5 Things I Wish the Psychologist Who Told Me 'Hypomania Is Great' Knew
I used to be involved with mental health research at a fantastic institution and, for the most part, it was an incredible experience and I am very honored to have been a part of it. But one circumstance I can’t seem to take my mind. I chalked it up to oversensitivity. I chalked it up to intolerance on my part. I chalked it up to the old, “I’m not as educated as you so you must be right.”
And now I realize, I am not the one in the wrong.
What happened was this: I was in a meeting and one of the team members, a psychologist with a Ph.D. and post-doctorate said, quite boldly, “Hypomania is great because you can get so much done.”
To the individual who said that, and to anyone else who believes that to be true, this is for you.
Despite years of education, the research, the painstaking tenacity it takes to become a doctor of psychology, I believe a statement like that is uninformed and ignorant. And quite frankly, harmful. And I will tell you exactly why, from my own lived experience.
1. Hypomania is harmful to my loved ones.
When I am in the midst of hypomania, I am moving at a million miles a minute. I am on go, go, go mode. I need to move. I am like a
shark — if I stop moving, I will die. If I stop doing, I will sink into a vibrating mess of anxiety. And I can’t do it alone. I will drag my loved ones along with me, demanding why they can’t keep up. I will say rude things, cruel things, I will think my loved ones simply don’t care. I will truly believe I am the only one who can get anything done. And I isolate myself in my urgency. I will go until I collapse and then leave my loved ones to pick up the pieces.
2. Hypomania makes me angry.
I experience a lot of anger when in the midst of hypomania. I am jittery. I snap at everything. Small noises startle me and I feel the originator of those noises is purposefully trying to make me angry. My personal bubble expands to the size of a banquet hall and only I can enter this space. I have absolutely no compunction in saying vile and provoking things to anyone who dares enter my space. And worst of all, I am horrid to my husband.
3. Hypomania makes me feel anxiety.
I am a natural worrier even without any mental illness. But when in the midst of a hypomanic episode, my anxiety takes on physical manifestation. My limbs ache, my stomach churns, my fingers tingle and go numb. And I feel like every single day that goes by in my life is one day closer to the end of it all and what the hell have I done in the meantime? What have I done with my life? Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! Do you see how harmful that is? I forget to live in the moment because right now, in the moment, I can’t stop thinking of how horrible this moment actually is.
4. I forget to eat and sleep evades me.
This might be one of the worst parts of hypomania for me because my body is sensitive to sleep deprivation and malnutrition. I am very careful about what I put in my body — no added sugar, lots of leafy greens, healthy proteins and complex carbohydrates. I keep a tally in my head of my exercise, hours of quality sleep and when I last consumed a good 8 ounces of water. And then hypomania hits and that all goes to the crapper. And I end up, for days on end, sleeping maybe three or four solid hours a night. This leaves me even more irritable, angry and filled with anxiety. And then the next night will come along and I will worry about how much sleep I need and then in my worry to sleep, I cannot sleep. So the cycle continues. And during the day, I will wear myself out, not because I want to, but because I am a shark and absolutely cannot stay still.
5. Hypomania does not help me “get so much done.”
Here is where you are most wrong about how much I can accomplish while experiencing hypomania. I simply cannot “get so much done.” I can start a task, feel like I am not doing enough, feel like that task is not worthy of my time, leave that task, only to start another. And another. And another. And sometimes, even when I am experiencing hypomania, the anxiety, irritability and anger that hypomania brings can easily freeze me into a state of complete overwhelming panic that I won’t feel the breath going into my lungs — I won’t feel the air permeating my limbs. I won’t be able to control myself. I will gasp for breath, feeling crushing pain in my chest. My feet and hands will go numb, I won’t recognize anything around me and I will collapse into a full-blown terror-filled panic attack. And when I can feel the air again, I will break down into tears. I will sob for hours. I will wish I was dead because I simply can’t imagine a lifetime of this. And then I will have to spend the day in bed, curtains drawn, because my body is too exhausted to do anything else. My husband will have to cancel his clients because I can’t be alone. He will remind me of our memories traveling, of that amazing day in Florence, when we experienced country life in Belize. That time we got sick in Cuba and laugh about it now. And he will tell me I have to keep fighting because there are so many other countries to explore. Together.
So do you see? Do you see how incredibly wrong you are? I hope you do and I sincerely hope you will make informing yourself, learning from your mistakes and listening to lived experiences integral to your career.
Every coin has two sides. Think about it.
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Thinkstock photo via vadimguzhva.