Bipolar – Our Feelings Are Too Big
The issue with bipolar disorder isn’t that we have feelings, it’s that our feelings are too big. Emotions are normal, even big emotions at certain times are normal but people with bipolar have feelings that are too big far too much of the time.
Why Bipolar Is an Illness and Feelings Are Not
What people don’t understand about bipolar disorder, as a mood disorder, is this: all feelings exist on a spectrum and anyone’s feelings might exist anywhere on that spectrum depending on a given situation; people with bipolar disorder exist way too far onto one end, however. For example, if you’re a dog person and you see a cute pooch walking down the street, you might smile and be a little happy. If your parent has just died, you may be extraordinarily sad. Completely normal, all of it.
But with bipolar disorder (bipolar depression, specifically) it feels like your parent dies every day. The problem isn’t the emotion, it isn’t the feeling itself, it’s that the feeling is too big for the situation. The feeling is pretty much always too big, every day, all day.
Bipolar and Feelings that Are Too Big
I feel like I am a hurricane trapped inside a bubble, ready to burst at any moment. I do all I can to keep the hurricane inside, but it’s a bubble I live in and bubbles can only be maintained for so long. And hurricanes harm. They harm me whether they’re inside the bubble or not and they might even hurt others should the hurricane pop the bubble. I know that my feelings are too big. I know that I am too much. I know that people with bipolar disorder have to handle more, internally, than any normal person can understand.
An Example of Emotions that Are Too Big in Bipolar
For example, I watched a television show today. (I tend to watch television over movies because movies are just too triggering. They’re meant to be. They’re art that’s designed to elicit emotion. Television is less like this. It’s safer.) And so, today, I watched a character in this television show die and I was crushed with sadness. I didn’t feel a twinge, I felt a tempest. Even though it was a fictional character in a fictional story playing out in nothing but pixels, my bipolar brain couldn’t handle it.
You would never understand it if you were watching me but I felt so Earth-shattering sad that I wept and wailed and went through tissue after tissue. So much crying, so much sobbing, so much pain and it wasn’t even 9:00 a.m.. If you were watching me you would think I was crazy. (Which I am, so that makes sense.)
Feelings Aren’t Bipolar – Bipolar Is Bipolar
The point here is not that I had this emotion the point here is that I had a massive emotion from a tiny antecedent. If I had felt that way because of a death or because of something massive, it would have been understandable, but because this type of experience is more like the rule than the exception, that’s what makes it bipolar disorder and not just another feeling.
Reasons for Bipolar Feelings that Are Too Big
I will say that I’m not always so highly reactive to external stimuli but when in bipolar depression or in a bipolar mixed mood, it’s just something that happens. I also know that my sleep has been compromised for quite some time thanks to a pinched nerve in my neck and compromised sleep always presents a worsening of bipolar symptoms.
Regardless, though, whether I’m feeling highly irritated because of hypomania or devastatingly upset because of depression, my feelings are just too big to fit into one, tiny, human brain. I know this. I understand this. It troubles me greatly but I’ve learned to live with it because it’s the brain I have and I’m not getting another.
But I do wish that others would understand that I’m dealing with level 11 emotions the vast majority of the time and they have no idea what that’s like. Everyone else gets over a death and over that state of extreme despair with time. My time is my lifetime.
Image by Flickr user Shigemi.J.
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.