I feel like this blog is a failure.  I originally intended it to be someplace where people could read the internal day-to-day struggles of being a professional dealing with bipolar disorder.  Instead, I’ve been on medical leave and dealt with so much medical stuff over the past 10 months that this blog has almost nothing at all to do with career oriented matters.  Now, if things don’t start moving very soon, it will be about being bipolar and unemployed.

Is this blog really a failure?  I’ve got all these awards that say otherwise.  Or does it just mean that its deviated from its intention?

Am I a failure?  This is a different question, one I ask myself frequently.  I have all this education – 10 years post high school – and I’ve forgotten 90% of it.  I’m good at what I do, but I’m not the best or even nearly the best.  I put myself above average: maybe B+ range.  My student evaluations were not great either.  There were reasons for that too.  One other teacher who taught the same classes as I was a very easy teacher: 27/30 students got an A in his classes.  So why would students want to take mine?  I had pretty much bell-curved grades and everyone got what they earned. But if they passed my class, they had learned something.  Not true in his class. I lost my teaching job through no fault of my own. I was good for that school, all the teachers knew it, but administration couldn’t see it.  It’s very difficult to get respect from anyone (administration, colleagues, students) as a female science professor.  This has been statistically proven, although I’ve long since lost the reference.  Maybe I’m just trying to justify my situation, but there are facts to back it.

My first job loss was directly related to euphoric bipolar mania, and this one was in part due to bipolar dysphoric mania/hypomania.  My therapists tell me not to look at it that way – each job has been a particular set of circumstances and I should not blame myself for job loss.  But aren’t they paid to tell me that?  Would I still be employed if I wasn’t bipolar? Not at the first company – they went out of business.  Maybe not at teaching either, because my bipolar cycles were not that bad throughout that time period.  (I had some mild depression and one manic period during the summer of ’06.) Thus, it didn’t impact my work like it has at other times.

But this job… it started with my OCD.  I didn’t help people enough because I didn’t feel comfortable with the safety situation in the lab.  By all the rules and regulations, it was “safe”.  But I wasn’t comfortable, so I would gradually try to avoid it – it escalated and I was washing my hands constantly.  I had this belief that I couldn’t leave a water bottle sitting on my desk because someone would put something in it so I would fail a drug test or outright poison me.  Seriously, my cupboards were full of partially empty bottled waters. I’ve had this irrational belief for a long time. Is this a psychotic break?

Anyway, I pissed off the narcissist by taking advice from someone else, but he never forgives or forgets. When I’m gone, he will probably brag about how he got me fired.  When my dysphoric mania hit I became a difficult person to work with.  The narcissist triggered all my PTSD buttons and I was afraid to go into work. I would go and cry in people’s offices.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I couldn’t do my work.  I had nightmares about work 2-4 times a week. I should have sought help then.  Every time I complained to management I was unknowingly committing self-sabotage. I was breaking, but I thought: I can control this.  I can keep it together.  No one needs to know I am bipolar.

I should have been taken off of work much sooner – not for my arms but for my mind.  Before the structure fractured and I tried to patch myself with willpower duct tape.  Before things got out of hand and I got hurt again – physically and emotionally.  I’m basically a nice person and I generally work well with others, but it got so that every conversation, every rumor, flung shards of insult in my direction, slicing and fraying nerves as they flew.

Now, look where I am 10 months later: fixed physically and mentally, up for the challenge of dealing with anything, even the narcissist. Up for the challenge of anything but unemployment.  And that’s the demon I must face now. The argument that twists in my mind is: am I a failure?


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7 thoughts on “Failure?

  1. I don’t think the blog is a failure; even if you stray off topic, at least you are still writing. I think it is important to have an outlet for all the stuff in our heads. … and I don’t think you’re a failure; anyone with bipolar who hasn’t jumped in front of a bus is a success story, in my opinion! Seriously though, sudden unemployment is a real challenge, both financially and emotionally. I hope you get to keep your therapist, and I hope you find another job soon.

  2. I constantly worry that I’m a failure also. I only have part-time jobs despite how much education I have. Does that mean I’m a failure? I’m certain that it was my mental health issues that caused me to stop with a Master’s rather than go on to the Ph.D. And it . . . it’s not a good feeling sometimes, knowing that. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, as the academic job market in the humanities isn’t great anyway. If I’d quit completely of my own accord, without mental health considerations, I’d be fine–I’d know that it was really *my* decision, not something partially based on factors beyond my control.

    So, am I failure? Rationally, I don’t think so. I don’t think you are, either. As long as you’re writing in the blog and it’s working as an outlet, I’d say your blog is a success. 🙂

  3. I don’t think the blog is a failure either. Things evolve – our lives, our focus, the current struggles that we need to talk about. That’s OK. No one judges you for that, least of all your fellow sufferers!

    I wouldn’t call you a failure either. You’ve accomplished a lot, even if things don’t go the way you want. Your therapists are right – we’re not in control of everything, and judging ourselves based on situational constraints is unfair. You did the best you could in each situation, given what was going on in your life, right? Right.

    If you don’t use it, you lose it – but it’s easier to refresh your memory on content if you need to. No need to judge yourself on that point either! Grades aren’t everything (in my PhD program, the only thing they predict is grades in coursework, not likelihood of completion), student evaluations are notoriously biased, and administrators are wise to those biases with easy versus valuable classes.

    I know it’s difficult, especially when nasty things happen and moods spiral downwards, but all I can recommend is trying not to be so hard on yourself! Make other non-career goals that you can feel good about. Think about those counterexamples, like the part where your students actually learned something. That’s a specific technique to fight negative thinking – affirmations that directly oppose those thoughts – but it does take practice. It’s probably what your therapists are trying to get you do. I know it’s hard to see, though. Hang in there.

    Oh, by the way, I’ve been hit by a bus. I didn’t jump in front of it, even though the bus driver accused me of doing so. 😉

  4. Thank you everyone for your support. I am still missing the self-confidence I need to get through this. Although my current therapist thinks I have plenty of self-confidence, I told her it was just an act. To which she replied, “Fake it ’till you make it.” Well, I’ve been faking it for years. When will I make it?

    It’s very, very difficult not to take this personally, especially when I know I screwed up. It wasn’t entirely my fault. I had really toxic people around me who managed to find every button I had and push it hard. My biggest fault was that I didn’t seek help sooner. I didn’t have surgery on my arm sooner. Even then, there is no guarantee that I would still have a job. And the job that I would have would be working with these toxic people. At least I can raise my glass in celebration that I don’t have to work with them anymore.

  5. Neither you, nor your blog is a failure. You sought to write about professional life with bipolar disorder, right? This is it! There are tons of other people who have gone through similar situations at work. The difference is that you are going through it with both pre-existing health conditions and bipolar disorder.

    I think it’s a wild success, personally. I have learned so much about the world and life of a professional that I didn’t know. And honestly, I think it’s a testament to how a person with bipolar disorder can get the short end of the stick even when they haven’t come out about their disorder in the workplace. It depicts business life for what it can often be.

    But, it also shows a side of your that a strictly professional-life blog would not. It highlights you, as a person. And best of all, it shows your incredible strength throughout all of your ordeals, past and present. You are a serious heavy weight. And I think it lends so much hope and strength to others.

    If that’s not a blog success, I don’t know what is!

  6. You are by no measurement a failure, dear Monday. You are a woman who has proved over and over that you can adapt and conquer circumstances you once felt unprepared for. I think this blog is a beautiful reflection of you. It has changed, because so have you changed. You have grown stronger and more confident in the short time I have come to know you. It may not feel that way within, but I really believe it to be true.

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