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Why My Hypomania Is Awesome and Terrible at the Same Time

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I have lived most of my life in a continuous hypomanic state with occasional major depressive episodes usually related to a major hormonal event — onset of menses, childbirth and a hysterectomy. I have also, on rare occasion, moved into fully manic states. Until diagnosis, and after a psychiatric admission, I thought I was “normal” — just overly motivated and productive. I was intolerant of “normal” production from my colleagues although I was sought after for many projects when working. When I left one job for another, the party theme was the Tasmanian Devil… at the time I did not understand the reason for this “humorous” send off.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

When functionally hypomanic, you definitely want me around. I can get a lot done. I am both wildly creative with pyrography and rug hooking and overly proud of my creative output; posting to Facebook every little piece is an example of the “pride” overflow. I am also very functional as a volunteer and sought after in my small community for my areas of professional expertise — fundraising, promotion and community engagement. When functionally hypomanic, I can manage my family life, volunteer commitments and pet care.

Unfortunately, like many with a love of their hypomanic state, it always ends up out of control on either end — fully manic or terribly depressed. My husband serves as a constant caregiver and arbiter of the severity of my mood swings — he can usually reel me back in and when he can’t, our doctor is a critical player in assisting us with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication modification.

I do not recognize when I am moving into dysfunction in social settings and have recruited several close friends to help me identify when I need additional support. I have been diagnosed for about seven years and spent the first three fully dysfunctional — my parents moved in to help with my care and suicide prevention so my husband could work. My son, now 16, keeps my meds schedule on his phone to be my back up in case I “forget,” which I often do.

I feel terrible that I need this active and engaged support network but recognize it’s essential to my survival. Without the feedback and loving support, I can easily become suicidal again.

My bipolar disorder is coupled with occasional but severe social anxiety resulting in physical illness at public events, and I often “escape” at inopportune moments and run home to hide until the anxiety lifts. Medication helps with this but it is very easy to overdose and be heavily sedated.

When manic, I am almost completely insensitive to the emotional states of others in my world and feel that “if they would only do as I say,” all would be well. My friends will now immediately clue me in if I am acting this way and it’s hard to shift gears, so I usually just go home and seek appropriate support from my doctor. We have developed private signals that alert me when I am stepping over the line of kindness and supportive actions.

All this being said, I love hypomania. I love the creativity, I love the productivity. I love the kudos and warmth that come my way for my accomplishments.

I also hate hypomania because it is a harbinger of much worse times to come. It is inevitable that I will crash or fly.

I realize how incredibly lucky I am to enjoy hypomania and to also have the active engaged support network to alert me of “out of control” episodes.

Hypomania is my love and my worst enemy. Like many with bipolar disorder, the “normal” is rare and not much fun. I have a lot of other coping mechanisms including worry stones, calming essential oils, a special pet that serves as an unofficial therapy dog, and of course sleep. I generally can sleep seven hours regardless of my state and that is a gift I don’t take lightly. My weight varies considerably during episodes so I have a three-size wardrobe, depending on what side of the illness is affecting my eating patterns.

I hide a lot. I produce a lot. I am bipolar. I will survive as a functional person because I admit the range of issues to those closest to me and accept their support. This was not an easy life process to craft and I still “hate” living with bipolar. I also have learned to be kind to myself and stay away from dysfunctional self-blame. I have an illness. I am not that illness. I am consciously designing the right structure for a functional life and it’s a lot of work. It’s worth it. I’m here. I’m mostly happy. I am kinder and gentler with everyone, most of the time.

I have bipolar disorder and I will be functional. I owe that to myself and to everyone who loves me.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Originally published: December 13, 2018
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