Tag Archives: communication

“Mixed” Messages – A Firefly in a Swarm of Bees

My bipolar symptoms the last week or so have largely been mixed. Mixed episodes have often been the ones landing critical blows on my relationship, and having one over the first weekend in three that I’ve been able to spend with my boyfriend was… well, I think the word frustrating works on both ends.

While I’ve had mixed episodes that blended pieces of mania and depression into a clear goal (annihilation of myself and everyone around me), more often my mixed episodes are an odd, muddled mixture of many distinct (and sometimes opposite) feelings occurring at the same time. As it was over the weekend, I was able to feel excitement, anger, profound sadness, desire, disappointment, and completely calm (as a very rough example) all at once.

Internally it feels like walking into a party and having a conversation with several guests at once, I am reacting to each simultaneously.

You can imagine how much of a problem this poses when trying to have a conversation with someone externally on top of that. Even just having a conversations about sandwiches, this touches the “completely calm” internal feeling I am having (so I feel like I am calm whilst having the conversation) but all of my other reactions (excitement, anger, profound sadness, desire, and disappointment) are showing through randomly through my facial expressions, my body language, and the inflection of my voice.

All of the intense emotions I am feeling in a mixed episode are spinning on a roulette wheel, presenting themselves continuously without any rhyme or reason. Naturally, this confuses the crap out of people.

Imagine I told you, “oh yes, a sandwich for lunch sounds great,” and even though that is what I meant verbatim, I am crossing my arms, stomping on the floor, or throwing my hands in the air when I said it. Or maybe I am crying uncontrollably but singing and dancing.

Or maybe I can’t decide, because I both love and hate sandwiches at that very moment?

Corey (my boyfriend) has known for a long time that I have a really hard time with making decisions when I am having episodes, but it wasn’t until I explained this scenario of mixed messages to him this weekend that he began to realize that my indecision doesn’t come from disinterest (at least not during a mixed episode) but from way too many interests vying for the decision to be made on their behalf.

Sometimes making a decision while being bombarded by all of these emotions simultaneously is like trying to catch a firefly while being stung by a swarm of bees. It is even more perilous knowing that reaching out and grabbing the wrong insect might mean exposing a volatile emotion or putting myself or others in a situation where conflict arises, damaging myself or my relationships.

“That must be really confusing,” Corey replied. “Especially not being able to always distinguish what you want.”

Sometimes “what I want” is the option that is the least harmful to myself and those around me, but honestly it can be hard to tell which insect buzzing around me is going to be friendly or harmful. Other times I try to draw from cues from people around me. Being able to ask someone else what to have for lunch helps me forgo getting stung by that swarm of bees as all of them are vying for my attention.

Ultimately, in a mixed episode it isn’t uncommon for me to want everything and nothing. To love everyone and despise them. To want to laugh and cry and scream all at the same time. It feels like being pulled in every direction at once, but also like implosion is desperately imminent. Sometimes it takes all of my effort just to hold it in, and other times… I can’t.

It has been very confusing trying to understand all of this (and I have experienced it firsthand for many years now), but tying to convey it to someone who doesn’t experience it can be even more confusing. I do think, though, that taking the time to try to explain my motivations to Corey regarding my mixed episodes helped both of us understand better… and in the long run I am hoping better understanding will set us both toward better coping.

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More Rest, More… Butter?

Very quick update.

Please do not be offended if I do not answer your calls, texts, or emails in the next few days. Between the physical illness I’ve been having and intense insomnia I have stumbled into a place of extreme irritability, confusion, delusion, and paranoia.

Yesterday I shampooed my hair three times because I couldn’t figure out which bottle was which. I also snapped at my poor old granny on the phone, which is why I am instigating a period of Sarah-radio-silence until I can talk like a civilized human being to people again. Or, at least, civilized-ish.

On the upside, after some really fun biopsies of my stomach lining I do not have celiac disease (thanks doc!), I have finally slept four hours in a row (thanks benadryl!), I’ve been enjoying a John Cusack movie marathon, and I ate 1/8 teaspoon of butter this morning on an otherwise very dry bagel (weee!). This is huge progress (especially since I spent a big chunk of time earlier this week doing more vomiting) and I hope it means I will soon be able to stop putting olive oil and salt on my noodles and eating with my eyes closed pretending it is butter.

Once I get better at the not-hating-everyone bit I should hopefully be on my way to recovery on all fronts (well, that and once intestinal infection is ruled out). Usually the emotional instability part takes a bit longer to catch up, but who knows… maybe if I drink enough smoothies I’ll start to feel peppier.

Lost in Translation

Lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble expressing exactly what is going on with me because I haven’t been able to find just the right words to describe what is happening.

When I have a headache, it is easy to say, “my head hurts.”

When I’m sitting under a crashing wave of depressive symptoms, the best I can seem to come up with is, “I don’t feel good.”

You see, it isn’t that what I’m dealing with hurts in the same way as my head hurting during a headache, but at the same time what is happening is hurting me.

I know I’m not the only one who uses the “I don’t feel good,” or “I am not feeling well” tactic as an attempt to communicate the presence of bipolar symptoms. To me this seems like a statement that makes sense, given the fact that it is what I’m feeling that is the problem… but these statements are already used on a regular basis to describe feeling ill. In fact, if I said to someone, “I don’t feel good” they would probably immediately think I might have the flu or food poisoning or something. More physical symptoms.

So what, then, for my psyche? How am I supposed to proceed?

I’ve switched to saying, “I’m having bipolar symptoms,” which isn’t much better at describing what I’m feeling and attempting to cope with, but it has made things much more clear about what is going on overall.

I think this relation of symptoms is so difficult because:

A) not everyone has felt these symptoms, so unlike a stomach ache it isn’t a universally understood and easily empathized malady, and

B) the moods and feelings happening at any given time can be specific only to that time, and might make me feel a very specific way.

For example, if I were just to say that I was feeling depressed, to me that only covers a certain amount of time I am actually dealing with depression. Depressive symptoms can make me feel desperate, or lonely, or unmotivated, or any number of other things, but I only really feel depressed when hopelessness (as an example) is present.

By starting with, “I’m having bipolar symptoms,” I can follow with, “and I feel hostile.” (Or any number of other things I could be feeling at the time). This relates what I am feeling, and why I am feeling it, making it easier to understand for others.

There might be times when I don’t feel like elaborating on exactly what I’m feeling, if I don’t know the person I am with very well, or if my symptoms are particularly alarming (as happens from time to time). In those cases I just say, “I am having bipolar symptoms, and I need to lay down.” (Again, or any number of things I might need to do to help myself get through it).

Being able to convey what I am experiencing in a way that makes sense to others as well as myself can help me get what I need to get through it, and can help others understand what is going on. I’m hopeful that with this new method of expressing what is going on I can make things easier for everyone involved.

Focusing the Super Focus Ability Beam

There is something about my nature that makes me able to focus on a particular subject or project or action for a good chunk of time, maybe 6 months or so, before a reset switch is thrown and I inevitably shift my focus onto something else.

I don’t know if it is something about me, or if it is something that was instilled in me by school, or if it is a product of some alleged disorder.

All I know is that for about six months, I can do practically anything well.

I’ve shifted this powerful ability to focus on any number of things, showing dogs, music, fine arts of many kinds, fiber arts, cooking, baking, you name it. There is a flourish of a new something that I can’t seem to get enough of until the next shiny thing comes along.

Lately my shiny thing is cultivating relationships.

I wouldn’t say that I’m an awesome friend, I mean I can excel at helping pick a cute outfit for an event, or commiserate over shitty situations like the best of them -but, I also have a tendency to drift.

And not the fun, Tokyo kind.

The drifting I do is usually slowly and in the general direction of “away”.

It isn’t that I stop caring about my friends, in fact at times I would say I care almost too much. I just have a lot on my plate sometimes, emotionally and mentally and all that. Sometimes it is like I go for a nice walk, but then halfway through my walk I get lost in the woods. By the time I make it out of the woods, a lot more time has passed than I expected, seasons have passed, and I’ve drifted a lot further away from everyone than I ever meant to.

That being the case, I’ve recently been focusing my super focus ability beam on several relationships in my life. Somehow I’ve also picked up this quite useful ability to say exactly what is on my mind to people, out loud, without hesitation. It does come out sometimes in the middle of other peoples sentences, which I’m still trying to figure out how to regulate the flow of all that normally, but for the most part it seems like people are so shocked that I’ve said anything meaningful at all that they’re touched, and happy, and you know. Things get sappy.

The whole thing is really unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Lately I’m used to being all distant and mysterious and just plain odd, I’d forgotten what it was like to add a little something extra.

I’ve been building some changes, being able to express what I’m thinking and what I want to say to people in general conversation is one of them. It might not sound like much, but being able to formulate interesting and thoughtful ideas and then spit them out has been changing the sorts of relationships I’ve been having with people to an overwhelming degree. Sometimes I slip up, sure, but for the most part it is all for the better, and I’m hoping this kind of change will help me in maintaining these kinds of bonds after my six-month timer goes off and my attention is actively focused elsewhere. I figure if I can make this enough of a habit, it will become second-nature and I wont need to focus so hard to make this happen anymore.

I think writing can help a lot with that, and being able to express yourself on paper or in an email or on a blog means practicing formulating sentences, practicing turning those ideas into actual words, and practicing reflecting on topics or ideas to inspire even more thoughts and ideas.

It just takes one little change, sending those messages from your brain to your mouth instead of to your fingers on the keyboard. Before you know if, you too could be yapping away about your thoughts and ideas to a handful of baffled friends!