O is for Overwhelmed

In my mood tracking book the notation ov stands for feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t written because notation has been gaining momentum in my life for two weeks now, and there is something about feeling overwhelmed that particularly cripples me.

In my experience, ov tends to show up in a period where I am quickly shifting from hypomania to depression, though it isn’t too high and mighty to show up in a mixed state or the deepest reaches of a long, suicidal depression. The only reason I can really couple the feeling of being overwhelmed with the hypomanic->depressive fluctuation is because I am generally moving from a period where I have  been overexerting myself (making plans, starting projects) and the energy and motivation I had been experiencing from the hypomania has quickly been pulled out from under me.

Suddenly finding myself without the drive or energy to finish the half dozen projects I’ve started or continue showing up to the week’s worth of commitments I’ve made can make some serious problems, especially when the commitments involve promises to family and friends or the projects are work-related or deadline specific.

Initially, in hypomania, I feel over-capable… so my list of projects and commitments seem miniscule compared to my drive to complete them.

In depression, however, I am flooded by this long list of things to do, a long list of obligations when all I can think about is how much I want to be sleeping and how completely ridiculous it seems to attempt to finish these things now my trajectory has become broken.

Feeling overwhelmed is only one part of it. I often also feel a lot of guilt for potentially scrambling (and failing) to complete these things or for cancelling plans with others. Trying to explain to people that the “car” I’ve been speeding in has suddenly stopped and thrust itself into reverse is… confusing, at best.

Often I try to continue on like nothing has happened, and this is seemingly the worst thing I can do. My defunct abilities are wildly noticeable to the people around me (even if I think they’re not) and becoming overwhelmed and trying to continue having social engagements has led to blow ups, resentment (on my end) and generally wanting to dig a hole to curl up in so I can be alone. When I feel too overwhelmed to be around people in a healthy way, it is obvious. I become distant and curt and have even ended relationships and friendships when people have felt the need to try to comfort me by getting closer. Anyone or anything that adds to my feelings of being smothered are often eradicated from the situation. Period.

The continuation of activities after hypomania also tends to flood me after suddenly dropping into depression and I am overstimulated by even the smallest things. Last night I told Corey it felt like I was an egg, and the noise, the light, and the energy of the world around me were trying to pierce my skin and eyes and ears like a million little microscopic sperm. It left me waving my arms around me, like light and sound were bugs I could scare off. All my mind seemed capable of was tripping the “escape! escape!” alarm as my chest tightened up and I couldn’t breathe.

In these periods, living in the city is extremely challenging. Our technological way of life is extremely challenging. Not running for the mountains is… extremely challenging.

Things that potentially help? For me, the big one is nature. I haven’t been able to experience much of that lately due to the location of our apartment and the surgeries I have had this year, but I find that being in a quiet place in nature is one of the only things that helps me combat the feeling of external stimuli becoming physical.

Sometimes the best I can find is a dark quiet room, and (like last night) inquiring minds around me want to know why I am sitting in a dark quiet room.

My therapist told me I might need to tell the people close to me that I need extra space sometimes, and that there is nothing wrong with asking people for a little extra space.

In all of this, that is my greatest challenge… when the weight of all things are pressing down on me it can be hard to remember what words to use or even that words exist at all. In the end, I expect using words are likely to be far more effective than waving my arms around, insulting others, and sitting in a hole.

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3 responses to “O is for Overwhelmed

  1. Nature is very calming but I agree hard to find time for it

  2. I experience over whelming stimulus at times also. People speaking to me becomes almost a physical/mental kind of pain. I want to lash out at whatever is causing the pain. I have come to the point where I ask friends and family at that time to please leave me alone…..and don’t talk to me. It doesn’t usually last long, but it can be very intense, and frustrating, and depressing. I am fortunate enough to be able to tell them how I feel, but at the end of the day, I am responsible for making sure I make it through. If that means I have to withdraw, so be it. We don’t ask for this illness, and it’s hard enough for us to describe what we are going through ourselves, let alone others. I’m glad you have others who understand. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is me to a “T”! 😩 Once overwhelmed, frustration and irritibilty sets in. Next is disappointment and feelings of worthlessness. Finally and more often than not, the darkness of depression swallows me up 😒

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