Saturday, June 28, 2008

True Emotions

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It was years ago.  I was a resident on an inpatient unit and the patient was floridly manic.  I don't remember the details, what I do remember was that she was running on empty, high as a kite, going 99 revolutions per minute, you name the cliche.  There was a reason why she was on an inpatient unit and not being seen by an out patient doc.  She wasn't getting better and, as is often the case with people suffering from mania, she had no insight that she was ill, she was feeling good-- really good-- and oh so energetic, and even louder than that, and so what's the problem here? Let me outta this joint!  We're talking, I'm trying to reason with her, and finally, she screams at me in a way that stays clear long after her name and the details of her life have oozed from my memory,  "You're problem is you're not Italian!  You don't understand TRUE EMOTION!!"  She had a point.

I'm not Italian, by the way.  And who defines what emotional response is true, what is valid, what is right to have?  

So once patients get the label of Bipolar Disorder, they come under an added scrutiny that makes them, and those who know they suffer from this disorder, subject to both added analysis of their reactions.  It often leaves them feeling invalidated, or questioning themselves in a way that adds an entirely new dimension, if not burden, to life.  I can have a feeling--- it's just my feeling.  I may question if it's valid for me to have that feeling-- come on, we all check out our feelings.  How often do you ask Was it Him or Me?  Or comment that everyone thinks he's a jerk, just to be sure you're not the one being overly sensitive.  People with Bipolar Disorder take this a bit farther.  If they're angry, irritable, have a great idea, in a good mood, in a bad mood, have trouble sleeping...and the list goes on....then they're ill.  No bad hair days for the labeled labile.  They, and everyone around them, are constantly questioning their sanity.  

There are other labels, though, and they aren't all about mental illness.  Perhaps you're a worrier, you want people to be considerate of the fact that you care about them, but they don't like to check in (--this particular example is for us moms).  Maybe they check in so you won't worry, or maybe they label you Neurotic, or Over-protective, or something that lets them blame you for your concern, that frees them from responsibility.  Or maybe you're very sensitive-- a trait that can be a very positive thing, especially if you're sensitive to the needs of others.  But once you're labeled as such, then the someone who says something that upsets you isn't held so accountable.  No biggie that I made Georgie cry, he's too sensitive, you know.

Emotions are a funny thing.  Sometimes I wish they could just be what they are and taken for face value.  And even if I'm not Italian, let it be known on the record that I'll eat pasta and gelato with glee and enthusiasm.