I received some mail regarding “mood swings.” I am not sure what was meant by the term “mood swings”, so I will talk about the two different types that I personally know of and have experienced. There are the radical shifts in emotional well-being that are the two polar states of mind usually referred to as mania or depression. Then there are the every day upheavals that I experience during either of the two aforementioned emotional latitudes. I am going to discuss both definitions of “mood swings” and give some advice on how to manage these emotional whirlpools.
The manic or depressive cycles or episodes are what is always attributed to manic/depression. They can be severe extremes of the emotional spectrum. Some people may not experience these highs and lows to the same degree as others, but they are there nonetheless. It is important to add, they do not necessarily occur one before the other and sometimes the sufferer may have a reprieve from these emotional episodes for an extended period of time. I sadly, haven’t or can’t remember when I wasn’t manic or depressed in the last five or six years. I have noticed with my own illness that the severity of these “mood swings” have become more pronounced as I have aged. Perhaps, it seems this way because I am more aware of them now that I have been through therapy and am able to recognize them. I am not sure.
A manic episode or mania is a lot like being really revved up; you feel like you are spinning out of control in one of those hamster wheels, around and around. You are all sped up; everything is done in a flourish of drama. My thoughts are usually racing around in my head so fast I get emotionally exhausted trying to keep up with them. I am, however, my most prolific and creative in my writings during this time. My ingenuity is also amplified in other creative pursuits. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Being manic doesn’t mean you are on a high (like with drugs) and are enjoying the ride. It can be quite frightening and confusing for the sufferer. You can be driven to do dangerous or harmful things to yourself, hear voices in your head, become paranoid and delusional. I have really embarrassed myself publicly during these episodes, because I become a loud mouth and socially inept. I seem to seek out socially awkward situations. Your decision-making capabilities and sense of reason can be seriously compromised. I also tend to take on projects far too difficult for me to truthfully manage, and sometimes take on more than one. When they inevitably come crashing down around me I am absolutely devastated and cannot understand what went wrong. These episodes can go on for weeks; there is no set time period for it to run itself out. It can feel like an all out assault on my mind and body.
A depressive episode or cycle is just as crippling as a manic one. It takes a hold of your mind and seems to sap every ounce of fortitude, not unlike a big leech, from your brain. You become a shadow of your former self. It seems I suffer from depression more frequently than from mania. I don’t know why, but I do. I really don’t know what to say about this cycle; the name sort of describes itself. But I will try. Depression has become an old friend to me, sometimes I feel at a loss without it. I have attempted suicide many times during these episodes. They can cause you to physically and emotionally give up on life. You can become so ambivalent to life that you lock yourself away from the world around you, your family, your friends, your spouse and your children. It is a dangerous place to be, especially if you are not medicated. It can last for weeks, months, or years.
Now I will talk about the lesser form of “mood swings”, the ones that can plague you daily but are not considered manic or depressive. These “mood swings” are fleeting and don’t last more than a short period of time; maybe a few moments or a day. They can be a whole range of emotions, from ambivalence to out right rage in a matter of moments. They occur during both manic and depressive episodes, but I have noticed my emotional instability more in my depressions. They mostly flare up during stressful times in the day or if some kind of a trigger sets them off. A trigger can be anything from a subject of conversation that rubs me the wrong way or a person who antagonizes me appearing at my door. The stress doesn’t have to be bad stress to get me going; it can be good stress too. My “mood swings” are more dramatic when I am manic, compared to the more brooding version when I am depressed. I don’t know what is worse. I am however, not always a raging inferno. The moods can swing to the more benevolent end of the spectrum.