After 8-months of being a stay-at-home mom, I went back to work part-time and put the baby in full-time daycare. While grateful for the luxury of staying at home, I found it to be detrimental to my mental health. This became glaringly obvious to me when collapsing on my bed and going fetal, my body vibrating and my brain buzzing, became a nightly routine.
My brain needed structure and I needed a break.
I truly believed returning to work would fix me. I painted a rosy picture of my idyllic days: I’d drop the baby off, work all morning, break for a delicious lunch, write all afternoon, mother all evening and fall asleep feeling productive, satisfied, and ready to tackle the next day.
Boy, did I get the math wrong. And the irony is that I’m a bookkeeper.
Instead, I allowed what should’ve been a simple adjustment to completely knock me off balance. I lost my footing and rapidly descended into a fear and shame spiral. Writing took the backburner, bookkeeping took all my energy, and my nightly routine didn’t change a bit .
Work wasn’t the magic elixir I was hoping it would be. I was unstable at home. I was unstable at work. It was just a different kind of unstable.
Wherever you go, there you are and where I went was to the land of hyperfocus — an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on a narrow subject.
When I climbed into my analytical brain already unbalanced, I became obsessed with analytics, spreadsheets, answers, research, numbers, and math, math, math. I found safety in numbers. My mental problems are complex and sometimes unsolvable. I have to live with unresolved problems, but in my work, there’s always an answer in black and white. There’s always a way to find the balance.
Of course, I didn’t realize I was out of balance until I had a major meltdown. Then I did what I do best, I made a list.
Courtney’s Priority List:
- Three 12-step meetings a week.
- Speaking engagements.
- Service work.
3. The rest of the family:
- Husband quality time.
- Doggie’s needs.
- Dishes, laundry, errands, bills, mail, minutiae.
4. Therapy twice a week/once a week.
7. Exercise twice a week.
8. Social commitments.
9. Me time.
Next I made a calendar in Excel and plugged in these commitments according to priority, like a budget, only with time instead of money.
I stared at the packed calendar in sheer disbelief and, although it was still a spreadsheet, it started to look more like a baseball bat. My heart started to race and I caught myself holding my breath.
But then something magical happened.
I reminded myself that I’m a work in progress. I’m not perfect. I’ll never be perfect. And I had forgotten the most important thing on my priority list.
My Higher Power.
I had forgotten to tap into the source that gives me strength and wants me to be my highest self. That small, quiet voice in my heart – not my head – that reminds me that my life isn’t about me. It’s about being of service and helping others. It’s about letting my light shine so others can shine too.
When I put that universal ebb and flow in charge and let go of my self-imposed illusion of control, my priority list is replaced by intuition. I suddenly know what the next indicated action should be throughout the day without referring to lists, spreadsheets and the like.
When I let my heart determine my priorities and schedule, I can breathe again. My shoulders release and my jaw relaxes. I feel the endless possibilities of this life, rather than the endless reasons I should fail.
Does this mean I’m handling my life fantastically now? Nope. I’m overwhelmed a lot of the time. The baby just turned one and I’m still unbalanced. My blog posts have been sporadic at best. I still fall into hyperfocus and have a hard time getting out. I still collapse and tingle, but not every night.
But I’m hopeful. Some days I take two steps forward and one step backward, but I make note of the progress. I work on accepting that I’m still recovering from relapse, but am hopeful that my illness will go into remission again.
And I’m hopeful that the less I try to find the balance, it will end up finding me.
Courtney Rundell is a freelance blogger for theInternational Bipolar Foundation and the North Hollywood Patch. She speaks all over California about thriving with alcoholism, bipolar, and PTSD. When Courtney was diagnosed bipolar in 2006, a life she never knew was possible began. She’s devoted to inspiring and sparking hope in others now that she’s finally a free woman. Her personal blog can be found at http://beepea.com/.