09/23/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2014

You're So Dramatic!


If I had a penny for every time someone said I was dramatic, I would be rich. I could pay off my medical bills and might even get a role in a broadway musical after I use the money to get plastic surgery. The problem is, I don't think I'm dramatic. And when someone calls me dramatic, I'm dramatic about telling them I'm not dramatic.

I have bipolar disorder. One of the ways I experience the disease is that I believe that I feel emotions stronger than other people. For me, that feeling is very real. It does not mean I am less of a person or that I need to adjust, it is just how I experience life.

Sometimes, my reactions to things can also be as a result of the medication I am taking. I need my medication, but sometimes the timing of taking it isn't ideal. It goes something like this:

So the people in my life end up offending me without realizing it. In their eyes, they believe they are accurately describing my response to life events. In my eyes, it is how I see and feel the world around me.

The interesting thing is that the same people that complain about my "drama" are the same ones that enjoy having me around when I'm the "life of the party" or when they want someone to be compassionate towards their situation. Because I feel with more intensity, this is beneficial in certain circumstances. What is frustrating is that people want you to flip a switch in your brain and turn off this ability to feel more strongly when it is inconvenient for them.

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) in the United States says this:

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called 'mood episodes.'

Each person with the disease experiences it in a different way and for me, I am always experiencing emotions in a more intense way than the people around me without a diagnosis. The intensity will just lean towards depression or mania. But there is always intensity. Inside of myself, I don't believe it to be intense because it is how I know the world. But after more than 20 years of having this diagnosis, I have come to the conclusion that other people view the way I see the world as intense.

I write this post in hopes that people realize I am not being dramatic. Merriam-Webster defines the word like this:

sudden and extreme, greatly affecting people's emotions, attracting attention

The problem with using the word dramatic to describe my own expression of emotion is that I am not intentionally seeking out to attract attention. And although it may seem to be sudden and extreme to you, it is not to me. I have been consistently feeling emotions in an intense way for 35 years of my life. So it may be a jolt to you, but to me it is what it is like to live inside my brain every day. It's exhausting.