Friday, April 10, 2009

Changing Personality Traits

Sorry this post is so late and that it took me so long to respond to comments from yesterday. I had my gardening class last night, spent a lot of the day getting ready for it, and a lot of today recovering from digging for 90 minutes.

This morning, when I reflected on the first two classes, I had a few realizations about my reaction to people and other social dynamics. This week I was feeling much better than I was last week. When I feel "normal," I tend to be outgoing and inclusive. When I'm depressed (even if it's just the tail end), I tend to be quiet and an observer.

During the first gardening class, I felt that I might not make any new friends this semester. I was one of 3 people out of 30 who's taking this class for a hobby rather than as part of the gardening certificated program. Many of these people seemed to know each other. No one seemed terribly friendly.

Last night, since I was feeling far better, I was outgoing. And what I realized is that when I'm "normal," I reach out to people and engage with them because I enjoy doing so. My goal--whether it's expressed or not--is to find out who I might like, who's interesting (to me), who's got a sense of humor, and what we might have in common.

When I'm well, I don't worry about whether people will like me in return. I truly don't think very much about my behavior. If someone isn't friendly or doesn't want to engage, that's fine. In my mind, I chalk them off the list and move on. If they do want to talk, I ask questions to draw them out.

At the end of the three hours, 90 minutes is spent in the classroom, I realized that some of the people I thought were unfriendly during the first class might just be shy. Perhaps they engaged with the people they knew because they were uncomfortable talking to people they didn't. Most people protect themselves more than I do, and they are not as open.

In reflecting on people's behavior, what I realized is that what changes during a depression is "my perception." When I am depressed, my feelings easily get hurt. When I'm "normal," they don't. When I'm depressed, I assume that people who aren't friendly don't like me. When I'm "normal," I realize their behavior has little to do with me.

So...what I am learning is that when I'm depressed, my perceptions are impaired or at least they are very different than when I'm not.

What was so nice was that as I was leaving class, one of my classmates told me how much she appreciated how friendly I am, how much more she enjoyed herself, and then she thanked me.

Question: Do you see parallels in your own behavior? In what ways?


Wendalyn Love said...

I can totally identify. Maybe we should call it 'Perception Disorder'? Even a good movie won't sit well with me if I am depressed. Glad you had such a positive experience during this last class!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
I smiled at the phrase, "Perception Disorder." I wonder if people who aren't bipolar also have changing perceptions, but just process them in a different way.


marja said...

Yes yes yes!!! I too have a perception disorder when I'm depressed - even when I'm slightly down. I can be so easily hurt when I think people don't want to talk to me - when it's probably my fault because I'm not able to be the extrovertish me and thus am not as approachable. And then I go home thinking no one likes me. Oh I've been SO hurt!!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
I'm finding all of this so interesting. I imagine there are so many common personality issues, and yet we all feel so lonely and alone when things like this happen.

Anyway, I'm going to try and come up with new traits and questions, and see if I can see more patterns.

Thanks for your comment on this. Sorry you've been SO hurt. It truly feels bad, doesn't it?


preciousrock said...

Me too, me too!!! When I am depressed I believe that everyone dislikes me and thinks I'm stupid, even that they are talking about me and plotting against me. When I am up, I don't worry about what people think, make friends easily and enjoy others more.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear preciousrock,
Thanks for your comment on this. I appreciate it. If we're all so clear about the differences in our perceptions between the depressed periods and the "up" periods, I wonder how we can take what we know and use so to change our perceptions when we're down.


duanesherry1 said...


I'm glad to hear you're going to write about whatever moves you to write....It will be spontaneous, from the heart, and hopefully joyful for you.

You wrote -
"one of my classmates told me how much she appreciated how friendly I am"

....One of your readers appreciates how very kind you are.

Happy belated birthday Susan Bernard!


Wellness Writer said...

Ah Duane,
And you're a dear dear person! Thanks for the birthday wishes!


Mariposa said...

I think when we are on our lows, our greatest battle is with our emotions...I get too sensitive too...and I care less about people I just cocoon. Yet the hardest part more than anything for me is this unending cycle of fatigue! I lost interest with anything and everything...I just want my lazy lazy day...and I want IT Guy or my Mom to sit with me and talk about good old I ate their time. :(

When I am manic, I am more destructive when in group because at some point, I get irritable, easily annoyed and is impatient. I want everybody to be like supercomputers...and worst, I am at my worst with people close to me, so I hurt them.

I always tell them to just hug me close once I start doing that...most of the times it works, it knocks my head, but sometimes, it makes me slide down to depression fast because I feel sorry for what I did...and I get too overly sorry.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
I sure can relate. I,too, would like the people I love to just sit with me and talk about better days. My mom was great about that...and she just listened to me when I talked about it, as well.

Yes, the fatigue is awful!

When I was on different medication, I used to be far more irritable than I am without it. And had to try hard not to be so annoyed. These days, I'm much less so although I have my moments, but I am also very apologetic.

I'm going to learn how to meditate so hopefully I can control the irritation better.

This constant worrying about controlling behavior is exhausting too, isn't it? But, at least we care enough to be concerned--and to apologize when we need too.