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Overcommitment = Stress Squared

I'm Bipolar Journal - January through May 2003


Updated May 15, 2012

The sunroom as greenhouse in March

The sunroom as greenhouse in March

Photo by Marcia Purse
Overcommitment is one of the dangers of mania and hypomania. It's also one of the characteristics of a clutterer. Both overcommitment and clutter are stressors that can contribute or lead to anxiety and depression.

This year I've been living with all those things:

  • hypomania
  • overcommitment
  • clutter
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
As I wrote in "Name That Episode," I was not aware of the hypomania until after it was gone. What I felt at the time was stress, stress, STRESS! It would have been bad enough to be coping with a demanding day job, far more work than usual in my part-time Internet jobs, and the never-ending battle with clutter that has been my lifelong plague. But there were two other factors making the stress load much, much worse.

First, I ordered more than 60 seed varieties and spent hours upon hours agonizing over what plants to order for my garden this year. Starting in February I had at least six kinds of flower seeds to sow indoors each week. Each seed flat then had to be tended; when the seedlings grew large enough, the needed to be potted up into larger containers. (I confess I still have seven varieties to pot up - and many seeds were never sown at all.)

Second, the quiet family party originally planned for my mother's 80th birthday in mid-April exploded into a buffet lunch party for 30 people - at our house. I had NEVER given a party for so many people - the one I once gave for half that many had been a disaster. My brothers and their wives and my best friend gave me critical support and encouragement, but the bulk of the planning fell to me. (Well, I couldn't very well ask Mom to do it, could I?)

So even though by early April I was pretty much caught up on web design work, I didn't have any more time to tackle the Great Garden Overcommitment - I had less. I lost one weekend to exhaustion when my psychiatrist suggested I take all 500 mg. of Depakote at night instead of 250 mg. morning and evening. I slept terribly at night, had to take long naps that didn't help much, and developed hand tremors immediately. Needless to say, I switched back to half morning, half evening after just those two nights - but that weekend was gone. The following weekend was two solid days of housecleaning - and the next was The Party.

Everybody had a good time! I'm very proud of myself - and grateful to Jo, Bill, Gina, Agi and Bob for their crucial help. Me? I think I enjoyed myself. It started at noon; at 5:00 my feet hurt so much that I stretched out to give them a rest - and didn't wake up till seven.

The next day it was back to the garden - where by that time I'd managed to commit myself to planting, moving or potting about 160 different varieties of flowers (and two tomato plants). Now, of some of these varieties there was only a single plant - but of others, especially those raised from seed, there were (or still are) from 3 to 36 plants. As of this writing, I still have at least 120 varieties to plant. I have a list, but might have forgotten a few things. The stress continues.

Nature has helped, though. The weather has stayed cool; we've had enough rain so I haven't had to worry, so far, about watering anything but the plants on the deck. And there was one other assistance from Mother Nature...

Early one morning as I sat out in a sheltered corner of the deck with my coffee, I saw a baby rabbit over among the trays of seedlings. I could almost read his mind: "Smorgasbord!" He gobbled the last leaves of a previously chewed Cape daisy, gave a disdainful sniff to dusty millers and marigolds, then had a tug-of-war (he won) with a tasty nasturtium leaf.

I didn't make a move to shoo him away. For one thing, he was adorable; for another, anything he ate, I wouldn't have to worry about planting.

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