Working Hard

CC image, “CubeSpace”, courtesy Asa Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

I’m having some self-stigma issues of late. Frankly, I feel like less of a “man” for not working outside of my artistic practice, and not much at that, really. I have not worked “full time” since 2012. That said, I need to tell myself, and anyone that doesn’t already know, that bipolar is work. It is a full-time job in and of itself.

Managing bipolar symptoms is a hell of a lot of work. I take 10 pills per day, every day, at the same time each day (6 in the morning and 4 in the evening). I adhere to a strict diet (low carbs, low fat, low sugar). I have strict limits on alcohol and caffeine consumption (no more than 12oz of beer or coffee in a day). I have to regularly exercise (at least 30 minutes each day, but often about an hour). I have between one and three doctor’s appointments each week. I have to maintain a regular sleep schedule, in terms of both quantity and time of day. Something as simple as a nap can throw off sleep my sleep routine, which can have a major impact on mood. I also need to avoid stressful triggers as much as humanly possible, as well as any disruptions to routine, as they can lead to debilitating symptoms.

This is what living with bipolar and working towards recovery and stability looks like. I want to tell anyone who looks down on men like me who don’t “work” full-time, as well as to remind myself that, while I’m not “working” much right now, I am also working my ass off. We men are often judged by what we do vocationally and how much money we make. I buy into that as well. Self-stigma is a thing. Toxic masculinity is a thing.

I’m, quite honestly, not doing as well as I would like to be. That said, I am working my ass off, and no matter how much or how little money I make I am kicking ass, one day at a time.