You’re Not Stable, You’re Euthymic

8 Mar

I recently realized that I spent the past few months trying to avoid hypomania. I did this by sleeping more than usual, deadening my mind with television, and distracting myself online. I accomplished my goal, but my depression didn’t lift. It just became my new normal.

I thought that it was safer to live within this moderate depression. I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t crying constantly. I wasn’t sustaining constant waves of anxiety. No flashbacks testing the borders of my consciousness.

While tracking my mood yesterday, I saw that I am becoming hypomanic. Things seem a lot more manageable. Washing the dishes no longer overwhelms me. I’ve felt good for two days: energized, optimistic, and inspired. I’m speaking and thinking more quickly. That awful stalled car sensation of not being able to retrieve the right word or detail has been dissipating. My mind’s working better.

But according to my psychiatrist and a lot of the articles I’ve been reading, that’s not good. It’s part of my illness. Embracing that hypomania will only result in a crash into a more pronounced depression. The conclusion I subconsciously reached was that is was better to hide within the moderate depression. Accept this grey box of a life. Numb myself completely so that I never fly off the handle or end up in the loony bin ever again.

I was so angry when I discovered that there’s a psychiatric term for balanced mood: euthymia. It makes me feel like I can never live without being defined by my illness. If I do ever manage to achieve that elusive emotional and energetic equilibrium, I won’t be “doing well.” I’ll be euthymic.

What does a balanced mood feel like? Does that mean that you feel no highs or lows? How is that healthy? Why is it normal for you but a diagnosable condition for me?

I’m tired of fighting with myself. I’m tired of monitoring myself. I am weary of fearing and censoring my own emotions, passions, and creative urges.

I’m sick of people likening mental illness to diabetes in a misguided attempt to reduce stigma. It’s not fucking diabetes. It’s shaped who I am. I’ve been a conduit of energy and emotion for as long as I can remember. My mother told me that she had trouble sleeping when she was pregnant with me because I was so active in utero, that I kicked at her insides like they were a soccer ball. My first PTSD flashback transported me back to staring out into the backyard of our house in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. We moved out of that house when I was four. I have always been this way.

But I simultaneously bristle at the idea that my personality is a product of my malfunctioning brain. I’m filled with indignation at the thought that when I reported to my shrink that I felt pretty good, she wrote in her notes, “Patient is euthymic.”

I’ve read too many articles about bipolar disorder concluding with the prognosis that we mentally ill can, with therapy and a heavy dose of medication, live out a normal life if we’re willing to make certain sacrifices. The sacrifices they list include having children and careers; in other words, having a fulfilling life.

I refuse to accept that.

It’s time to come out of hiding.

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