January 16

“You’re Just Temporarily Insane.”

January 16, 2013

Stress Management

Cindy called and described feeling depressed, irritable, and hopeless. And she was severely beating herself up that she couldn't just rise above these feelings by force of will. Earlier that day she had called a couple of friends, but she didn't feel any better.

After looking at the notes of my past conversations with her, I asked, "Are your menstrual periods fairly regular?"

She paused in surprise and answered, "Yes, why?"

"I just looked at my notes, and I can see that previously you expressed feelings exactly like the ones you're telling me today, and you felt this way 30 days ago and 60 days ago. Not a coincidence, I think."

"I never noticed that."

"Sweetie, you're just temporarily insane. You can't help it. So while you're like this, just relax. We've almost certainly identified the problem, and it's likely there isn't much you can do about it. If it's severe every month and makes your life unbearable, you might see your doctor to learn whether there's something you can do medically to lessen your symptoms. But most important is to know that you're just nuts, so you can quit fighting it and simply accept it. It can be quite a relief to let go of your expectations that you should be able to suddenly make yourself happy right now. You could still call people who love you, though, and see if it feels any better to be accepted by them while you're crazy."

"I'm beginning to feel better already."

"I'm not trying to give you an excuse for feeling bad or behaving badly, just giving you more information, so you don't feel worse for being a bad person when you feel irritable and faithless."

"That's exactly how I feel."

I can't count the number of times I have helped women to recognize significant PMS (pre menstrual syndrome). Why wouldn't they notice it themselves? Because when PMS is severe enough, the hormonal levels literally poison the brain and make the individual sufficiently impaired that she can't recognize HOW impaired she is. Nor can she identify the cause. Nothing external appears to be different, so she blames herself and tries to climb out of her hole with two broken legs. People with hormone poisoning have difficulty thinking rationally about anything, much less analyzing their own impairment—in much the same way that people who are drunk are impaired on multiple levels.

We all have times when we just feel bad for no apparent reason: we feel sick and depleted before we recognize that we have a cold or the flu, old and negative feelings overwhelm us out of nowhere, and so on. If we feel bad for a day or so, we don't always have to FIX it. Sometimes it's better just to relax and let it happen. Certainly, being around loving people either in person or by phone is a good idea. Or we might meditate or pray. But sometimes nothing works, and we need to remember that our misery is not likely to last forever. Storms always come to an end, and the sun comes out again.

If unhappiness lasts for more than a couple of days, we might get more serious about finding a cause. We might spend more time with wise men and women, for example, but in the short term, we don't have to fuss about every deviation from complete rationality and happiness.

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