Dysphoria is a state of intense unease and agitation which can occur in different moods of bipolar. Here, I focus on a dysphoria of the healthy balanced mood.
“People with bipolar complain of a dysphoria,” says psychiatrist Bernard Murphy, “and they’re intolerant of this mundane dysphoric state. The barometer of normality is influenced by the memory of the manic or hypomanic episode. And they look on their own affect as being below par, and they want to tick over a little bit higher.”
Yes, the barometer of normality is influenced by my memory. When I listen to people, laughing excessively often comes to mind. I often see balanced mood as abnormal, totally boring and unexciting. And it is daunting because it takes effort to be present with people. On the other hand, when I meet others who are overly sarcastic and a bit dangerous, I try to calm down and turn away from their excessiveness. There is a struggle here between my inner and outer life. My memory of depression or low mood can influence the barometer too.
Dr Bernard Murphy continues: “Most people with bipolar that I see like to take antidepressants. However, their use is like throwing a pebble in a lake and the ripples follow on – they have a mood destabilising effect. We don’t tend to challenge the patient to actually drop the antidepressant altogether and to face the normal fluctuations of affect which are normal in life”.
Just before Christmas, I noticed that my mood began to dip towards a depression. I tried different steps to get through it but my mood remained very low. So, I went to see a psychiatrist and I was given an antidepressant. My mood quickly lifted and the high stress of Christmas became a little easier. Then, I started to go higher: too little sleep and racing thoughts followed and I needed help again. My mental health clinic advised me to drop the antidepressant and to stay with my regular medication. I haven’t experienced a depressive episode since then, but I have gone through low mood quite a bit. Instead of taking antidepressants, I am striving to live in the balanced mood range.
Honouring my feelings
I made a telephone enquiry with regards my university records today. After a short conversation, the staff member decided to consult with his colleague. He then informed me of such a record. I felt shocked by what I heard but I didn’t express myself. He then went silent and said, “This is the figure. What you did with it was up to you”. I tried to stay calm, thanked him for his help, and said goodbye. My state of mind became a little disturbed; I was tempted to cave in and let this minor tension ruin my day. However, I continued with my other enquiries and made progress. I learned that it’s important to honour my feelings as part of interpersonal interactions and to be calm, content, and confident. And I predict that in doing so, I will maintain a balanced mood.
Witnessing my experience
As indicated in a previous blog (The inner critic), it is important to step back at times and to become aware of what is really happening. For example, I did some research on behalf of my friend. But when I got to her house, I was frustrated because I wanted to do more research. Eventually, when I witnessed my experience, I realised that my research was a result of my want to relate to her. I then relaxed and smiled because I was able to let go of the research and prioritise on being with her. I became more silently present with myself and others.