Hypomania is a less sever version of bipolar mania, but – and let me be crystal clear about this – it still sucks.
Maybe the mood swings aren’t quite as extreme. Maybe I’m not trying to save the entire world in a day. Maybe I can still get out of bed in the morning because I’m not completely crippled by the depressive downturn.
But I’m still dealing with an elevated mood and irritability. I still get annoyed when people hold me back from accomplishing my grandiose and elaborate plans for dinner. I still become extremely distracted – starting multiple tasks at once only to finish none of them.
Take this past Wednesday night for example. I decided it was a good idea to add shrimp to our taco dinner night. Because shrimps are awesome! Shrimp tacos are the bomb! Who doesn’t love shrimp tacos?
I didn’t stop to think about the time it would take to clean and prep the shrimp – or that my husband would be annoyed by all the extra work on a weeknight when he just wanted a simple, easy-to-cook meal.
In fact, I’ve been overbuying at the grocery store quite a bit lately. And overbuying is a symptom of bipolar/hypomania. I tend to buy protein that we don’t need, especially if it’s been reduced for quick sale. …and the shrimp were on sale…
Taco night turned into taco/fajita night with steak, shrimp, and chorizo, peppers and onions, black beans, and Mexican cauliflower “rice.” It was so good! Oh – and homemade salsa, of course. Quite the spread for a Wednesday night.
I’ve managed to keep myself away from the Internet shops, and my credit card balances are thankful for that. I’ve stayed away from shopping at least (besides the grocery store). That doesn’t mean I haven’t been tempted – but I slake my thirst for new things with books on my kindle (I have a free trial to Kindle unlimited).
- Euphoric, elevated, expansive, or irritable mood with increased energy
- Racing thoughts
- Pressured speech (rapid, excessive, frenzied speaking)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Grandiose ideas (for example, false/delusional beliefs of paranoia, superiority, or failure)
- Tangential speech (repeatedly changing conversational topics to ones that are hardly related)
- Restlessness/increased goal-directed activity
- Impulsivity, poor judgment, or engaging in risky activity (like spending sprees, promiscuity, or excess desire for sex)
Now, these symptoms have to last for at least four days before doctors will diagnose you with hypomania or bipolar II. You can’t just have a mood swing or a sudden burst of energy and be diagnosed with bipolar. Because bipolar is more than that.
Bipolar is a daily struggle against the chemistry in our own brains. For me, it’s a constant struggle to find balance. It’s constantly checking myself – constant self awareness. And constant paranoia.
I live on an edge – a knife blade of between. On one side there is depression. On the other side there is mania. And now in this narrow between space I have found hypomania.
A little bit up – a little bit down. Stretched between two desires: the desire to conquer the world and the desire to curl up in a corner and rest.
I am medicated, and I think perhaps the medication is barely keeping my bipolar in check. Because I identify with so many of those symptoms – the lack of need for sleep, the grandiose plans, the racing thoughts, the paranoia, and the poor judgment.
I try to remember that I am human. On my worst days, I try to remember that I have bipolar disorder and that it affects how I view and interact with the world.
I try to remember that I am not all-knowing. That I do not have omniscience. No matter how certain I feel of something, I must always, always check the facts and not run away with my emotions.
Yes, I may be in a hypomanic state right now, but that does not mean I have to act on every impulse. I am self aware enough to recognize the push and pull that goes on in my head.
So I make myself lists. And then I pick three things. If I accomplish those things, I pick three more. And I try not to judge myself for not getting things done. I’m human, after all. And I’m doing the best I can.
And I want you to know, if you identify with these symptoms, if you feel like the chaos in your life is about to overwhelm you (which is how I feel when I get like this) – I want you to know there’s hope.
The answer for me is two-fold: medication (I’m still working with my psychiatrist to figure out the right dosages of various pills) and therapy (anything that brings greater self awareness is a good thing).
The problem with hypomania is that it seems manageable. It really doesn’t seem like anything is wrong. You’re not harming anyone with your peppy, upbeat mood. You’re doing things for other people that bring joy. You’re using all that extra energy to accomplish things that haven’t been done since you were laid up with your last bout of depression.
Hypomania, while not as extreme as bipolar mania, still sucks. Maybe it doesn’t bring harm. Maybe it doesn’t require hospitalization. But it feels like I’m a puppet being pulled around by magnets – launched this way and that into projects I may never complete. Hyper-focused for a little while, and then suddenly completely distracted.