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What I Learned After My First Hypomanic Episode


Bipolar II is no walk in the park. My depressive episodes started in high school and overwhelmed me. I had diagnosed myself with depression by the time I was a junior because most of the time I was depressed, but I had brief periods of time where things unexplainably felt OK. Looking back, I realize these were the seeds of hypomania, but I could not recognize it because my brain was not fully developed yet.

Earlier this year, I had my first true hypomanic episode, and it knocked the wind out of me. I felt like a rocket inside my skin, dying to break free. I was loud and chattering all the time. Everything I did, I did with 200 percent of my energy. I was even more fidgety than normal. My brain moved fast, so fast I had trouble sleeping or focusing.

I started calling these bouts of energy “energy swings” because while I was up most of the time, I would tire out eventually and come crashing down. I would be exhausted and depressed again for a day before I was up again. I was scaring my therapist, so she forced me to make an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist.

At first, I figured it was just a side effect of the medicine I was taking for my depression. I thought I just needed to switch to another antidepressant and the energy swings would go away. What I wasn’t expecting was to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given an antipsychotic.

The antipsychotic, used to treat my hypomanic symptoms, acted as a mood stabilizer. When I’m up, it keeps me from getting too far up. When I first started taking it, I spent a week on a hypomanic cleaning spree. I was full of life, happy and medicated. Finally, the hypomanic energy was under my control, so I could use it for something productive.

Since then, I have had more hypomanic episodes, not all of which have been pleasant like I once thought. I’m grateful my mood stabilizer works, because going too high on the manic scale isn’t as fun as one may think. Before I saw my psychiatrist, I looked like I was having fun, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to calm down, but I couldn’t.

Sometimes hypomania is ecstatic energy. But sometimes it is sky high irritability and a short temper. Sometimes it’s rash and impulsive decisions. Sometimes I can sleep. Sometimes I can’t. Each episode is different, and I never know what my bipolar disorder will throw at me next.

I’ve learned to appreciate the “happy hypomanias.” On those days, I love life to its fullest. But I know when I’m too high up and I’m learning how to bring myself back down so that it does not become my undoing. I never let my guard down when I’m hypomanic, even when I am happy because I know it could turn south incredibly fast.

Hypomania doesn’t control me anymore. I’ve learned to channel the energy I feel. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s a battle, but it’s one worth fighting.

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Thinkstock photo via Rachel_Web_Design