Saturday, November 1, 2008

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

The big problem with being bipolar or subject to chemical imbalance is not so much the way it makes you feel, it's how you react to the way it makes you feel and how those reactions affect those around you.

Drugs can mask the problem, but they wont repair the system. You can actively manage the system, however. Work with what you have. Don't wait for your body chemistry to change. Get familiar with it and make the necessary adjustments.

I was a severe party-er in high school and college, which may have been some subconscious self-medication, or it could just have been that I enjoyed it. No matter. I got to a point that I could be completely wasted and you'd never know it if I didn't tell you. I became so familiar with being inebriated that I was able to function normally when I had to, whether I was inebriated or not. Of course, the damage to the internal organs was the same. Only my behavior was different.

The point is that one can do the same with any stimulus. You can feel the anxiety without demonstrating it. You don't have to put your mania, or your depression on display. If you need help, of course, go get help, but if you've reached the point where your emotions no longer alarm you, you don't have to put them on display. You can "play hurt". If you are not among people who understand and can help you with what you're going through, making them aware of it can actually make your immediate situation worse. You're just going to scare them. As I've said, fear is not your friend.

I'm not saying you should hide your condition or not get help in managing it. I'm just saying that if you're experiencing a panic attack while standing in line at the bank, finish your business at the bank, then go get help if you need it. If a bout of depression comes over you during a presentation, pinch yourself, focus on your task, put a smile on your face. Do your job, then call your friend, doctor, wife, or whoever you need to call. If you're not at a point where you can safely pull these things off, don't try to. Just know that it is possible. You can re-train your brain. You are in control of your behavior even if you're not in control of your emotions or body chemistry. You don't have to wait for a cure to have the happy, productive life you want to have. You are the cure.

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