Medical Questions > Mental Health > Bipolar Disorder Forum

bipolar mania and normal emotions

I've had BPD for years; nearly every one of my habits and behaviors have been shaped by the disorder. However, despite the severity of my condition, I've been successful in hiding the condition from friends, particularly while I was still in denial about being bipolar.

I was, and still am, the stoic in my group of friends. Ironic, no?

The thing I've noticed is that my manias, depressions, and mixed states don't seem like normal emotions to me; they seem so much more profound and powerful than everyday emotions, and are so pervasive. . .

Even major events such as the death of a relative, getting into college, etc, don't affect me anywhere near as much as the bipolar states, which tend to remain untouched by these events (IE. no significant change occurs around the time of the events). I'm notorious for not showing emotion, barring hypomania (I lock myself away during full-blown mania and depression, and try to avoid displaying my mixed states).

Does this make sense, lol? And does anybody compartmentalize their disorder this way? It's really rather sad, because I wish that normal events would have more of an impact on me (or any impact). I think that it may be because "normal" happiness and sadness seem so fleeting and inconsequential compared to the permanence and intensity of my Bipolar states.

I suppose that it could also be a defense mechanism where I dull normal emotions so they don't set off Bipolar shifts.

So, yeah, sorry about the incoherence, but does anybody else experience this?
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First Helper CarolDiane
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replied July 31st, 2008
Extremely eHealthy
laudanum dream
You have worded your second post beautifully! And yes, you are right on the money. Those of us that are BPD have most or all of the above. Let me tell you a little something that may help you see you are not alone.
I was diagnosed BPD through blood work over 30 years ago. Do you know that I was on Lithium for about 2 months. I felt like a new person. But, little did I know that I to was in denial. Yes, for over 30 years I told no one. Getting worse and worse. My manic states were starting to happen almost weekly. Outburst of anger. I was told even by my family that I showed no emotion and that I had no love or feeling for anyone or anything. Quite the opposite. I stayed in the closet for so long. Four years ago I had a brain hemorage after an out and out verbal brawl with my half sister. I lived through it. I was then put on medication and found out I had high blood pressure. Also depression. About 6 months ago, I was at my GP's office for my usual Q&A and out of nowhere she asked me "Have you ever been diagnosed with Bipolar". My mouth dropped about 50ft to the floor. I am now on three medications. One for BPD and one for Depression, the other for panic and anxiety.
So, there you see, you are not alone. Most of what you are experiencing I think is very normal for the disorder. I still don't enjoy life. I still don't show excitement. I find it hard to cry and when I do it is a blown out horrfic event. If you are on medications, maybe you need to have them re-evaluated now. Our bodies tend to fight off drugs when they have been taken for a long period of time. They need to be adjusted.
My heart goes out to you. I empathize with you and I know for a fact what you are going through.

Hugs,
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Users who thank CarolDiane for this post: laudanum dream 

replied July 31st, 2008
Thank you so much for your response! I've been lurking around several BPD boards, trying to find any threads addressing this topic, and I haven't managed to, fairly obviously, so I finally made my own.

I'll share the reason for my frustration with this particular issue. I've shown symptoms of BPD, or at least of some mental illness, for as long as I can remember (of course, this didn't occur to me until the denial wore off and I was forced to examine my own behavior). I finally got help this year, when I turned 20. Yes, I'm young. I'm on a cocktail of Lamictal, Lithium, Ativan, Seroquel, and Zoloft. I've already gone through several drug combinations, and this is the only one that has any, albeit minimal, effect.

So, obviously, my stoicism remains. Since I'm basically a connoisseur of irony, I do appreciate this fact on some level (okay, many levels; I'm embarrassed to admit that irony is one of the few things I truly and consistently enjoy), but it is also frustrating because I know that I'm missing out on something fundamental.

I have friends at college who claim to be Bipolar, and have asked them about the lack of traditional emotions, but to no avail. I suspect that these friends are members of the new trend where one claims to be Bipolar on the basis the he or she is "very dramatic and overemotional." It's cool, apparently (more irony!). These major discrepancies with my own experience clearly didn't answer my question, and really did nothing to alleviate my denial.

So, yeah, I know that this is a fairly long "thank you" but I hoped that spelling out my frustration might make you understand how grateful I am! Your response is the first articulate, honest, and helpful one that I have gotten to this question. I find it interesting that your experience with crying is the same as mine. . .

Thanks again, and I hope that things go well for you.

Also I would really like to hear more opinions and experiences with this numbness. Is it a fairly universal symptom of BPD?
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Users who thank laudanum dream for this post: CarolDiane 

replied July 31st, 2008
Experienced User
Before I was on medication my manic side was a high that I never wanted to come down from, I really felt things and since I have been on medication I don't feel like I feel the same was I did before.

My feelings are numb now, always in check. I sometimes think if I could get off of the medication that I could feel again.

Now I just feel like a zombie going through life. Always detatched from what is going on around me. I have not had a good laugh in some time.

Things usually go right over my head, I always feel like I totally don't understand people and humor. I am serious all of the time. I wish I could change this and feel more connected to people.
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replied July 31st, 2008
Extremely eHealthy
This unfortunatly is the downside of BPD. It is just not one issue we are dealing with. It is on a personal basis. This disorder hits each of us in many different ways. Some of us may have more manic times, others have more depressed times and some more reclusisve times. Me personally have more depressed times. Seems like I can never really feel happiness. That is why it is so very hard to find the right combination of medications for each individual. Sometimes it can take months. I can no longer take Lithium. I was on Lamectal but had a reaction. I am now on Depakote 250mg three times daily and Xanex as needed 1mg up to three times a day. I was on Xanex 2mg three times day and that is a high dose for severe panic and anxiety.

NightStar : Have you talked with your doctor about this?
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replied July 31st, 2008
Experienced User
No I have not, I am suffering multiple disorders. ADHD / Obsessive compulsive / PSTD / Borderline Personality / Bipolar with Anxiety.

I am on Geodone right now, I am not being treated for any of the other problems. I quit counseling because the office charged me money that was not covered by my medical card, and it is an hour away to see my other counselor. I had just been making office visits when I was going to be that way.

I thought about talking to my doctor again. I just had not done it.
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replied August 2nd, 2008
A dumb bipolar?
Dream....what you wrote could have been written from any of us. The thing is what is really normal? Before I went into treatment all of the highs and lows were compartmentalize as normal to me and to everyone else tagged as being moody.

So here is my take on what your trying to work out....we have spent so much time minimizing and hiding our feelings and emotions stemming from the illness from everyone that it also effects what feelings would be considered aka normal.

We tend to turn off those emotions in an attempt to control the emotions from the illness. Does this make any sense? It comes from the fact that we can't determine what emotions are normal and which ones are from the illness, that our brain finally says quell them all for our own sanity.

It took me awhile even after medications to finally allow those aka normal emotions to finally shine through but it can and will happen. The next issues to address is that when you finally start to show normal emotions like anger, sadness and happy that people around you that now know of the illness will attribute these feelings to the illness and discount them...always something huh?
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replied August 10th, 2008
Is this really common? I'm currently Mood Disorder NOS and I have a really bad habit(?) of showing no emotion. I've been to funerals where even my brother and father were bawling and I sat there, cool, calm and collected. My mother used to scream at me to show some kind of emotion and my bf does the same because when we get into fights, I will almost shut down, not think, not speak.
Only one time I let my guard down(?) was when my cat was put to sleep after 16 years.(I was age 17 so I had grown up with him, thus why I was so emotional). My mother and brother were crying but my brother looked at me and noticed that I wasn't responding at all. He just gave me a hug and said "It's alright" and I starting freaking out. Sobbing, hyperventalating, almost fell to the floor, for a good hour or so.

I"m just really confused as to what is wrong with me.
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replied February 6th, 2009
Awesome help
All of your comments have been so helpful. I only found out today that I am now "normal." I have wanted for as long as I can remember to be "normal" and not emotionally all over the place. I was never in denial about the BPD, I just enjoyed the mania and suffered through the depression waiting for mania to return. Finally about a year ago I reached the point where the depression was too bad to endure just to enjoy what were becoming shorter and shorter bouts of mania so I started seeing a doctor. After months and months of emotional torture we finally found the right mixture of meds to "work." I saw him today and explained that I thought that something was wrong with my medications again because I just didn't have any feelings anymore, just apathy. He laughed and said that was a good sign. He explained that for so many years of my life I have been experiencing such extreme emotions-massively higher and lower than the average person-that now that I am in the middle of the spectrum I can't realize yet that this is how "normal" people live. I think it is the most horrible irony that all I have ever wanted for as long as I can remember is to feel "normal" and then I find out that normal sucks.
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replied February 13th, 2009
blackcherry2002 wrote:

Only one time I let my guard down(?) was when my cat was put to sleep after 16 years.(I was age 17 so I had grown up with him, thus why I was so emotional). My mother and brother were crying but my brother looked at me and noticed that I wasn't responding at all. He just gave me a hug and said "It's alright" and I starting freaking out. Sobbing, hyperventalating, almost fell to the floor, for a good hour or so.

I"m just really confused as to what is wrong with me.


I think it's easier to express grief for a pet because we interact differently with animals than we do with humans. I've also been to funerals where I was pretty much emotionless, but the grief was probably buried in mind somewhere my consciousness couldn't get access to. But whenever pet animals have died, that's when it all comes out.

Pets can often be the glue that holds families together, and they can be intimate social companions, since they don't hold anything back, we don't have to worry about them having hidden emotions or motivations, and they offer us unconditional love, and it's easy to express affection towards them. Often we feel more free to express emotion and love with an animal than with a person, since people are, you know, complicated. Rolling Eyes
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