When people talk about bipolar, they don’t talk about all the shit you have to do when you’re enjoying your stable brain after an episode. Unless I get blessed with one of those hypomanic phases in which I decide I must be an amazing extrovert, start and complete a project, and clean everything — which to clarify is only a blessing if we are assuming I have to have an episode — there is so much shit to do. It turns out when you’re an adult, people expect you to do things and you stay responsible for them even as disability gets in the way. Which, ya know, is hard to argue with because you knew you had your disability when you signed up you said you’d do it.
Some of them are kind and as understanding as they can be (what with them never lived with a time bomb in their head), but they never cut you slack. They just give you time. It’s never the same amount or enough. You are told that you are special and that you should just pass and get it over with. Don’t worry, the kind people say, we don’t expect you to produce excellent work. They smile that they know my case and are happy for themselves that they are so accommodating to the neurologically different one.
It’s not a lovely feeling to know people give up on you returning high-quality work even though you know you are smart and creative and have a lot to give. It doesn’t feel good to know you are reduced to your disability in someone’s eyes. But it is a terrible feeling to be drowning in the work they gave you to just do ‘fine’ on.
It is a hard thing to be pitied. It is a harder thing to be pitied and have that be the right assessment. I still go through most of my time belligerently refusing to hold myself to any standard than what I did two years ago (when I turned into a bipolar pumpkin). Once I learn to manage my time again, once I get a not trashcan doctor who won’t make me sicker, once my rapist stops threatening me even though I have a restraining order, etc. etc. I’ll get to go back to normal. It’s easy to believe that because none of those is my fault. And now push is coming to shove and there is all the work in the world for me to make up for all the times other people made me depressive. And I am coming through. I’m just not doing at the speed anyone expected me to pull this off in, especially me. I have made myself sick with sleep deprivation twice in the past 2 weeks. I am averaging 3-6 hours of sleep per night and the mountain is only now diminishing. My dean thought I would need a weekend. A fucking weekend. She then gave me four more days and it when that was clearly impossible I cut special deals with professors who understood what work was left for me. But they aren’t in charge. Deans and bosses are and they have no perspective and then see it as the fault of my illness when their plans without perspective fail.
They pity me because they think I can barely pull this off, and they are right. But I can only barely pull this off because what they ask me to do is an amount of work no student or employee would be normally asked to do. I’ve written 25 pages this week, done 30 statistical mechanics problems, and written hundreds of lines of code. I’m not done. But I’m getting there and I am smart and a bad ass and creative and have a lot to offer. I’m waiting for the day that I get rewarded instead of being pitied for being able to pull off acceptable to high-quality work in one week for what was intended for a month.