Can Feeling Too Good Be Bad? Positive Emotion in Bipolar Disorder

Yup – feeling too good can be bad, according to a new study.  In an article to be published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologist June Gruber of Yale University considers how positive emotion may become negative in bipolar disorder.

Well, yeah.  We’ve all known this for a while.  Usually an overwhelming amount of positive emotion heralds the onset of a hypomanic/manic episode.  In all fairness, I read the blurb about the upcoming article, and although it does address excessive amounts of positive emotion in inappropriate circumstances as a problem, it also cites that most people with BP have excessive positive emotions, even when not manic.  Sigh.  We just can’t get a break, can we.

On July 7, 2011 I blogged about feeling normal and how it is unfortunately an unnerving experience for someone with BP.  I read the article today and was told that feeling too good is also not desirable.  So, that leaves depression, which is hell.  OK, I’m being cynical here, but if I piece together all the information I’ve read the past three weeks, there is not one emotion considered normal for someone with BP.  As a matter of fact, having periods of remission weren’t mentioned in anything I read.  Rather disheartening.

Personally, I continue to feel as though I am in a remission and I’ll continue to check in with myself several times a day and see how I am feeling.  But again (I’ve said this so many times before), this being Bipolar stuff is pretty exhausting.

I hate the word “normal”. What exactly is “normal” supposed to be, anyway? I mean, what is the standard of measurement? Is normal happy? Or is it content? Does that mean that the presence of any negative emotion is abnormal? Is it having a limited scope of emotions? Where are the boundaries?

I hate the idea that they want me to slap my emotions down on some kind of yard stick and gauge whether this falls within some predetermined parameters of “normality”. Yes, I realize that BP means that the “normal” person’s emotions and emotional responses to stimuli are limited on the spectrum and BP’s are almost all encompassing. I realize that I have very severe reactions sometimes. But wouldn’t you agree that there are moments where that is perfectly justified? However, these “norms” would dictate that I’m “over dramatic” or “over reactive”.

Unless someone has developed a valid and reliable way of measuring the scope of emotion, then no one can tell me what is “normal” or “abnormal”. That’s up to me to decide. And only when the behavioral output is considered uncomfortable or problematic for me or those close to me, is when that should be considered anyway.

Screw them.

I hate the fact that we can’t react without being ridiculed. Sometimes a passionate response is called for. I’m so sensitive to how others perceive my reactions and also very hypersensitive to when people tell me I am overreacting. Are they using my illness to pull a fast one on me or is my reaction the same that anyone else would have in the same situation? I’m with you all the way. To hell with it. I am who I am, I’m taking my med and too damn bad if my personality is still not to everyone’s liking. 🙂

I think it’s akin to when men use a woman’s menses to rationalize a behavior. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “She must be on her period.” It’s infuriating. I can’t be emotional? Someone has to stand there and justify it? I call shenanigans!

I’m an empath. I feel everything surrounding me. So when someone has negative feelings toward me, it magnifies that ten-fold. I can feel it before there are even words. So criticism is not really taken well, unless it’s extremely constructive. I don’t like to be evaluated on the level of my personality and emotions because, like I said before, there is no appropriate yard stick for that. Love it or leave it, people. I’m not here to please.

I haven’t come out of the closet, so to speak, at work about having BP. I’m not sure it’s a wise decision, since I work with children. It might scare some who are a little more ignorant to issues of mental illness. However, I know that most people in the world sense that I’m different somehow. I can tell by the fact that when a bus fills up, the seat next to me is last to be filled. People seem to be loath to approach me to ask directions or bum a cigarette. But the people in my workplace don’t seem to notice that.

I work in a city neighborhood for a non-profit charter school. This meaning, I work with lower-income, mostly African American people. I thought there would be a lot more prejudice since I’m Caucasian, but no one seems to notice. Also, no one seems to notice that I’m a little nutty. If they do, then they don’t seem to care. I like how their society is. They accept people’s differences and chalk it up to a person just being themselves. And instead of focusing on the person’s differences or deficiencies, they celebrate and support their strengths.

I can’t understand why we can’t seem to integrate this thing into mainstream society. It’s a seriously beautiful thing.

Your workplace sounds like a 180 from what I’m used to. My HR department was on this huge Diversity campaign BS when I left, and it just wasn’t working. You are writing openly about acceptance and and true integration. It has to be a great environment on one hand, but I totally understand your hesitancy in divulging that you’re BP. There is still a huge amount of stigma out there. All I’ve been reading in the news lately is about violent offenders who claim they are bipolar and were either denied their meds and freaked out in prison or are off them completely and out in society wreaking havoc. Sigh. This doesn’t help our case much, does it? Trouble is no one hears about people like us, who can hold down a job and function. There’s also a hypersensitivity out there to people who come in contact with kids. Double trouble. I admire your ability to keep it all together. Go you! And thanks for the great comments!


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