Understanding the Causes of Burnout

When everything around you seems to deplete you of energy, it’s time to do an assessment of your environment, your mind, and your body. If you suffer from a mood disorder, such as bipolar, you may become manic or depressed as a result of any precipitating factor. Take special care of yourself from the very moment you realize you are becoming stressed or ill.

Your body:

Do you have cramps, have a headache or feel nauseous? If it’s any of those things, plus you feel tired and moody, watch out for PMS. PMS can make a logical person act irrationally. Women feel more sensitive and self-conscious during their cycle.

Your environment:

Being around people that drain you, as opposed to people that nourish and encourage you, can deplete your energies in many ways. I work with toxic coworkers, one in particular who complains when she is directed to do something other than making copies or sweep the floors. She has a penchant for gossiping about me and telling others I’m having a “bipolar” day (I made the mistake of confiding in her that I have bipolar disorder). When I am sick or having my cycle, it is challenging to bite my tongue around this woman. I  find it helpful to meditate and pray when circumstances feel beyond my control.

Your mind:

Have I been neglecting to feed my mind good things? Like the physical body, our minds can only bear good fruit when we feed it with enriching things. When we give our mind a steady diet of garbage tv, vile images, words or music, nothing positive can become of such things.

Others do not need to deal with my crabbiness, either. I must retreat from people when I am being stressed. Solitude refreshes many people, especially introverts like myself. It’s rare that I have much quiet time. Small blocks of time seem to help me quelch the crankiness. A heating pad, good music, and 15 minutes to myself, much needed mental and physical rest not only benefits me, but it helps my family, my co-workers and others.

When I get overwhelmed by stress, my moods or emotions, and I have nowhere to “dump” that which exacerbates my bipolar disorder, I turn to mindless purging- purging of material things, or purging of documents, papers, receipts, and even things I was trying to save (old report cards from my children, school programs, newsletters, etc.). I have not been diagnosed with OCD, but I feel such behaviors are compulsive. These behaviors are rooted in an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes when I do not pay attention to my diet and I drink too much soda pop or eat junk food, I feel ashamed and unhappy with myself. I have wanted to purge on a few occasions, but have avoided this by distracting myself with writing or some other activity.

When we fail to nourish ourselves, our mind and body will cry out for attention. Poor nutrition, overeating, alcohol abuse, and many other unhealthy habits will manifest and cause us more harm in the long run.

Simple Ways to Balance Work and Life

Work/Life Balance

“Live To Work, Work To Live” was once a popular credo associated with high-achievers, while others referred to the phrase in a tongue-in-cheek manner to express negative feelings towards work and life. We now realize that in order to maximize our potential in the workplace and in our personal lives, we must find our own “work-life” balance. However, “work-life” balance is still a misunderstood concept.

The notion of a work-life balance isn’t a simple formula, but it can be simplified by stating that it is a balance of positive and negative aspects of an individual’s life. Personal, professional and family life- a harmonious balance in all aspects of our existence, can help us achieve a healthy “work-life” balance.

Make Time For Your Social Life

In your quest for economic and vocational satisfaction, making time for family and friends is an important part combatting feelings of loneliness and actually, promote resiliency. Social support enhances the quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events. (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support).

Set Goals

Making the most of the time we have for work and life is dependent on the types of goals we set. If we fail to set goals or impose superficial or vague goals, it is much more difficult to find purpose in our work. A goal such as, “make more money” is too broad, thus, it will be much harder to maintain mental and emotional stamina to accomplish a goal that offers no method to focus our energies. A better alternative to a broad goal is to set a smaller goal, which provides smaller steps, smaller action plans on our part, to manifest a more meaningful and realistic goal.
(https://www.wanderlustworker.com/setting-s-m-a-r-t-e-r-goals-7-steps-to-achieving-any-goal/).

Determine and Reduce Distractions

The “garden” of your life requires much pruning- it is essential to be mindful of the things that are consuming your time and energy that may not be necessary at that moment.

Technology and Smartphones, although a necessity in the workplace, can hinder our attention. It is better to know what time of the day you are most productive and when to maximize getting work done at that time. Avoid checking emails every time you get a notification. Instead, set aside specific chunks of time to read and reply to messages.

Noise is another common distraction in the workplace. White noise, such as the humming of a fan, can help mask other noises that may cause you to become distracted. You can find many white noise apps that enable you to block distracting conversations and noises in the workplace. You can also avoid such distractions by simply wearing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.

Many workers don’t have the option to shut a door to block interruptions. Body language is an important tool to signal to others you have little time for talk. Be mindful to discern what is relevant information and what is idle chatter. When you feel the conversation falls into the latter category, kindly tell your co-worker that you have to attend to a very important task and don’t have much time for talking right now.
(https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/distractions.htm).

Good Health Improves Productivity, Morale

Getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition will help you have more energy at work. When employees have more energy, production increases and accidents decrease. Morale and engagement also appear to be higher when workers are healthier. Less absenteeism also assures that coworkers aren’t burdened by picking up extra slack from a sick colleague, which may inadvertently affect company morale and productivity.
(https://www.gohealthhero.com/blog/10-benefits-of-healthy-employees/).

Take Time To Nurture Your Dreams

This is something many busy people take for granted. Unfortunately, when you fail to feed your dreams, you have less to give in all other aspects of your life. When we simply forge ahead, neglecting our dreams, we lose the ability to infuse joy into our work and relationships. Sometimes “life” happens and we lose focus, or our ambitions become less-important. When we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams, we need to find ways to allocate even a small amount of time to dream regularly. This can be achieved by taking on hobbies or side projects that utilize our talents and abilities. When we realize our happiness is the sum total of our work and lives, we may start to find more ways to obtain a better work/life balance.

 

man standing beside grocery rack

Finding Emotional Support When You Feel Marginalized

Traditionally marginalized people– (e.g., women or people of oppressed racial/ethnic groups; people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as older people and individuals from lower socioeconomic classes)- and any person that is underserved, disregarded, harassed, ridiculed or ostracized need to find ways to feel supported despite their environment. Each group of marginalized people has specific needs that are not necessarily understood by those in the community, thus, they must serve as their own advocate in finding such social and emotional support.

Fortunately- or unfortunately, we have become a society that has become more reliant on the use of the internet and social media. In one regard, this reliance on the internet and social media engagement have made us into socially-awkward creatures in the real world. Conversely, these tools can help some people- individuals who feel marginalized, in particular, by mental illness. Often, the stigma attached to mental illness cause people to feel ashamed or distrustful of others, as is the case with people suffering from schizophrenia.

Women, especially those who live with the fear of being abused, have varying reasons as to why they can’t obtain the social or emotional support they need. Victims of domestic violence must be vigilant when speaking to others, either in person or online, about the issues they face. These women live in fear of their lives and the lives of their children- they fear losing custody of their children and perhaps, they wonder how they will support themselves and children alone. (http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay).

Three forms of social support are noted: (https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/) and they include:

  • Socioemotional support- The ways in which you feel validated, or (the ways) “that you are loved, cared for, esteemed and connected to other people in a network of communication and mutual obligation.”
  • Tangible support- Money, transportation, and housing.
  • Informational support- Describes the ability to obtain “advice, personal feedback, expert guidance”

While much research tells us the benefits of having a strong support system, the truth is that marginalized people from all walks of life do not have access to such social supports. The reasons for this include:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of mobility
  • No support systems in place within the community
  • Mental or cognitive impairments that prevent individuals from seeking help
  • Lack of supportive family, friends or co-workers
  • Lack of knowledge or lack of education about such help
  • No affiliations with community groups or churches

In many cases, “social support” may only be available from government or nonprofit agencies. While these agencies can offer many resources- such as referrals to legal or mental health resources, people still lack socioemotional supports.

Many marginalized people might be able to obtain a support network, and information, through the internet. One may be able to access the internet at the public library so long as they have the means to get a library card (proof of residency, driver’s license or ID). In many cases, the librarians can offer patrons a “guest” username and password in order to use their computers. Once online, they can connect to a plethora of online support groups, or they can locate community resources.

(http://www.reachout.life/)
Reachout is a Support Network for patients and caregivers fighting chronic conditions. By connecting with other patients with similar ailments in specific support groups, users are able to find support, gain self-confidence, develop coping skills and reduce loneliness and depression.”

(https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/613)
“The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grant funds to states and territories to provide families with financial assistance and related support services. State-administered programs may include child care assistance, job preparation, and work assistance.” Users may search for benefits and grants for various causes.

(https://catholiccharitiesusa.org)
“At Catholic Charities we help people who are struggling by addressing the often complex issues at the root of their need. Through our national office’s advocacy and disaster relief programs — and its support of our network of member agencies — we’re making tangible progress toward better serving and loving our neighbors all across the country.”

 

References:

  1. Understanding Why Victims Stay. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay
  2. Strategies To Reduce Anxiety and Stress. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/
A woman wearing dark clothes and hat walks in a field of daisies.

When People Pretend to Understand Bipolar Disorder

Don’t assume anything about Bipolar Disorder.

It is much easier for me to tell people I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder now that I have had an actual psychiatric evaluation. It has taken me years to be led in the right direction for such a diagnosis. Five years ago, I believed I suffered from PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). A few times a year, when I would become so distraught over my moods, I would schedule a doctor’s appointment. I believed my periods were causing me such psychological problems that they were the major culprit in any interpersonal relationship conflict I had with family, friends or co-workers.
In 2016, I penned an email to my family doctor:

“I am no longer taking Lexapro. I tried for 3 weeks and had some nightmares and discovered I grew a tolerance for it. I felt really hostile on it the final week. I was seemingly fine until my period this week.”

She gingerly replied:

“Unfortunately you did not follow-up at your scheduled appointment where we would typically re-evaluate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PMDD, and any side effects. Therefore none of this is actually documented.”

I had been to the same office for “mood” problems since 2012 when the doctor tried to put me on birth control pills. The “pill” was not effective in treating my mood disorder. Each time I visited the doctor, they tried to give me another antidepressant. Mostly, I was given medication in the SSRI class of antidepressants. Then, I was prescribed Wellbutrin, a medication in the NDRI class (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). My doctor determined that I was “sensitive” to medications, which is why she tried me on Wellbutrin.

I was afraid to mess with the new prescription she recommended. Then, my mood would improve, I’d get a euphoric feeling. I felt creative and happy about half of my life, then I descend into depression. It was always with that period of depression that I sought help. My doctor’s office replaced the previous physician with a new doctor. I explained that I was not there for “meds” as the nurse remarked on my intake form. She reviewed my symptoms and gave me a referral to their partner clinic- the clinic that deals with mental illness, therapy and psychiatry. A wave of embarrassment and shame poured over me. The psychiatrist asked me many questions. As I spoke to her, my speech became more rapid. “Do you realize how fast you are talking?” I said I was moderately aware of how my speech changes but nobody else has ever remarked about it.

We talked about my family history, specifically, how members of my family used alcohol to mask what was possibly their own mood disorders. In the past, there was more stigma against mental illness. People kept problems hidden from others, or at least they tried. The alcoholism simply created additional problems. My grandfather was a WWII survivor (USS Indianapolis). He was quiet and held his liquor well. It was socially acceptable to throw down a few beers. He was dealing with traumatic memories that he wanted to suppress. Grandma, on the other hand, was a talker. She was also a drinker, as was my mother. As a child, I witnessed interesting discussions when they all drank together in the kitchen. My grandfather seemed to have much composure. I can’t say the say for the rest of the family.

I told the doctor about my experiences with Lexapro, and how I had very disturbing nightmares. These nightmares dealt with the macabre- death and decay. I found it very difficult to shake these dreams from my waking moments. When I quit taking the medication abruptly, I experienced unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I prayed that I would avoid getting into trouble or jeopardizing any relationship. The other medications made me feel dull but balanced. While on the meds, I was neither happy nor sad. My face felt like a mask. Any creative inclination I had previously experienced during my “manic” episodes had all but diminished.

My psychiatrist said that my periods likely trigger my underlying condition of bipolar disorder. She told me that more than likely, my mother and grandmother had mood disorders and drank to cope with their issues. The nightmares that I experienced while taking antidepressants was common in bipolar patients.

“Your family doctor sent you here because she didn’t know what else could be wrong”, she explained. I read that in order to be diagnosed with PMDD, the doctor must rule out any mental health issues that could possibly be causing the symptoms. Although I was not thrilled with being diagnosed with any mental disorder, bipolar disorder was less-embarrassing than PMDD. PMDD is not socially-acceptable and most people misunderstand the meaning of “being bipolar.”

When I need to tell people about my disorder (so they don’t think I’m speaking rapidly because I’m strung-out on drugs), I am met with a dismissive attitude. The term “bipolar” has become synonymous with being “edgy”. The term “bipolar” is used to broadly define any rebellious, hip, or bold attitude. Mood disorders are NOT attitudes.

Bipolar disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy, and clarity to sadness, fatigue, and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.”-APA.org

As a society, we have all but surpassed the days of unrelenting stigmatizing of mental illness, at least for bipolar disorder. In fact, we now must contend with the ignorance associated with bipolar disorder. Much of this ignorance is due in part from people not recognizing bipolar disorder as a real medical condition.

During a manic episode, people suffering from extreme cases of this illness may indulge in risky, foolish or erratic behavior. They may spend money and put their family in debt. They may become promiscuous and wreck their marriage by having affairs. During a depressed cycle, they may experience psychotic episodes, or attempt suicide and/or self-harm. While I have not experienced those elements of bipolar disorder, I have become so depressed that I have ruminated over my own death. I am certain that such dark moods are not appealing to my family.

Bipolar disorder affects each person differently. My variety of this trendy illness doesn’t involve getting tattoos, drinking and driving, or staying up all night like a rock star. Rather, my bipolar can be managed most days, and I have been given the ability to function enough to hold down a full-time job.

Others are not able to work or even manage to get out of bed and get dressed when they are debilitated by depression. When weekends arrive, I am partially relieved because I can rest at home, or so I believe. Often, I become so manic in the afternoon that I am not able to sit down. Weekend mornings, when the kids are still asleep and my worries are quenched for a little bit of time, are the only times I can spend writing. I “binge,” write during such times, except when I am depressed, or when I am trying a new medication.

When I was in my twenties, I started to become aware that something was not right about my moods. Listening to music from Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana opened my mind to certain mental health issues (i.e., “Manic-Depression”, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge”). I was old enough to drink and I drank exceedingly to suppress or to accelerate my mood shifts. Those were some of the worst years of my life!

When people passively listen to me talk about my mood issues, they appear to be dismissive or they appear to “know it all” about manic depression/bipolar disorder. They do not care or they wish to remain blissfully ignorant. After a while, I let them stew in their ignorance or I pretend to not have a mood disorder. Such people love to use a broad lens when depicting bipolar disorder. The lens they prefer to use, however, does not liberate, it merely conveys a broad, generic perspective of the term “bipolar”.