One of the biggest things I’ve had to deal with while living with Bipolar is my ability to control the various emotions I go through. Some trigger episodes, whereas others put me into another state of mind. However, one thing’s for sure, it’s been hard trying to find a middle ground for my emotions. Over the years, I’ve tried hard to find ways to manage my emotions, and the link between them and my trigger points. I’ll admit it’s tough because for years, I’ve had a certain mind-frame and this forced me to approach situations in a certain way.
I started to take this stuff seriously about 6 years ago, which is pretty bad because I was diagnosed with Bipolar in early 2000. I must admit, since then, I have been able to make a leap forward because I got better at understanding my emotions and how to divide them into the right category. Before I continue, much of this does stem from psychosocial therapy, which studies emotions and understanding triggers before they happen. I am in NO way endorsing this theory because that’s NOT what I do, however, if I’m being completely transparent, then it’s important I give credit where deserved…right?
Anyway, a few years back, I started incorporating the “divide your emotions” principle. This is something that I created to help me understand and manage my mood swings. The fundamentals of this principle are very easy to understand because it involves making a few adjustments to the way you think about certain situations. Have you noticed everything you do in life is triggered by the way you feel about it? You’ll go workout because you feel good and motivated afterwards. You know 20 minutes in the gym will give you a mental high so it’s worth doing every day, or you choose to be in a relationship because the person makes you feel good emotionally. You have a connection, and they understand you completely. They even provide support when you’re down…right?
It’s all triggered by our mood, which is why I believe living with Bipolar has been so tough for me. These constant mood swings would make it so difficult for me to emotionally connect to every challenge.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I did, and hopefully, you’ll be able to use the same principle going forward.
First, it’s important have a clear idea of what you expect from yourself. One of the biggest problems I had early in my diagnosis was that I never knew what I expected out of myself. I couldn’t answer simple questions like:
- What kinds of things do I expect from myself?
- What kinds of things do I expect from people around me?
- What current patterns do I see right now in my life? For example, do I notice a pattern that is making me unhappy in my life? i.e., relationship, friends, employer, etc.
- The answer to the question above will allow me to determine what I expect in my relationship, work, and from friends.
- When I have failed to take action to correct any of these issues?
The reason it’s so important to ask yourself these questions is because you’ll create a blueprint and expectation level for yourself. I truly believe that for you to stop “triggers” and “episodes”, you have to have a clear cut plan of how things should be in your life. However, here’s the MOST important thing, you should have a clear “expectation” level of how you should be treated. Once you’re able to clearly define this, you’ll be able to block those people or situations that don’t meet your expectations.
Dividing your emotions to cope with Bipolar does require enormous work in the beginning because you’re clearly trying to define certain expectations. This is why I’ve titled this post “Overview”, because I just wanted to explain everything in a nut shell. Again, I’ve been living with Bipolar since early 2000, and got fed up with the direction my life was heading.
I simply wasn’t happy, and I felt like if I didn’t take action, it would be a complete waste of life. I also believed many people knew I had the potential to be special because in my early years, I was exceptional in school, athletics, and other areas. I knew I had the potential, but in the late teens got diagnose with Bipolar, which knocked me off me feet. Anyway, if I didn’t do something I would be letting a lot of people down. I didn’t want to live life like this!
For a long time, I’ve taken a proactive role in understanding my feelings, and why things were the way they were. I wanted to make a change for “myself”, and now wanted to help others around me. The “divide your emotions” principle helped me understand my emotional expectations so I can be happy with the person I was, and have people around me who made me feel great.
Over several weeks, I’ll be writing about this principle, and how to start implementing it into your life. I believe emotions are a chain reaction, meaning if they’re controlled, you’ll be able to understand a situation better, and with an open mind. However, if you can’t control your initial emotions, then everything will be a spiral, which will make you do things you didn’t want to in the first place. How do I know? Here’s a personal example:
I remember one of my major trigger points was when I felt someone was putting me down in front of other people. We all want to look cool in our early teens, so when something would be said that I didn’t like, it would completely throw me off. Here’s the reaction: statement>anger>trigger>confrontation>episode (days or weeks).
You all know, for people with bipolar, it doesn’t stop right after because a cycle can last a few days to weeks…right? This situation would completely throw me off course, and I would keep thinking about it, driving myself crazy. However, once I started to dig deep into the bipolar + emotional connection, I began to realize I have more control than I thought. For example, in the situation above, if I could take one step back and ask myself questions like:
- What does my friend mean?
- I’ll talk to them about it after?
Or reiterated the fact:
- They are friends who meet my expectations so don’t mean harm
- Who cares what others think about me (expectation of yourself)
You would NOT have gone into anger mode, which normally leads to a trigger because at this point, you’re essentially making negative thoughts up in your mind. Why else would you be getting mad…right? I truly believe everything starts with your ability to control your emotions, and the way you control your emotions as they apply to specific situations will be pre-determined by your own expectations.
Let’s take a look at this quick illustration:
I’ll like to go over each element in this illustration separately because they all are as important as the other. You’ll see how each one connects to the other, and furthermore be a foundation at the same time. For example, knowing what you expect out of yourself will allow you to be selective in your friends. You’ll choose friends who meet your standards and expectations so you’ll click with them, having the same mind frame. When I was in high school, I had over 50 friends I would hang out with regularly, and now I can count my true friends on one hand. J Next,
True friends would provide you honest advice when it comes to family and relationships. You’ll have a better relationship because you’ll choose someone who makes you feel good, and treats you the way you want to be treated. (Your expectations).
In the illustration, you can see how your expectations connect every type of relationship in your life. By clearly defining your expectations, you’ll influence the relationship with your friends, family, co-workers, and general public.
Here’s the second illustration:
I recommend writing your expectations for every relationship, however, you’ll be surprised how universal expectations are. For example, in the above example we looked at friends and wrote things like: honesty, trust, support, etc…right? These are the same for family, co-workers, and general people you meet on the street, but again it’s a good idea to get in the habit of clearly defining expectations for each relationship.
The more you write them out, the more they’ll be reiterated in your mind.
What can you learn from this exercise?
First, you’ll learn what’s important to you, and what you expect from people in your life. Secondly, by writing out your expectations, you’ll understand your “trigger” points. For example, by writing “honesty” you know right away how important this is to you, and how with certain relationships this element was missing leading to emotional stress. As you’ll start to use these charts going forward, you’ll be able to block situations which don’t provide an element of trust in your life.
Third, you have a foundation for transformation because now you know where to start. The hardest thing for me has been NOT the change, but how to start changing. I knew I wanted to transform my life, but didn’t have a clear cut plan to get where I want to be. These expectation charts will be your foundation going forward, and I’ll walk you through the entire process.
Remember, this is just an overview and I’ll be breaking down each element of this strategy on its own. The only way you’ll succeed with this strategy is by understanding how important each step is along the way.
Now that you have an overview, let’s start to define our expectations.