When I say mood changes, I don’t mean mood swings. As much as they can suck, I’m talking about manic episodes and depressive episodes. This is common in a lot of mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and even in just good ol’ depression and anxiety.
One of the major reasons the term borderline personality disorder was tossed around when I was in therapy was because of my extreme mood changes. One week I can be totally depressed. I sleep in til 2:00 pm, lay on the couch, and call in sick. I eat like trash, cry at the drop of a dime, and barely shower. One day I can wake up and feel like a different person. I will be impulsive, eat healthy, go for walks, laugh, smile. But I’m also extremely energetic, to the point where I don’t sleep. I’ll go to sleep at 2:00 am, wake up at 8:00 am. My anxiety will be high because my mood is elevated and I’m just too excited. It’s not happiness, it’s just the opposite of depression. And if you know depression, you know it’s not just sadness. It’s an extreme low, and mania is an extreme high.
Even now that I feel like I have a lot of my mental health under control, one thing I still struggle with is the emotion changes. It comes on unexpectedly and I don’t know when it’s going to leave. For instance, right now I feel a change of tides coming. The last few weeks were great, I was waking up at 8:00 am every day, using my time wisely and productively, eating healthy and working out. Work hasn’t been hard for me, I’ve been social and it’s felt easy. Typically during these swings my anxiety is really high because I don’t expel all of my extra energy. This time I went on hikes, walks, cleaned and left the house. I felt really good. I woke up yesterday late, felt unambitious, unproductive, like everything slowed down. Today is worse. It’s happening again, and I’ll be honest, I still don’t know how to navigate my way through it.
But I try, and these are the things I do to try to get through the episodes.
– Have someone you can talk to
With any mental illness, you need a strong support system. It could be a best friend, a significant other, a family member etc. When I’m feeling down and I know it’s only going to get worse for a while, I sit my boyfriend down and I let him know what I’m feeling. I remind him that I don’t know why this is happening, it’s nothing he’s done, and I don’t know how to change it. It may not make me feel any better in the moment, but it makes it easier throughout the swing because I know I can talk to him if I need to, and he knows to try to keep his emotions under control. It’s easy to get angry or upset with your partner when they’re unmotivated, and letting the surroundings fall apart. It’s normal. You just need to communicate through it.
–“be a person”
This is a term I use a lot. When I can’t get up, shower, eat, put clothes on etc, that’s when I can’t “be a person”. A lot of the time I give into that. I accept the fact that I “just can’t” and so, I don’t. One thing that I find helps, even if it’s just a bit, is to get up and be a person. Shower, put on a nice outfit, and do your hair. Take an hour out of the day to just focus on you. Try not to judge the reflection in the mirror too much, because I know that’ s easy to do.
–No more Isolation
The hardest part of this is that everything on this list involves forcing yourself to do something your brain is telling you not to do. Your brain is going to tell you to lay in bed all day and not talk to anyone. Don’t do it. Text a friend, make excuses to leave the house, call your mom.
Sit down and take some deep breaths. Try to slow down your heart rate because no doubt you are running a mile a minute. Close your eyes and focus on where you are in the moment. Accept the intrusive thoughts interrupting you, and let them pass. Don’t try to avoid thinking about the dishes that need to be done, or the laundry sitting in the washer, because it will just make it worse. Breathe deeply and slowly.
-Try to recognize it for what it is
One of the biggest things I struggle with is knowing the difference between just having a really good week with some high anxiety, and being in a full on manic episode. Some tell tale signs for me that it is the latter is lack of sleep, wanting to go go go, and extreme impulsiveness. If I am applying for jobs, spending money I don’t have, or cutting people out of my life because “I don’t need them” all willy nilly, I’m probably in a manic episode. It’s way easier to find your way to the other side of a manic episode if you know you are in a manic episode.