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I will not be working retail as of next Monday! I’ve been working at my store for over 2 years, and while I have a love/hate relationship I think I’ll still miss it. Eventually I’m sure that the nostalgia will fade to gratitude for not having to work in that shit-hole, but I’ll miss my coworkers at first.

I’m starting school on Jan. 2nd I’m sort of scared. My high school was part-time; I only went for 3 hours a day. I’m nervous about having a full course load for the first time in 4 years. I choose my high school because of my bipolar. I didn’t have teacher-led classes, instead each student would start a learning plan at whatever point in the year and generally had two months to complete it. That gave me some leeway; if I had a bad week with my medication side effects or situational issues I would be able to make it up without too much fuss. It wasn’t like the teachers would bitch at me if I didn’t turn in work for a week and I wouldn’t “fail” the class until the due date had passed. I’m worried that I won’t be able to cope with the community college course load. All of my friends tell me not to worry, but I do anyway.

Luckily for me I have my dad’s GI Bill benefits to help me with tuition and housing costs, but I’m thinking about going back to work after this quarter. I’m planning on becoming a high school teacher, so I’ll have to take 5 years of school rather than the normal 4 for a BA. I’d rather save my GI benefits for my really expensive schooling rather than blowing it on community college, but I wanted to take this quarter to get used to a full load. I’ll probably apply back at my place of work in three months if my bipolar lets me, but I wanted to make sure that I could do it before trying to work as well.

-Ashes

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Thanks to some weird scheduling, I haven’t had to work since Monday night. I work at a big box chain store, in the apparel and jewelry departments. During the holiday season I certainly appreciate some stroke of luck that led to four days off in a row, even if it’s at the expense of my bank account.

Working during the holidays can be a new kind of hell for bipolar people in retail. Working crazy hours that throw off sleep schedules, demanding customers that can tweak guilt complexes, breakneck speed that can leave you feeling manic, and unrealistic expectations for productivity can bring out bipolar triggers like nothing else. I’ve found a few ways to deal with all of these things however.

1. If you do the best work that you can, it’s harder for guilt trips about productivity from management to take hold.

2. Take any and all breaks on time. Knowing that the day will be split up in predictable and routine ways helps me to manage my bipolar triggers by giving me back some control over the day. It lets me say to myself “I only have to hold it together for 20 more minutes! Then it’s time for me to relax”.

3. Don’t take on other people’s work. I’m tempted to try to help my fellow coworkers out by helping them with a task, but during the holidays you have to look out for yourself.

4. Get a note from your psychiatrist of psychologist if you’re scheduled hours that throw off your sleep schedule. Sleep is one of theĀ  most important variables in keeping bipolar under control. Ask for your doctor to write a note explaining that you can’t work past X’oclock if necessary. It’s made my life so much easier. I don’t have to worry about having a breakdown in front of my coworkers because I’m scheduled to work til 11PM.

5. Have a mantra. I normally stay away from advice like this, but ever since my first holiday season in retail I found myself saying “Breathe in, breathe out”. It just helps me let go of irritating customers and coworkers. My mantra has become sort of a motto at my workplace; if we see another worker looking overwhelmed we tell them to breathe in and breathe out.

I hope this list helps you a bit should you also work in retail. Wish me luck as I go back from my mini-vacation!

-Ashes

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