The uninformed public may believe that people with bipolar disorder are volatile constantly, swinging between mania and depression, but this mischaracterizes our actual lived experience. In fact, those of us who have received a correct diagnose and are following a treatment plan experience a stable mood known as euthymia. Stemming from the Greek word for good spirits or good mood, euthymia is a stable mental state in which a person with bipolar disorder is neither manic nor depressed.
I know I am experiencing euthymia when my days are unremarkable. I don’t experience extreme emotions or pronounced dips or elevation in energy levels. The highs and lows are subtle. I feel positive emotions like joy and excitement, but they are fleeting unlike the continuous pep and perkiness of hypomania. I can experience sadness and disappointment, but the feelings pass in contrast to the unspecified end date of the sagas of depression. When I’m euthymic I don’t bounce out of bed in the morning like I do when (hypo)manic, but I can lift my head off the pillow with more ease than during depression. Although I don’t have the same level of productivity as I do during hypomania, life is generally more manageable and I make better decisions.
I’m in a euthymic state when (at the very least) the meds are working and I’m sleeping, but certain triggers can definitely throw me off. To name a few — stress, (re-)experiencing trauma, keeping bad company, and failing to eat well or exercise compromise my stability. There are some shifts in mood that are simply unexplainable. I am still trying to figure out what triggered the mini-depressive episode I just came out of (discussed in my last blog post).
When I experience a slight shift away from center in either the direction of depression or hypomania, I usually ride out the symptoms like a cold until I return to baseline. If I plunge further away from stability, it’s time for an intervention — usually self-care and adjusting my meds. It’s only when I have gone off my medication or have been under-medicated that I am at risk of going completely off the rails requiring family intervention and hospitalization.
Stability is not an exact science because there is no cure for bipolar. For now, euthymia is about as good as it’s gonna get!
How do you experience euthymia? I’d love to know.
Stacked rocks in the shape of a balanced scale against the backdrop of a sunny beach and clear blue sky.