Emotions. Feelings. Moods. Those ups and those downs.
Emotion: An intense mental state that arises subjectively rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes.
Feeling: An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments, or desires.
Mood: A state of mind or emotion.
The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
Emotions. A blessing and a curse. This is true for everyone, of course. Expressing how we feel. Up or down. Energy or blah. For those of us with Bipolar it’s way too up and way too down. A little too much energy and sometimes not enough to get out of bed. We try to hang on, keep our feelings in check so we’re not too vulnerable to be hurt or embarrassed. We all do. The more we hang on, the less joy there is. How can we find the balance we want so we can enjoy the normal highs and be normally low as the situations arise? How can we get our medication/therapy/whatever right to allow us the “normal” feelings and keep from being a zombie? I’ve been both and I was recently on the very emotional side. Not depressed, just emotional. At least in my opinion. I wanted to be able to say, “I’m okay” when asked how I was without bursting into tears for no apparent reason. Or crying so much I have to cancel plans. Sometimes…not always, but sometimes. It’s embarrassing…actually I felt ashamed something was wrong with me and I couldn’t control my tears. Shame is another emotion we have to deal with on a regular basis.
When it comes to managing their bipolar, there are three camps: 1) Those who manage with medication, 2) Those who have figured out how to manage it other ways, and 3) they don’t… The amount of exercise, sleep and the right foods can work to keep some of us relatively stable. I’m a medication person, myself. Most of my life, pre-diagnosis, I was a mess. So if medication could fix that, I’m in. I really need meds to stay stable. It took a couple of years to get the dosages right. This blog speaks more to those of us on meds because that’s something we can tweak.
What do we do when our medication seems to be working pretty well, not really manic and not really depressed, but it’s right on the edge? It’s important to have, feel, the highs and lows of life and with Bipolar it’s easy to either be medicated so you don’t experience a normally wide range of emotions or on the edge of being too emotional. Some would call it drama. It’s hard to tell until someone asks how you are, and tears show up…for not much of a reason. Or not really over spending, but did I really need that membership at a gym that’s 30 miles away and I don’t go to? Just spurts of thinking I had enough money for whatever I wanted and times when tears show up for something others would just brush off. Pretty stable my standards. But it doesn’t have a positive impact at a meeting, at work or at home, visiting friends. Otherwise, everything was fine.
Trying to decide to make a medication tweak so not to be so emotional and take the chance it would make me too unemotional was a tough one. Messing with meds that pretty much work can be tricky. I also have ADHD and would love to take medication to help me settle down and focus. BUT, that medication can kick off a manic episode. For me, a manic episode is spending too much money. Back before I knew I had bp, I did a lot of other wild and crazy and hurtful things. (I did make amends.) My bipolar meds have toned that down and I have it managed. I’m as stable as I want to be… pretty stable and occasionally I’ve been known to spend money on goofy, not used things or freak out for a day or two. My downs are not so bad either. I can function but it takes a lot of effort for a few days. So tweaking meds can cause some problems…or can it can get better? I’m lucky to have a team of close friends that have reeled me in or held me up during my light-weight episodes. I keep the episodes light-weight with meds, therapy and coaching. Exercising, eating better and getting at least 8 hours of sleep almost every night is important, too. Not easy, that’s for sure. But it helps a lot.
So back to where I started. If we don’t allow ourselves the sad and depressed-at-times emotions, we are also not allowing ourselves to experience real unadulterated joy. I really like to feel joyful. But I don’t like tearing up or crying over nothing. It’s been such a dilemma.
Then there’s another way to look at this. It’s OK to be just as we are. No one’s perfect. Life isn’t perfect. We’re humans and God gave us all feelings and emotions and, just like some who have green eyes or brown, some of us were endowed with bipolar, ADHD, something else or nothing at all.
Mood swings. Emotional havoc. Way up (although some of the ups can pretty cool, there’s almost always that not-so-cool down that follows) and way down feelings. Ugh.
What do you think? How do you feel about this?
BTW: I opted to try tweaking my meds. Too early to tell how it’s going to work out.