If anyone read my posts last May or whenever I began writing for Depressed Academics, you would know I was having a really hard time emotionally. Here I am a year later and I have to congratulate myself on something in particular: my new skill of sitting with uncomfortable feelings without being destructive or resorting to some form of escapism.
Truth be told, I am having a pretty hard day today. I've been experiencing mixed states-- a combination of an elevated/anxious mood and symptoms of depression: crying, isolation, etc. Mixed states are probably my least favorite mood state(s) because they can be so unpredictable. The last several days, I was in a hypomanic state-- which was pleasant initially. However, underlying the pleasantness was the knowledge that at any time, I could tip into a more severe manic form. I had been monitoring my moods carefully, ensuring not to get too overstimulated either by drinking too much caffeine or being around too many people as these things can definitely heighten my mood. Making sure I got my sleep, doing my deep breathing. The basics.
I noticed my mood shifting earlier today, however, due to family stuff, I had to keep myself composed. Be strong. Be the rock. After all, some members of my family are having their own issues-- whether its financial or emotional. So I was there for them as they had been for me when I was going through my breakdown last spring and summer. The problem with "being strong" when you feel like crumbling is that at some point, you have to release those feelings. Alternately, you can avoid them or overeat or oversleep or drink a beer or a lot of beer and forget. These things are what constitute escapism.
I released my mania last spring when I went crazy in the city of 2. I was in a similar situation I as I am now. Living at home with family and in a hypomanic state. I have a tendency to "let loose" emotionally in environments and people I'm most familiar with. So when I was invited to visit my friends in the city of 2-- a place I had lived for several years before moving in with family -- I decided to go even though I had a feeling it might disrupt my moods. In fact, I went because it would disrupt my mood. Let me explain. Physically, I felt I had to release all the built up energy and neglected emotions. This wasn't my cognitive process- but rather something like muscle memory. In other words, I knew (somewhere inside of me) I was about to go crazy and I needed a safe space to do so. So I chose my safe space to be with my two closest friends at the time. However, since this wasn't a cognitive process, I didn't think that they might not be equipped to handle my emotional state. And that's when things got complicated.
Back to my new skill. I am feeling really shaky in the sense that at any moment I could teeter on over to mania's side or worse, a severe mixed episode. But instead of indulging in that drink or another destructive behavior, I've been sitting with my feelings. Figuratively and literally. For instance, I've been communicating with my family and being assertive about my needs. Earlier I told them I needed to stay home to unwind, relax. When I was back at the house, I ended up calling a friend and talking out what's been bothering me. But instead of completely "letting loose" with my friend, I kept the conversation to a specified length and told her that if she had to go at any time, to let me know. By establishing those boundaries, I didn't overwhelm my friend. Additionally, I have been invited to visit the city of 2 recently--invitations I've rejected for the simple reason that I actually do not want to disrupt my moods this time, intentionally or not.
The good news in all of this is that I see my psych doctor later today. The other day I wrote out a list of all my questions relating to my my anxiety, irritability and elevated mood. I do have some speculation as to what triggered this emotional state so I'll be bringing up those concerns and issues as well. Just knowing I see my psych doc is comforting and reassuring. Because I've gone through this before, I know the drill and I'm prepared. Despite this difficult and painful state to deal with, at least I know that I do have resources here to help.
Before signing off, there's an adage that just seems too fitting not to reiterate. I feel like people with a mood disorder know this one best: this too shall pass. If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say that in response to a difficult situation! But what I'm trying to say is that if I could sum up all my lessons into one remark about the malleable nature of moods, that adage would be it.
I'll keep you updated.