Cognitive issues or memory fog. For me, it’s one of the side effects of Bipolar that causes me the most grief on a daily basis. I forget my husband’s work schedule, kids’ events and important dates. Our family calendar looks like a poorly written article marked for revisions by the strictest editor.
There are times when I don’t remember conversations I’ve had and I feel stupid when I ask the same questions over again. “I TOLD you this,” or “don’t you remember this? What’s wrong with you?” These are responses I’ve grown accustomed to.
I begin to wonder whether or not it’s early dementia. I wonder what else is wrong with me. Of course I know this is a side effect of Bipolar but my fixations still wreak havoc in my “what if?” brain.
Even writing this blog, I’ve begun to question myself again.
“What am I forgetting now?”
According to an article in Psychiatric Times, “There is growing evidence that individuals with bipolar affective disorder have cognitive impairments, even during periods of symptom remission. While these impairments are typically less pronounced than those found in other psychiatric (eg, schizophrenia) or neurological (eg, Alzheimer dementia) illnesses, reduced neuropsychological ability appears to significantly affect psychosocial functioning in patients with bipolar disorder.”
Memory lapses don’t just effect me in my personal relationships. They’ve hit home recently professionally.
I was forced to resign from a position in which I was required to memorize a 14-page script. I read over it day and night. I recorded myself and listened on my way to and from work. I know I worked harder than anyone else in my training class but it still wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t enough.
I panicked when I was called on to role play with the material. I often retreated to my car to cry in frustration. “What the hell is wrong with you?!” played on repeat in my head.
I tried in vain to tell my trainer that I just could not memorize it all. I told him I had a medical condition which prevented it. I begged him to stop calling on me. I think he just did it more. Everyone told me to just work harder.
But the reality is, I could not retain the material. My Bipolar just wouldn’t let me. Of course, I refused to disclose my illness. It had already cost me my previous job when the information got out. I also knew if I did, they would roll their eyes and think I was using my illness as a crutch. It’s always the knee jerk reaction from those who don’t understand.
I began to have severe panic attacks. They were unrelenting, even causing heart palpitations and vomiting. I hung my head and told our director that I had no choice but to resign. I think I was harder on myself than anyone realized. I am a perfectionist by nature.
I don’t tell anyone that my Bipolar is probably the cause of it all. I know they wouldn’t believe me. This is not a well known side effect. And those who do know, openly doubt its severity. They assume it’s laziness or lack of motivation. What they don’t understand is, it’s the exact opposite. It makes me feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.
My inner perfectionist says I’m a total failure.
There are times when I wouldn’t change being Bipolar. I strongly believe it enhances my creativity. Of course there are other times when I loathe the illness. It won’t just let me be a “normal” functioning member of my family and society.
What does it feel like to be normal? Whatever “normal” is …