Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘average’

Feeling Better Than Average

I was chatting online with a friend the other day and asked how she was doing. Knowing that we both suffered from depression and complicated lives, I didn’t expect a throwaway answer like “fine.”

What she said was, “better than average.” She didn’t have time to say more because she was in the waiting room for her therapy appointment. I would say that I have been better than average lately, too.

But it all depends on what “average” means, doesn’t it? For me, an average day (or week or perhaps even month) means I don’t have extreme depression or hypomania, don’t leave my house but can if I have to, and am able to work on my writing. To an “average” person – if there is such a thing – it may not sound like much, but it is my baseline, my average. Better than average means that I have intentionally gotten dressed in something other than pajamas and gone somewhere, have a handle on our finances, and made a lot of progress on my writing. Today, I would say, is an average day. Not great, not awful, but average.

Average is a good place for me to be. It means I’m fairly stable, not troubled overly by symptoms of my bipolar disorder. Better than average is okay, too, though it makes me more wary of whether I may be going over the edge into hypomania. Any better than “better than average” and I know I’m in its grip. “Below average” translates to “low” for me, and means that I’m on the lookout for depression to descend.

My friend, though, has been having an average year that would not be average for me. Her baseline is a lot lower than mine, with several years of family and financial crises, career reverses, and severe depression. Occasionally, she has been even lower than just below average. So, to hear her say that life has been above average of late is encouraging but not necessarily terrific. I hear her “better than average” as saying, “not as bad as usual” – though still not good.

She doesn’t have bipolar disorder, but I can’t remember a time when she was truly better than average by any reasonable definition, at least not in the last ten years or maybe longer. It’s one of those situations in which all I can do for her is listen if she wants to talk. So to hear her admit that she feels better than average seems like something to be celebrated, even though I fear that it is illusory and bound not to last.

I’ll be interested to hear the next time we talk what made her feel above average and whether it has lasted. Was it a momentary improvement in one of her many difficulties? Was it something her therapist can help her maintain? Has her dopamine or serotonin or whatever kicked in? Has her baseline truly gotten better? Or will I see a retreat to her normal below-average (or worse) baseline?

I can’t help feeling that it’s too soon to celebrate. But I do so want it to be real and to celebrate with her. Even if the improvement is only temporary, I know how good that feels and the hope it gives. And I wish that for her. I hope the next time she’s in touch with me, she still feels at least better than average.

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