Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mood Swings

Sometimes I feel inflated enough to say to myself, "Jolene, you are the Goddess of Pleasure and the Queen of the Night."   And sometimes my partner feels enraptured enough to say it out loud.

But other times I feel so deflated I wonder if it's all a cruel hoax.   One of these days, I mutter, someone is going to notice that I'm actually a hag, not a siren, and then life as I know it will cease.

Mood swings.   They are all the rage lately (sometimes literally), hitting the tabloids with Britney Spears' high-profile meltdown, making headlines with breakthroughs in diagnoses and treatments, and getting published as memoirs and blogs.   Mood swings have catchy buzzwords, like "bipolar disorder," the old "manic depression," or the lesser known "cyclothymic disorder."   Mood swings have been around for millennia, but now they have a DSM* entry and a list of treatment protocols to experiment with.

For myself, I'm sticking with the term "mood swings".   It sounds more organic to me, like something to live with as part of the human condition (which it is) instead of some kind of victimization issue.   Nevertheless there are some very important aspects that deserve attention, and I am happy that mood swings are getting coverage even if it means getting a Latin name and at least three levels of diagnostic discrimination.

Due to recent coverage and because some people close to me have announced their struggles with bipolar, I've learned a lot about it lately.   For one thing, I learned that bipolar behaviors are an eerie match for some behaviors of my own that have been quite annoying, for example, the hag/siren dichotomy.

An upswing bestows the siren ~ I feel young and energetic and in the mirror my cheeks are round because I'm smiling and my eyes are sparkling (and my talk is giddy with run-on sentences).   People respond to my irresistible charm.   Colors are luminous and earth is a good place to be alive.   A downswing draws the hag.   I feel old and lethargic, my skin looks dull in the mirror, circles darken below my eyes, colors are washed out, and I avoid the world and everyone in it.

Planning is tricky when I don't know whether the hag or the siren will make her appearance.   I subconsciously adopted some self-medication tricks to tip the balance toward the siren when it was really important.   For example, before or during an appearance in public, I did things that could bring on upswings, like staying up through the night before, bingeing on sugar or starches, drinking caffeine or alcohol, cranking up music, or indulging in self-absorption.   At home after an outing, there could be a crash with a depth proportional to the overstimulated height.   Before I started investigating bipolar, though, I didn't connect the high and low events.   It all seemed random and disorderly, and utterly beyond communicating to sane, solid, stable people.   How ironic that such men attract me like magnets.

Mood swings seem rather anti-romantic in the harsh light of analysis except, perhaps, for the drama and excitement they might cause.   There is a message here for those who would risk this kind of challenge.

What a lover needs to remember about a moody, chaotic beloved is that one's entire perception changes with mood swings.   One's brain processes sensory information differently depending on whether one is up or down.   So if you take up this challenge, don't assume that shifts in behavior are related to something you have done or not done, and don't get attached to what seems like your influence over your beloved's behavior.   But by all means, do enjoy the scintillations, the thrills of surprise, and the everchanging scenery along the path you share with your beloved.

* DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

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