Not 100%

Context: Once a week, my parents and I have a check-in. In a check-in, each of us, in turn, talks about whatever we want to talk about—this usually includes how we’ve been feeling, anything we’ve been struggling with, upcoming goals or plans—and then we ask for help, if we need any. No one may interrupt while someone else is speaking; no one must judge, but advice is fine, as long as it is asked for. (An old therapist of mine suggested this check-in style of communication for our family and it has done wonders. I cannot recommend it highly enough.)


Tonight, at our first check-in since we’ve all been home from traveling, I found myself saying that I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made in getting back to my goals and, more broadly, getting back to myself, but I’m not 100%. That got me thinking: What does that mean for me, to be 100%? Can it be qualified by the state of mental, emotional, and physical health I was in during my happy years? Certainly that was a time when I was firing on all cylinders, excelling and growing in every aspect of my life. If that’s 100% I may be fucked! I may not ever be 100% again. Okay, so the best I could hope for would be what, 95? But that’s a pretty shitty way to live—measuring how healthy and happy I am at various points in my life, knowing I will never be at my best. Fuck that, right? It’s MY measure I’m making, right? Yeah, I need to recalculate this shit.


What I used to think 100% was for me:

Feeling happy most days of the week.

Feeling stable almost every day.

Cooking dinner multiple nights a week and really enjoying it.

Getting into baking.

Training for a 5K (running at the gym, walking, weight training).

Dieting with DASH and losing weight.

Working on becoming an editor.

Managing my finances perfectly.


How things have been recently:

Feeling happy in little bright bursts, but not very consistently.

Feeling stable about half the time.

Cooking dinner once a week, sometimes enjoying it, sometimes just powering through to get some food on the table.

Not baking at all.

Running at the gym extremely rarely.

No longer dieting.

Working on editing stuff very sporadically.

Managing my finances perfectly. (YAY!)


For that second list, if I’m judging it against its counterpart at 100%, I’d put it at about 75. Not TERRIBLE, but come on, we can do better!


And now I AM doing better:

Feeling happy in bright bursts consistently.

Feeling stable most days.

Cooking dinner at least once a week, with plans to bring that up to 3 times a week. Doing what I can to ensure I still enjoy it, like plugging in my iPod and listening to some tunes.

Not baking, but not because I can’t—because I’m restarting my diet.

Restarting the DASH diet (in Phase One as of today).

Restarting the Cto5K program I was doing before, now dead-set on finishing it.

Making more time for editing; easing into it at first and then taking off!



This last list could maybe be that 95, but I think this 95 should be my new 100. I’m in a great place right now: I’m hopeful for the future; I’m getting back into my hobbies and profession; I’m getting healthier; I’m making goals that I believe I can reach, and I’m doing all of that while walking on somewhat uneven ground. There are two advantages to pushing myself forward while the earth is still shaky beneath me. One: I’m more vigilant. I check in with myself more. I’m constantly looking out for any warning signs (which means I feel as prepared as I can be). Two: When I push myself and succeed when things are shaky, I prove to myself that I can handle the shakiness. I learn that even in uncertainty I can find strength and power.


It’s time now to be both realistic and optimistic. Realistic: that initial 100% may always be out of my reach. Realistic: I cannot hope to never deal with depression or mania or anxiety again. I’ve got a long-ass life ahead (presumably) and there WILL be downs. Optimistic: There will ALSO be ups, and even in the downs I can still meet goals and improve myself and do things that make me happy. Optimistic: This time that I’m in right now, one I dreaded being in, is doing some really important things for me. I can feel it. Maybe THAT’s my 100%. Or, you know, fuck percentages to begin with.



Bipolar and Procrastination

I have to call a government health insurance agency and I have been putting it off and putting it off. Here’s the situation: An agency offered me health insurance and while I am appreciative, I don’t need it. I already have health insurance and it’s better than what is being offered.


I went to this agency’s office to decline their coverage offer. Forms were filed. The woman I was working with said it was all taken care of. Then, a completely separate agency sent me a letter saying they were going to pay my premiums for the other agency’s coverage, so my request to decline it was denied. The woman I had worked with called me and confirmed this. Again, thank you agency, but the issue is not that I can’t afford the premiums (although my budget is very tight), but that I’m already covered. Now I need to call this second agency to find out if a) there is any way I can still decline this coverage and b) if I can’t, if I’m required to use it rather than my own. This is the phone call I am dreading to make.


Like most depressed people, I procrastinate a lot when I am unwell—a to-do list with two items on it seems pages long—but when I am well I rarely procrastinate. That said, there is one thing I always procrastinate on, whether I’m sick or well, and that is talking to health insurance companies and state/federal aid agencies, either on the phone or in their offices. I dread those talks immensely.


I dread them because they are maddening and unnecessarily complicated. When I talk to multiple people, I receive multiple accounts of information and it is difficult to discern who’s right and who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. When I am being told contradictory information I get frustrated. When I am put on hold for 10 minutes and then the call suddenly drops I get frustrated. When I have to repeat myself over and over and the person I am talking to is still confused about what I’m asking I get frustrated. Talking to one person often leads to talking to another person and I have to start all over again.


These types of phone calls can affect the entire tenor of my day. I get so worked up that it takes me a long time to recover after I’ve hung up the phone for good. I choose a day when I’m feeling rock solid and when I know I’ll have lots of free time after the call is over to calm down. The ripple effect of this type of phone call is ridiculous.


But, as is often the case with my procrastination, I myself am partly to blame for the roadblock. For example, one way to avoid such phone calls is to just go into the office and talk to someone face-to-face. This makes me extremely anxious. I have this irrational fear that if I say the wrong thing the aid I receive—and really need—will be taken away. (This fear is not entirely misguided. It was a very long and difficult road to get my aid. I was turned down again and again. I had to keep appealing, keep fighting. It went on for 11 months. I did finally win my case, but there continue to be bumps in the road and I fear that the agency will find some loophole, some way to get out of giving aid to me.) I have this image in my head that these offices are just like the DMV—long, long lines and grumpy employees that don’t seem to care what happens to you, but while the wait time can be long, every employee I’ve dealt with has been patient and kind. One woman noticed how nervous I was and said, very sincerely, “Honey, you have nothing to worry about. I am here to help you; that’s our purpose—we’re all here to help you.” And she was right. These meetings can still be frustrating, though. Sometimes I am told that my questions cannot be answered at all. Another woman said to me, “Whoever told you to come here was mistaken. We don’t deal with that. I can’t answer any questions about that. You’ll have to take that up with so-and-so.” Of course, so-and-so was someone I’d already talked to that I got no information from.


I know I’ve been going on some tangents here, but I think they provide some useful context. Now let’s get to the point: This post is titled “Bipolar and Procrastination” because I’ve been wondering, Is my level of procrastination completely normal or does my bipolar disorder come into play? It isn’t always in play and it’s certainly not a catch-all excuse for my inaction. But at the same time, I have seen how my disorder manages to get its knotted, wormy fingers into just about everything. I don’t think feeling incredibly anxious and frustrated is a special experience (though my anxiety is very intense)—everyone gets annoyed making these types of phone calls and puts it off because they know how unpleasant it will be. That’s perfectly normal.


But where, I think, my disorder affects things is in the aftermath. A fifteen-minute phone call can result in at least a few hours—up to the rest of the day—of feeling depressed. I am unable to complete other tasks. I am so drained, I can’t do anything other than lie down and try to decompress. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I’m not and the day is fucked and I don’t feel on steady ground again until the next day. That, I think, is not normal. And I’m not talking about this to single myself out—oh, poor me!—but to provide one example (of many) of the ways in which bipolar disorder can be a major hindrance.


If you know someone who is depressed and they seem lazy because they are always putting things off, don’t judge. There is likely something bigger (and badder) going on. Think about how you sometimes procrastinate yourself, and then imagine coupling that with feeling worthless, helpless, and like you don’t want to live anymore. It would suddenly be hard to do fucking ANYTHING. Instead of judging them, try to put yourself in their shoes, and then ask if you can help. Sometimes just asking can make a difference.


Now, the question I ask myself is: Will I still procrastinate now that I’ve written this post and delved deeper into my issues? Probably.