Mood swings are a pretty big part of my life. They come on a regular basis, sometimes knocking me over with a sudden depression or lifting me off my feet with a high. Sometimes I have a desperate need to be around people and will cling to my mum, following her around the house until the mood passes. At other times I am gripped by a sudden dislike for everyone around me, their flaws racing through my head and consuming me.
I used to fight against these. The highs were too high, the lows too low, everything else was equally irritating to deal with. The swings where I ended up under the control of anger made me feel guilty for judging people who I normally love. When I end up following people around I was acutely aware of how I must be grating on their nerves. Finding myself in the depths of depression I’d hate myself for ruining everyone’s day and cancelling plans. Getting hyperactive would annoy me due to the innate knowledge that I was running on a level of energy that no one could keep up with.
The thing is, fighting these things only pushed me into more swings. I’d get so angry with myself for being cross with others that I’d spiral right down into a low, or so aware of my own clinginess that I’d hide myself away and fall right down again. My highs would wear me out and annoy me so much that I’d drop.There are things that we can do with these mood swings to dig our way out, but the one that never works is judging ourselves or our thoughts and moods. Living with BPD makes it pretty inevitable that I’ll spend a lot of time on one end of my mood spectrum, and the more I look at these as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the more unable I am to control myself.
It was at an emotional skills group that I learnt a new way to deal with my changing moods. It’s all about riding the waves. If you were to sit in the water and fight against its movements you’d only end up exhausting yourself and putting yourself in danger. But if you ride the wave, you get a feeling of accomplishment and enjoyment, and best of all – you’re safer. (Just a quick aside… I’ve never surfed, but some of my family have, my metaphors are from conjecture and conversations with them.) Even if you have problems with my surfing analogy, I can tell you from experience that when applied to moods, emotions and thoughts, it’s entirely true.
So next time you go up (or down, or round and round) just accept what you’re feeling. You can try some activities to cheer you up, but never acknowledge an emotion as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Let the mood come and wait patiently for it to change again. Since I’ve been trying this, I’ve actually had less frequent and less drastic mood swings. The violent fall from high to low is more gradual than it was. My bouts of anger are calmer. I’ve learnt to enjoy the highs, and the time I spend following my mum around the house. Learn to ride the waves, and you may just find yourself enjoying life a little more.
If you’re struggling and you need some help why not take a look at the information on the MIND website? If it’s a crisis please call your crisis team, doctor or Samaritans! (Links below)