Many years ago, I skipped the exit on the highway that led to my job and just kept going. I drove south, and while my inner monologue rose to a frenetic pitch, I decided that I would live as a jobless poet in the Alaskan countryside. After several hours of driving, and as reality set in, I turned around. The next day, when I finally showed up to work, I no longer had a job.
For me, and for anyone with bipolar disorder, simply showing up to work can be the greatest challenge. During the early days of my career, I was just too unstable to fit into the structure of an 8-to-5 job. My life was like a rollercoaster, and every day was unpredictable, so how could I fit the mold of a predictable schedule, with the predictable everyday requirements of a job?
Later, as time passed and I began to stabilize, I found that the structure of a daily, 8-to-5 job was just what I needed. I still need it. I go to bed at the same time every night and I wake up at the same time each morning. I pull myself up and out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every single day and, even if I am cycling through the mood swings of bipolar, I pull on a suit jacket and skirt out of the closet, and I go to work.
I did not enjoy going to work every day at my previous job. Even though I made six figures a year and held a high-status position, I was bored and unchallenged. As time went on, I realized that it was not just structure that I needed. I needed something to be passionate about.
Why do I go to work every day? I go to work because I have a job that allows me to be creative. I go to work because I am passionate about what I create, and the changes that I can make in people’s lives. At work, I get to write. I get to create, and like so many individuals with bipolar disorder, being creative is a fundamental part of who I am. Even though we face great challenges in the workplace because of our passion and sensitivity, we can use those feelings to motivate us to get up every day and go to work—but only if we choose our careers carefully.