In my experiences with bipolar type II disorder, the concept of pacing myself has become something that needs constant attention. When I’m clear or moderately hypomanic, I can often become incredibly productive, but it doesn’t come without cost.
Sometimes, the charge of energy that comes with my hypomanic episodes is so strong that I forget that I need rest in order to operate. While I sometimes find this aspect to be a welcomed influence (for example, when I’m cramming to meet a deadline), most of the time it leads to a zombie-like state where I continue to operate without full comprehension of my actions, which can cause trouble. In a worst-case scenario, the energy drain leads directly to a depressive breakdown.
It can be very difficult to manage my time due to the variation in my moods. I get used to producing as much as possible during my clear and/or slightly hypomanic states. These are the only periods in which I am capable of being an effective worker, which translates to being the only times I can earn money (the green devil that I despise).
Usually my moods change so often that I don’t get the chance to “burn out” before I become either too hypomanic to function properly, or depressed and without any energy. In a way these swings act as safeguards so that I don’t overwork myself (a minor positive to the plethora of negatives) but also cause me to “let my guard down” when it comes to over-stretching myself, and so I had not been aware of the fact that, from time to time, I will work myself into psychological vulnerability.
I’m lucky to have noticed this, and I’m now attempting to be more aware of the pressure that I’m putting on myself when I feel “functional.” I can’t spend all of my “able time” working and expect to have no negative psychological effects. However, it would also seem that, since I’m reaching burnout more often, then I might be functional more often than in the past (fingers crossed). It’s also possible that I’m not recognizing more severe bouts of hypomania and I just continue to work through it, but I prefer the more optimistic option.
Photo by Steve and Jemma Copley, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.