Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Expressing Emotions

The last few weeks have confirmed certain aspects of my personality. And I wonder whether they are bipolar attributes or it's just me. Once again, I have learned that I'm comfortable openly expressing a wide range of emotion--from sadness and grief to joy and happiness.

But I have also learned that I think it's important to "honor" these emotions for as long as I feel them. I have learned there are people who feel that grieving should be short-lived, and it's better to be "done with it" and move on.

I don't feel that way. Eight months later, I am grieving the death of my mother. And nineteen years later, I am still grieving the death of my father. And sometimes I grieve for my grandparents who died so many years ago.

Perhaps the issue is how we define "grieving." The dictionary defines it as feeling grief or great sorrow. And I think that's fairly accurate. But I believe there is another element, which is feeling great love and loss.

I don't want to "stop" grieving my mother and father because my grieving allows me to remember them, and the loss in my heart represents all the love I feel for them, and the pain is bittersweet.

So, when people tell me to "move on," I don't agree. I can grieve and be fully functional. I can feel loss and go about my day. I can feel pain and sorrow and joy and love.

Am I able to handle all these emotions because of my bipolarity? I have no idea. What do you think?

27 comments:

P.J. said...

I think that grief not only comes in stages but it comes in waves. I think it's impossible to completely stop grieving. I was once told to "grieve until it's all gone" and I hold on to that. Sometimes different aspects of grief don't come up until, for example, I am looking through my jewelry box and I see a ring that my best friend gave me while she was alive. Or, I hear a song that reminds me of her. I think we grieve all that we have, at a particular moment, and when something reminds us of those or what we've lost, then we grieve some more. It certainly is a process - one that we can learn a lot from along the way.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear P.J.,
Very nicely said, and something to think about!

Susan

Gianna said...

I still grieve for everyone I've lost. I had the unfortunate experience of losing several close friends in my late teens and early 20's and then I worked with hundreds of AIDS patients before protease inhibitors. I also lost a couple of mental health clients whom I was very close to. Recently I lost my brother

If I tune into the energy of those people, many whom I loved---yes my clients too---I still mourn them profoundly, but I can also feel joy in their memories.

I don't think it's "bipolarity" that allows me to feel the whole spectrum of emotions. I think it's honesty. Some people don't want to know what being human is made of. Those are the people who shut themselves off to emotion.

Those of us who feel are whole and alive!

Jazz said...

Am I able to handle all these emotions because of my bipolarity?

I don't know if bipolar confers upon us an ability to handle more emotions...but I do think it gives us the opportunity to feel emotions more deeply. Perhaps we are more sensitive, I don't know. But the idea of handling emotions smacks of "coping skills" to me...and I don't think that bipolar confers coping skills upon anyone, although it does require us to develop them if we hope to survive.

As for the grieving process...well, you already know what I think about that...grieving is such a personal, individual process...I don't think anyone should be held to some sort of arbitrary timetable as to what is "appropriate". What is "appropritate" is whatever needs to happen for the individual in question.
Peace,
Jazz

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
What a beautiful tribute to the people you have loved and lost! It is true that I "tune into the energy" of the people I've lost, but I never thought of it that way. And I agree that "Those of us who feel are whole and alive."

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
I agree that bipolarity allows us to feel emotions more deeply. For much of my life, I considered my deeply-felt emotions a "handicap" because I thought I was alone in feeling that way.

When I tried to explain how I felt to friends, no one admitted to sharing the depth of my feelings. So I thought I was "too sensitive" and would always have problems dealing with my feelings.

And then I found that I could "write" and the ability to write about what I felt literally saved me.

And you're right! I worked hard to develop the "coping skills" I have.

Yes, I do know how you feel about grieving because we've discussed it offline. And our "offline" and "online" communication (and Gianna's as well) have helped me deal with my feelings. My deepest thanks to both of you!

Susan

Jazz said...

I'm glad it helped!

Rob Johnson said...

Susan,

I typed this once, but the blogger was down. I don't know if I'll say it as well the second time around.

I, too, have always been a very sensitive person. I have friends who believe that's a bad thing, but I think it helps me to be an empathetic person. I think there are many who will never experience that and I think that's sad. I've never considered that my sensitivity might be due to my bipolarity, but then I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder only two years ago.

As for the grieving process, I don't think it's a problem (no matter how long it takes) as long as it doesn't become an impediment to living a healthy life in the long-term. I don't think those we lost would ever want that.

I know that I've only been reading your blog for a little while, but, through your writing, you come across as a very well-adjusted, healthy person. I enjoy your blog so much because there are serious discussions, there are silly topics, and there is humor. That sounds fairly healthy to me.

Thank you for your contribution to my life and my health.

Rob

JayPeeFreely said...

Hadn't been by in a while. Sorry to hear you lost your dog. A woman's best friend... :)

Hope you are coping ok.

Been at work on the blogs. Just couldn't resist. Likely won't be doing much else this summer.

Take Care!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Rob,
Thank you for your thoughts about sensitivity, and grieving. And thanks for much for your comments about my blog. Truth is that I am a healthy, well-adjusted person who just happened to suffer from depression, and then was diagnosed as bipolar, medicated, and got very ill on medication.

But now I'm back and so very grateful. And while we've only "known" each other a short time, I appreciate all your comments, which show great thoughtfulness, kindness, and sensitivity!

Fondly,
Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
So glad to hear from you. I thought you'd stopped your blog, which is why I eliminated it from my blogroll. Glad to hear you're back; I'll drop by tomorrow.

Susan

discoverandrecover said...

Susan,

Those who love and feel deeply, grieve deeply.

It doesn't mean there is something wrong with them.

I think it means they're okay - really okay.

In fact, I worry about the ones who walk around not feeling much at all - they're the ones who miss out.

Duane

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Duane,
Glad to hear from you. I couldn't agree more! Hope all is well with you and yours!

Susan

Bradley said...

We all need to remember that feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. Some are just more uncomfortable than others.

I'm a firm believer that people should allow themselves the right to feel.

I had a boss once who was also a good friend. He had to write me up for an incident and it really shook me up. He kindly said to me that I should go home and have my pity party for the night because I deserved it. It was the best thing he could have said and I was much better the next day.

Important Note: The pity party comment was not done in a condescending way as some may suspect. It was said with love.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
It sounds like you handled the incident with your boss really well. I think I'm mature, but not that mature. It would have really hurt my feelings!

Susan

"Dootz" said...

I still "grieve" the loss of my birth mother, as you know, 45 years down the road. Also, and I am guessing here, but could it be that part of the ancestor worship of people in Asian countries involves grief re-lived in an appropriate, celebratory. albeit ritualistic way?

marja said...

I like what Gianna said: "Those who feel are whole and alive."

And I like what you said, Susan, about the bittersweet nature of grief. Bittersweet emotions are beautiful ones.

I'm very sensitive too. I remember reading a novel when I was nine years old and crying buckets over it. I think my sensitivity would have been there, even if I didn't have bipolar disorder.

However, I think many of my strong feelings about things today are partly due to it. I get pretty passionate about things. That, I feel, might be due to my bipolarity.

So...probably what I'm trying to say is that we might be sensitive to begin with, but the disorder increases that sensitivity.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Dootz,
I know you do, and have great empathy for you. That's an interesting thought about Asia (and possibly other continents and cultures), and worth researching further!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
I like the way you put it: "We might be sensitive to begin with, but the disorder increases the sensitivity." And I fully agree.

I just wonder if it's a common trait within the bipolar community. It certainly seems to be a common trait for the people who read and comment on my blog!

Susan

Gianna said...

Hi marja and Susan,
I think most people with bipolar disorder (or those diagnosed with it improperly as well) are extremely sensitive people. This is one of the reasons many people get the label to begin with. I say this as a blog owner and reader and email group moderator and as an ex-mental health professional.

Emotional sensitivity is often labeled---not just bipolar but also other psychiatric disorders as well. As you know I think that often it's inappropriate. We are not taught to appreciate our feelings, but instead to pathologize them.

Not to learn and cope and embrace them but to medicate them away.

marja, I do not say this in disrespect to you AT ALL---you clearly have not medicated away your feelings, but I see too often that people do---I worked with people who were shells of the people they were before being "treated" and that is heartbreaking.

Sometimes we just need to feel and for it to be okay to heal and hurt.

I know that was the case for me...and as long as I ran away from what I was feeling I cooperated with a doctor who made me sicker.

Now I feel and not always so good. My husband is leaving tomorrow leaving me with the packing of one house and the moving into another and I've awoken SCARED at 5 am. Hmmmm...new feeling...scared and grieving too...for he goes to see his mother die who I cannot see because of the responsibilities here at home, I'm very sad for her and for his family...it's painful to not be able to be there...

I feel like crying and I feel it big and huge and it's okay.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. Ever since I started reading about "highly sensitive people" and thinking about how sensitive I've been--for as long as I can remember--I wondered what the tie-in might be with bipolarity.

Your comment is very thought -provoking for me. I agree with you, and think it's so important I plan on posting about it next week sometime.

Susan

marja said...

Gianna: I'm very sorry for what you're going through right now. You're going to have to be very strong. Have a good wholesome cry, take a full deep breath, and then focus on the work that is at hand. You can do it. And before you know it, it will all be behind you and you can look back at what you did and feel proud of yourself.

Your feelings are huge and that is a beautiful thing. I love people who feel in a big way. They are so deeply human.

Gianna said...

thank you very much, marja...

I greatly appreciate your concern. It truly makes a difference.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
I love what you wrote, when you said, "I love people who feel in a big way. They are so deeply human."

And I love the fact that our virtual community is so supportive of each other!

Susan

naturalgal said...

Susan,
I do believe "bipolar" people are more sensitive. I also think holding onto material things can prolong the grieving when it may be time to move on. I find that an object that someone owned or gave me can stir up feelings...and sometimes that is okay, but sometimes I need to move on. I have gotten rid of the objects that caused me to remember negative things.
I can no longer tap into the pain of the grief losing my grandfather, but I remember that it used to be very, very intense...and I thought my grief was little more intense than other people for several years. It is very strange that I can no longer tap into the grief. Maybe I did all the mourning that I needed.

Last year, my husband told me he heard me yelling "Daddy!" in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. I told him that it had it was the anniversary of my father's death almost 30 years. I was obessed with it for one year...now I hardly ever think about it.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Naturalgal,
Yes, I think we all need to grieve in our own way, and if we feel the need to move on--we can do that in our own way.

I have a lot of my mother's things (jewelry, hats, shoes, and purses, among others), and they provide great happiness.

So...for me, material things are a wonderful reminder. For you, they were painful. Just goes to show you how different people can be.

Susan

naturalgal said...

Susan,
I have lots and lots of material things... knick knacks and junk...because people in my family tend to be packrats, so I still have the little reminders, but some of the material things recalled up unpleasant memories.

I also have had stormy relationships with some people...I found that certain objects just called up the storms...so I discarded or gave away those items...they were stifling me.

I kept my dad's bathrobe and wore it without washing it because it smelled like him. Some stuff was a comfort.....
But other stuff...from an era that we were not getting along...only prolonged the pain.
For example, maybe..if you kept the concert tickets from this latest event with your friend you wold remember how anger his was at you more than how good the music was.