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.
I can’t control my brain. I can’t control my emotions. I can’t control my tears. I can’t control my irritation. I can’t control my need for excess sleep. I feel like I can’t control anything. And not being able to control my brain or my emotions makes me feel entirely inadequate as a human being.
I want to be happy. It’s been a long time since I, genuinely, have been. Yes, the bipolar medications do their job and keep me alive; and yes, I’m less depressed than when the bipolar medications weren’t working, but, still, I’m not happy. And while some people seem to think differently, I really, really want to be happy. It’s not my fault I can’t be happy.
I was having a very annoyed/angry day. This was annoying me and then that was pissing me off. And I realized this was a thread through my day and thought to myself, “Yup, I have days like that. It’s a bipolar thing.” And then I wondered, “Do normal people have days where they’re mad at everything?”
And then I realized I had no idea. I have no idea if normal people have irrationally angry days. I’ve forgotten what it is to be normal.
[And before someone has a hissy fit because I’m saying that people with bipolar disorder aren’t normal, please read the linked article.]
You know what I hate? I hate the concept of “having fun.” I hate the pressure to “have fun.” I hate the notion that so much of what we do is to “have fun.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge others their fun. They should have as much of it as they like. But for me, trying to have fun is just a big chore (or a big lie).
So I’m here, in Parma, Italy and I’m supposed to be chill-axing and “having fun.” Italy is a fun place, after all. All you need to do is stumble from gelato stand to pizza bar to have a good time.
But here’s the thing: I don’t have fun.
It’s not that I don’t want it, or that I wouldn’t have it if I could, it’s just that I can’t.
Sometimes I’m Just Mad
As I have stated, over and over, that to experience bipolar disorder is to experience such inflated emotions that they swallow you whole. Bipolar emotions are bigger than you and the particularly nasty ones are bigger than any therapy or coping skill could ever be.
However, not every emotion is a bipolar emotion. Just because I feel a strong emotion like anger, sadness or elation, that doesn’t mean it’s a bipolar overreaction I’m feeling. It’s not necessarily depression, mania or hypomania. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder feel just like everyone else. Sometimes we’re just reasonably mad.
And when we look at these reactions, the emotions, thoughts and actions involved form a chain. I call this the emotional chain. And this chain drives bipolar reactions both mentally and physically. But what is an emotional chain and how can be break it when need be?
There are many reasons I don’t typically talk about my own, personal, current mood and treatments. I’ve written about why I don’t write about my bipolar treatments here. Similarly, I don’t talk about my current bipolar mood state because my writings are less about me, in particular, and more about the experience of bipolar, in general. I believe that’s one of the reasons my writing is so popular. I take my personal experience of bipolar disorder and use it as a springboard to speak to what it’s like to experience bipolar for so many.
But one of the other reasons I don’t talk about my personal, current mood state is because I’m a private person. I know this seems weird considering how much I share online. But I’m careful with what I share, and what I don’t.
And finally, I know that I’m a role model for some people and I don’t talk about my own current mood episode because I don’t want other people to lose hope. In spite of recent accusations, I do actually bring hope to thousands of people with bipolar and people who love those with bipolar disorder and I don’t want to do anything to injure that hope.
I am not happy. People who know me well, know this about me. Sure, I act happy, because what choice do I have considering societal norms, but happy I am not.
So the question is, can a person with bipolar disorder by happy?
This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago that I thought bared repeating.
There are very few times in life when I think it’s appropriate to be “mad.” It happens, without doubt, but generally I don’t find it very insightful or helpful. There’s always something underneath the anger. Usually it has to do with the desire to be loved. If you track the feeling back, like really, really back, that is what you’ll find.
- Wife screams at husband for leaving socks on the floor for the 18th time.
- Wife is angry because she doesn’t feel like her husband is listening to her.
- Wife wants to be listened to so that she’ll feel important to her husband.
- Wife wants to feel important to her husband so that she’ll know he loves her.
- Wife wants to know he loves her so she knows he’ll stay around.
- Wife is afraid of being left by husband.
- Wife is afraid of being unloved.
That’ll be $3000 in therapy bills, please.
But then something happened. It wasn’t an earth-shattering thing, it was just a thing. A life thing. A thing that your average person would feel bad about but not the end of the world.
Just the end of my world.
So here it is, 2011. Yes, a new year. People are full of hope, resolutions and motivation for change.
It should come as no surprise that I, the bipolar, the depressive, the philosopher, the writer, am not.
Resolutions & Hope for the New Year
Most people, mostly wrong people, think that they can seize this moment to change their life. People think that this arbitrary moment of existence somehow means that they can make their lives better.
Silly, sill them.
Resolutions & Disappointment for the New Year
The new year really means silly promises that people don’t keep and then are disappointed about by February 1st, if they’re lucky enough to last that long. Anyone still losing weight, going to the gym, reading more, quitting smoking, reducing debt or volunteering like they promised last year?
Resolutions & Hope: New Year, Same Bipolar
So my problem, the thing that really sticks in my craw, is this: if your average person can’t be expected to keep a New Year’s resolution, what chance does a crazy person have?
I’d say, very little.
And it’s not so much that I don’t understand the odds against me, or bipolars in general, because I do, but I think in the case of a person with bipolar or a person with depression, the whole idea of a New Year’s resolution is really just an invitation to disaster.
As I’ve mentioned, people generally feel bad when they fail at their New Year’s resolution. I don’t really think they should as it was an unreasonable thing in the first place, but they do. And I know myself, I know my bipolar, I know my depression and I know that my mental illness will take the failure of a resolution, which I’m destined to face, and make it seem like the end of the world, the end of my worthiness, the end of my life.
Because depression looks for any excuse to make me feel bad about myself. Depression looks for an excuse to cause pain. And depression doesn’t need a reason at all, so give it one, and just see how aggressive it can be.
Don’t Let the New Year Goad You Into Creating a Depression
So the moral of my little writing is this: don’t create an opportunity for depression to beat you up. Give yourself a break, give yourself a hug and don’t bother with silly promises that are flights of fancy anyway.
Because as I see it, just fighting my bipolar is like quitting smoking every day. And that’s more than enough of a resolution for me.
(If you want to see some New Year’s resolutions I think are decent for a person with a mental illness, check out my writing: New Year’s Resolution for the Bipolar at HealthyPlace.)