Friday, October 27, 2006

Reports of my mania have been greatly exaggerated

I had a busy day today. Woke up very early (darn that terminal insomnia!) and decided to be productive. Installed my new DSL. Wrote a take-home midterm exam. Unpacked, tried on, and put away several items of clothing and a pair of shoes that I purchased online. (Happily, everything fit perfectly.) Went to the salon for a haircut and blowout. Hiked down to Filene's Basement and bought a new tote bag (love the bag, hate the fact that I threw away the 20%-off coupon I got in the mail a few weeks ago, because it would have saved me a whole $6.00). Did some grocery shopping but unfortunately couldn't find several of my favorite items (in Manhattan, if it's not on the shelf, they don't have it in the back).

By the end of all this activity, I was tired, hungry, anxious, and sad. I didn't covet the beautiful items in the store windows, as I would if I were really hypomanic. I wanted to go home and eat 200 Entenmann's donuts. (I stemmed that desire with 2 pounds of watermelon instead.)

I also started worrying. I worried that I'm alienating my classmates by sharing too much about my difficulties with the faculty; last night after class, while I was complaining to someone who knew my situation and someone who didn't, the latter wore an expression of marked distaste. (At least, I think it was marked distaste. With WASPs it's often hard to tell what they're thinking or feeling.)

I worried that my over-sharing would get back to the faculty and it would count against me. I worried that when making an appointment to see Dr. Octopussy again, I came off sounding needy and gave her more ammunition against me. I worried that the faculty would kick me out of school. I worried that I would become hypomanic and then depressed again. Worry, worry, worry.

One thing I really hate about my disorder is the constant need for vigilance. If I start getting happy, if I start getting sad, I need to watch myself very carefully so that my mood doesn't snowball into mania or depression. This means that I have to be mindful of all my negative thoughts -- and as I know from first undergoing and now studying cognitive therapy, ruminating over your negative thoughts sours your mood.

Any remaining elation from the sexy, booty-loving MRI tech's compliment has completely drained away. I was looking at my face in the mirror for more than an hour as the hairdresser painstakingly cut and straightened my hair, and I look FAT. That definitely contributed to my negative affect, as we say in psychology school.

Another thought I had about my past hypomanic shopping sprees: even though my mood was euphoric, it was a false euphoria based on brain chemistry, not my situation in life. So even though I felt good, I was still missing several key things in my life: a set career path, a marriage, children. I think part of the impetus for coveting and buying so many things was the need to fill those gaps in my life. So I bought and bought -- but the holes were still there.

When I decided to get my master's degree in psychology, my shopping dropped off dramatically. Of course part of that was a matter of spare time -- at work 9 to 5, in class several nights a week, and of course all the study time I put in didn't leave me much time to browse and shop. (Although if I'd been willing to sacrifice some sleep I could have shopped more; the internet is open 24/7.)

And I thought I'd feel the same way when I began work on my doctorate. But I don't. Instead of filling those gaps, this program is punching new ones in me. And that's what's driving me to shop. My excuse is that I need new clothes and shoes to look as hip as the twentysomethings in my class. But I could be buying electronic gadgets (I need a new Palm Pilot; my old one is incompatible with my new computer), or books, or DVDs to watch on my computer (I don't have a DVD player -- see "electronic gadgets," above). I think that buying anything right now -- hello, FreshDirect? I need 500 cups of yogurt -- would give me that temporary respite from the gnawing anxiety, the emptiness, the frustration.

But it's temporary. I wore the new shoes that just arrived on my errands today. They couldn't have fit better if they'd been made for me. They are classic and timeless, funky and hip. I'm going to get tons of use out of them.

But they can't make me happy.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. Well, on the one hand, it's good that you're not going into hypermania. On the other hand, I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling...well, I don't know if I'd say "down" per se, but not so great.

    It must be really hard to have to always be on top of your emotions. Most people, if they're happy or sad, they can just take it at face value and BE happy or sad or whatever else. But you have to always be on your guard. I don't know if I'd have that kind of willpower.