How to Get Through Work Week (Mom Edition) with Bipolar Disorder

How to Get Through Work Week (Mom Edition) with Bipolar Disorder

Unless you are part of the lucky few who absolutely love their jobs, working is hard. Especially as a bipolar mom. Let me explain. Bipolar mothers are very sensitive emotionally as it is, and especially so towards their little children. Leaving them makes you question your ability to parent, makes you question whether they will get all the love and attention they deserve, and overall just make you miserable knowing you are missing out on their life. Yet working (and the routine of work) is one of the few things that keeps bipolar mothers stable, as it provides feelings of accomplishment and achievement, socialization with adults, a stable schedule (usually), and aid in the finances of the home thereby improving the marriage overall. It also helps during the pandemic just to get out of the house. So while it is understood the working benefits the family overall, there are still emotional hurdles to overcome.

Problem 1: Doubts that working moms benefit the child

Luckily, there are a lot of studies that support moms working. Studies not only shows that daughters with working mothers were more likely to supervise, more likely to work more hours, were more likely to make more money, and were more likely to be happy. And it wasn’t because of the mother’s educational level.

For sons, it helps them in other ways. They spend over 50 more minutes spending time with their future children. Men with moms who worked were also more likely to hold egalitarian views.Ā 

Problem 2: Leaving your child with daycare or with family caregivers

Depending one who is providing care (family member, public daycare, etc.) creates concerns in different areas. My mother-in-law who takes care of our daughter certainly gives us lots of benefits. You know that they will be loved and cared for, and you know they have their best interest at heart. There is also no competing for the attention of an adult while at home, she is the only child. However, when there are disagreements with regards to food, sleep, or developmental milestones, the bipolar mom has a sensitive heart and might have difficulties walking through these differences with the alternative caregiver. The daycare may be a mirror flip, where you know their physical and developmental needs are being met, but you hope that they get the tender love and care that they deserve.

Unfortunately, there are definite plusses with leaving a baby with a family member versus leaving a baby (especially less than one years old) at full-time day care. Studies show that babies are more likely to have problem behaviours when they are older if they had more time in childcare versus children who stay at home with their mother or loving caregiver. Overall, daycares inherently prevents the child from being consoled by their mother when hurt, and being around other children exposes them to problem behaviours like like bullying and neediness they would have otherwise been able to avoid. Having a loving caregiver one-on-one with a child is the best, as learning from parents and loving caregivers is much better than learning from other children. Overall, it is better to avoid daycare and to rely on family members where possible.

Problem 3: Not having ideal work for bipolar mothers

Bipolar moms who need to work have to find the right balance to help her family while also helping herself. She has specific needs, like needing a good work/life balance with flexible scheduling, ability to make their own hours, and be protected in case she needs to take a long leave of absence when she is ill. She needs a career that will promote balanced workload with less emphasis on deadlines. She also needs to avoid working shift work or night shifts, as it affects her sleep-wake cycle, which can disrupt sleep. Here is a list of careers that are well-suited for Bipolar.

Desk jobs with low stress in environment
This includes any accounting job, web development or web designer job, writing gig, etc., that will keep you working steady day hours in a stable setting.

Repetitive task jobs
This includes factory work, data entry, filing or even being a postal worker. These jobs are routine albeit boring, so you will want to have an outlet to be able to have more interesting times when on break or after work.
Creative jobs
This includes anything from writing, painting, music-making, or acting. Bipolar individuals are associated with creativity. Having a stable schedule helps with this career choice.
Quiet Environment jobs
This includes anything from working outside, working in an office, or working by yourself for extended periods of time. This lessens the amount of chaos in your environment, allowing for focus and stability of emotions.
Problem #4: How to Get the Emotional/Spiritual Help You Need To Maintain Your Schedule
Especially for working bipolar moms, there is more pressure and stress on being able to maintain your busy life schedule. So the same tips for managing bipolar is used for managing working bipolar mothers, but with greater emphasis. It is even more important to do what you can to maintain daily functioning.

Having a Consistent Meal Schedule and Eating Well
As my previous post on the topic indicates, eating good quality food consistently can help with moods. 500 calories a meal 3-4 times a day with/without snack is helpful to maintain good energy levels throughout the day. Avoiding high fat, high sugar foods also helps with moods. If you you know have a tendency to eat emotionally, then work with your therapist to find other ways with coping with negative emotions. Food quality is a surprisingly high cause of fluctuating moods, so even limiting the variety in your foods will help. Yes, it is more boring to eat the same things all the time, but it has been shown to help control your weight as well as your moods

Having Someone to Talk To
It might seem like a good idea to unload on your family members on a regular basis. However, especially for husbands, this can take a huge toll on the relationship. After all, your husband didn’t sign up to be your therapist. That’s not to say you shouldn’t let him know where you are at (i.e. if you are a 1 on a scale of 1-10), but ultimately he’s not responsible for your emotional wellbeing either. Having a therapist can be a huge benefit as they are trained to deal with your emotions and to help you overcome them. Additionally, having a friend to talk about specific issues is a good idea as long as you don’t overdo it. We all have been there where we said too much and gave too much information. Even in your dire situations, you still have to consider the other person. And calling your doctor/psychiatrist/mental health line when you are particularly troubled is necessary when or if the time comes to that.
Meditation and Reflection
Another avenue to deal with your emotions is to either journal, do yoga, meditate, or pray. All these things gives you a spiritual outlet and the possibility for answers to unfold without too much or no effort. Doing a little bit of all these options gives you different benefits. I love yoga for its ability to teach me to stay calms even in uncomfortable poses/situations. Journaling helps me when I really can’t think things through and need to slow my thoughts down (which is especially useful in the mental health ward). When I go for a walk or take a bath, I meditate and enjoy free time in my mind. And praying is something I often do to get balanced and know to depend ultimately on God for everything. Sometimes I pray directly to Him, or I’ll talk to myself in the third person, especially to talk myself down from stress (which is a scientifically proven way to destress).

Taking medication is always important, and to also get your levels checked regularly to make sure you are functioning your best. And if you are noticing new mood symptoms (like sadness/depression or anxiety), don’t be afraid to add more medications, at least until the symptoms are stable again.

Problem #5: How am I supposed to have good sleep as a working mom of an infant?

It is a known fact that sleep is necessary for those with bipolar disorder, but how do you juggle the needs of your growing child and your need for sleep and to get up refreshed in the morning and work? Here are some tips.

Have someone else watch/feed the baby at night
Whether that may be your husband or your own mother, having someone watch over the baby while you are sleeping is paramount to controlling your moods.

Set up everything the night before for an easier morning
Having your work clothes laid out in the evening and breakfast already ready (see my previous post) helps with an easier wake up and allows for stress-free falling asleep.

Ensure good sleep hygiene
This is true for anyone with bipolar disorder. Having about an hour of certain sleep routines helps. For example, starting with brushing your teeth, then going to bed to read for an hour (not on any electronics because the light can affect sleep regulation), and then taking your meds and putting on familiar sleep music (using the same one over and over is extremely effective for telling your brain it is time to sleep).

Ask for help when you are struggling
I know how hard it is to ask for help (it personally makes me feel weak and that I lost control when I ask for help, or that I pushed myself too hard and having to admit it sucks), but knowing when you have a problem is the cliched first step in getting the help you need. There are times that life is a true struggle- someone close to you is sick, you are having relationship problems, or someone has died, it is important to make sure that you keep focusing on taking care of yourself and getting the rest you need. You can take melatonin when you needed to change your sleep routine and regulate your sleep again, or you can ask you pharmacist/psychiatrist for sleep aids. There are some that are also non-addictive, which I would go to those first. I usually don’t ask for help if I have had interrupted sleep for 2 weeks or if I haven’t slept at all for 2-3 days. Those are high risk situations for me.

Problem #6: Keep stress at a minimum at work
Stress is a known deterrent to good sleep, and since bipolar people have more sensitive to stress, it is so important to learn to disassociate from work. These are my steps to disassociate to lower stress.

Remember that they don’t care (that much) about you
When you are in the hospital from an emergency, is it your boss? Is it your co-workers? Sometimes… but usually, it’s only your family and loved ones. Ultimately, you are working for your loved ones.

Your employer sees you as replaceable
I knew someone who made their company millions of dollars at the very top of the organizational structure. But they let him go. Why? Because they wanted someone younger. If you make a few mistakes, if you are simply not what they want anymore, they will find a way to fire you. But luckily, loved ones will not let you go, even if you falter.

You are not their slave. You don’t have to be their superhero.
Ultimately, you can work backbreaking work for hours on end, but they won’t appreciate You so much as the work that you did. Even as a supervisor, where it is expected to take calls all hours of the night and work overtime: what is more important, maintaining equilibrium or risk losing relationships because of your over-determination in your job? Know your limits. Don’t overextend yourself. Do what you can, and leave the rest. Be a hero at home.

Be indifferent about the future with this company
Whether you work in this job or another, it doesn’t matter. The job is there for help you and your family, but as soon as it isn’t helpful, you are out. If it has been good to you, then keep it. But ultimately, you don’t need this job. Jobs are their to suit your needs and nothing else.

Don’t be involved in company gossip
No matter how succulent the info is, staying away keeps your emotions in check and keeps you from fretting or worry about something that may or may not be true. Just stay away.

Don’t be (too) involved in social circles at work
Even if you really want to, even if you think it will improve your chances at becoming a manager, don’t. It took me a decade with my disorder to finally realize I couldn’t mix my personal life and business. I tried to get people on board with my problems. I tried to provide the drama we all desperately needed. I became friends and then had a crisis and they unfriended me, poisoning my work life. It seems so innocent but with us having emotional issues, blending a professional life into it makes it ten times worse.

Don’t get involved romantically at work
If there is one thing you can do to guarantee poisoning your work life and needed to leave your job is this: trying to start a relationship at work. There is basically no way to keep the stress down. Either a) you start a relationship and try to keep in secret, which creates stress or b) you start a relationship and make it open, which creates jealousies and insecurities at work and may make you lose your job or c) you obssess about the person, creating unhealthy mental-emotional balance or d) you flirt, which will confuse and hurt you in the long run because you aren’t getting what you truly deserve in life, which is love, not lust. There are important exceptions to this, there are people who have healthy and stable relationships with people from work, but they are exceptions. You can’t always avoid being attracted to someone, but make an effort to appreciate them from a long distance. Just stay away for office romance. Keep you love life simple and keep it separate from work.

Don’t work (that much) overtime
Even if there is a culture of working overtime, like not taking breaks, not taking lunch, working late multiple nights a week etc., don’t do it. Your breaks will help you re-center. Your lunch with help with your energy levels. Working overtime will put pressure on you that you wouldn’t normally have during the week. You have a medical reason not to accept overtime, so use that to your advantage. Take your breaks, go for a walk, do something you enjoy. Make your evenings special. You deserve it.

Problem #7: Keeping stress at a minimum at home
As with work, it is important that you stress levels are low at home. Below are some tips.Keep injecting positivity in your home
Even if you are sore, tired, upset, or just not in the mood, injecting positivity into the home and relationships helps to foster even more positivity, which is healthy all the way around. Say compliments, uplift everyone, and smile a lot and laugh. Fake it until you make it.Keep your spouse happy
Keep dating your spouse and keep finding ways to keep the spark alive. Be creative in bed. Share different activities together. Share massages. Your spouse is going to be by your side for your entire life, so it is good to keep investing in your relationship.

Keep your house clean and tidy
Even if you have to hire a maid every once in a while, it is so true for people with bipolar that keeping your house looking beautiful and tidy makes you feel drastically better too.

Spend quality time with your baby
Now that you aren’t spending as much time with your baby, it is even more important to spend good quality time with them. That means not watching TV, but cuddling, reading a book, playing games, taking a bath, or going for a walk. All these things are necessary to create a bond with your baby when you are home. Spending at least an hour in the evenings is so important.

Overall, using these tips will improve your life and improve your work life. Comment below if you think I’ve missed something!