Superhero vs Archnemesis

I quit my job last week. I hated to do it, because the money was good, I liked the people, and they seemed to genuinely care about others. So what was the problem? Basically, it was a classic example of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

I have had more jobs than I dare to count. After being there for a time, I feel overwhelmed, and I burn out. After all these years, I FINALLY figured out why.

I have the tendency to gravitate towards the wrong jobs. I tell myself I can do the tasks they are advertising for, and that’s basically true. I have the ability to do those things and the willingness to learn the skills I don’t already have. But what I tend to overlook is the description of what the job actually deals with on a day-to-day basis.

Cover of A-Force #1 (May 2015).
Art by Jim Cheung & Laura Martin

I ignore words like “fast-paced,” “works well under pressure,” and “good at multi-tasking.” I basically lie to myself. Plus, these kind of jobs tend to pay better, and who doesn’t want better pay?

I’m great at interviewing. I’m upbeat, highly personable, and know exactly what an employer wants to hear. I don’t mean I’m insincere. I just know how to spin my skills in a way to match what the potential employer is seeking. On the day of the interview, I wholeheartedly believe I am the right person for the job, and that I will excel at it. I convince them, because I have convinced myself.

But a day or two after the interview, I start second guessing myself. Am I a good fit for the company? Can I actually do this job? Do I actually want the job? When I don’t get an offer, I’m usually relieved. When I do get the offer, I’m hesitant, but then get excited about being chosen and the prospects of doing something new.

Here’s the catch. I don’t do well under pressure. I hate being stressed. I believe multi-tasking is overrated; my work is much better when I can devote a certain amount of time to each task, instead of jumping from one assignment to another throughout the day. Moving at a fast pace day in and day out wears on me.

Marvel Comics
(Not sure of which issue)

Phones ringing all day gives me anxiety. People pleasing makes me nervous. Working around large groups (and sometime just others in general) tires me out. All that is expected from working a normal 8 to 5 job becomes too much for me, and I break under the weight of it. Depression hits when I realize I’m actually not able to do what is expected of me. I start looking for a way out of the mess I created. I feel like I’ve let everyone down, from coworkers to family members, and I just want to crawl up in a little dark hole somewhere and disappear.

That’s the true nature of bipolar disorder. It’s a treacherous, lying beast. It makes me feel like a superhero who flies around saving the world by sheer willpower and strength. Then BAM! It sucker-punches me in the gut and sends me spiraling into oblivion with one fell swoop. Enter in my arch-nemesis, The Darkness.

Homage to The Amazing Spider-Man #361 First Carnage Appearance

The Darkness swallows me whole and down I go–sinking, sinking, sinking all the way to the bottom. And for me, I don’t hit bottom and then propel back up to continue the fight. I sit there, balled up, rocking to try to self-soothe, licking my wounds in defeat, crying within, shrinking into myself, all while smiling and laughing so others can’t see the real me. After all, superheroes don’t lose. That’s what makes them so…super. So I continue to carry the weight, no matter how heavy, even if it sinks me even further down into the mire and muck.

Marvel Comics

That’s where I was last week. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do in order to be able to breathe and save myself. I quit my job. Again. I let down my family, boss, and coworkers. Again. BUT, I did learn a lesson after all these years of making the same mistake over, and over, and over again.

I’m not a superhero. I can’t do things like everyone else. I’m not made that way. I have to be honest with myself and admit that my patterns contribute to my spiraling emotions and mental health. In order to stay healthy, I have to break the cycle of making the same choices.

The next steps are to reevaluate, dig deep, and do some inner work. At this moment, I’m just grateful for my loving and supportive family and friends. It’s these real-life superheroes that help those of us living with bipolar disorder not to give up and to keep going.

Photo courtesy: Jim Cheung, Marvel

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