adapt OK.  Don't beat yourself up if you're not at waht you feel should be your 100%.  You don't want to crash and burn again just to be back at your "reak" level at your job.

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I felt like you did for a long time. When I was hypomanic, I was on top of everything, new ideas flowing, strong desire to get things accomplished, etc. Then I'd crash, pull back, and get the "why do you hate your job" speech because I was so apathetic.

I switched jobs right around the time I started my meds, so I can't say for certain my meds drove me to a new job. I do believe that I wouldn't function as well as expected in a fast-paced, high-stress environment like I used to work in. In retrospect, I think the stress helped drive the hypomania. Ultimately I think the lower stress job plus meds have helped me stay more stable, but at the expense of that high-flying manic energy I got used to.

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What I found was that I had to identify what my triggers were; specifically, what events preceded my cycles. Being around other people and accepting the stress and aggravation that goes along with having co-workers was a big one for me. The best job I ever had was one where I literally saw no one for 8 hours a day. Unfortunately, my cycles eventually caught up with me as my cocktail seemed to be less effective, which is an ongoing issue for me.

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When I was unmedicatwd I was in college n making straight A's n graduated with a 3.956 GPA, which is the best I've ever done in school n I graduated 6th in my class n first in my major. I thrived in college but when the train derailedn I crashed onto depression in the working world my work suffered tremendously. When they medicated me I went zombie n then was even worse. Plus I slept a lot at work. My miñd is so dull now its a bit ridiculous.

Damn autocorrect.

Edited by exl2398
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I spent 12 years in a job that was very deadline driven, and therefore sporadic in workload. My cycled tended to merge with my workload demands, so I was very successful in that line of work.

Then I stayed home for a few years with my children. This coincided with a depressive cycle, but the decision to stay home was not because of the cycle, but because of my "mommy" desires.

I went back to work in an even keeled job in a different industry, that apparently was not enough for me when I hit a hypomanic cycle. So I moved into sales. Worst decision I've ever made because when I failed at it, it triggered a spiraling suicidal depression. The only good thing that came out of it is that I finally saw a pdoc and got correctly diagnosed and medicated.

After another six months, I quit that sales job, and found another job in the same industry but less sales focused. So yes, I did finally make a conscious career decision based on my illness. I spent a couple of years moving from floundering to healing. I am now back at a place where I feel I bring value to my firm and believe I am good at what I do, without feeling out of control. Best place ever.

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Thanks for all the thoughtful replies everyone. I guess deep down it ends up being a bit of an identity crisis, I've only ever had 3 speeds...manic, depressed, and drugged....None of which I feel are the real me. So who the hell am I at the end of the day? If I were not bipolar what would my personality be like? I have no baseline for what normal feels like and if I did I'm not sure what things I would enjoy doing. Or maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way and all of the above *is* the real me and I just need to find a way to optimize my strengths. But yeah, If I could go off and on hypomanic on command I'd be running the free world. 

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I didn't know what the real me was until I was switched around on meds and found something that felt right to me. Bottom line is that you are never going to have that frenzy of energy like you used to have, but you shouldn't feel drugged either. Maybe you need a lower dose of the Xanax so you aren't so chilled out?

It took me about two years to get used to the new me, but that's because I did lots of med switching in the beginning.

As for the job thing, I went on disability about two years after I was diagnosed , so I would say my illness definitely affected my working choice.

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