Apologizing for Overreactions to Emotional Situations
Bipolar disorder is essentially your average emotions – only amplified. So bipolar is sadness, but to a level 11. Bipolar disorder is energetic, to a level 11. And so on. And, of course, as a human isn’t designed to run at a level 11, many other symptoms accompany those exaggerated experiences.
And while many of these exaggerated moods are related to no external stimuli at all and just appear out of the blue, some exaggerated moods are the result of something happening in the environment. Near as I can tell, bipolar disorder isn’t just an exaggeration of normal emotion it’s also an exaggeration of normal reactions to emotional situations.
I’m not Sad, I’m Depressed
Recently my grandmother died. Of course, this is a sad thing. Of course, the funeral is a sad event. Of course, seeing others broken up about the death is difficult. Of course, people will have an emotional reaction to this situation. And of course, I’m a person, like everyone else.
But when it came time to go to the funeral I was terrified. I wasn’t just not looking forward to it, I was dreading it. And that’s because I know myself. That’s because I know that funerals are, by their very nature, depressing. That’s because I know that depressing feeling won’t be fleeting for me. That’s because I know that sitting in a room where people are crying will make me absolutely fall apart and that fall won’t correct itself in any reasonable amount of time. I absolutely will be instantly clinically depressed because of that type of experience. I absolutely will experience unreasonable emotions given the situation.
I’m not Stressed, I’m Hypomanic
Similarly, I have mentioned before how stress can lead to bipolar hypomania. Stress and being stressed out is normal but in the case of bipolar disorder, people can manifest that stress in unreasonable ways that are out of proportion to the given stressor. Moreover, that stress reaction can last much longer than is reasonable.
I Apologize for Emotional Overreactions
And so I feel like half the time I’m apologizing for unreasonable, overwhelming emotional reactions. I’m sorry my emotions are popping out of my eyeballs. I’m sorry my mood prevents me from sitting still. I’m sorry I can’t stop talking about what a horrible human being I am. I’m sorry I can’t get over a tiny event that happened weeks ago. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m aware that my reactions are crazy but I can’t do anything about them – because, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m crazy.
I understand why it’s important to apologize – it’s important because my overreactions can distress others – but my, is it ever tiring. And it doesn’t feel particularly fair. When was the last time a cancer patient had to apologize for their symptoms?
What to Do about Emotional Overreactions to Situations
Clearly, I’m not sure what to do because if I was, I wouldn’t have been dreading my grandmother’s funeral so much. I can tell you this – I worked on dissociating during the event so that it would touch me much less. I’m not saying that’s the right way to handle the situation, I’m just saying it’s what I did. And I can tell you that I use an almost obsessive level of self-talk to try and talk myself down from my own emotional ledges. That meets with varying degrees of success, but really, what else are you going to do? You can lean on friends and family, of course, and you may experience support and catharsis that way, I don’t know, but often others can’t handle my kind of extraordinary emotions and I understand that.
I personally think what it comes down to is avoiding emotional situations as much as possible. I think this is sad because these situations are a part of life but if we want stability, we just can’t afford to rock the boat.
And if emotional situations can’t be avoided? Then I think it’s prudent to expect, and plan for, the worst. Understand that you’re going to be upset. Plan for it. Tell people about it. Don’t make it a surprise. Try and explain your concerns to those close to you as best you can. Try to make time to deal with it. Try to make a counselling appointment. Try to put into place anything that can help.
And most important of all, make sure to take these emotional reactions seriously because they can lead to major changes in mood which can result in huge problems for you. The last thing you need is your overreaction leading to months of depression or a debilitating mania or psychosis.
And hopefully people will understand because what you’re experiencing really is a symptom of a disease and it isn’t your fault.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.