One of the things that I have grown to love is the journey that is me and my bipolar-ness. This journey is not bipolar specific, in fact we are all on our own journey, mine just happens to be a bipolar one. I feel like many people don’t take time to be present in the process and miss out on the rewards come with being present. My personal journey is cyclical, in that every time I battle something big and come out on the other side, I take some time to mellow out and enjoy that victory, but then out of nowhere something new sneaks up on me and all of a sudden I’m on the defense again. These internal conflicts have become less intense as time has gone and of course it depends on the subject matter, but I find that when I am faced with something that I have been fighting for so long there comes a time when I am just ready to get over it and do what ever it takes to be done and move on. Its like once I have moved through all the emotions surrounding the conflict all I want it to logically address the situation and make changes.
That is where I am now with my struggles around productivity, lack of focus and follow through. I have mentioned this many times (here, here, here and here). It has been something that I have fought in some capacity since my early teens. Clearly I have been able to wrangle it in, or else I would not have a job or friends or be functional. But the amount of time and energy that it takes to stay on track is astounding and even with all that effort; there are times when things still fall through the cracks. It is beyond exhausting. About 6 months ago I was at my quarterly crazy doctor appointment and something came up that took her back (which was a touch concerning, after all, she does see crazy people all day long, what could possibly surprise her?) and she started asking questions:
"…Do you have trouble focusing? [yes] Do you have trouble finishing projects? [meh, yes!] Do you put things in piles? [yes, damn those bloody piles!!] Is it difficult for you do get through your day and stay on task? [meeeeeh, yes.] Do you always find yourself putting things off and then pulling it off at the last minute [OMG, get out of my brain!!!!!]..."
The questions went on and the “yeses” and “mehs” kept coming. Well, turns out that ADD is not just for mis-behaved six year old boys any more, its for the the bipolars too!!!! YAAAAY!! Seriously, ADD?? Really? Another acronym? Another thing to read about? Another medication to decide on? Please, make it stop! We spent the rest of our time discussing options. I learned that there are 2 new-ish medications that can treat ADD in someone who is also Bipolar because they are non-stimulants (the traditional ADD medications have the tendency to make someone with is bipolar become manic, and that’s no good.).
So I went home with a trial medication packet and immediately ordered the two books she suggested Delivered from Distraction, by Edward Hallowell, MD and Women with ADD, by Sari Solden. (Side note: each are over 350 pages, small type, no pictures – really? Me and my possible ADD are supposed to “focus” and “follow through” in getting this read??) (Side note to the side note: both are actually really good reads and super informative and I did manage to work them out, despite lack of photos). The more I read, the more encouraged I became. Some studies show that as many as 60% of those with Bipolar are also ADD. Could it be possible that even the aforementioned behaviors are linked to my brain chemistry and it is not that I just don’t have it together? Could I actually take some meds that would help that? Suddenly I got giddy, imagining a time where I could actually rule my own little world and do jazz hands just cuz they are fabulous – I certainly would no longer need them to distract from the things that may have fallen through the huge cracks that are caused by my lack of focus. How bout that, jazz hands for fun – BRING ON THE MEDS!!!
I ended up reading and reading more and more and trying both medications over a 6 month period, neither of which really worked. Such a huge disappointment!!! The disappointment was mostly rooted in the fact that I was so quick and hopeful that, the meds would do the trick. I really longed for it to be an easy way out. Just this one time and then I would be ready to go back to all the hard work and growth and blah blah blah…but that is just not how it works.
I had another appointment with Dr. John (aka, my crazy doctor) last week and had to tell her that the second medication we tried did not work and that I had stopped taking it. We talked about what my specific struggles are and I decided that trying a more traditional medication that would risk mania was not worth it. It has become increasing clear to me that I do really well in situations where I can have an outside perspective to point out some practical ways to actually change my behaviors. I am the type that needs that external accountability in order to change habits and relearn things that I have ingrained into my identity until now. Usually I would consider going to see my old therapist for a few sessions, but in this case all the emotions are separated from the behaviors. The only way I am going to address the frustration and anxiety is to literally DO SOMETHING about the situation, I have done plenty of talking about it, its time for doing.
Yesterday I had my fist appointment with a life coach. She her counseling background includes working with adults who are ADD and bipolar and I am working with her to get my ACTION on! She is great, I am really excited about our coming sessions. Yesterday we talked about my cycle of productivity (or lack of) and how it is that I manage to pull it off every time. After I was giving her the 100th example of this, she asked. “So, what’s the payoff? What do you get from this cycle of behavior? There has to be a reason that you continue to do it the way you do.” This totally ninja'ed my brain and really made me think. I am not a stupid person and therefore would not make myself miserable on purpose, so what is the deal? What’s the payoff? What am I getting out of behaving in this way? And how can I get those same things by behaving differently? So much to think about….I already feel my thought patterns changing…now its time to translate that into action.
How about you? What are some patterns of behavior (big or small) that you have struggled to change? Ask yourself, “What’s the payoff?” If you are anything like me, you just might have a little light go off in your brain and start looking at those things differently. Or you might just have an answer and that is helpful too. Or you might just think I am crazy that’s fine too.
Either way, I hope you have the happiest Saturday!!!
Oh, and ps - check out my new “about me button and page”. I’ve been working on some blog design stuff and some new features…so stay tuned!!! Oh, Oh and pps – if you are interested in reading more about Bipolar or ADD, you can do so here and here.