Impulse Out-of-Control

Yesterday, I had the literal Worst Hangover of My Life. I gagged every time I sat up until like 6 pm. And during this time of a pounding headache forcing me into sleepless stillness, I thought to myself, “why can’t I do anything in moderation?” It’s either nothing or everything.

I’m either drinking like I will never be able to drink again or not drinking at all. I’m either eating all the food or none for three days. I either like seven boys or none. I either do all my schoolwork or none. I either go to all my classes or none. I either get dressed in my nicest clothes, full makeup, and straightened hair or I look like a truck hit me. I’m either ecstatic or miserable. I either ramble too much or don’t talk at all. I’m either hanging out with people every day or I see no one for three weeks. I’m either balls deep in religion or an impassioned atheist. I’m either a Tea Party conservative or a hippie communist. I’m either hell bent on wallowing in my mental illness or hell bent on pretending I’m healed. I’m either obsessing over everything or caring about nothing. I’m either panicking about death or saying, “Fuck it because I want to die anyway.”

Apparently this is a symptom of bipolar disorder, but like come on, why can’t I chill tf out? It’s more than just fluctuating between depression and hypomania. I’m like this no matter what mood is plaguing me, and I know people get frustrated with never knowing what to expect. But whether I’m sleeping for four days straight or pulling effortless all-nighters, I hate not being about to just take it easy just as much as everyone else does.

This also goes directly against my psychiatrist telling me I need to have a routine. I never know what type of routine – if any – I’m going to be able to maintain. When I’m “all,” I make too many plans, and when I’m “nothing,” I flake on each of them. Plus, I struggle to keep a routine anyway. People always say that the hardest part of anything is just getting started, but I’m like “uhhhh no, I can literally quit whenever I want.”

I thought about this as I was writing 25 postcards to elected officials knowing full well I wouldn’t be doing jack shit in a week, and here I am a week later doing absolutely nothing as predicted.

I’m known for getting burnt out on things easily. Even during childhood, I would go all-out for some sort of hobby – like bug collecting, becoming an author, or learning how to draw – for a few months only to completely give it up a month later.

These days, when I get momentarily obsessed with something – like a TV show (to the point of trying to become a character), partying, or an artistic pursuit – I see it as an attempt to distract myself. I get fed-up when these obsession stop being distracting, so I just give them up all together.

Honestly, the only constant in my life has been writing poetry, and I know I’ve already talked at length about that, but whatever. Even when I feel like I’m “done” with poetry, I always come back to it. Sometimes, I hate it. I hate the compulsion to write when I just want to distract and ignore, but it’s like one of those itches where it takes a while to identify the source. You have to keep scratching until you find it, and while it’s satisfying, it’s also an inconvenience.

So even my one constant comes from a place of compulsion. And that’s ultimately how I feel with my “alls” and “nothings.” I am compelled to do one or the other. In fact, it feels imperative that I do one or the other. Once I start something, I can’t stop until I’m dying. Once I stop something, I can’t start until I’m practically ruining my life. It’s disconcerting to say the least.

I think it particularly scares the people closest to me when I talk about this stuff. They also don’t quite understand what it feels like to lack impulse control. They always say, “you’re not having problems with impulse control, right?” And I’m like, “uhhhh, that’s literally symptom number one, but whatever.” Obviously there’s the classic brand of mania: impulsive sex, drinking, and spending. But there’s a flipside of that with depression: impulsively bringing my life to screeching halt with no regard for possibly ruining it. And this goes beyond objectively dangerous activities. Even the most mundane things are all or nothing as mentioned earlier in this post.

With hypomania and depression, there’s a feeling of invincibility or absolute vulnerability to everything, respectively. Why not do all the things if I’m immune to their consequences? Why bother doing any of the things if I’m always susceptible to the worst-case scenario? Either way, any impulse is The Most Important Thing in the moment.

I’m working on all this with my therapist obviously, but part of me doesn’t want to give it up. It’s fun to go big and go home. Well, it’s not fun, but sometimes not knowing how I’m going to feel from one day to the next is how I keep the manic-depressive emptiness at bay.

I don’t really expect people to understand this or even be empathetic toward it because so much of my self-destructiveness takes other people unwillingly along for the ride. And I do feel guilty about that, but hey, that’s what the mood stabilizer is supposedly for.

From day to day, I’m mostly just kicking it, but when it comes to the things that most people do in moderation, I still lack impulse control. I’m getting better about existing in an emotionally neutral state, so I just need to translate that behaviorally and I will be one step closer to healthily managing this incredibly pervasive symptom. Jury’s out on if I will ever be able to do that. In the mean time, here’s hoping I don’t take other people down with me if this ship sinks. Stay tuned for updates.

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