Mood Swings: Living with a Pendulum of Emotions
Last updated: June 2023
In politics they say “the pendulum swings both ways,” just like on an old clock. If you are not sure what a pendulum is, it’s that weighted ball at the end of a long rod that swings left and right, allowing the mechanics of a clock to keep track of time. A pendulum naturally swings just as far to the left as it swings to the right, and it continuously maintains this motion: left, right, left, right, tick, tock, tick, tock.
Anyway, in politics, the pendulum metaphor is used to describe the idea that one party may maintain power for a given amount of time, but because “the pendulum swings both ways,” the other party will eventually gain and hold power.
Well, it often feels that way with the emotional roller coaster of multiple sclerosis (MS). Even when nothing good or bad is happening in life to warrant the sudden changing of emotions, one minute you may be happy, and the next minute your emotional pendulum may swing the other way, and you may be sad.
My mood swings with MS
But already, we have hit two significant problems with using this analogy to describe the assortment of emotions that MS can cause. First of all, there are more than two emotions to swing between (again, a pendulum only swings left and right). We can be happy, sad, angry, irritated, depressed, motivated, bored, etc. Secondly, there really isn’t a pattern when it comes to mood swings. They are often erratic and unpredictable, unlike the repetitive path of a pendulum.
I instead imagine my mood swings like a pendulum that can swing in every direction possible rather than just left and right. One minute I am happy, and the next minute I am sad, but rather than swinging back to happy, I may become angry or maybe depressed. You could, of course, find a logical path between all these emotions that would explain why you made it from one to the other, but from my perspective? There really doesn’t seem to be any logic to it whatsoever.
I can feel my emotions start to bubble up
Without any apparent rhyme or reason, I will wake up feeling one way and go to bed feeling another. Sometimes, I will even actually be aware of this seemingly random change in my emotional state; I’ll be sitting there in such a great mood when all of a sudden I’ll start to notice that my emotions are starting to slowly bubble up like a boiling pot of water. I can literally feel something happening. Something changing.
And just like that, out of nowhere, I will become incredibly irritable, and every stupid little thing will make me lose my cool. Being aware of this random change only makes it worse (in the moment) because all I can ask myself is, “Why do I feel this way? There is no reason for me feeling the way I do! It makes no sense!”
Another frustrating symptom of MS
I don’t know enough about mood swings to try to teach you anything about them; I have never even really researched them at all. I just know they can happen with MS.1 It always just sort of made sense to me, because MS is basically messing with the pathways in our brains, and from what I have gathered over the years, our brains seem to have some sort of mysterious connection to our emotions. Did my sarcasm make it through on that one?
Anyway, all I am trying to do here is explain to you what it feels like to me. It’s another frustrating aspect in my life with MS. To feel such a wide array of emotions but not always know why I am feeling them. To me? It’s just one more tool that MS has to make me feel powerless.
I have learned to deal with mood swings better
Now, I know what you are probably thinking and of course, I am on medication, and yeah, I have even spoken to a therapist. After all that I have done, it’s definitely much better today than it was 5 years ago. That's not because the mood swings occur less often, but because I have learned to spot them and deal with them better.
I guess it’s like they say: you may not be able to control all the things that happen to you in life, but you can control how you react to those things. I may not be able to fully control my mood swings, but I can control how I react to them, which hopefully helps mitigate the impact they have on my life.
Do you experience mood swings? How do you manage them? Share below!
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