Trigger Warning: This blog post contains content related to depression and suicidal ideation, which may cause certain uncomfortable feelings to arise. Please read with caution. If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a list of international suicide hotlines. Studies show that close to 60 percent of people who suffer from bipolar disorder admit to abusing some sort of substance. Some people attempt to treat symptoms of their mental illness with substances, but substance misuse can activate or prolong symptoms. If you are in the state of Washington, Ohio, Florida or Colorado, and would like to seek treatment, I urge you to check out The Recovery Village Ridgefield links I’ve provided for further information on the services they provide: https://www.ridgefieldrecovery.com/treatments/co-occurring-disorders/bipolar/ https://www.drugrehab.com/guides/suicide-risks/
This morning I was watching the news, and there was a report on the female suicide rates in Japan and how they have risen by 80%, since the onset of the pandemic. According to the report, this is due to changes in societal dynamics, specifically for Japanese women. In the past, women only had to take care of their home, spouse, and children. In more recent years, women are now expected to work on top of all of their other responsibilities, and this is causing added stress. Now a pandemic has hit and all of these factors combined are becoming too much to bear for some women.
Watching this news report brought up some feelings and memories for me, as I listened to the reporter interview a woman who suffers from depression and has attempted sucide three times. I have never attempted suicide, but I have suffered with immense depression and suicidal ideations in the past. I could definitely relate to some of the feelings the woman experienced.
In January of 2020, after 21 years of working for various companies, I decided it was time to take a break from working. I have Bipolar I Disorder, and the high stress positions I kept choosing to work in, were proving to be too much for me to manage. My manic and depressive bipolar episodes are triggered by too much stress. I was working as an Executive Assistant at the time, and was severely depressed. I would go to work everyday in panic mode, because I didn’t know if I could do the work without feeling distracted by my racing negative thoughts or feelings of being overwhelmed. Sometimes I would go to the private bathroom to cry by myself or call my mom or sister and cry and vent on the phone. I was so depressed, but a lot of the time I couldn’t pinpoint the source of my sadness. I told my mom in one conversation that I didn’t want to keep living and wished I would die in my sleep. I took these breaks so often that a lot of times my coworkers couldn’t find me, which is obviously not something that should happen at any office. On top of all of this, I started to experience panic attacks, which wasn’t something I had dealt with in the past. This job was having a negative effect on my mental health.
Being an Executive Assistant to the head of a company is a high profile and high stress position, and you have to be on top of your game in order to keep your boss on track. I was clearly not on top of my game at this time, so I had to make a decision. My decision was to take a medical leave of absence, and to get some needed professional help. The day I made this decision was one of the hardest moments of my life, for I knew this may be a turning point for me and I wasn’t sure if it would turn out positively or negatively. I contacted Human Resources and let them know I had a medical condition, which is triggered by stress and I wasn’t well. As for my boss, I decided to tell her the truth about my bipolar disorder, and to my surprise it was received with understanding and compassion, as she had experience with mental health issues in her circle of people. She even gave me a reference to a therapist she knew. Human Resources accepted the fact that I needed to take care of my health first and I was granted a leave of absence.
This wasn’t the first time I had gone on a leave of absence from work, due to my mental health, so it was a big blow to my self confidence and self worth, as I hoped it wouldn’t happen again. At first, I became even more depressed and had a hard time getting out of bed or even taking a shower and cleaning my house. I felt like my life was over and that I would never get out of this state. But then I decided, if I wanted to get better, I needed to do something about it and make some changes. The first step I took was to call my Psychiatrist and get a medication adjustment. Next, I called the therapist that my boss had recommended and started to see her once a week. Slowly, I started to make some progress and feel better. The Psychiatrist had made some adjustments in my medications, which seemed to help, but most importantly, talking with the therapist started to help me understand the root causes of my depression and how to cope with those feelings.
One great thing the therapist did in one of our first sessions was provide me with a list of 100 coping skill suggestions. I read the whole list, because I really needed some relief from the pain I was feeling, and I was willing to try some of the suggested coping skills on the list. I was pleased to find that some of the suggestions actually helped. I kept up with the medication regimen and talk therapy and within some time I started to feel a lot better and developed some clarity around my choice of profession. I came to the realization that working in high stress positions is not what’s best for me anymore. It was causing my mental health to suffer and all the money and notoriety in the world was not worth my mental wellbeing suffering any longer. I ended up resigning from my Executive Assistant position at the end of February of 2020, so I can focus on my mental health and begin my healing journey. If or when I return to working, it will have to be a less stressful position, where I’m able to manage my mental health as well as the tasks from the position.
I may always have Bipolar Disorder, but I’m learning what I can do to help me cope with it. I’m also learning that it’s ok to set boundaries for myself, on what I’m willing to do and not do, in order to keep me feeling stable. For me, medication management, talk therapy and a support system are mandatory to keep me functioning and well. I’ve seen what could happen if I don’t do the work necessary to help me when I’m struggling, and I don’t want to go down that path again. Now I know what helps me, and I plan to remain on this path of mental wellness.