I’m sad today.

I know that it’s okay to be sad, to have times where you just don’t feel good.  As I’ve mentioned before, though, I don’t trust happiness in the slightest, and I’m much more prone to believing the personalized critic that follows me around during times of discontent.  What I’m saying is that when I get sad…I’m afraid I’m going to stay sad.  And that I’m a sad person. And what is wrong with me.

Everyone has bad days.  And all of us, not just the ones with an Axis I diagnosis, experience emotional dysregulation in our daily lives.  When we’re a little too angry at the person that cut us off, a little too teary eyed at an adorable dog food commercial, or a little too excited about the many uses of WD-40.  (Look it up.  It’s exciting, okay?)

So what I’m learning as I study CBT and DBT is that I have choices and agency over my thoughts/feelings/behaviors.  And the three of those things, while interconnected, are not the same thing.  If I can distinguish between them and name my feelings and change my thoughts — well then, I can start reacting in different ways and avoid [some of] this unexplained sadness!

:/

Much harder than it sounds, I guess.  But it’s totally working.  Already I’ve started a tape in my head about “goal-directed behavior” versus “mood-directed behavior.”  Essentially, many times we make our next moves in a day, in life, based on how we feel.  I want to exercise, but I don’t feel like it so I don’t.  I want to be more spiritual, but I don’t feel like going to church today so I don’t.  Sometimes it’s okay to “not feel like it,” but if you’re like me it’s easy for every behavior to become mood-directed.  With bipolar I have to learn to define my goals and perform tasks because they are in the best interest of my goals, dreams, life-vision, even if I don’t feel like it.  It’s a basic concept some people inherently understand: I want to be thinner so I exercise, I want to rest this weekend so I write my papers today.  For me it seems so much more difficult than that! My moods change so drastically, even while I am medicated, that I can get exhausted from an emotional standpoint before I’ve even done anything.

But this “goal-directed” thing has stuck with me.  I wanted to nap so badly yesterday and today, but I realize that, even though it’s the only thing I felt like doing, that I really wanted to end my day at an earlier time, get a full night’s rest, and feel productive.  I wanted to complete my to-do list for the day.  I want to stop needing a nap in the afternoons every day so that I will feel more social and creative in the evenings.

So I didn’t.  Nap, that is.  I walked around, I didn’t sit down when I got home, and I headed out to run errands rather than sleep.  I made something. I started a project.  And now I’m blogging.  All because I’m telling myself to not let my [stupid] moods dictate my behavior.  Because I’m constantly saying it to myself, catching myself, reminding myself.

It’s CBT and DBT in action: mindfulness, identifying automatic thoughts, using behavior to change your feelings, feelings to change your thoughts, etc.  It’s difficult, and it’s a tiny step.  But that’s the only way we change – in the small steps.

And look.  I’m already feeling better.  Now that I think about it…I’m not even sad anymore.

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