Craving a Different Energy

vivien 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.

Nekkid.

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.

© Manic Muses and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Muses and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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13 thoughts on “Craving a Different Energy

  1. Okay, before I say anything else, you have to know I’m going to say that while you may not get burn marks from ECT anymore, it is still every bit as barbaric. In a way it’s more so now, because they sell you on the idea of how nice and easy and helpful and unlike how it used to be it is. And it’s used much more frequently (not just in the U.S.) than anyone realizes.

    Now, about what you actually wrote. . . I love this piece, even though it makes me sad for you. I hear your voice so loud and clear, Vivien, and it’s such an amazing voice! I hate what you’re dealing with, though, and I don’t believe it should have to be so. I wrote a piece a while back, Yes, Virginia, There Is A Happy Ending, addressing exactly this, but the place I had come to was a much different one.

    Of course, I don’t have a husband and a son whom I have to be looking out for. And, hey, that magic combo I reference in the post above, it’s gone now. I’m back to tumbling and turning and trying to find something. . . But I’ll tell you what, after being there, after finding that state of happiness, sans flattening (or boredom), I will not settle for anything less.

    And I know that doesn’t really help you. But you’ve inspired me here, and hopefully I can get it put down while its still in my mind. . .

    I’m really happy that you wrote this, and that you chose Canvas as your place for posting it. I consider that an honor to the site.

    • Hi, Ruby!

      Well, I have been a bit of a slacker as far as writing for Canvas goes so I wanted to publish something here with a little bit of meat. 🙂

      I remember your, “Yes, Virginia,” post. Still love it.

      Sigh, so yeah, about this boredom thing…’whatever’ seems to be the word of the day, for many days in a row. However, a few interesting events have transpired since I originally wrote this post. I’ll write a follow up in a few weeks that should provide some head-banging pleasure for all of our readers. 🙂

      Thanks again for reading and especially thank you for giving me a voice through Canvas!

  2. For a long time, I thought I was still depressed. But after reading this post, I think it’s more likely that I am ’emotionally castrated’ as you put it. I think I am existing on the numb, ‘boring’, plane of complete lack of emotion. Interesting how similar depression (apathy) and stability (numbness) are. Perhaps realizing it is numbness rather than depression will aide me somehow in getting somewhere in therapy? perhaps not….

    • Kat – you put your finger on it. There is a difference between apathy and numbness. If you wouldn’t mind, let us know what your therapist makes of trying to sort out the difference in between the two (heck, *we* know what we mean…sometimes I wonder if the professionals are that quick to catch on.).

  3. You must have been reading my mind, a Vulcan mind-meld or something. I was just last week complaining to my therapist that although I (thank god) have not had any serious ups or downs in the months since I upped my Seroquel and Lamictal doses, neither have I had any emotions to speak of. Zombeeeeeee………and she says, good! That means the meds are working. And I’m like, fuck, does this mean I have to live the rest of my life without joy or despair? And she says, well, if you want a normal life span, yes. And I know she’s frickin’ right.

    But one thing the Mr. Spock/Data non-energy has been helpful with is, it’s letting me write my memoir. My past is full of extremely painful, bad, and atrocious things that should never happen to anybody, and when I was able to feel, I just got triggered and spun out of orbit whenever I tried to write it. Now I get to places where I feel like I SHOULD spin out, but I just soldier on, going, wow, that was awful, wasn’t it, and not feeling a damn thing. I hate it, but like you, I know that if I ditch the meds I will be back in hell again, and although I have already lost the job and husband because of the delusions, paranoia, paralyzing depressions, etc etc etc, I think I have a few productive years left in me. So on we go, disaffectedly affectless.

    • Know what I think the worst part about all of this is? We *know* how much we aren’t feeling. All of that sweet medication numbing doesn’t make us numb to the amount of emotion we once had. Big Pharma hasn’t figured out which synapse to sterilize to achieve the full meal deal – yet. There are days, believe me, that I’d rather take the Roy Batty Approach (“Candles that burn twice as bright burn half as long.”) But, is it fair to those around me? Yeah, yeah, OK, fine. It may not be fair to me, either. I should try and live as long as I possibly can. And, heck, you do have the productivity thing going for you, too.

      HAH – I think we just drank our own boring Kool Ade here… LOL

  4. Thank you for your post. I have struggled with this concept for quite awhile now. At one point around 2006 or 2007 I had settled in to a cocktail that had finally leveled me out from an extended crisis. While I was grateful for the stability I really felt so emotionally and intellectually castrated. My thought processes were significantly slowed and I felt literally no emotion. At first it was a relief and then it was incredibly, as you say, “boring”. I really felt (in a totally uneducated way) that maybe I was even over medicated. I tried to explain it at one point to my Dr. by saying “I just feel so ‘average’ “. She sort of smirked and said “Most of us are average and we get along just fine” At the moment it really pissed me off (as much as someone with no emotion can be pissed), but after some consideration I can see it as a fair comment coming from her. She saw that as a safe place for me after witnessing me in such turmoil for so long. Fast forward through 6 years of exceeding averageness, I, for several reasons not legitimate enough to justify, backed way off of the drugs this past fall. It was meant to be very temporary as I had relocated to a new state and intended to start over with a new Dr. with a bit of a clean slate. Then something odd happened. I started to feel again,and it felt good. Not a delusional hypomanic good, but like a “wow this must be how normal people feel” good. So I dragged my feet for a couple of months to savor the normal range of human emotion. It’s March now and the bipolar symptoms are slowly returning so I’m back with a new Dr. and starting to ramp back up on the drugs. I deeply regret this need, but understand that I don’t have a choice. I’m hoping she and I can come up with a plan that is more of a happy medium. Here’s hoping.

    • I wish you all of the luck in the world, Fractalthoughts. “Most of us are average and we get along just fine.” That would have pissed me off, too. The point of why you are sitting in the chair across from her is because you (I, WE) *aren’t* average. Instead of all of these docs and their chemicals trying to turn us into a-ver-age bears, how about they try turning us into functional bears. There is a difference between numb and functional. If you have the chance, let us know how you’re getting on with your new Doc!

  5. Armor of logic. . . just one of your many images that will stay with me long after reading. So evocative and so real. You’ve created some serious energy with this post. The concept of boredom is interesting. Boring is safe. How do we also get it to make us feel alive? Thank you for a great post.

    • Thanks, Jennifer! Yup…boring is safe, for us and those around us. Sigh. I almost didn’t write this post…I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m still thinking about ways to change the energy, or maybe create a different frequency of boring to break things up for a while. 🙂 Stay tuned.

  6. Hi Ruby,
    I also had to deal with the effects of medication for my bipolar. And I dealt with boredom too. But that’s been a while ago now. I was used to the illness running my life into interesting-ness and not me. Today I make my own fun out of life. It doesn’t just come to me on a platter as it did when I was being hauled around on a wicked and wild roller-coaster type excitement by my body’s chemicals. I had to become the master of my own life. I had to find this interesting-ness from within my mind and spirit and not my physical chemicals. I’m still learning about it, but I think I’m making progress. I’m doing my best to develop hobbies and do things I like to do [like writing my blog]. I’m also working HARD at appreciation. I call it “looking for golden Easter eggs” which bring joy and happiness. At first this was HARD work, but now it’s become a hobby in itself. And hunting down all those eggs has actually become a fun thing to do too.
    love to you friend,
    robin

    • Robin, I’m glad you have learned how to find happiness in your life. This isn’t actually my post, though, so not my feelings, nor my thoughts, nor words. Our wonderful Manic Muses wrote it!

    • Hi, Robin! I’m actually the culprit that wrote the post 🙂 But I think we all need to show Miss Ruby some love, eh? xoxo

      You make a really good point about trying to find the Easter eggs in life. Up until recently, my life was nothing but work and trying desperately to hide my condition from everyone I worked with. It’s been hard trying to retune to something else. I’ve been considering going back to the same job I had, but you know what? Things (I won’t bore you with what or how) have changed so much there’s really not a lot of egginess to be had there if I step back and look at it. Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m off to make a list of things around me I consider eggs. (Wow – I made it through this whole reply without one joke about Easter! 🙂 )

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