Save the World or Save Myself

When your mental health is less than perfect, you can easily get pulled into whirlpools from which it is hard to swim free.  My current whirlpool is building from the nearly impossible task of absorbing and responding to the goings on in the United States while maintaining sanity.  I am troubled, to put it mildly, by politics and the behavior of my fellow Americans.  I have always believed that one person can make a difference.  We are obligated to take action.  However, as soon as I delve too deep into the issues or, heaven forbid, feel the urge to act, I start taking in personally.  The anger grows within me and I can’t derail my thoughts.  I can’t let go to be productive at work or joyful with my family.  It starts to consume me.

Then the bipolar symptoms rev up.  I get manic, staying up to late, maybe signing up for events.  I try to balance my other responsibilities with the activities I think could help save the world.  My brand of bipolar does not come with long or particularly damaging manic episodes.  This might last 48 hours, perhaps 72.  Long enough to show up for rallies or sign up for phone calls.  Then I get tired and cancel.  I fail to complete what I started.  And then, as you might imagine, the guilt sets in.  Once again I have done nothing.  I haven’t completed what I started out to do.  My children are watching me ignore the devastation around me and to do nothing is to side with the enemy.  I am useless. 

Then the depression episode.  My depression episodes are much longer and much more debilitating.  But that’s a story for another time, particularly since I’m in one now.  Not a good time to dwell on my inability to control my brain.  The topic I am concerned with now is that of how to be a productive citizen and maintain my health.  This is the whirlpool.  Around and around… feel healthy enough to engage the world, try to take action, take it all too hard, cop out, feel ashamed, work through the depression, feel healthy enough again to engage the world… on and on.  There are other such whirlpools involving career competitiveness, education goals, domestic projects… but the funnel I’m drowning in now is that of civic participation.  Advice welcome.