Why can’t I focus? What happened to my brain? I used to be able to focus. I was able to concentrate whether I was in a noisy environment or quiet – it didn’t matter. My brain was always working, always thinking- I was a superstar at work. I am/was an over-achiever. If I don’t get enough work completed in a day- I panic. I feel guilty; I worry about letting someone down or disappointing them. I NEVER want to be a disappointment.

I hate to admit this, but I crave approval. I need to know I’ve done a task well. I need to know my work is “good”, “great”, “excellent”. I constantly doubt my abilities.  I don’t remember when this doubt started, but I remember sometime after my diagnosis, I lost my self-confidence (all aspects of it- more about the self-esteem issue next time).

I realized that I play the self-blame game too often. I am a perfectionist, an overachiever and I want approval and validation. So, what happens when I can’t focus and everything distracts me? I get upset. Really upset. I can’t remember the last time I was able to be truly productive, focused, motivated and able to concentrate. I keep thinking it is my fault and that there is something wrong with me.

I haven’t been as productive as I want to be at work lately. I sit and stare at the work I need to complete and I end up reading the same sentence twice, three times, four times…If someone walks by my desk, or starts talking to me, there goes my focus. Somehow the day goes by really fast and when I haven’t “done enough work” for the day (by my standards), I leave work feeling, for lack of a better word, shitty.  Sometimes I stay late so I feel better and have less to do the next day, but that is not a long-term solution.

Where is this lack of motivation coming from, and just how bad is it?

  • Once I run the dishwasher, it takes me 2-3 days (sometimes more) to empty it
  • We moved into our condo last April and still have not hung up any artwork/I have not hung up my degrees in my office
  • It took me months to switch my summer shoes with my winter shoes/boots in the shoe closet (and it was close to winter by this point), same with our coats
  • My office is covered in random boxes, things are out of place, it is not organized how I want it to be and I can’t bring myself to fix it
  • When I do the laundry, it will take me a week to put it away

Bipolar Disorder II involves major depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, during a hypomanic episode, a person can experience symptoms including: distractibility, unusual talkativeness and racing thoughts. A major depressive episode can include symptoms such as fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day, decreased ability to think or concentrate nearly every day, and markedly reduced interest interest or feeling no pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day.

Fine. There is a bona fide explanation for these symptoms. I still don’t feel better. I want “my brain” back. I am tired, fatigued and as of late, have also been experiencing hypomania and cannot stop talking if you get me started!

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These may not seem like big ordeals, but to me they are because as mentioned, I am a perfectionist and I like everything in our home to look perfect and I feel as though if items are not in their proper place/put away it reflects my state of mind. Unfortunately, it is hard for those around me to understand why this is important to me and this has caused many fights (“Why can’t people come over? Why don’t you want people to see the condo? It’s my condo too!!”).

After reading the above paragraphs, I realize that I am being self-critical and am not being kind to myself. There is that saying, “You are your own worst critic,” which of course I am. If you don’t like yourself/are that critical of yourself, you will emit negative energy. My fiance keeps saying, “Positive energy Mel! Positive energy!”

You get what you give right?

About Melanie Luxenberg

My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!

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