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How moods vary from person to person

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Sunny Clouds:
Taking our discussions elsethread on treating people according to the textbooks and musing on how what the textbook says is the same mood and what it says about how to deal with it can be so different for different people.

Sometimes I muse on mania/hypomania and how  much damage was done to me at the turn of the century.  You see, when I was growing up, I saw 'manic depression' as a type of depression where you flounder around and go into overdrive to get back up to the surface when drowning in depression.  I learnt to see myself as someone who raced to finish stuff off then crashed then picked myself back up and started again.  I did jobs where that was a useful trait.  See something that needs doing, go all out to get it done, then crash out for a while to catch up on sleep or whatever.

But then at the turn of the century, I was dealing with mental health professionals with such a rigid notion of mania as high mood = over-happy, that I was somehow convinced that if I was happy, I was ill or dysfunctional.  Expletive ridiculous.

Today, a conversation with a friend with episodic unipolar depression.  It made me think how much depression varies and how much how we react to it and deal with it varies.  I remembered an encounter one year where she said something like "Don't think about tomorrow, just stay in the present."  I was put out because for me at that moment, 'thinking about tomorrow' was 'looking forward to Christmas'.  Then the next time we spoke, I plucked up courage to tell her why.  For me, the present/now/today is full of painful memories of yesterday and scary.  Tomorrow is hope. 

A conversation today reinforced it.  She copes with today by not thinking about tomorrow because for her, tomorrow is the risk of losing the good she has.

She sees herself as lucky.  She appreciates what she's got.  Not all of us do that as much as we might.  It doesn't make sense to her when I say things like "In the midst of the horridness, I remind myself there's loveliness about."  I might mention something to do with random kindnesses I've encountered on the way to the shops or from neighbours.  To her, thinking in terms of horridness doesn't make sense.

I wanted to scream "We have a pandemic and there are people that don't care about passing a virus on.  We have a local authority that used the excuse of making things better for pedestrians and cyclists to introduce lots of no-go barriers for mobility scooters.  People are starving."  (I'd happily continue for several hours about the unkindnesses and unfairnesses in the world around us.)

Well, it's not about who's right or wrong.  I pointed out that her ability to see positives in her life means that she reminds others of positives, which can really help them.  I wanted to say that for someone like me, drawing people's attention to unfairnesses that we can do little things to tackle is my way of helping but decided she wasn't in the mood for it, and I don't like to upset people.  (She's a really kind and caring person who's done so much for others.)

Which then brings me back to the issue of what's depression supposed to be like.  The mental health services and various other organisations that see their role as helping us to cope with mood difficulties, and to advise us on them so often seem to have quite rigid notions of what depression is and how to tackle it, ditto mania.

It did me so much harm and whilst some people could say "Forget about it and move on", for me, if I try to forget about it, I can't change and see things in a way that works better for me after having been 'gaslit' first by mental health services, then by a variety of things like support groups, then by my father when I looked after him.

I lie in bed and cry. Staying in the moment hurts.  I don't say it hurts all the time because I can go for a walk and bump into people (or rather do a 'socially distancing reel' in and out of gaps between cars, gateways etc.) and see so much consideration and kindness.  But for all that tomorrow frightens me, it's that little glimmer of hope, like a glimmer of moonlight between the clouds.


That makes total sense sunny, it's very difficult to see positives in what we ourselves find hard and see negatives in what's positive for us. The "prescription text book" descriptions of "mental illness" is also incredibly frustrating as I don't know anyone who fits their label perfectly, they just match a couple of traits. I know 2 people with bipolar diagnosis so my whole knowledge is hearsay and observations from them. One lady scares me and I have had to withdraw from our acquaintanceship because she loses her mental filter when manic and I use the term manic because she does. She's very opinionated and puts me straight on everything she sees wrong with me when manic which with my core sense of shame and failure can send me spiraling down a rabbit hole. For both her and my other aquaintance with bipolar, they go days and nights barely sleeping getting heaps done. The non scary bipolar lady sewed pretty face masks for hundreds of people within the first week of lockdown and I am ashamed to say that as someone who experiences extreme fatigue I do envy that energy. But for that lady her lows are as low as my depression at its worst and she loses all hope completely so she pays a high price indeed. And being so variable must be incredibly hard. Both ladies are blessed with amazing supportive husbands. The scary bipolar lady has lost her relationship with her children and therefore grandchildren and I suspect that is due to how outspoken she is when manic. Losing the ability to filter what's okay to say and what isn't must be very damaging and that's not a trait that I have seen in the acquaintance I have some contact with. What I admire about her is she still joins the peer support group when extremely low whereas I withdraw and isolate. She has amazing strength that she's unaware of. I think most people with mental health problems are probably unaware of their strengths, instead being fully aware of our struggles and imperfections.

You've described one of your strengths sunny, being able to see things from others perspectives even if you don't see them that way yourself is a strength not that many people have.


Sunny Clouds:
Fiz - it feels good to have shared views on individual variations vs labels.

Lankou - I like the T-shirt. I'm very tempted to devise a set of slogans and to make badges with them (my equivalent of slogans on T-shirts) or to put stickers with them on my bag for others to see when I'm in a queue etc.

As someone who has had such a variety of erroneous mental health diagnoses, most caused by the treatments I have been put on, I am not sure what my own moods are any more. My Fibromyalgia means that I suffer from very low energy, but at least these days I rarely suffer from severe depression. I have suffered such in the past as well as some form of manic depression, and I had the "stay up for days get stuff done" ability then, but I also had the horrific low moods too as well as mixed state moods which are very strange, when one is manic but has the hopelessness of depression. My moods these days are pretty despairing a lot of the time - but that is entirely from my situation, not from depression. I get angry a lot. I rarely get angry with people I talk with but I do get angry with sadists and abusers and people who take advantage and warmongers etc. I get angry with injustice a lot. I interact with others on Outsiders and get silly and flirty and daft - sometimes I feel it sometimes I don't. Hmm. Emotions and moods are complex!


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