This past Tuesday, a lovely woman named Sarah reached out to me over e-mail. Sarah, like me, is a US ex-pat trying to find her way in Europe. And, she has bipolar disorder. One of the topics we spoke about was whether there was any longing on my part to actually feel again, without the emotional flatline bipolar meds cause. I answered in the affirmative, answered a few more questions she asked and hit send.
Several hours after I left the computer for the day, I found I was still thinking about Sarah’s question. I wasn’t really sure why. This isn’t a unique question – bipolar people talk about emotions – or the lack thereof – all the time.
So, that night with my husband working late and an attitude of mild annoyance, I forced myself to sit quietly and devote some time to exploring what the hell was really going on.
My first thought was how grateful I am to live in an age where, while there may not be a cure for bipolar disorder, the treatments are generally less barbaric than they used to be. (Emerging from an ECT treatment with burn marks on your temples, being forced to shiver under an ice blanket for hours on end or forced into a barbiturate coma to quell a mania was actually considered treatment in the not-so-distant past.)
Great! What an insightful and mature position to take about your own disease!
I wasn’t fooling myself, though. This is my pat, well-rehearsed answer I give to everyone who asks the medication/emotional lobotomy question. More analysis was clearly necessary. I took a glass of liquid courage (really good red wine) and dug deeper. Yeah, I was self medicating. But in the end, who really cares whether it was a French red or a Xanax that brought about honest self-reflection?
After some boring deep breathing in between copious sipping, I gave in. There was only one way to get to the bottom of this. I finally peeled off the well-fitting armor of logic I’ve used to hide behind for most of my adult life.
And with the ultimate, most predictable question hated by everyone who has ever been in any kind of therapy, the inner dialogue started. “How does it feel?” Christ. You’d think the wine would have allowed my subconscious to choose a more interesting opening volley.
The voice asking the question was not that of my current therapist, no, but of the last therapist I saw back in the US. Deep. Now we’re getting somewhere. She hardly ever asked that stupid question – because she knew there was no way to ever make it sound non-therapist-y or less annoying than it really is.
“How does it feel when you think back to the days when you were unmedicated and could still feel?”
Fine. I accept your challenge, Subconscious J_. Forget logic. Here’s the no-holes-barred, straight from the gut answer.
The word that comes to mind is grief. Oh, and heartache. Because I will never be able to feel to those depths again. Thinking about those days should be like taking a one-two to the old solar plexus. Kind of how I felt when I got the phone call my Mom had died.
But, since most of my emotions have been chemically castrated, I could feel neither grief nor heartache. Was I able to feel anything at all?
Nothing. I had nothing. Except: chilly. Because I’d taken off my armor. (The logic armor may have been removed but the snark was still in place.)
That’s it? Seriously? No huge, emotional epiphany? The damn mood stabilizer was doing its job. I got nekkid for this? Ugh. What a waste of wine. Clearly this wasn’t going to go anywhere.
So, I finished the last sip (gulp) of wine and stood when it hit me like a bolt. (No, not the coffee table on the way down to the floor. I still had my physical balance, for god’s sake.)
I often joke about being in this state, but it isn’t funny anymore.
Boredom is an emotional state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, and not interested in their surroundings. The first recorded use of the word boredom is in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens, written in 1852, in which it appears six times [nerd fact], although the expression to be a bore had been used in the sense of “to be tiresome or dull” since 1768.
Hey, at least Wikipedia describes boredom as an emotional state. Go, me! Does that count?
All of this medication induced, narrow-band living gets excruciatingly boring. When I am in the narrow band of remission, I know exactly how I am going to feel when I get up in the morning, exactly what non-reaction I will have on the inside no matter what happens on the outside and exactly how I will feel right before I fall asleep. No deviation, no variety. Boring, boring, boring.
God, Sarah really hit the nail on the head with her innocent phrase, “…craving a different energy.” Just the memory of what it’s like to have more than boredom in the emotionally truncated repertoire is enough to almost make me sad.
Or, maybe this is what a mid-life crisis for a bipolar person looks like?
Nah, I’m fairly certain hearing only the boredom note on the ol’ emotional scale is what’s making me so bored.
Get ready – no post that talks about boredom would be complete without an actual boring, blah blah blah part. Here it comes. I know that if I don’t take my med I will lose what I hold most dear in life: my family. It’s an agreement we have, my husband, my son and myself. Ipso facto. So, don’t worry, I’m not throwing away those med bottles or my life because I had an evening alone with a glass of wine and some crappy self-reflection with a phantom therapist from the past. But, I think I’m allowed to complain a bit. In my world, stability means making peace with perpetual boredom. Yawn.
Can you hear the pieces clinking against one another as I hoist myself back into my armor of logic? Yeah, well, I’m out of wine and it’s getting chilly out here, being nekkid and all. I have a few ideas about what I might be able to do to try and get a current of different energy flowing in my life. But I’m over my self-imposed 1000 word per post limit, and I’m starting to bore myself again. Stay tuned.
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