The Darker Side of Hypomania

The “ups” of bipolar disorder are typically referred to as hypomania or mania. Mania can be so severe it requires hospitalization or involves hallucinations and/or delusions. A diagnosis of bipolar I means a person has had at least one fully manic episode. In bipolar II, one only experiences hypomania, not mania. I have type II, which means my “highs” of bipolar disorder involve hypomanic episodes. I don’t speak for everyone with the disorder, but here’s what this is like for me:

There seems to be a misconception that hypomania is a very positive thing, and in some ways it can be. I’m happier when I’m in a hypomanic episode. I feel like I’m walking on air, like nothing could ever go wrong. I feel productive, and I want to accomplish everything ever in one sitting. I feel really good.

But there’s another, darker side to hypomania. That’s the intense, anxious energy I feel throughout my body. The jumping from task to task, never really being able to focus on or complete any one project. It’s being filled with lots of great ideas, but accomplishing nothing.

It’s drinking a cup of coffee and then feeling like I could run a marathon with the blood pumping through my veins. Couple this with intense anxiety, and imagine trying to sit still during a class to learn.

It’s the fear of waiting for a crash to come, knowing the high won’t last forever. Knowing a depressive episode is waiting right around the corner.

It’s being emotion-charged 24/7. It’s crying during a church service because you just feel too much all the time.

It’s the constant need to be around people. It’s talking up a storm, not letting anyone get a word in edgewise. It’s tripping over your words because your brain is thinking too fast for you to speak.

While hypomania or mania may seem like joyous highs, there are a lot of challenges that come with them, too. Everyone’s experience is different, but no one chooses to have a mental illness. Mania is just one more thing I have to learn to live with.

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