Friday, October 08, 2004

Mood Swings

On page 61 of Buddhism Without Belief Batchelor wrote:
"We spend much of our time either slightly hyper or slightly depressed." It may be a near universal condition.

My mother was a manic depressive (they call it bipolar now, I think); I got most of my genes from her. As a youth my mood swings were profound: moments of ecstatic thought puntuated by long periods of dullness.

A transcendental moment came to me at 23 when my ship put into Santos, Brazil; I met a bunch of really fine, highly cultured young people. Surprisingly they treated me like I was a Hollywood type. (It turned out they were crazy about all Americans. I asked one of the nicest girls why that was; she had a very simple answer: "they're not malicioso.")

I told another one about my mood swings and said that I wished I could even out the mountain top and valley experiences; she said, oh, no; you have to conquer the mountain top.

When we left port, and the excitement ran out, I descended into a grim mood, with traces of free floating anxiety.

Well the mood swings continued for the first half of my life. It wasn't until I left the parish ministry, filling the bishop's appointment to the courts, and I had to show up in an office at 8 every morning, that things changed. The moods began to even out.

Now, at an advanced age I find the transcendent moments returning, and praise God, there's fairly little payback.

Another antidote to mood swings is ageing. At a certain age one can no long afford the excess energy that those high moments bring. One keeps one's cool.

The best antidote is to love: love yourself, love people, love God. When you do that, it makes you feel SO GOOD.

May everyone have that experience-- soon!


Marjorie said...

I was pondering this post and was greeted with such an insight and joy -- thank you!

Anne Zelenka said...

I can relate... I once told my mom, "I think if I could get rid of my super-energetic moods I could also get rid of my terrible moods. I just need to even myself out." She thought I was crazy, but then I got my bipolar personality type from my dad, so she really couldn't understand.

Part of my fascination with Buddhism and meditation is the promise of meeting each moment with bare attention, not grasping too hard with enthusiasm or turning away out of pessimism and negativity.

I find it hard to grasp how love could solve this problem and I find it even harder to imagine putting it into practice. Seems so amorphous. But I am aging even as we speak, so for now I'll have to rely on that!

Marjorie said...

Mood swings are interesting -- I keep thinking my lows aren't all that low, I can feel a bit blue, but never really depressed. Also, I sort of appreciate that my lows compensate for my highs. One of the things I like most about my personality is that I think I'm an enthusiastic person. I wouldn't want to dampen that to get rid of the lows. The lows also help me be humble.

Larry said...

Barely, to go back once again to my experience: I asked God for love, and got it. For the next 6 months it seemed like I could ask for anything, and it happened. Call it a honeymoon. I don't recall asking God to put an end to my mood swings, but I expect I would have gotten an immediate answer.

Now I have to say that if I had asked that prayer, I might soon have been sorry. I did have that experience. I asked for something, and it began happening, and I immediately said, "Oh, no, God, I didn't mean it.

Your mood swings are a gift, although they may seem to be a curse. Few people are privileged to those exalted moments. As my Brazilian friend say, "no, don't even them out; conquer the mountain tops." And she was right, although it was about ten years later. I can't help thinking that if I had asked, it would have happened sooner.

Try prayer, my dear friend. We are praying for you.

Marjorie said...

This reminds me of conversations I've had (with Barely, perhaps) about geniuses and artists. What if Van Gogh had evened-out his mood swings? We wouldn't have his beautiful paintings. Of course, the flip side is that if he was suffering, isn't it selfish of me to want his paintings if medication would have helped him?