I had just had a brief exchange with a coworker who recently experienced a terrible loss. The exchange itself had not been particularly deep – she was showing me a meditation passage on loss that was meaning a lot to her. But then every exchange with her on this topic is feeling very deep – and this little conversation gave me goosebumps.
Then I had to pull away to wait on a customer. I initiated my usual exchange with “What’s been a highlight of your day?” I honestly don’t remember Jill’s reply, but when she asked the question back of me, I related what had just gone on with “a coworker”. I ended by saying “It gave me goosebumps…and now, telling you about it, I’ve got goosebumps again. I’m really feeling it – and feeling so deeply is a highlight for me.”
Jill said “That’s what we’re here for, is to feel things. We’re not here to be up in the clouds.” This felt right on the money, and I felt very seen.
Bipolar disorder can facilitate the feeling of feelings – and can impede it. When I’m a little bit speedy, I tend to feel things intensely, I am touched by the feelings and situations of others and am moved easily to tears. I can also be deeply touched by joy or beauty or love. Similarly, when I am just a little bit depressed, I can feel things strongly – especially sadness or loss or pain.
When I get too speedy, I get way up in my head and don’t feel my feelings – except for anger, which comes more easily. When I am too depressed, I also get into my head – ruminating over what I have done wrong or how screwed up everything is. I get frozen as a defense against the pain.
Moving towards other people can be an antidote to the isolation of mania or depression – or of human life in general. This includes really showing up when a coworker is sharing her pain, even when the content is a little heady, It includes being grateful for feeling feelings, even feelings that include a sense of vulnerability. It includes opening up to the comments of customers – to let them be teachers to me.