I feel terrible about it, but a couple of weeks ago I let the lady who is the president of the UMW know that I can no longer be the editor of The Torch. I felt tremendously guilty when I sent the email, and I still do. But after really searching my heart and doing my best to use some common sense, and after talking about it to my therapist, I realized it was the right thing to do.
As much as I hate to let them down, the reality is that I am a rapid cycler. Anyone who is bipolar experiences ups and downs that can make functioning and staying committed to a monthly job like that difficult. As rapidly as I cycle I don’t even have a way to predict whether I will be manic, hypomanic, okay, mildly depressed, or severely depressed when the 4th week of the month comes. And I sure as hell never knoe how the anxiety will be. That sounds ludicrous and maybe it is but that’s how my life is. They need someone reliable. Almost every month of the year they have a meeting on the 4th Friday. They need someone to get the issue out a couple of days after that.
Last spring I signed up to do the job. They were looking for volunteers and had it in the church program one Sunday morning. At the time I was on a medication combination that actually worked for me. It was the only time in my life that I was on a med combination that truly worked. A med combination that kept me fully stable. And it didn’t just leave me feeling okay and functional, not that I’m ungrateful for the days that I feel okay and functional, but it left me feeling truly good. Truly good and truly normal. I had hopes, as did my psych doctor, that we had found the magic combination and that this was it. So I volunteered for the job. It was in line with my skill set and interests oh, and I had been looking for a way to serve in the church.
A few months later my hopes were dashed. Don’t you love a good cliche? But I digress. The medicine wore off and I had to start trying new combinations that put me back where I was. I was beyond frustrated, and now I had a monthly responsibility to collect every article and edit it, format in publisher, get a master printed of each page, and then go down to the church and make over 200 copies and put them through the folder. None of that is necessarily difficult work or work that I am not happy to do. But to do the part with Publisher you have to have patience and focus and really throw your mind into it. As badly as I was doing at the end of January I couldn’t pull that off. Craig had to do the publisher work for me. I had been trying to do it and I was botching it like crazy. I was leaving things out and not correcting mistakes Etc. My anxiety was taller than me. I was supposed to at least go up to the church and take care of running the copies and getting them folded and ready to mail. Craig ended up doing that by himself as well. He was super nice about it and offered to do it, but I was in the kind of condition where getting myself across town to church and taking care of all that and dealing with the machines and everything else just wasn’t going to happen.
That’s when I really realized that I had a dilemma. Craig did not sign up to do the job first of all. He never minded helping me or complained about it, but he is not the one who made the commitment. And although this was the first time that I was completely unable to do the issue myself oh, there have been a few months just out of the time I have been doing this where I would have struggled to do the job myself. Where I really needed him to go to the church with me and help do it. Or to check me in Publisher or something like that. Until now that’s always been okay. He’s happy to help. So when I needed help he was there and the issue got done. And on the months that I didn’t need help, obviously the issue got done. But the only reason Craig has been able to help me with this it’s because he has an unusual work schedule that cycles and usually he has a little time off on Tuesday or Wednesday to get it run. Soon, possibly very soon, he will be transitioning to a new position at work and will be working a five-day-a-week job during the day. If I am too frazzled or depressed or anything else to get the issue out, there simply won’t be an issue. The mailers will try to get in touch with me or the president will and I simply won’t have anything to tell them or anything to give them. I will be on my own.
The hard thing is that I really feel bad quitting, and I don’t know when they’re going to be able to find someone else. I let them know what the very beginning of the month so hopefully they can find somebody in time. I offered to train the next person. And to give them any materials I have as well as the files. This is just a commitment I can’t keep. Reliability is important. It’s not that I will never have a month where I would be perfectly able to take care of the editing and printing of the monthly letter. There are certainly going to be months where I would certainly be able to get that done. The problem is there will also be months where I am not able to do it, and I don’t know which month is going to be what. Even now as we sit in the middle of February I debate emailing the president to let her know that if she hasn’t found anybody I can do the February issue. But I know that I do not have Craigs help at the end of February, and right now I’m really up in the air. Today I was great. I had some anxiety and had to take klonopin while I was out on my Valentine’s Day date with Craig, but I was still able to stay out all day on a date and then go grocery shopping at the commissary and I did just fine. If I had needed to run the newsletter today I could have done it. By myself from beginning to end. No problem. But I have no idea what I’m going to look like on February 25th or 26th. Not a clue. I am seeing a new psych doctor this week. I’ll see how it goes. Hopefully they aren’t useless. But as of right now I’m on a medication combination that is a really mixed bag. I definitely have times I’m doing pretty okay. The past week has not been awful minus the dental pain that I started out with. But overall for the past couple of weeks it’s been kind of crazy, and I’m coming off the month of January which was extremely difficult. Right now I’m trying not to go hypomanic. My brain is fighting sleep and sometimes my head is going too fast. I am just as likely to be full-blown manic or severely depressed at the very end of February as I am to be okay. So even as I sit here with my email open wondering if I should write the lady and let her know that I’ll at least tie them over for this month, I hesitate. It’s bad enough that I am having to back out on the job. It would be worse to offer to float them for a month and then back out of that. And with Craig’s schedule he definitely cannot help me this month.
I feel sad. I genuinely wanted to help. I hope that the time I was able to give was useful. But I feel like since I know I’ve reached a point where I’m not reliable it’s better to tell them sooner rather than later that it isn’t going to work. I am so afraid that they’ll need an issue to go out and I won’t be able to do it. And then there’s the issue where if I am able to get through it and do a good issue, at what cost? Sometimes you have those in-between stages. If you’re bipolar or have anxiety, or probably if you have most other serious mental illnesses, you might know what I mean. Those times were you really aren’t doing well but you can do just enough to get by. You don’t have enough energy and strength for the whole day and to do everything, but you can prioritize and do the big things and that’s what counts. The problem is I have a young child to take care of and to educate. If I’m having a week where I am having to prioritize that much and can only get a couple of things done, I need to save the energy for Angelica and forgetting her and I to our respective appointments. I don’t have anything left to give. If I put out an issue when I’m doing badly I’m not going to have enough left over to do what I need to do at home. That might sound utterly stupid but I have found it to be true over the years. I’ve only got so much life or gumption or potential on any given day. I have to choose what to do with it. I have to be very careful in how I choose to spend my time and what I do with my energy. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of things and people that I care about. I just can’t do it all. So if I’m in one of those time periods where my brain is really squeezed tight, and I go ahead and do an issue and really struggle with it but I pull it off, I’m going to come home with no energy for Angelica. If she needs to go to an appointment she might be out of luck. My anxiety will be too high and I won’t be able to get her across town. If we haven’t done school yet for the day we probably won’t get to it. I’ll need to sit in a corner and just close my eyes for a while. My energy will be shot for the rest of the day. So basically my months are divided into three groups for the fourth week of the month. There will be times where I am perfectly okay and able to do an issue. There will be other times where I am able to do an issue but I will have to shortchange my family to do it. And then there will be times I can’t do it at all. That won’t work. They need someone they can count on.
If you have never heard of it, look up Spoon Theory and mental illness. I don’t think it’s a perfect analogy but it’s pretty interesting and it is useful. I only have so many spoons each day. And sometimes the end of the month might roll around and I might not have any spoons left. Sometimes you do end up with zero spoons.
Guilt hurts. I truly feel sorrowful and regretful. The UMW Torch is something I care about and under better circumstances there is no way I would quit. I have just learned that my mental health issues make me unable to make Big, regular commitments like that. And as much as I hated to send that email on the first telling the president that I wouldn’t be doing it anymore and needed to pass the torch to someone else, I’d rather tell her a month in advance that I can’t do it than send her an email hours before the issue should be run to tell her that it might not happen or that it’s going to happen way too late. There’s a very small window of time that you have to get that issue out. There’s really not much flexibility. I think I did the right thing. I hope I did the right thing.