I recently ran across a book that mentioned something called the Grit Test (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter.aspx) . I decided to take it, although I was pretty sure I knew the outcome. As I suspected, I have no grit, at least not the kind the test measures. I mean, I’ve made it through illnesses, job losses and a suddenly deaf husband, but I think that falls under perseverance during adversity. The sort of grit the test measures is the ability to persevere in the pursuit of long-term goals. I have no long-term goals and can barely meet the short-term ones, so, no grit.
I’ve always known this about myself, and periodically I find it discouraging. I experience my lack of ambition as something fundamental that probably shouldn’t be that way. Some people get physical birth defects, but I got this instead, along with the wacked brain chemistry, or maybe because of the wacked brain chemistry.
I cannot imagine a long-term goal that would hold any interest for me. I can’t imagine one that would hold my interest even theoretically. Goal oriented thinking is as foreign to me as differential calculus, and while I might be able to memorize some formulas to solve equations (my to-do lists and schedules at work, for instance), I don’t think I would ever get beyond mechanics. Of course, without goals you don’t really accomplish anything. But then we’re back to what I might want to accomplish, and I got nuthin’. The biggest goal I recently undertook was in January of last year, when I created an elaborate Harry Potter birthday party for DramaQueen. Preparations started in December, and that, my dears, is where a bipolar upswing really comes in handy. Some of the decorations stayed up through the Summer. Because once I was done, I was DONE.
This is the way my life goes - obsessions and enthusiasms embraced and abandoned over and over. It is not the lack of completion that is so bothersome, but the way all the life can suddenly be sucked out of something that once enchanted me, and I’m left looking at the corpse of a once-beloved project. And then I’m bored, and my brain feels like it’s in prison.
Not everyone who has this illness is so unproductive - there are many wildly creative artists and writers. I once knew someone with severe bipolar illness who said the manic episodes were the only thing that made the depression bearable. I’m not that far along the spectrum and I’m well-medicated. When I’m up I probably just look like a normally productive person, perhaps unusually and relentlessly talkative about topics that interest only me, and a bit rude because I tend to interrupt. But my brain is working, and the world is in technicolor, and it’s lovely. And when I’m depressed - that would be now - I still look pretty normal, just quieter, lethargic, messier, dull, closed up. And the world looks like a newspaper left out in the rain.
This all sounds very glum, but I guarantee, in a few weeks or a few months, everything will shift and, oh, just wait.