Sunday, October 26, 2008

The empathy factor

Empathy - the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

If you've been diagnosed bipolar, or even if you are but haven't been officially diagnosed as such, it may be tough for those around you to distinguish between irrational behavior and statements and just you being your normal, somewhat eccentric self.

Behavior or expressions that you recognize yourself as a bit goofy or off the wall, but harmless, may be perceived by others as scary. Those who care the most about you are the ones who will be dealing with you should you have a full blown episode. This can make them very, very anxious if you start showing signs that you're not completely in touch with reality. Fear is a dangerous thing, whether you're experiencing it, or causing it.

It's important to be aware, not only of your own emotional state, but of those around you. You don't have to comment on it, or call them on it, just be aware of it. If you're making people uncomfortable, check yourself. Don't explain yourself, or justify yourself, just stop doing whatever it is that's causing the anxiety. If you have some off the wall train of thought you want to follow, do it later.

This was a tough one for me. I'm an outside the box thinker whether I'm manic, depressed or on an even keel. I had to learn to stop insisting that my wife and others learn to distinguish between my potentially irrational thought and my normal random musings. When I sense anxiety, I go to humor or quickly wrap up what I was talking about or doing and move on to something much more familiar.

Remember most everyone's behavior is largely guided by emotion. Most "normal" people are at least as unconscious of the chemical stimulus that's leading them around by the nose as those with chemical imbalance issues. The emotions you help create within your environment impact your freedom, your safety, your overall quality of life. Again, don't dwell on it, just be aware of it.

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