Although I was able to work full-time for almost 20 years, once I began taking medication and I got sicker and sicker, I was unable to work on site. Both the severity and duration of my depressive episodes increased. I went from having two annual six-week depressive periods, one in April and the other in October, to having one depressive episode last an entire year.
Luckily, I had already developed a number of skills that initially enabled me to continue working as a freelance writer, grant writer, and author. The bummer was that my second book, The Mommy Guide, was published just before I started this downward spiral. While I was initially able to attend a number of book signings at bookstores and even do a few radio interviews, my greatest opportunity came when the medication was producing terrible side effects.
I was approached by an international advertising agency who wanted to send me on a six-city book tour if I would endorse a baby formula that one of their clients manufactured.. Ordinarily I wouldn't have considered it because it was too commercial for the purist that I used to be (and still am in many ways). But, it wasn't a problem because I actually used that formula for my son.
Still, I had to decline because of the way I looked and talked. The Depakote had caused about 1/3 of my hair to fall out. What remained was thin and curly (not in an attractive way), which was unusual because my hair had always been straight and I'd worn it in a bob style for most of my adult life. Depakote also caused a 20 pound weight gain and significant hand tremors. The Depakote and Zoloft combined caused excessive dry mouth and head sweats. Out of nowhere, two to three times a day my head began to perspire so severely that it looked like I had dunked my hair in a pail of water.
The severity of the depression and the medication were responsible for memory loss and an inability to articulate simple thoughts. I, who had always prided myself of my mental acuity, sounded like a female version of Lenny in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
Years later, things got much worse...[to be continued]
Because work is such an important topic, I plan on spending the entire week focusing on it. Tomorrow, I'll have some bipolar employment facts and stats. I'd also like to print--in the main body of the blog--other people's experiences. Let me know if you have a story you'd like to share. Are there any questions we should explore or tips you have for others?
My first book was called Job Search Strategy for College Grads, which I co-wrote with a dear friend who's a career counselor and human relations specialist. Although it's currently out of print, years ago I wrote a lot of freelance articles about employment issues, did job search seminars for college students, and helped students in a program I oversaw for UCLA Extension, get jobs.
Personally, I've had a number of really wonderful jobs, most of which I've hated. I've often wondered if that's just me, whether it's a sign of the illness, or whether it was because it took so many years for me to realize my true vocation.
But I must admit, the problems that we bipolars have with work, are in a class of their own. I wish I had the answers but honestly I don't. Still, maybe together we can brainstorm. If anyone has solved their work problems in a positive way, I'm sure we'd all like to hear about it. I'll also recommend some books, mention any research trials in this area, and see if I can find any career professionals or psychologists who might have good advice. Stay tuned!