This Bipolar Life: Stuck on Sad

Recently someone said to me, “Don’t be sad until you have to.” Now this is brilliant on a few levels, especially since it was said by a young person, whose insight impressed me. And for some people, in fact for most people, it probably works just fine. For my bipolar brain, it really doesn’t.

See, my brain figures it can “prepare” itself for the sadness by processing it ahead of time. Almost like ripping off a band-aid slowly rather than just ripping it off. My brain tries to understand what’s going on, to rationalize it, to reassure myself that everything will be okay or, sometimes, to accept when things are going to be anything but okay. At least for a while.

That’s when I really struggle. Once I know that things are going to be hard for more than just a short bit. When I know that no matter what I do there is no way I can make things not be hard. Easier than they could be? Probably. But eliminate the fact that it’s going to be hard? No.

And that’s when I freeze. I just become emotionally stuck in space almost. Like I can’t pull myself out of whatever feelings I’m in.

What happens then? Well it depends on what’s going on (or will be) that I’m focused on. I tend to focus on the negative aspects of a situation so I’ll typically be more depressed than usual while I’m dealing with it and sometimes more easily teary-eyed. Occasionally you’ll find me very quiet and just sitting for a bit, trying to get my rational mind to convince my irrational bipolar brain that things will eventually be okay. Repeatedly reminding myself that I don’t have to implement my emotional fight-flight-or-freeze response and that I can and will get through it.

Sometimes this doesn’t work on its own and that’s when I call my friends who generally remind me that I’ve been through some pretty rough times before and made it through so I can make it through whatever is ahead.

I’m working on learning how to not be sad until I have to. And you know what? I’m okay with that. It’s alright that I’m still learning. For now though I’m going to keep on practicing this new lesson.

What life lesson are you working on?

1 Comment

  1. We are always learning, and for those of us with bipolar we must allow for some symptoms. At times, we need be sad, even if it makes no sense to others. Yes, cognitive restructuring helps. Yes, medication helps. Yes, support networks help. Yes, good nutrient, hydration, and exercise help. But, I find it also helps to remember the Serenity Prayer and remind ourselves that we are not in complete control of our symptoms, of our illness. We must be aware of, plan for and respond healthfully, acceptingly, and forgivingly.

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