Emotional Sunburn


It’s difficult to express to others what it’s like to live with a mental illness.  Words fall short, if you can find any that seem even somewhat appropriate.  There have been times when I’ve felt that I’ve come close to capturing some aspect of what bipolar disorder is like, but in general, I feel like that’s a fruitless endeavor.  I’ve determined that it’s just a lonely journey that I’ll travel on my own, for the most part.

One way that I have tried to find people who can identify with me on this level is to join some groups on social media that are for people who are like me – for those who are bipolar, just like me.  So, I’m in a few of those groups.  It’s helpful to know that I’m not alone in what I experience.

Today, there was a question posed in one of the groups.  How do we describe what it’s like living with bipolar disorder?  The responses were fascinating.  I scoured all of them, and pulled out some of the most profound.  I want to share them with you.  I wish I could take credit for their brilliance, but alas, I cannot.

So here it is, what some with bipolar disorder have to say about it:

I feel like a living contradiction.

It’s like an emotional sunburn.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Medications only ‘lower the volume’ of the emotions I feel.

It’s total chaos.

Ever eat a pine tree?

It’s like living on a roller coaster with triple loops.

Living constantly surprised by yourself.

It’s like an endless, hopeless, lifecycle under an unpredictable dictator.

Your emotions carry you away with no warning.

It’s like I’m a yo-yo.

You won’t get it, so please just love me.

It’s like living in a boxing ring.

It’s waking up every morning, not knowing who or what I will be today.

Oh you like me?  Give it some time.  You’ll leave like everyone else…


It’s never being able to trust how I feel.  Am I happy or is this hypomania?  Do I have a legit reason to be mad, or am I overreacting?

It’s feeling everything all at once.


Lethal euphoria.

It’s like a sentence in hell.


It’s like wearing a slipper on one foot and a high heel on the other, creating an awkward rhythm as you go through life.  Constant up and down, not knowing how to make things even.

Rage and despair.

Laugh now, cry later.

It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river – exciting and amazing, then all of a sudden dark, scary, and you have no idea how far it will go.

It’s like being in a funhouse maze and everyone expecting you to walk a straight line through it.

It’s being at war with yourself.

It’s like the universe keeps taking shots at you, and you hate yourself for it.

It’s like driving a car from the back seat.

Beautiful chaos.

I fly, I fall.

It’s being emotionally everywhere all at once.

I just love how descriptive these are.  I can especially identify with the funhouse maze analogy.  There is this unspoken expectation that I will be normal, that I will keep up, that I will be able to handle life – just like everyone else.  Some days I can.  But other days…not a chance.

And when the universe keeps taking shots at me, I do sometimes hate that I’m not able to handle it.  Strange how I blame myself for something that is completely out of my control.  Looks like I’m not the only one.

Living contradiction, emotional sunburn, unpredictable dictator.  Just brilliant.  So many things in my life are polarized.  They contradict.  I am a living contradiction.  And emotional sunburn?  Wow!  The pain of feeling everything all the time is just like the pain of a sunburn.  That’s so perfect.  So perfect.  And it does sometimes feel like I’m under the rule of an unpredictable dictator.  I never know what’s waiting for me around the corner, and I certainly don’t have much say in the matter.  I am my own dictator.

You know, it’s funny.  I always have this sense that my life is full of chaos.  I keep thinking that once things calm down, maybe then I will be able to find some peace.  Maybe then I will finally be able to heal a little bit more.  Maybe then things will get easier.  Maybe then.  But maybe the truth is that the chaos is coming from within.  Maybe the chaos is me, which, for someone who craves peace and quiet, is not good news.

I can’t run from it.  I can’t calm the storm that rages within.  What I can do, though, is keep the surrounding atmosphere as calm as possible.  And that’s what I try to do.  I don’t always do it perfectly, but I try.  This is my way of trying to find that ever elusive peace.  Sometimes I catch a glimpse for a little while, and I hang onto those moments for as long as I can.  It’s in those moments that the emotional sunburn heals, and the dictator takes a short break.  It’s in those moments that the chaos rests, and beauty peaks through.  Those moments between the noise are when I feel most like myself – the old me.  And those are the moments I cherish most.  So I guess this is the beautiful part of my chaos.

About Beautifully Polarized

Life is ever changing. God is working in me more everyday. He has blessed me with a husband who is my best friend in every aspect of life, and three children who teach me about life and love everyday. He has blessed me further with friends who help me get through the rough days, and laugh with me on the good days. And, I believe He gave me the best mom a girl could ask for. He has also given me trials so that I can grow into the person He intended me to be. Walking with Him makes life in this world bearable.

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