Everyone knows about mood swings. They are those awful, awful things that can take a grown man from glowing with pride to bawling of embarrassment all in one moment. But there’s more to mental illness, particularly Bipolar Disorder, than that. The worst thing of all is what I like to call “energy swings.”
Energy swings are when the wind goes out of your sails for no reason, or when you are super excited about something that was boring moments ago. It’s not that you are happier, or sadder, or more/less interested… It’s that the body has decided to have an irrational chemical reaction to the world around you. It feels like an extra dose of adrenaline, or taking a sedative.
My mania is often like this. No mood change. Just an energy shift. All of a sudden, the world is more alive. I see better, hear better, hell, I even breathe better. Foods taste better, and I can do anything. The world is easier, and I don’t have to try so hard that day. People tell me that I seem “on the mend” or “so much better.” It’s heartbreaking to have to explain to people how temporary this is.
My depression is often just the opposite. It’s harder to remember things. It’s hard to focus on what I’m hearing and seeing. Every kind of food in the world sounds like poison. I just loose the ability to commit to what I’m doing. I just don’t have the extra energy it takes to give a crap. People think I’m lazy, which, I guess I can’t blame them for. But it’s not like I choose to leave all my energy in a ditch somewhere. It just happens. Trying to convince people that I’m not sad or angry is nearly impossible. I don’t need cheering up, I just need space, and time.
So, I hope that helps. If you have a friend that’s depressed, remind yourself that it may be their energy that’s gone, not their sunny disposition. And if your friend is manic, or just in “too good a mood,” don’t reward it, or encourage it. Just talk to them about how happy you are for their good day. Never, ever congratulate someone for “getting over” their mental illness. It doesn’t go away. It just lessens for a time, or takes a break. It will be back, and that’s what it is. Don’t make your loved one explain it to you. It hurts to talk about it, especially when they are working on it.