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Lability

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

One of the most challenging parts of bipolar is the lability. Just in case that’s a term that's unfamiliar to you, it means rapidly going from one extreme emotion to another. For example, one minute I'm watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, which is one of my favorite Christmas movies, and I'm so excited and my speech is pressured (which means talking really, really quickly and often changing quickly from one topic to the next) and then suddenly the song that Bob McGrath sang comes on, where all the kids learn to sign the song, and I'm sobbing. I'm not just tearing up, I'm crying so hard I can hardly breathe, and it lasts much longer than the song does.


Many of you might be thinking, well, that's no big deal, I cry when I watch movies, too. Well, just to put this in perspective, I have probably watched that movie AT LEAST one hundred times, and it still has the same effect on me every single time. Maybe even more so now that Bob has passed away. It never gets easier, and that is just a half hour or so out of the day. I have similar experiences with other stimuli throughout the day nearly every day.


Lability does not just include extreme sadness or happiness, it also can include swings of intense irritability. One day I was at my mom's house and her cat wanted to snuggle me. Normally, I love her cat and can't wait to see her, but suddenly I hated cats, all cats, and I threw her off my lap because I was so angry with her. Fortunately she was fine, and actually just wanted to get back on my lap, but my mom was able to keep her safe until it passed.


Lability is EXHAUSTING because your emotions are swinging so quickly, and it's frustrating because even with tons of medicine and even more coping skills it is just a part of the illness.

Lability is embarrassing. Even my closest team members say they love me and support me, but they just don't understand, the emotions are just so extreme and so often not just linked to things that others have reactions to.


Lability is lonely. I don't want to leave my house and I don't want to have people over because I can't predict where and when it’s going to happen, and I don't want to scare them away.


Part of the problem is my sinuses. Exhaustion increases lability and with these chronic sinus infections I'm always exhausted. Hopefully, after the surgery that will get a little better. Another problem is that because of my bipolar my brain doesn't understand emotions the way neurotypical people do, and simply can't monitor the level of my emotions.

There are definitely things I can do to decrease the severity of the lability.


Getting enough sleep always helps, but I'm sure many of you know just how difficult this can be, especially in times of stress. Also, knowing my triggers, the most intense of which is emotional music, and just being prepared for the swings to come. I could choose to avoid these triggers, but for me, they are an important part of life, and I would prefer to just keep working through them. Finally, there is educating people. Letting you know that this is a big, exhausting part of this disease, and asking you - if you see it happen, please support me, don't shun me.


And now that you know what it is, be aware of it in other family members and friends. It's hard enough to go through it, it'd much worse to go through it alone. Thanks for your support, have a peaceful week.

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