I Feel Guilty that I Cannot Perform

Okay, so here’s what I did last week. My son & I got sick with the flu. The flu forced me to stop, to hesitate, to slow down my ramping hypomania. Instead of volunteering my time at NAMI and getting overstimulated by doing so, the flu forced me to stay at home.

Honestly, I believe it just may be where I belong. I can handle small amounts of social interaction, but my mind starts spinning when I’m exposed to others’ needs. I start offering to fix everything. I overextend myself. I overwork.

Before my hospitalization a decade ago, I was a major workaholic. I seem unable to work for or with others without overextending myself, without depleting myself.

Writing and even social media I experience differently, though. Yes, social media can be overstimulating, too, but not nearly so much so, for it is my work, my time, my (lack of) deadlines.

I honestly do not think I am made for the workplace. I can do occasional special events. I can speak publicly. I can be charming.

But then, I must retreat and recuperate. I must keep my distance. I must protect myself.

I do not have social anxiety so much as I have no boundaries. I’m raw. I immerse myself in a social system and then flee.

Anyway, instead of volunteering last week, I colored. Here is a slide-show of my creations. I found coloring and doodling grounding, doing so occupied my hands and focused my mind on something other than thoughts. My sister gave me two coloring books and colored pencils as an early birthday present. (Wednesday I turn 52!)


My mind I silenced with marathon television viewing. When immersed in blogging, reading others’ posts, and networking over social media, I cannot watch TV. My work occupies my mind. But as I wanted to quiet my mind, the dialogue drowned out any remaining noise in my head, pushing away speeding thoughts, giving me some needed rest.

This week will be busy for me. Since my son & I were sick last week, I had to reschedule all our appointments. This week we have five appointments: two physical therapy for my son, two doctors for my son, and one psychotherapy for me. Wednesday morning (on my 52nd birthday) we register my son for school. Finally, NAMI California conference on Friday & Saturday, at which I’m volunteering. Wish me well. I hope I make it through this week.

To top it off, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I cannot perform. That I ramp up when in social situations and must then retreat. Header image and last two paragraphs mention my guilt, yet I hardly touch on the topic in the most of this post. But there it is, underneath and behind it all, seething, aching. I do not feel guilty blogging, for I know that I’m being productive. I do feel guilty when I offer to help and then must back off.

Better to renege than to fall dangerously ill, though. My primary objective is to maintain my own stability and mental health. If that means minimum social interaction, so be it. The workaholic hypomanic overachiever of my younger years I can no longer be. Now I must be well, for myself and for my family.


36 responses to “Slowed Down My Mind”

  1. […] admit defeat or acknowledge my limitations and sensitivity to social stimulation. I’ve been hypomanic since I began coming into the NAMI Orange County office to volunteer, and since I offered to help […]

  2. stuckinscared Avatar

    Oh, I love the idea of you colouring with the same crayons that your child hands would have used… something very special about that 🙂

    I prefer felt tips (my preferred colour-inner as a child) and colouring pencils, but can often be found with crayon in hand… Littlie’s preferred choice of colour-inner 🙂 x

  3. Thank you so much, Kimmie. My sister gave me the coloring books, but quite honestly I was just as happy freehand doodling on scrap paper. I’m getting ready to pull out the old bin of crayons that I’ve kept since MY childhood and then added to it when my son got new ones for school when he was younger.

    I used crayons for art when I was in high school. When I directed a group project it was the only art supply everyone had at home. (Actually, everyone except my friend who was an accomplished artist. He I lent my crayons to.)

    One technique I used to enjoy was sharpening crayons by color and melting the shavings onto paper or fabric as art. Really cool looking results.

  4. Hi, Kitt, I’ve been enjoying your colouring updates over on facebook, and love the slide show shared here.

    I’m going to treat myself to some colouring books once Littlie goes back to school…and a decent sketch pad I think, I quite like the idea of drawing (and then colouring) some freehand doodles/pictures, doodled thoughts/memories, pictures that are personal to me. An alternative to writing… for the days when the muddle is too muddled to write 🙂

    I hope this week is kind to you, and that the flu hasn’t left you TOO wiped out.

    All the best, Kimmie x

  5. Thank you, Lisa!

  6. Honestly, I like free doodling, too.

  7. I have always loved coloring – long before these “grownup” books came out. 😀 They are pretty cool, though. Love your honesty here, Kitt. A beautiful post. The part about not being cut out for the workplace – that may be true of me. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t until I left it to work at home. Everything changed. Thanks again for sharing this – glad to stop by!

  8. I put one in my shopping cart on Amazon. 🙂

  9. Thank you, Diane. I greatly appreciate your wisdom. Without doubt the time I spend with my family is time well spent.

  10. First of all your drawing is beautiful.Secondly…thirdly and so on and so on…. I’m so glad that you’re recognizing that you need to first ana foremost
    take care of yourself. Gult is an enemy of the soul. It has no use and nothing positive about it. It robs you of peace. Saying ‘no, I’m sorry I cannot help this time’ etc is something you may think about saying a little more often than you do… ‘with no guilt’ and not explaining in detail why you can’t do what is asked of you.

    I think you will find a great peace in doing so, and more time for your family… take care.. Diane

  11. Brilliant. Wise. Keep creating your original works. Unless, of course, you want a coloring book for a break. Thanks.

  12. Thank you! There is no rhyme or reason to it.

  13. Your post resonated with me in so many ways. I can relate to the need to “perform” and the inevitable disappointment when I can’t keep it up. That made work so difficult… I’d do so well and then run out of steam a year or two into the job, which always resulted in my quitting or being shown the door. I’m so glad I don’t have to fight that battle anymore.

  14. This is such a hard and long lesson to learn. I think I’ve finally taken myself off that “Must Be Productive” hook.

    Part of it is redefining that word. Both our blogs reach out to offer hope and connection to others. This is my service. When I can be present in one-on-one interactions, my natural compassion and integrity rise. People tend to open up to me. I’m doing good work in that moment of service.

    And that is enough.

    Knowing that my productivity is different than it used to be and accepting it has given me a great deal of peace. The guilt still roars when I’m symptomatic, but now I can see that it’s just one more distortion.

    My mind-calming activity is to glean–cut out the little snippets of text from magazines that I use in my collage work. I love those coloring books, though, and want to get them. We can’t have too many tools!

  15. I love your post today, thanks. I’m the same with my bipolar and I’m very proud of you for giving yourself a break.

    NOW….you are an incredibly gifted artist!! My God, your use of colour is just unreal it’s so beautiful. I also colour in, but I don’t do it nearly as beautiful as you do, so I really scrutinised yours and checked out HOW you use colour, but my broken brain couldn’t work it out. Suffice to say, you are truly gifted and your pictures are beyond beautiful. xxx

  16. Lovely post, so insightful & your coloring is gorgeous.
    WOW – Wednesday is your special day! I proclaim this Kitt Week!

  17. Thank you, Samina. I bet other high achieving folks with bipolar are similarly stimulated and then triggered.

  18. It’s not a matter of meds for me. It’s a matter of triggering hypomania, speeding thoughts, overwork, and mood cycling. The cycling predated diagnosis, but just resulted in me burning out of job after job after putting in insane hours.

  19. Exactly. Whenever my husband sees that I’m ramping up, not sleeping, overdoing it, he’ll remind me to take it easy. Having me home and well trumps productivity.

  20. I’ve just discovered grown-up colouring and I am hooked!

  21. Perhaps this was a sign that you were feeding too much into your mania? Nothing wrong with slowing down and quieting your mind. Take care.

    BTW – I love the artwork. The geometric look of it appeals to the logical portion of my mind!

  22. Awesome colorings. I stared at them as they looped like five times. Colors. So nice.

  23. It’s great to know your boundaries, even better to actually respect them!
    I hope you’re feeling better. I was down with it too, but your drawings gave me a little strength.

  24. Wow Kitt, that hit so close to home. There are so many situations that trigger me and I am just finding out how many. Actually I learnt about triggers from my blogging friends, perhaps even you. You are so amazing for recognizing your triggers and avoiding them. Keeping yourself healthy is nothing to feel guilty about. Xxxooo

  25. You sound like me. I WANT to do a million things, but my energy is limited. I blame it on taking 5 psych meds at once. Other people would be tired too.

  26. Kitt I love to color. You’re right about it keeping your hands busy and your mind occupied.

    I had the same exact trouble as you with work. It was like I was trying to always be a one woman company when there were really 11 people working there. There was nothing I would not volunteer for. So stressful. Hubby insists I not work now. He can’t handle another hospitalization.

  27. Thank you, Jacqueline!

  28. I love that you have found an outlet for quieting your mind. It’s wonderful, thank you for sharing.

  29. Thank you! I will take a look at your Mindful Monday post.

  30. Kitt that is beautiful! You should read my Mindful Monday post this week. It is all about coloring! <3 Hope you feel better soon.

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