Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

The Unintentional Procrastinator

We all procrastinate sometimes, even if it’s only for something minor. The first definition you find if you google the word procrastination is from Wikipedia:

Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline.

I don’t know that I like this definition or procrastination or think that it is an all-encompassing or pragmatic definition. They are many reasons why people put off tasks.

For me, the tasks that I do manage to do are not necessarily more or less urgent than the ones that are placed on the proverbial “back burner”. The tasks that are completed are merely the ones I am capable of doing at the time or was in the mood to do. If I had to start categorizing tasks…that is a task!

I would have to decide how to determine the importance of each task and list each tasks and therefore this process would invoice decision making which I hate, therefore creating more stress for me. No thank you! No more lists!

To be clear, with respect to procrastination, I am referring to tasks in my personal life, not at work. Work is a whole other story. At work, I am managing to meet deadlines and there is minimal room for procrastination. I do have to keep a “To Do Chart” so that I know what deadlines are coming up but work is a different environment and my brain and sense of motivation seem to cooperate better in that environment.

Not Normal

At  home, I don’t have a complete list of what needs to be done. My mother certainly knows what she would like to me to do (ex. finding room for more presents from the engagement party/bridal showers and reorganizing the kitchen/china cabinet to fit as much in as possible) and has offered her help but I am not in the mood for it. Certain people want to see our wedding photos, but there are close to 1500 of them to sort through and I don’t have the patience to do that and create an album of the ones I am ok with people seeing. And of course, we have to choose the ones we want for our personal wedding album, to print for our parents etc. which means scrutinizing them with the parents again. Iwant to fix up my bookcases so the new books I purchased are in the categories that my shelves are organized in (because my shelves have categories).

I always  believe in being true to myself. I am just not a phony person. If I want to delay a task because I can’t do it at that time, that’s my issue, not anyone else’s and no one else should care about it. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the situation.

No one wants to be called lazy and I don’t want to have that blamed on my mental illness. I was once very productive and efficient and loved organizing and being busy all the time. The biggest fight with my brain is the “lack of motivation” symptom that happens with depression. It’s not lack of motivation in the sense of someone who is unambitious, it’s something that happens to a person who suffers from depression, where you do not have the will to get out of bed, go take a shower, or do anything. It sounds terrible and can be misunderstood as something intentional.

I think I put off tasks I don’t want to do because 1) The task may make me too tired, 2) The task may cause me to become too hyper, which can end up in hypomania, and 3) The task may cause me to become irritable and agitated. In any scenario, the mood that will prevail is not one I enjoy experiencing. If I had to pick one, I would say #2, because when I am hypomanic I am most productive, but switching from high to low is painful.

I really think that right now I need my own Do Not Disturb sign. Writing the above paragraphs just made my heart rate increase and stirred up angry feelings. Clearly I am agitated and irritable. I know these are classic symptoms of my mood disorder but not everyone understands that. I need to put up a warning sign…. “WARNING: DO NOT APPROACH- IRRITABLE & AGITATED!”

I’m going to go make a sign now….


Own who you are

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Pace Yourself

As someone who has rapid cycling and who experiences many “highs” and “lows” it is important to figure out the best way to use/save my energy. When I am feeling low, I have no energy and I don’t want to do anything. I have no motivation, I am disinterested in everything, I can’t focus or concentrate and I am not productive. I hate how I look and feel terrible.

When I am experiencing a hypomanic episode, I have energy, I want to be productive and I feel great. As my mood is switching back, the energy fades away. I must learn to pace myself and not overdo it during the hypomanic episodes, so that I have some energy leftover.

I also need the people in my life to understand that I can’t do certain tasks/”projects” until I am ready/in the mood to do it. If I don’t want to do it, don’t ask me about it, talk about it, make plans etc. It will get done when it gets done and when I am able to. It may take a very long time, but that’s okay. I want them to realize that I have to do things at my own pace and to just let me be. The nicest thing you can do for me is let me be me and don’t question the pace at which I do things.

Don't stop

And, in order for me not to be angry with myself, or disappointed with myself, I need to be okay with imperfection. Why do I say this? Because I wish I was more easy going about certain things, and could learn to relax.

I would love my home office to have perfectly organized cupboards, bookcases and a desk/desk drawers, but it’s still a little disorganized. It’s a big improvement from how it was though. Last weekend, an idea popped into my head that I had to organize the drawers/baskets under the sink in bathroom, my jewellery and get rid of all the boxes in my office. What was in the boxes in my office? Gifts from our engagement party and my bridal showers. When was my engagement party? Last June.

I must digress for a moment and explain that once an idea is in my head, if I want to do whatever that activity is, I must do it, so I can take advantage of that energy and motivation! There’s no stopping me, and the task must be completed, or I can’t sleep and don’t want to leave my condo. This “drive” always happens in a hypomanic state, which explains the energy. Conversely, organizing things makes my very hyper and can bring me into a hypomanic state.

I kept putting off dealing with those boxes because it meant reorganizing the kitchen in order to find room for these new items and it meant making decisions about where to put these items. It was a big undertaking for me. I am proud to say there are no more boxes of gifts in my office and I was successful with all of my organizing goals last weekend. It may have taken over a year to deal with the majority of the presents but it’s done. My desk and bookshelves are still “messy” in my view, but the office floor is visible, there are no more hazards and I can now say my office is “presentable” and be more comfortable with people seeing it. 

Of course, my office was never “unpresentable” according to other people, it just wasn’t up to my standards, and I felt it was a bad reflection on me and was worried people would question why my office looked like a storage unit. My fear was that I would be judged. I like to think that I don’t care what about others think, but in some instances I do. In this instance, I was concerned that the “box issue” would  cause people to ask or wonder, “What’s wrong with her? She can’t put things away? Those boxes were there the last time we came over.” I think my negative thinking was getting the best of me and my thought process was something along the lines of:

Messy Office–>”Something Wrong”(a.k.a. mental illness) –> Guests interpret as lazy/as a result of mental illness–> Guests associate this behaviour with mental illness–> Stigma

To those thoughts I now tell myself, “So what? It’s none of their business” and “You are not your illness.”

This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by Dr. Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Your true friends really don’t mind if your bed is unmade, your laundry isn’t put away and your dishwasher isn’t emptied.

Anthony Hopkins