I’ll admit it. I’ve been feeling pretty down these days. I’m upset about it too. I was on a very steady incline, not allowing myself to become overwhelmed by my increasing energy and happiness until I reached the peak of my mood. In the past, I would have overwhelmed myself with every activity and project, and seeing people, and being social, and trying to impress my children, and marketing my business, and spending spending spending until I was broke. This would all work for a week or so, until my energy crashed and I was spiraling into an equally deep depression. That’s sometimes how being bipolar works. If I’m not aware of how to manage my high times, meaning keeping my energy in check, not getting too excited about things (even ideas), being sure to still schedule lots of rest (and taking it!), and staying on my routine, I’ll go go go until I run myself into a wall.
So instead with all that extra energy, I spring cleaned my house, I prepped a months worth of dinners, I have taken daily walks, I went to the dollar store and bought some things to organize, I organized! I did all the good things for me. I didn’t stay up late talking to people I know when I couldn’t sleep because of the hypo mania, I read. I didn’t run every morning and hurt myself with muscle cramps or sore knees after a 20 minute jog, I walked. I handled myself gently, which I honestly think is the biggest lesson I have learned during this time that I have been healing. I was raised by ministers who were always on. They would get exhausted once all the people left and they had no one to impress. They hid in their room and recharged, every day, leaving me lonely and emotionally neglected. Why then as an adult was I trying to function the same way? Well, we replicate what we see, simple as that. So it’s time for me to break my bad habits.
For the past couple days I have been down. Well, not even down so much, just neutral. When you have been flying through the highs of hypomania, a neutral mood can feel depressing. This gets confusing for bipolar people who are not as emotionally intelligent as I have become. That’s only because I have been reading and reading and reading about being bipolar so I can actually do something useful with myself and not be a slave to the emotional rollercoaster I navigate every day.
This morning I woke up “unhappy”. What was I really feeling? I go through the emotional rolodex, I listen to the conversation in my head, I ask myself questions. Did I have any complaints? No, my life isn’t exceptionally difficult right now so it’s not that I’m physically going through anything hard. Was I unhappy with my spouse? No, he’s been dealing with his own healing but there is no distance I feel between us, we are happy and loving and giving to each other. I’m prepared for the coming weeks, I have my ducks in order so to speak, SO WHAT IS IT? Why am I so unhappy…
While the kids are eating breakfast, I’m in my room talking to myself. As of two weeks ago, I deleted all my social media because it was really putting a wrench in my mornings. Instead of having important conversations like the one I’m about to tell you, I’d be scrolling through people’s fake happy lives and feeling more miserable about myself, because I felt miserable. The negative feedback loop. Instead, I’m talking to myself now. Why are you unhappy Rhea? How can we get through this day and still show up for the people who love us while being true to our own feelings and not masking ourselves for others. So I think, I’ll get myself McDonald’s to feel better about starting my day… Now stop there… There is nothing wrong with eating foods you like, but I unfortunately have a very emotional relationship with McDonald’s breakfast menu. And I have been acutely aware over these last months or so of my emotional eating habits. It all started when I was in my pre-teens. As I was becoming aware of the little time I had with my mother on the weekends, I started to act out whenever my dad would come to pick me up. One time, I locked myself in the bathroom. It was a good trick to get him into my house, which only felt awkward and wrong to me once it actually happened. He asked me to come out calmly. I expected him to bust in the door, but he just sat outside and talked to me.
“Why won’t you come out?”
“I don’t want to leave.”
“I’ll buy you McDonald’s, anything you want, if you come out please?”
That’s basically how it went. I’m easily swayed by food. He bought me a Bacon Egg and Cheese Bagel sandwich from McDonalds, it had ranch on it, when they discontinued it I cried. He started to do that for me every Sunday, which became a ritual I looked forward too. I hated leaving my mom’s house, but looking forward to fast food allowed me to forget about that.
A clever ploy to get an obstinate child to cooperate, but it wasn’t what I truly needed in that moment. My dad never asked me what got me to lock myself in the bathroom in the first place. To be honest, my dad was never all that comfortable talking to me about my emotions to begin with. This need of mine, an emotional connection with my father, was severely neglected.
Fast forward, I’m 18 going on 19. I’m working part time, I have a miserably controlling and judgmental boss who counted my breaks to the second, I’m budding into adulthood, while my parents were desperately freaking out about it, I’m getting my independent wings, working for a church that is abusing my spiritual obedience by volunteering me to do hard physical labor for free weekly, and I’m beginning to fall in love with someone everyone told me was bad for me. Oh! and I’m trying to take a full course-load of college… for fun because I had no purpose for my life. Emotionally, I’m a wreck. I wake up every morning and dread my 7:00am class. So instead of going, I hide in my car at the closest McDonalds (back when GPS wasn’t so accurate and it would still look like I’m at the college building, because my parents would check). I had stress migraines so bad that I ended up going to the ER for them. I had finally had enough with work, so I stopped showing up and promptly got fired. I had $500 left in my bank account, that I was saving to buy myself a camera, so I could make money working for myself. Within a 3 month span, without the emotional awareness to see that I was trying to handle an intense amount of stress, I’d spend all my money on fast food breakfasts, pretending I was at college. No one knew, no one cared when I got fired, no one cared when I failed college, no one cared when I was broke. Should they care? In reality, no, but I find it hard to swallow that my dad and step mom didn’t have any questions for me when I suddenly felt the need to sell my first car, cause I no longer could afford it. They didn’t even give me a lecture on “This is why we work, to be responsible for our possessions.” Strange, that we never talked about anything.
I had maintained that emotional eating habit until even now. I’m a sucker for fast food breakfast. I have a hard time staying ahead financially (now at 26 going on 27) because I can’t unnecessarily spending money on fast food! This year though, I am focused on this problem of mine. I started meal prepping to take away the convenience-factor, I started buying ahead and buying snacks I liked, not necessarily the healthiest thing for me. Why? Because I know I am an emotional eater. It’s going to happen, emotions will come, and I’d rather be prepared, instead of being tempted to spend. it’s worked out well for me, and I finally feel like I have a small grasp on this, even though I still am working through my emotional triggers.
So why was I unhappy this morning? Well, for the past couple days, I haven’t been waking up early like I normally do (excuse: I was tired, my allergies were coming on making breathing difficult, I have water stuck in my ear, my back feels tight) I haven’t been working out (excuse: I’m tired, yoga videos are boring, the weathers so unpredictable –– haha, cmon Rhea!) I haven’t been eating well (excuse: it’s the end of the month, so I’m eating what we have until I get to the store again, following my routine so I can save money) and if we are being wholly truthful, the conversation in my head has been hostile because of all this. I’ve changed the way I talk to myself, drastically. I’m finally at a place that I can tell my mind to shut up and stay quiet when I start to get mean to myself, still working on the whole, “now say something nice to yourself” bit but we are getting there. These past three days, I’ve been slipping, I notice all my bad habits now. I’ve been calling myself out, so to speak, but that’s not how you get someone to change. That’s just how to make someone feel judged.
I’ve been judging myself for my lack of energy, that’s what was making myself unhappy, because in the past low energy = low productivity and I like to be a productive person. That seems silly. That also seems like something I could change or work around now that I have identified it. The only reason I was even able to identify it though is because I didn’t follow through with my normal bad habit of eating to distract myself from my emotions. I sat in that uncomfortable bad mood and moved my body, which moves the energy. I got in the sun, I pushed through pain, I told dragged my miserable self through our new found healthy habits!
Instead of driving to McDonalds, I walked my kids to school (solving the activity problem I was having) I made myself coffee and a nice bowl of weed to cushion my emotions while I worked through them (solving my comfort issue with handling these things) I wrote a blog about it (solving my productivity judgments of myself) and now I have the energy to go do some laundry (which is the lowest energy chore I really have as a mother, but at least I’m still feeling responsible and productive). I’m doing good by myself, even if from the outside I don’t look like I’m doing much. When I feel better, I’ll run laps around them… just watch.
Don’t give into to the need for pleasure.
Allow yourself to be uncomfortable.
Dig a little deeper into that emotion by asking yourself more questions.
Change your habits, walk out the solutions.
Find longer-lasting happiness.
That’s the formula to working through emotional triggers. At least, this is how I work through my emotional triggers. Here’s to healing!