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The World Is Flat October 17, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Bipolar Disorder, Medication, mental illness.
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It’s an obvious point, but the point of mood stabilizers is to stabilize moods.

What’s not so obvious is the unintended consequences of mood stabilization.  When your mood is stabilized, it makes life flat. Nothing makes you sad, but nothing makes you happy either.  That fact hit me squarely in the face this week when we bought a new house.

While the purpose of the mood stabilizer is to avoid manic or depressive episodes that are so characteristic of bipolar disorder, there is a down side to the medication.

When you get ready to purchase an object of the magnitude of a new home, a normal person goes through various stages of emotion.  The process of finding a home should  be filled with excitement, both good and bad.  Excitement at finding that perfect place to live. Excitement at seeing that perfect house for the first time in person.  Excitement at going through that perfect house for the very first time. Excitement at making the offer, then getting the offer accepted by the seller.  All of these processes elicit a roller-coaster of emotion in the normal person.

But in the medicated, stabilized bipolar person, these emotions are missing. Where there should be trepidation at undertaking such an enormous obligation as a house payment, there is an absence of fear.  There is no thrill of getting a good deal, of finding the perfect place to live. There’s just nothing there. It’s flat.  Neither up nor down.

In the old days before my illness, I would have taken a great amount of interest in the whole house-hunting process. The thought of spending that much money would have sped me into action, to make sure that we got a good deal for our money, to make sure I wanted the house.  But this absence of emotion has had a profound effect on the degree of my involvement in the whole house-hunting process.

When I can’t get excited about the house-hunting process, I can’t get emotionally involved in it either.  I stand apart, waiting for my husband to make all the moves, all the decisions, in this major undertaking.  I watch, like a spectator, rather than as a partner, as he signs us up to the bottom line of a major monetary commitment. It simply doesn’t matter any more.

I miss the old days, when I had the rush of excitement of the hunt.  Looking for the perfect house, excitement at finding a possibility. The thrill of stepping over the threshold of what might prove to be our next home.  Will this be someplace I would want to live? Do I like the house? Love it? Or hate it? How do I feel about it?  How do I feel about the entire process of house-hunting?  About committing the money to purchasing it?

The answer to these questions is: nothing. I have no feelings about any of it.

While the mood stabilizer keeps me on an even keel, able to avoid manic and depressive episodes, it also keeps my life flat.




1. crescendobird - October 18, 2010

Hi. interesting post. I guess we have to take the good with the bad when it comes to mood stabilizers…

2. HB - October 18, 2010

Are you sure that it is the mood stabilizer?

In my personal experience, feeling flat is a sign of a type of mild depression that I get sometimes. It comes and goes, and it is depressing. It is exactly as you described – watching the world go by and not feeling the ups and downs..

I take a mood stabilizer too (lithium orotate) and usually I still get the ups and downs, but they’re not as uncontrollable as they would be without the lithium. The lithium doesn’t block emotion, but just puts it back in a normal range.

I’m just wondering if perhaps you’ve hit a period of depression.


Crazy Mermaid - October 18, 2010

Although I appreciate the point you made, it has been this way since the very first time I started taking mood stabilizers, which in the mental hospital over 2 years ago.

HB - October 18, 2010

Sorry to hear that it has been making you feel this way for so long! I guess how mood stabilizers effect people varies quite a bit. Thanks for the reply.

3. moodybpgirl - November 4, 2010


Obviously I’m way behind on my blogging- both writing my own and reading others’. I saw this post and could really relate. Recently I missed a dose of one of my medications and I spent the better part of two days sobbing my eyes out; but I also couldn’t help but realize I was upset over a major life issue that *should* be hitting me hard. I was symptomatic but also lucid in a way I rarely am. It was really disturbing.

I tend to think the dominant culture rolls its eyes at the flat affect that comes with psych meds, like it’s just an excuse people make to not comply with treatment. But it’s a major sacrifice.

Keep doing what you do. You have a lot of impact in your writing.

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