One of the most terrifying things about mental illness is that you can no longer trust what you feel. Oh sure, you feel it just as sure as day, but can you trust it enough to act on it? Not really. At least, not if you want to keep your job, friends, marriage and so on.
You can no longer simply feel and act. Now you must feel, think and then contemplate acting. It’s exhausting and not a particularly reasonable thing to be expected to do.
Acting on Feelings
I look at the world and I am acutely aware that they feel something and then act on it. They feel hurt and then pout. They feel angry and raise their voice. They feel happy and they smile. These things are pretty predictable and reasonable.
I cannot do these things. Because my feelings are out of proportion with the situation. Because when I’m hurt I don’t pout, I want to die. Because when I’m irritable I don’t want to raise my voice, I want to smash your head in with a rock. These things just aren’t acceptable in a polite society.
What Makes Us Feel?
And similarly, different situations make me sad than make an average person sad. I feel inconsolably sad because the wrong song comes on the radio. This simple stimuli rolls into feelings of despair and agony until I’m certain that dying is the right thing to do.
That’s a bit of an overreaction.
Feelings and Bipolar Disorder
Because what happens is my feelings are mostly there without any stimuli at all, stimuli just cranks the feelings up to a 10+. I’m irritable right now. I want to smack someone right now. Why? Just because of the illness. Just because of the medication. Just because that’s what my brain is doing.
But I can’t act on those feelings just because they are there. I can’t just get mad at a friend just because I feel angry. That wouldn’t be fair, or reasonable, or kind.
I can’t trust what I feel. Because what I feel is the product of illness. Like a headache. Or a muscle spasm. Or a runny nose.
And realizing this is a bitch because if you can’t trust what’s coming out of your brain, what, exactly, can you trust? Your brain does everything for you. It interprets everything you ever see, smell, hear, feel and do. And yet it’s wrong. It’s sick. And the brain is supposed to temper its own illness. The brain is supposed to handle the bad signals coming out of itself.
This is not a reasonable thing to ask an organ to do.
In therapy they try to teach you how to do this, and in some respects, they are usually successful. But in the end, it’s still you alone with your brain, just trying to figure out what’s real, reasonable and what’s a symptom or side effect.
It’s an exhausting way to try to live.