When you’re bombarded by extreme emotion, it’s not just the extreme emotions that you have to deal with. Most of the time, when something unexpected happens it’s because you’re in a situation you can’t control.
I like ‘my’ time best. When I’m on my own and completely in control of my environment. If I don’t feel like washing dishes right now, I don’t have to, and I know that if they stay there all day the only person I’m upsetting is me.
There is pressure, of course. I don’t like living in a messy environment, but some days I’m happy to let things pile up until such a time when I feel ready to deal with it, whether it’s dishes or laundry.
When you live with others, the pressure changes entirely. Things have to be done, or at least that’s how I feel about things. Leaving one dish isn’t enough to throw me head first into a mood swing, but leaving just that one dish isn’t easy because I know that if I don’t clean it right away, it’s highly likely they my housemates will when they do the dishes. Although I know I do my fair share of the dishes, and often offer to do them all in one go (mine and my house mates, in an evening) the notion that I am putting someone else out brings on a world of stress that is not easily ‘pushed aside’. People lie, people tell white lies all the time and I’m still undecided about how I feel about it. I tell them too. We all do.
“Sorry, I forgot to wash that plate.”
It’s okay? Is it though? Is it really? Are you not just seething inside? This is the third time this week I’ve made myself a sandwich and left the plate there and you’ve washed it with all your dishes. There are days for me, when nothing is okay. Sure, you can dismiss it, whatever okay. It’s just a plate, but it’s not. You left it on the table and that’s not where it belongs. How lazy are you? You’ve walked into the kitchen twice and not bothered to take the damn plate with you and it’s on the way. It’s. Not. Hard.
Some days, it’s easier to let go of those uncertainties than others. Some days it’s okay to leave the plate there, and perhaps that’s down to confidence rather than mood? Having confidence in the things that other people tell you comes and goes.
“No worries, I was washing up anyway!”
On a ‘good’ day it’s easy to have confidence, to accept the word of others without question. In the same vein, it’s likely not to happen on those days. On a good day, I’m on the ball. I’m the one clearing up dishes and engaging in normal conversation, I’ve probably hoovered, cleaned and done dishes already or at least contributed in some way that feels valid. That in itself makes a huge difference to general mood.
‘Good’ days come with their own set of ‘base’ emotions. Positivity, excitement, and enjoyment of simply being. It’s a state of mind and on it’s own, apparently, (because I haven’t noticed a pattern), uncontrollable. It’s the difference between waking up in the afternoon and feeling like there is no point in showering, dressing, eating, doing out and doing something – and waking up feeling like you can get something accomplished even if you don’t get out of pyjamas. (Which I hasten to tell you! Doesn’t happen very frequently!)
Of course, this is before you put into consideration the great number of environmental factors that can so drastically destabilise whatever mood you happen to wake up in. Like anyone.
There are simple, every day things – the weather, the state of the bank account, what day it is, what plans you have, what letters arrive in the post.
Then there are things that I find the most difficult – social engagement.
I have strong feeling for a lot of my friends and family. People exist in ‘my world’ in very different extremes. There are people I love. They are sometimes family, sometimes friends and mostly animals. I’m compassionate, mostly toward those whose voice is not as ‘strong’ as others. Animals, children, and so many others who have enough on their plate, or are unable to voice their feelings, worries and fears.
Then there’s this huuuuuge gap. To exist in that space is impossible, and it’s what makes social situations so complicated for me. I’m focusing on anger, and a sensation of hatred, but it’s equally applicable to a whole range of other emotions.
On the other side of my ‘scale’ there is hate. I’ve been taught, from an early age not to use that word, especially by my Dad, because it is such an extreme and to this day I’ve been unable to accept that there could be a better word to fit the way I feel. It’s lonely, to go from feeling intense affection for someone who is a friend and then feel so deeply hurt and frustrated by them or something they have done or said that the feelings inside you switch and develop, consume and utterly control you.
I can only describe it as hate, and it’s an awful sensation. It comes with an intense desire to be away from them, to hurt them, to make them realise how much you’re hurting and to hurt them back. You become unable to focus – words and almost impossible to muster, and because you know that the feeling is only temporary it’s so important to be able to get out of the situation without saying anything damaging. The anger is so finely and specifically directed at this one particular thing, but to control the emotion feels like a mammoth task.
It’s followed instantly by the desperate need to GET OUT. Whether you’re there in person, or talking on the phone, text messaging, or talking through e-mail or online messaging.
Everything becomes impossible. This anger is the sole emotion. There is nothing else. Even though you might fight desperately within yourself for rationale, there is nothing. Struggling to stay ‘level’ takes a lot of effort in itself. Often, in the time it takes to fight the wave of emotions a host of other thoughts, feelings and general awarenesses happen to further confuse the situation.
You can’t just pause time, and often that need to explain yourself is too difficult. You know that you shouldn’t be angry, but in the time it takes to try and reel in your emotions it’s just too late. Whoever you’re with, or talking to knows that there is something wrong. So the question comes. Rarely, is it understanding, slow, careful. Usually it’s defensive or provoking. You don’t want either of those things. A defensive question brings the clarity to understand that yes they know you’re feeling something – and the wave of concerns comes all over again.
I often have strong feelings, and I prefer to keep them to myself because that’s just easier.
I have many friends that I have simply had to leave or hang up on and almost always it’s without a word because formulating words is physically impossible.
It’s not easy, but I’ll try to explain how complex the things that rush through my mind in those moments are.
First of all, there is the ‘thing’ itself. Whatever the trigger has been. Meltdowns happen much more regularly on a ‘bad’ day, as if the chemicals in your brain are just so unbalanced that the only things that come from it are negative, low and depressed.
A ‘thing’ will happen and all the possible causes, consequences and potential from that thing play out in your head all at the same time. Each new possibility tends to be worse than the last. You go from feeling upset that you can’t do this simple thing to feeling sad about what that means. Then the worry steps in. Will you ever be able to manage this? In fact, have you ever actually been able to manage it? Were ‘they’ right all along? You are not able, you are not capable, you are not useful, you are not accomplishing anything, you are a burden, you can’t even keep the promises that you make to yourself, never mind the promises you make to anyone else. In fact, why do you ever make promises?
It’s at this point, you’ve effectively cancelled out all the future plans in your life. Nothing is achievable. You’ve gone beyond all your basic needs, there’s no need for any of them so there is only one question.
Why am I even here?
The ‘truth’ – that you don’t know is so soul destroying. It’s like everyone you love breaking your heart at the same time because they’ve let you go on like this. Believing that you could be something when really you’re just going through the motions. The belief that everyone you love hates you is strong, and difficult to cope with. Perhaps if you’re lucky there is a slither of desperation. The need to reach out, to make a phone call, message a friend, go to someone but it’s such a fragile moment. Calling someone and ending up with their answer machine is difficult, especially. Do you leave a message? In the state you’re currently in any friend will know that you have a problem and where does that leave you then? You can’t possibly leave a message because if you end it all you cannot imagine the guilt that you will leave them with.
So you don’t leave a message. You just hope that they’ll call back.
The ‘next thing’ is there though. It’s hovering over head like a dark cloud because once you’ve reached why am I even here the next step is obviously ‘I don’t deserve to be here’, so often in conjunction with ‘I can’t do this anymore’.
Getting out is difficult. Escaping those feelings usually means completely escaping. I personally feel lucky, that for whatever reason, I haven’t turned to drugs or alcohol. A quickly as I reach ‘critical’, I can come back down. I’m the first to admit to extreme behaviours and responses in those moments, and it’s embarrassing to know that so many people have witnessed them. I do get scared, that one day the ‘off’ button will be too close, too instant, and too permanent. That one day I’m going to be somewhere potentially life-threatening when something drastic happens to me.
I’m happy knowing that I am most likely to go home, curl up in bed and cry until it hurts. The emotion comes out so easily like that, even if the act brings along with it a whole host of other intense feelings so self-hate and loathing. As soon as it’s done it’s as if the sun has come out and there’s a rainbow and everything is good.
By the time that’s happened, a different set of problems arises. Crying doesn’t just seem to rid me of the emotions, but it also acts as a tool to forget whatever I was so emotional over in the first place. I want to forget, and move on – staples those feelings down so that they don’t get thought about any more. It leaves a ‘gap’. I often struggle to remember whether I’ve upset someone, and obviously – the act of leaving a friend in the lurch isn’t a terribly kind thing, but coming to terms with what happened is equally difficult. Admitting to the extreme emotion isn’t simple. I have a lot of pride, and something akin to ego too, and letting go of it to talk things through isn’t easy, especially when – all things considered, maybe that friend doesn’t want an apology?
That friend deserves for me to be in control of things well before they escalate, and sometimes it feels that the only way to do that is to only interact with others when I’m in tip-top form, and that doesn’t happen very often.
With time, and therapy I’m really hoping that I can learn to control the things that impact the extreme emotions I have. I’m well aware that they were intimately linked with my own expectations and presumptions, whether they are directed toward myself, my friends, or other people around me.