I am a rapid cycler. I am a very rapid cycler.
During the good times, I’ll go from one extreme to another every three or four weeks. During the bad times, it could be twice in one day. Now that my extremes are not so extreme, it seems like that they are shifting faster than usual. No, I don’t hit the high manic episodes. Nor am I sinking into the deep depressions. But my mood does shift from high to low and back again on a regular basis.
It makes it difficult sometimes to know just where and who I am.
I think that there is more than just the biological illness going on with all of this though. I’m sure that has something to do with it, sure. That is the nature of the beast. But then there are all the personality traits and disorders that have developed as a result of living with this disease all my life. That is just what I need; more complications.
It’s a proven scientific fact that the different sides of the brain are responsible for different personality and abilities. The left side is the logical one. That’s where the science, math and reasoning are processed. And the right side is where creativity, sensitivity and emotion come from. Of course it’s a lot more complex than that, and there is still a lot that is unknown; but in general terms it’s a fact.
I think that bipolar notwithstanding, my mood swings originate. Or at least are exacerbated.
I have no doubt that the right side of my brain is the dominate one. By nature I am extremely sensitive and emotional. And my creativity is undeniable. I’m very musical. Over the course of my life I’ve played piano, trombone, trumpet, guitar and banjo. And by and large I’ve been self taught. It’s all by ear; I can’t read a note of music. The music just comes from the soul. And it’s not just creating music either; it’s a rare time when I don’t have something playing. I have a very strong emotional personality. I cry at movies. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comedy or a sad chick flick; when it ends and everything comes out okay; or not okay; I get choked up. Memories can evoke strong feelings, good and bad. I am very tender and thoughtful when it comes to others. My feelings get hurt; easily and often. Sensitivity doesn’t even come close to describing my feelings.
Then there’s the left side.
My logic and reasoning have served me well throughout my work career. I’m a problem solver, and all my jobs have involved problems. I can rationalize just about everything in a reasonable and usually accurate way. My outward appearance (for the most part) is calculated and controlled. Oddly enough, my math skills leave a great deal to be desired. I struggled terribly with my math classes all throughout school. Yet I earned my living as an accountant for many years, and some jobs I’ve held have required a high level of mathematical calculating.
So here’s how it applies to my mood swings.
Because my personality is predominately right brained, but my method of living is driven by the left, I’m in a constant state of turmoil. There is a constant battle raging in my brain. But this is not necessarily from the bipolar, but a learned behavior. Beginning at my most impressionable age my biggest role model taught me this by example. I believe that my father had the same struggle that I now have. My father was an artist. He was a writer and earned his living with his writing. His paintings were awesome and photographs incredible. Portraiture, landscapes, still life, and abstract were all part of his repertoire. He would make art out of the most random things; from typesetting blocks to old glass bottles. He was dominated by the right side of his brain.
But he lived from the left.
My father, as creative as he was, was a stoic. I saw the results of his creativity, but I never saw the emotion behind them. In fact, I never really saw any emotion at all. His true feelings were completely controlled at all times. On the few times he did slip up and show a feeling, it was so rare that it upset me deeply. Okay, I’ll admit. Maybe that was just my impression as a child. I will say that when he got older he was much better at letting go. But as a child, when I was learning my life lessons, all I saw was constraint.
I learned that it was not okay to be emotional.
This was reinforced as I grew up too. Whenever I allowed myself to become overly emotional, it usually ended up with me being in trouble. And since my nature was to be emotional, I tended to be in trouble more times than not. And my feelings were hurt; deeply and often. The older I become, the more I worked to get the ‘right side’ out of the way. And by the time I reached adulthood, I had more or less allowed my logic to dominate the sensitive me.
Now, there is a caveat to this. For most of my life my illness was completely out of control. And during times of extreme mania or deep depression, I was completely overwhelmed in my sensitivity. But even then, I fought to keep that hidden away from everyone; and in most ways was successful. Very few people really knew how sick I was. Even when things were bad enough that I had to be hospitalized (which happened more frequently than I’d care to admit), I was always able to come up with some plausible excuse that I could give to the outside world. Even when out of control, my outside persona was reasonable.
And that’s a problem.
This battle for control between the left and the right keeps my emotions constantly churning. My inherent personality is constantly under attack, and the contradiction strongly affects my mood. There is a school of thought that is depression is caused by suppressed anger. So imagine the effect of a suppressed everything! My life has an inside and an outside. It takes an incredible amount of energy to keep the two apart. And the bipolar aspect creates a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde existence. There is a very definite dark side to my thinking; especially when depressed. And when I’m on the high side, I can act out on behaviors that are totally outrageous. But that’s kept hidden far far away from public eyes. I can put in a full day of productivity at work, and go home and troll the dark side. And in relationships, I have another side of me that comes out. I am sweet and considerate, but tightly controlled at the same time. I am a giver when it comes to relationships. But by giving, I am managing the situation. And there’s another contradiction. I’m in a feeling environment, but restraining feelings.
How can I help not swinging back and forth?
My personality is constantly see-sawing between the two sides. Depending on which side is dominating my mood shifts accordingly.
My therapist and I have spoken at length about this. The task she’s given me is to bring the two sides together. There’s nothing wrong with being logical or with being emotional. It’s the balanced combination of the two that creates a healthy life. So I’m working on developing and releasing my creative side. I’ve brought my guitar back out, and am relearning much of what I’ve forgotten. I’m actually taking a pottery class, which is totally outside my comfort zone. But very satisfying, and working with my hands is a therapy in itself. And I write. My writing has been about the only way I’ve been able to continue feeding the right side of my brain. But the idea is, the stronger I make my emotional side, the better to overcome the dominance of the left. And somehow manage to merge the two.
I am bipolar. There will always be the biological effects of this illness. But the personality side doesn’t have to feed into it. Every day I learn more and more about what makes me who I am. I don’t think that will ever stop either. But what will eventually make me healthy is to learn how to use these realizations and lessons in a positive way. I know I have capabilities with both logic and feelings. So the battle continues. And someday the two sides will agree and find a way to coexist.
And then there will be peace.