Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April Kruger

How Can You Tell When You’re Well With Bipolar Disorder?
When bipolar disorder removes the range of human emotions, I now appreciate ALL my feelings as being my authentic self.

By April Krueger
For many people with bipolar disorder, wellness and stability are almost elusive states, something we might remember from our childhoods but something we’re afraid we’ll never experience again.

As I recovered from my most recent depression, which had lasted two and a half years, I yearned to feel something, anything to remind me that I’m human. I begged my psychiatrist to try a low dose antidepressant. He of course was worried about it sending me into mania. Of course I didn’t want to be manic either, but at the time I thought I’d prefer anything to the numbness of depression.

I asked my therapist over and over, “How will I know when I’m well?”

She didn’t have an answer for me because the answer to that question is uniquely personal to each of us.

After thirteen years of living with bipolar disorder I can finally say I think I know the answer for myself. I’m sharing it with you in hopes that it will prompt you to recognize when you’re feeling well.

How do I know when I’m well?

The answer for me is a very simple one.
I know I’m well when I experience a range of emotions.
And how do I reach this period of wellness?

The answer again is painfully simple – I sleep and eat in a balanced manner, not too much or too little of either.
But back to the emotions…

Depression & Mania. Maybe this statement oversimplifies things, but for me it is the clearest sign of my stability. The reason is because when I’m depressed I feel almost nothing. If there are any feelings at all they are anxiety and anguish. But even those tend to dissipate in the depths of a very long depression. Eventually I feel nothing at all and can’t understand why anybody in the history of the world ever cared about anything. And then there are the feelings of mania. When I’m manic I feel only excitement and wonder. I have no fear, no anxiety, and no sense of failure or consequences.
When I’m Well:

But when I’m well I’m able to experience a full range of human emotions within each day. I generally wake up in good spirits, but I might get frustrated or experience anxiety even before I leave my house. Then throughout the course of my day I’ll feel happiness, contentment, excitement, and I can laugh. In the same day I can experience setbacks, loss, sadness, fear, anxiety, and other not-so pleasant feelings. But whether I’m happy or sad or anything in between, I have learned to appreciate my feelings because they are the clearest indication that I am well and that I am being my authentic self.

As a society I think we tend to shy away from negative emotions and insist people always be “positive” and optimistic. But for me that sort of relentless optimism only spells one thing: mania. So when I’m well I notice all my feelings, comfortable and not so comfortable, and do my best to experience them with gratitude.