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How This Real-Life Example Illustrates a Hypomanic Spiral

“Aren’t you happy when you’re hypomanic?”

I hear this often and of course the answer is, “no.” Sure, it feels good having that burst of energy that will last for who knows how long. However, and it’s a biggie: I have learned through experience that the roller coaster must come down, hard and fast without warning. The problem is always the timing. If it were a power we could harness, it would be awesome.

I work in a creative field for a living. Through treatment and coping skills, I have learned how to temper the bursts of hypomania and prepare for the inevitable drop. Timing can really suck though as those of us who experience this know. What to do then when it just happens when I’m being productive?

Here is an example to illustrate an actual spiral that happened to me. I am sharing this in the hope that those who are not plagued by this disorder can understand an aspect of it that really is one of the worst.

I was doing a podcast for a friend and my co-presenter’s name was Brittney. We had spent about five hours together between prep work and the actual recording when I hit the top of the roller coaster and teetered on the top. I accidentally called her, “Whitney.” Oh no, what was I thinking? How could I make this blunder after spending all day with her? Quick — word association, I thought. I won’t screw this up again. Brittney; easy one, Spears! Over the top the coaster rolled, plummeting towards the earth.

“Spears, spear a fish, fish sandwiches, VFW has the best. I went there since childhood with my Uncle Mikey. I’d rather eat them there because of the musty odors. They add to the ambiance, the stale beer and cigarette smell in the old carpet around the bar. Remember when you could smoke in bars? How long ago was that? What was I trying to remember?” All these thoughts crisscrossed and whipped through my mind faster than you can read them. What now?

I sat there numb. Where was I? I had to press myself hard to get back into the here and now. Doing the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” exercise, I was briefly grounded — grounded enough to place myself in the present. Oh no, how was I going to get home? I absolutely HATE driving in this condition; the cars seem to be coming too fast on the right and left. Ugh, this bites.

Eventually, I settled down enough to get home. Since then, I have taken the example of so many here on The Mighty and created a mental health first aid kit for situations like this. Other than my motivational quote journal, coconut lime gum, mix CD and meds list, my go-to grounder has become Legos. I always have a small Lego kit in my pack, preferably superheroes. I find them to be the best thing to help force my focus down through hand-eye coordination and dealing with the little pieces. Being a goal-driven person, it’s also cool to have a completed thing when I’m done. In that case, I am happy.

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Photo by Jake Hinds on Unsplash