Let me explain. My brother, who is 4 years older than me, started doing drugs when he was around 12 years old. He eventually progressed to his main addiction: amphetamines, in addition to other drugs. He is still in recovery from addiction.
As you can imagine, it didn't make for a very stable home environment for me. Throughout that whole time, I was unconsciously soaking in that energy at home, and over the course of a few years I gradually developed symptoms of a mental disorder. When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, type 2, rapid cycler, with panic attacks and melancholic depression.
At the point when I got diagnosed, I had the following symptoms.
For about 1 week:
- Barely slept 4 hours a night and felt amazing.
- Extreme joy flowing through my body at all times, where I felt completely high and one with the universe (I have never felt that level of joy since).
- Extremely high libido
- Extremely outgoing
- Had racing thoughts and would talk a mile-a-minute
- I felt extremely psychic, and could predict the next two sentences out of your mouth, word for word.
Then something completely random would trigger a panic attack that would then immediately bring on about 2 weeks of:
- Deep depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
- Falling asleep everywhere, all the time
- Going to bed crying, waking up crying
- Intense feelings of hate towards those around me
- Foul olfactory hallucinations
After two weeks of deep depression, I would gradually go into a more melancholic depressive state (a lighter depression). Then I would feel slightly normal again for maybe a week, until I was back to a week of hypomania and it would all start again.
After my diagnosis, I went to a couple psychics to see what they thought about it and if there was any way for me to heal. Both of them told me that they couldn't "see" that I was bipolar or mentally ill. All they could see was that I was sensitive. I left those sessions feeling kind of bummed out, honestly, because I thought they meant that I was "sensitive" as in emotionally over-reactive. Looking back, I can see what they actually meant was that I was "sensitive" as in sensitive to energy. I think that if only I had realized it then what they actually meant, it would have made my path a whole lot easier.
But as it was, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. And in a sense, that was true. My psychiatrist prescribed me lamictal, a mood stabilizing medication. If we say that my worst hypomania was at a +10, and my worst depression was at a -10, and a normal mood is at a 0, then the medications put me at a constant -6. I hated it. In addition to feeling constantly numb, the meds also made me partially dyslexic and sometimes unable to recognize my own language when it was spoken. The side-effects were less than practical, especially seeing as how I was in my last year of high school.
- I drastically reduced the amount of stress in my life (I went from a high-pressure high school to a very laid back 3-days/week art school)
- I moved out from home (I was at the right age anyway, but it was a huge help to me, energetically)
- I began doing some cognitive behavioral self therapy (Essentially out-smarting your negative thoughts. This was also hugely helpful)
- I made sure to keep regular hours for sleep
- I made sure to supplement with omega 3s (to help brain function mainly, and helping my neurotransmitters communicate properly)
My current understanding of what happened to me when I developed my symptoms is that I had been soaking in all of that imbalanced energy of my brother and all the effects his drug-addiction had in our lives. Because I didn't realize I was taking in all that energy, without any way of getting rid of it from myself, it gradually manifested in bipolar symptoms for me. Bipolar disorder is actually very similar to the cycles of mania/depression that one can go through when addicted to methamphetamine.
What I was doing was being what I believe many of us are: an empath. This is what we call someone who feels other people's emotions and physical issues as if it was their own. We will often do this completely unconsciously. For example, you might walk into a room, and begin to feel irritated and short tempered for no reason, without knowing that another person in the room is seriously irritated at their boss over something. Or as you start talking to a co-worker, you notice an ache in your lower back that wasn't there before, without realizing that your co-worker has serious back issues. We are unaware that we're doing it, so we assume it's our own because it feels just like our own.
I think of it as our intuitive bodies picking up on anything unusual or out of balance in our surroundings, in order to warn us about it (just in case it's something to worry about). In addition to the list above of things that helped, I eventually also started meditating more. I got to know my own energy better, and did various energy work to keep it clear.
Through meditation I also learned to discern between my own energy and everyone else's. Now, one of my favorite sayings is "Not my circus, not my monkeys", and I use it as a daily mantra to reminder myself that it isn't my job to take on other people's energy. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned from drug addiction affecting one of my own family members is that you can't fix their problems. They have to do the work themselves, and they have to want to do it. And the same goes for everyone. You are only ever responsible for your own energy. Not everyone else's.
Along with that, I also learned to have stronger boundaries. I see this with a lot of people who are very empathic, is that we tend to be quite wishy-washy with our boundaries and what we're OK with that other people do to us. As a result, we are wishy-washy with the energy we allow in too. It took a while for me to sift through my ideas of self-worth, but I eventually got a stronger sense of boundaries (still a work in progress though).
Thankfully, I no longer have my bipolar symptoms. I managed to slowly work myself out of it, but it took quite a few years to be completely rid of. I do still find myself affected by other people's energy, but that just comes with being sensitive. I am particularly tuned in to my husband's moods and energy, as I am sure many spouses can relate to. But now I am much more aware of it. I know how to deal with it. From experience, I can assume that most of the out-of-place moods and feelings I experience are not actually mine, but someone else's. And then I can take steps to deal with that. Sometimes that also means removing myself physically from a person's presence. Other times it's just reminding myself that it's not my circus, and not my monkeys.