This Bipolar Life: Feelings are not Facts

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As you may know I’ve struggled lately with a small depression and I’m working through it rather successfully. How? I have been practicing the realization and internalization that my feelings are not facts.

Recognizing that I’m feeling something is easy for me but then getting the distance necessary to objectively understand it is difficult. One thing that has really helped is to repeat the mantra “Feelings are not facts.” in my head throughout my day. I am learning to just feel the emotions as they arise and slowly – this part is going very slowly for me – letting them pass rather than acting on them.

Just because I’m feeling like a failure doesn’t mean I *am* a failure as a person. Similarly, feeling like happy about something doesn’t mean I am a happy person, it just means I feel that way. Neither is good nor bad, they just are. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the positives or that I don’t live with the negatives, just that they exist and I have to coexist with them rather than let them rule my actions. They are simply passing bubbles in my brain that are simmering trying to get some semblance of order.

There is an estimate out there that people have 70,000 thoughts a day and I wouldn’t be surprised. At least for me it feels like that sometimes and occasionally it can get overwhelming as it can for anyone and more often for people with bipolar and other mental illnesses. For me, thoughts (which for me feed into becoming feelings) bounce around inside my head trying to find their way into some semblance of organization and sometimes it’s a bit disconcerting. Occasionally I’d like to just have clear thought and be confident that my thoughts and feelings are on point, but I don’t have that luxury. I always question if what I’m thinking or feeling is accurate. Always. There is never a time when I trust my brain. I am not the only one with this problem and it’s a challenge to be sure.

So…what is the answer? I don’t know that there is one except continuing to push back against these thoughts and feelings using my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques. Whenever these thoughts and feelings pop up I evaluate them. I challenge them. Are they accurate? Did that person actually say my project is inadequate or am I just thinking *for* them? Are my children really excited about watching that movie or am I just taking facial expressions and misinterpreting them? Is this job really as awesome as it feels or am I just riding a high? Sometimes I even check in with others to validate where I’m at and make sure I’m not over the top one way or the other (thank goodness for friends and family!)

There are so many different ways I check myself. Is my response adequate or am I overreacting? Am I underreacting? Where do I land? I’m never sure in advance and I’m confident most people don’t either, bipolar folks especially. But I keep trying and I hope you will too.

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