It’s been my goal for some time now to start a career in freelance editing. I love editing just as much as I love writing, and I’m good at it. I believe working independently will give me the best chance of success, since I will be able to set my own hours and be selective with which projects I take on.
I’ve been “getting ready” for work for a long time now. When I started out, I made a list of all the things I need to do before I start actively searching for work. There are 16 items; I’m on number 6. I’m no mathematician (har, har), but I know I’m not making much progress.
Part of the problem is the major setback I had that started in the summer and lasted for many months. During my setback, I didn’t feel strong enough to keep working toward my career goals. I was barely holding on. I had to hunker down and focus all of my attention on getting well. Putting aside my goals seemed very necessary. But now I’m better and I’m not moving forward as I should.
My therapist talked to me about this and voiced some concerns. She suggested that I am avoiding work when I should be diving in. When she first said this, I didn’t take it very well. I got defensive and upset. But I know she has a good point. I don’t feel ready to take some of the big leaps she’s proposed, but I can admit that yes, I am avoiding working. How come?
I have many fears surrounding work, many “what if” questions that plague me. For example, what if no one will want to hire me because I have zero work experience? Totally reasonable fear, right? Or how about this: what if I’m not nearly as good at editing as I think I am? Also reasonable—professional editing is new for me.
But here’s the big “what if,” the one that fills me with fear the most: What if I start working, then have another episode that forces me to quit? Partly this fear has to do with my responsibility as an editor—I would feel terrible if I had to drop someone’s project suddenly. But what the fear really comes down to is the hopelessness I feel when I have the following thought: I have no idea how to have a career when I also have bipolar disorder.
How can I maintain steady work when my illness is so totally unpredictable? Even if I get on a stable streak that lasts longer than a year and a half, something can always happen to tip the scales. That something could even be work—a particularly stressful job could easily provoke an episode. After all, I’ve had dark, down days that were sparked by simply a lack of sleep.
I’ve yet to figure out how to juggle bipolar disorder and day-to-day responsibilities. To date, every time I’ve had a depressive episode I’ve been almost completely non-functional. I shut down. Right now, I’m in a situation where if I have to shut down, I can, and it won’t totally fuck up my life to do so. But that won’t always be the case. I won’t always have the safety nets I do now. And if I want to “make it” as an editor, if I want to have a steady and fulfilling career, I will have to learn how to manage my bipolar disorder better. I don’t have any stellar ideas about how to do that yet, so don’t ask. All I can say for now is: I’m working on it (har, har).