Living with Emotional Instability

So, what exactly am I talking about here? A few years ago I was given the delightful diagnosis 'Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder'. Please don't Google it, it'll make me sound like a terrible person and I'm really not. I actually can maintain relationships and I'm a good employee. My colleagues in mental health are surprised when I tell them. But the 'personality disorder' part is a post for another day. Today is all about the emotional instability (let's face it, every day is all about the emotional instability).

It's hard to quantify what I experience, mostly because I've never been inside anyone else's head. My lows are more extreme than my highs; I've been clinically depressed but have never experienced 'proper' mania. However, I think I do experience more extreme highs and lows on a daily basis than most people do. I regularly feel weighed down, like everything is absolutely fucked, like there is nothing good in the world. I can then go for a run with some of my favourite music and feel on a high, like everything is awesome and it will be forever, and like seriously, every tiny thing is brilliant and has anyone ever appreciated a cup of tea as much as I have right now?! (I experience The Hum all the time). All this can happen within an hour. Or less. When things are bad I have experienced (and this is my term, not a clinical one) really rapid cycling through emotions. As in, rage, hysteria, crying, panic over and over again.

So what's it actually like? Well, it's terrible and it's brilliant. It's terrible to feel crushed, and like you have to drag yourself through the day. It's terrible to feel like everything is over and there is just no point in carrying on. But it can be brilliant. It's brilliant to appreciate every little thing. I wrote a list the other day (as you do) of things that I absolutely love: tea, patterns, bright colours, dancing, the Top Tips page in Chat magazine, most food, gigs, books, The Internet, my duvet.... Can you imagine how wonderful it is to extract pure joy from these things on a daily basis? I'm very lucky that I can experience that without experiencing self-destructive mania.

But it's exhausting. It's exhausting feeling things so extremely. These states tend to feel permanent, so I feel like I'm going to be depressed forever, or happy forever, or angry forever, or anxious forever. Things that seem fairly tiny can have a big emotional impact on me. Sometimes this is good ('Ooh, a pattern, I'm so happy!') but sometimes this can be dangerous; feeling under too much pressure can make me feel totally inadequate, which in turn makes me feel everything's fucked, which can then make me lose all hope. I've also resorted to some less-than-ideal tactics for emotional regulation.

I don't really see any point in asking, 'Would I get rid of it if I could?' I've got it, so I guess the real question is, 'How do I live with it?' Well, there are things that help: appreciating the highs; trying to be self-aware enough to know that these states will pass; trying to address my needs in helpful/safe ways; looking after myself physically and emotionally. For me, mood stabilizers never really seemed to make much difference, but I know that they've worked for other people. I want to give mindfulness a proper go, it would be good to practise 'sitting with' these emotional states, without being scared by them.

One of the most exhausting things is pretending to be 'normal', or pretending to be calmer than I really feel. Sometimes this has to be done. But sometimes I think I take it too far, and I pretend everything's fine when actually it's really not. Apart from Pete, everyone sees an edited version to some extent. The problem with not sharing is that you can only keep things to yourself for a certain amount of time. When things become really extreme, they kind of share themselves. So maybe it would be better if I shared when things weren't so extreme. Maybe talking to people would be a massive thing I could do to help myself, and help everyone else help me. Maybe this blog post is a good first step. Maybe.

So. Hi, I'm Liz and I experience extreme emotions. It's awful. And amazing. At least I'm rarely bored. How's things with you?

P.S, Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Link me to any good posts you find!

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