It’s been around three months since I had a full time role at a company. I quit my job for a couple of reasons firstly, my dad was dying so I felt more time with him definitely outweighed a pay cheque and secondly I wasn’t in the mood to write or designs software anymore.
The months leading up to my resignation was quite emotionally turbulent, in that I hit a point where I just wanted to quit the Software industry all together as it had little or no excitement left in it (despite the advancing UX platform(s) of the future). To the point where I found myself sitting in the Queensland Police force recruitment seminar and started to get excited about the idea of being a police officer, in that I’ve kinda always wanted to do this but they don’t get paid as much as a Software developer/designer – so it’s always held me back.
I was bedridden for two months
My dad died soon after I resigned and I found myself pretty much in bed most days watching countless TV/Movies day in day out. I wasn’t depressed, I was more indifferent to the world around me in that I had no desire to write anything or do anything other than just relax and live a stress free existence.
This went on for 2 months while I went to a few job interviews and even to the point where I was turning down job offers even though I went to the initial interview? (wasting peoples time basically).
It wasn’t until I got a small contract role (4 weeks) to do some UX prototyping (given finances were low) that I began to notice that not only was it time I stopped sitting on my lazy butt but get off it and do some work to ensure my family’s bills are paid (given we made a huge dent in the savings). I found something very odd happening within, in that despite the importance of getting the work done in order to get paid, i still found it a struggle to get motivated or concentrate.
My first initial thoughts were, maybe I’ve been lazy for to long and i need to just let the cob webs get out my way in order to get back to a developer/designer routine?
Two weeks pass and I’m not getting better in fact I’m being worse, in that I’d laze around during the day and then find myself coding/designing until 3am each night to make up for the lost hours.
The cycle began to get out of control and it worried not only my family but I myself started to get a bit concerned around why.
With this concern, I went into a local GP office and sat down and told her what was going on. She asked me a series of questions that related to emotions/moods etc and history of these events etc in the past. She then left the room and asked one of her colleagues who’s a psychiatrist to come in and ask a few more questions. Two hours later, they both looked at one another and then turned to me and said calmly “we think you are suffering from bipolar”.
I was silent, in somewhat disbelief as i’m not depressed, suicidal or any of those i’m just tired? how is being bipolar relevant here?
We then went on to discussing what it is, how it is likely to be the cause of a lot of issues within my career/life and so on.
Fast forward to today, and i’m taking Lithium as a medication in order to round out the highs/lows of my “mania” that comes with this disorder. At first I was afraid of it being a chemical lobotomy, as I didn’t want to lose my creative edge but at the same time my ability to finish what I start or concentrate for long periods has always been the failure in my career (amount of bridges I’ve burnt). It however is working, whether it’s a placebo or not is something I can’t answer - but – I’m getting stuff done now and I’m able to concentrate for long periods without interruption (in 15 years of doing software development & design, it’s actually extremely rare to have me concentrate on one task for more than 1-2 hours at a time – yesterday I worked a full 6hours non-stop).
I don’t think its the miracle cure but I think calming my mind from being a virtual ping pong machine does help stabilize my ideas into work.
It’s embarrassing to say you have bipolar outloud.
I’ve tortured myself a little at posting this on my blog, given well it’s embarrassing to admit that i have this dark passenger (as dexter would say only minus the killing of course) within me. It’s not that I choose to have whatever this disorder is it’s simply I have to live with it now.
It’s something I’ve managed to work around for all my life, in that when I found myself in the lows/highs i’d look to other means to chip away at the problem and they varied from exercise (run/walk it out), drinking (beer helps hehe) or find an external outlet to clear the mind (dirtbike/moto-x riding, fishing, reading, PS3 etc).
To now have a label and medication to trump all of the above seems firstly cheating and lastly embarrassing. I have bipolar? will the kids at school make fun of me now? etc etc.
Why now, why is this an issue today?
I first started noticing some signs that my emotions) in general weren’t normal when I was working inside Microsoft. The environment within the company is toxic most of the time so if you’re suffering from a condition that has degrees of both paranoia and high/low emotions, then basically Microsoft can be like making an alcoholic work for a brewery.
One specific event comes to mind when i was trying to get the team to leave me alone in order to redo the Silverlight website(s). We hit a point where other members of the team who initially rejected the idea of its creation started to hijack that success I was having with it and thus it created this emotive response mixed with large amounts of paranoia. Long story short, I found myself yelling / swearing quite loud at three members of my team to the point where they had a look of fear on their face as if to say “this guy is losing it!”.
I to this day am utterly embarassed with this event as I did totally lose it, it was over something so small yet it was just the start to what I would call my last dark days of Microsoft. I spent the next 3-4 months just being a complete asshole to others in the team that I wasn’t friends with to the point where my ego was getting out of control. The day I quit was a welcome relief to my the group manager Brian, as I could tell he was shocked as to how I went from being “yes, hire this guy now” to being “what the hell just happened”.
My doctor(s) now tell me that I was probably simmering up until that meeting and from there it was just a downhill race to rock bottom and that had I not reached the point where I was three months ago it was likely that i’d repeat this eventually somewhere down the line.
The reason however this time I was just bedridden was simply the passing of my father, in that up until that point I’ve always kept a death grip on my hypomania but with his passing I just let go (giving grief can be a dark time).
Why post here about it?
What is my motivation to tell this story out loud. I’ve thought about this and the main reason is to apologise out loud to people I know and worked with over the years, as the more I think about this condition the more I now realise the difficulty that I may have put people in and lastly to thank those who despite my attitude still believed in my work and found ways to navigate around this.
Lastly, to get it out of the way, I have bipolar, it sucks but now I have a name for whatever the hell this is and with a steady stream of medication and/or programs that I can tap into now, then I feel as if I can now get back to what I’m good at – designing software.
The ability to have an idea and finish is a goal I’ve always had but never quite reached for almost 15 years. I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing something from start to finish now, and I’m hoping with treatment for this disorder it can happen again.
I have bipolar and it doesn’t bother me now.