Hypomania

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    Writing While Bipolar

    One of the writing groups I belong to just posted a question: Where do you want to be this time next year?

    Honestly, I had to answer that I wanted to be exactly where I am today. Then I started thinking. Does this mean I am complacent? Don’t I have any ambition? Is my writing stagnating?

    Well, maybe. On the other hand, I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I’m enjoying it. Every week, I may do the same things, but they’re fulfilling things. It’s been a long road getting here, and my bipolar disorder has set me back at times, but I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

    It’s a bitch trying to have any kind of career with bipolar, but I’ve had several. They haven’t all been in the creative area, but many have been. I used to be a poet, but no one ever made any money at poetry except for Rod McKuen and Helen Steiner Rice, and I didn’t want to be either of them. I haven’t written any poetry in years, except for a couple of haiku and sonnets about bipolar disorder.

    At one point in my life, I had a job at an advertising agency. When I was let go from that, I applied for similar jobs. Then one day, I asked myself whether I would rather be writing about table saws or about books and ideas. The answer was painfully clear. I went back to school for another degree in English, with no idea what I would – or could – do after I finished.

    The day after I graduated, though, I got a job as an assistant editor at a magazine publisher. It was a small place, so in addition to editing, I had to do a lot of writing. It was good for me. But after about 17 years, I was let go, largely because I had become reclusive and unreliable. I lost the editing job that came after that one, for similar reasons. Actually, I quit it, with dreams of a career as a freelancer. I was sailing on the dream of making my own hours, publishing what I wanted to write, and being a great success.

    Guess what? That was hypomania talking. And when I came down, I hadn’t become a success. I crashed hard. For several years, I sank into a deep depression, perhaps the worst and certainly the longest-lasting I ever had. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even summon the focus to read.

    At last, my psychiatrist and I found a cocktail of meds that worked for me and brought me back to life. I started writing again, starting with my two blogs, this one and another one for non-bipolar topics. They were a labor of love, which means I didn’t make any money at it.

    After a couple years of that, I realized that I had enough material for a book about bipolar disorder. I found a small, semi-indie publisher that specialized in mental health books. They published two collections of my blog posts, Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us. I got a few 5-star reviews on Amazon, but neither one of them sold. While I was finishing the second book, the publishing company went belly-up, under inauspicious circumstances. I couldn’t face going back to querying publishers, so I retreated to just writing blog posts. (I now have enough material for a third book, which I would call Bipolar World, but I haven’t pursued it.)

    Hypomania struck again, and I wrote a murder mystery with a bipolar main character. I sent it to over 100 agents and got only rejections. When I came down this time, I realized that the book was deeply flawed and that I had rushed into trying to sell it when I hadn’t written or self-edited well.

    Then, last year, I found a side gig ghostwriting to supplement my Social Security. It took off, and now I am working steadily at it, writing mostly self-help books. I’m finding it satisfying, and I’m good at it.

    That’s where I want to be next year – ghostwriting and blogging. I make some money and am proud of it. Proud? Even though I’m not writing my own ideas and books? Yes. I keep getting customers and getting good reviews from them. I’m stable and working steadily. My bipolar disorder is in check. What more could I want?

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    Am I Accountable for My Actions?

    I see a lot of comments on mental health sites that are filled with resentment and want accountability from those with serious mental illness (SMI). These come from, I assume, family members or loved ones of the afflicted person. (Maybe therapists, too.)

    The comments I’ve seen concerned issues from bipolar mania to schizophrenia. But by far the most common complaint was the person’s noncompliance with medication. “How can I get him to take his meds? He doesn’t think he needs them anymore, but when he doesn’t take them, he slides right back into disruptive behavior. How can I make sure he takes them every day?” What they want is accountability, and what they’re feeling is resentment (among other things).

    I accept the fact that my condition will require me to take medication basically forever, and I am about as compliant as one can be. Yet despite that, my bipolar disorder does recur. So do I hold myself accountable for my actions, or can they be explained away by my mental illness?

    One thing I can say is that I may not be able to identify a hypomanic mood swing when it happens, but when it does, there certainly are consequences that have to be dealt with. And I’m the one who has to deal with a lot of them, as I’m the one who works with the bills, credit cards, and banking. For example, in November and December, I undeniably overspent. (The holidays didn’t help.) Because many of my online purchases were presents for Dan, he didn’t know all the things I bought or how I paid for them. So, could my behavior be attributed to my disorder? Probably yes.

    January rolled around and suddenly I was faced with the fact that hypomania had had me in its grip. The credit card balances are now higher than I like. The bills that I enter on my Google Calendar are that way, too. The bank balance is fluctuating between a-okay and OMG. I’ve been moving money around from checking account to credit cards and from savings account to checking account to try to keep up with the outflow. It’s gotten pretty tight at times, but I haven’t actually overdrawn.

    So, did my hypomanic actions cause resentment? My husband has been pretty calm about it all, though he has been rather frustrated by having to ask me whether to use the checking account or a card when making necessary purchases.

    I can understand the frustration and resentment of family members and loved ones of psychiatric patients who have to deal with non-compliance and the attending financial, legal, or relationship issues – and even the threat of violence in some cases. This resentment is even more heightened when the person with SMI also has anosognosia, the inability to realize that they are ill and need help. The lack of public supports for both the patients and their families only exacerbates the situation. Parents and grandparents of the SMI sufferers also worry about what will happen when they are no longer able to care for their dependent but know that they can’t manage on their own without going off the rails.

    It’s easy enough to say that yes, persons with SMI should be responsible for their actions and should be held accountable. But it’s often not that easy. Family members and caregivers can certainly be tempted to embrace the philosophy of “tough love” when they’ve had to deal with the consequences of the illness by themselves. But realistically that means leaving the patients even more vulnerable to their illness and at risk of homelessness and even worse outcomes. There aren’t easy solutions and, in many cases, no solutions at all.

    It’s clear that many of the situations seem – or maybe are – hopeless, unless there would happen to miraculously appear more inpatient treatment centers or maybe Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). But until that happens, families will continue to struggle.

    Am I accountable? Yes, but I’m able to be. Was I always? No. In the depth of my major depressive episodes, even less so. But I’ve taken back over the things I was unable to do back then, like the bills and bank stuff. And I’ve apologized to my husband for the things I said when I had some bipolar rage. I’m grateful that I have a “cocktail” of drugs that works, and I take them faithfully. I schedule therapy and med checks regularly. I have sympathy for the families that don’t have those and the people who aren’t capable of doing that.

    But do I know a way to increase accountability and reduce resentment? No. Sympathy is the only thing I have to give, and I know that doesn’t make things better.

    bipolarme.blog/2023/01/15/am-i-accountable-for-my-actions

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    Help! This hypomanic episode won’t end! What can I do? #Bipolar # hypomania

    On Monday I didn’t sleep at all and then I started cycling into a hypomanic episode.
    Since I was diagnosed and treated with medications in my mid twenties I really haven’t had many of these episodes, I tend towards the depressive end of the spectrum, so I have any extra tough time dealing with these hypomanic episodes.
    Especially with my chronic pain issues. Because when I’m like this, I don’t feel most of my pain! Normally I would think that’s great but I will pay for it later!
    But my body won’t stop buzzing! Like the molecules are just zipping through my body! I can’t sit still! Never mind what is going on in my head. Everything is so fast! I change topics so quickly that it’s like channel surfing! My thoughts are going to fast to even make in out of my mouth in the right order! I stopped talking to my boyfriend cause I was just annoying him cause I wasn’t making sense. SobI just to find one of my animal friends I have 4, I picked my cat Luna, and I would basically just talk to her, which is just talking to myself.
    How does anyone else cope with these episodes??
    Is there anything I can do to try and help myself back down to a more level mood???
    My body can’t take much more of this!
    Please help me.

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    The building blocks of living with bipolar

    #BipolarDisorder

    Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

    When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.

    Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.

    Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

    You can refer to this:

    resiliens.com/resilify/program/cbt-for-bipolar-disorder

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    What Speech Reveals About Mental Illness

    What you say says a lot about you. How you say it matters too. You can take a simple sentence and change its meaning just by how you pitch your voice and what words you emphasize.

    Try it: Say the sentence, “I want you to love me.” Emphasize the “I” and you’re saying, “I, as opposed to anyone else.” Emphasize “want” and you mean “I want it, even if you don’t believe it.” If you come down hard on “love,” you mean “I want love, not friendship.” An emphasis on “me” translates to “I want you to love me, not that other person.” It works for nearly any sentence: “Please close the door.” “You have my attention.” “Why don’t you care about me?” We translate these meanings naturally and internally, without really thinking about them.

    Changes in language can certainly be revealing. In fact, there are several different kinds of speech that have a role in mental illness. They can be indicative of a certain kind of mental illness or of the way that a person is feeling. They can be used in diagnosis. They can be a way to better understand what a friend or loved one is going through.

    Pressured speech

    Pressured speech means that words seem to just tumble out, without much thought as to what is being said. The words come quickly, packed together like little freight trains of meaning that will zoom by if you don’t pay attention. Listening to pressured speech can be both confusing and overwhelming, difficult to understand.

    Pressured speech is common in bipolar disorder, especially in manic episodes. People who are experiencing mania feel a compelling, urgent need to share thoughts, ideas, comments, or emotions. They don’t wait for replies, as one would in a normal conversation. They can also speak inappropriately loudly or at inappropriate times, such as in church or during a lecture or concert. Pressured speech can last for an hour at a time or even longer.

    Because they are speaking so fast, people with pressured speech may even have difficulty expressing their own thoughts. There can be a lack of a clear thought process in what the manic person is saying, as they may talk about many things that don’t connect to each other. Their speech may include jokes or rhymes, song lyrics, and such.

    It does no good to ask a person with pressured speech to slow down or stop talking. They may feel like they must keep talking, as if they can’t stop.

    While pressured speech is most often associated with the mania or hypomania of bipolar disorder, it can also happen with schizoaffective disorder, autism, psychosis, ADHD, or an anxiety disorder.

    Flat affect/emotional blunting

    Flat affect means that you’re not demonstrating much of an emotional reaction to a situation. Inside, you may feel happy, for example, but it doesn’t show on your face or in your speech. The inside and the outside don’t match.

    Emotional blunting is a little different from flat affect, though. With emotional blunting, you don’t feel an emotion internally at all. You might not feel at all interested in a book or a movie that once gave you pleasure or laughter, for example. This results in flat, unemotional, dull speech patterns.

    Flat affect and emotional blunting are in some ways the opposite of pressured speech. They may occur when a person is depressed, in shock, or suffering from PTSD or other conditions. It’s a symptom of some illnesses, but not an illness in itself.

    Read the full story here: bipolarme.blog/2022/11/13/what-speech-reveals

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    The Scary Parts of Being Bipolar

    My number one fear is the return of my bipolar symptoms, especially the depression. I’ve been mostly stable for years now, with only occasional and relatively mild symptoms when I relapse. But I still remember what it was like and I don’t want to go back there. The misery and the hopelessness. The numbness and the pain. The lack of joy, or contentment or, for that matter, even blankness.

    Hypomania isn’t as scary, though I know it can and does recur from time to time. I don’t have a history of extreme symptoms and, with my husband’s help, I’m able to navigate the ones that do occur.

    I can handle it if I get mild “breakthrough” symptoms when I encounter triggers. I have coping mechanisms in place, including simply waiting for them to pass, because I know they will. That trust in my resiliency – and my medications – has grown over the years.

    Still, there’s always the thought in the back of my mind that the efficacy of my meds could wane. I could crash again. There’s no guarantee.

    Then there’s the fear that I could develop a batch of new symptoms, triggered by God only knows what. I know that some people with bipolar disorder have hallucinations, hearing or seeing things that aren’t there. One friend of mine has heard voices for years, and another one is visited at times by an imaginary animal. (He doesn’t mind it; he says it’s always been pleasant.) Again, not likely, but then again, my brain has already been proven to be glitchy.

    Of course, I do find other things scary. I am terrified of bees, wasps, ticks – anything that impinges on my dermal boundaries. I’ve been stung once and suffered no symptoms beyond the usual, but it did nothing to allay my fears. In fact, I took beekeeping in college, hoping that I would get over the fear. That didn’t work either. I still freeze, shake, scream, cover my head, or run. It’s a phobia, though not a crippling one. It doesn’t bother me enough to try eradicating it via therapy. Besides, if the beekeeping class didn’t help with desensitization, I’m not sure what would.

    But there are less personal fears that I have too.

    Some are societal problems. Stigma regarding serious mental illness still exists. And although people increasingly seem to be concerned about “mental health,” it turns out what they really mean is usually substance abuse or crime. Initiatives and funding tend to focus on those problems, sometimes to the exclusion of actual brain illnesses – except maybe schizophrenia, and then only as it relates to violence or homelessness. Of course, those are real problems, but there are a lot more people who need to be helped that aren’t getting attention, funding, or treatment.

    Speaking of treatment, that’s another subject that’s frightening. It just isn’t available in many locations. I don’t know what the situation is regarding available beds in my geographic area, but I doubt there are many, given national trends and the complete lack of an inpatient ward at the hospital nearest me. If I did experience more extreme symptoms, I’m not altogether sure I could get good, prompt treatment.

    Read the full story here: bipolarme.blog/2022/10/30/whats-really-scary

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    Writing While Hypomanic

    Sometimes when I’m hypomanic, I write. I think that my writing is terrific. This does not always prove to be the case.

    I wrote a murder mystery for literally years on and off. I put heart, soul, and sweat into it. I kept revising. I had a bulletin board with index cards of plot points that I moved around, trying to find the best sequence and flow. At last, one day I declared it finished.

    I sent a query and a sample to over 100 agents and publishers. I waited. I kept a list of everyone I contacted about my novel, and I marked them off the list when they rejected me. None of them bit except the you-pay-us types that I had accidentally included and scorned. My prospect list was long, so this went on for months.

    No doubt I was hypomanic when I decided the novel was done, and when I sent those queries. I wasn’t even deflated when I started getting rejections back. Out of 100 queries, I thought, surely there would be some takers. Maybe there would even be a bidding war for the publishing rights. I started doing research for the sequel and even started writing it.

    As I waited, I basked in thoughts of success. I would be a guest at mystery conventions. I would do a book tour. I even imagined that I would receive the Edgar Award (mystery’s Oscar) for Best First Novel. I pictured myself receiving the email telling me that I was nominated and the phone call informing me that I had won.

    Of course, I eventually came down when one of the rejections actually told me why my manuscript was being rejected and what was wrong with it. Faced with that reality, I had to admit that I had deluded myself. I had needed to rework the novel a lot more before submitting it. I had needed to workshop it with fellow writers, preferably those who knew something about mysteries. (I had sent the first few chapters to some volunteer beta readers, but they had made comments only on small details, not the structure, pacing, or characters.)

    I realized at last that I had submitted a manuscript that had a great prologue, but that everything after that needed serious work. Despite the time and effort I had put into it, it just wasn’t good enough. And that was the reality.

    That was the longest spell of hypomania I’ve ever had – about a year. Of course, I was doing other things while I wrote and while I waited. I had some depression and some mixed states, but not about my mystery novel. I was exhilarated with that.

    What I had were delusions of grandeur. I imagined the success without putting in enough work to achieve it. Despite the evidence of all the rejections, I persisted in believing that I had produced something wonderful and worthy. I anticipated plaudits and acknowledgment of my writing prowess and remarkable achievement. My hypomania was giving me messages that I was great, just as my depression had always given me messages that I was nothing. And I was deluded. I believed the hypomanic messages.

    I have abandoned that manuscript and taken up other projects. I have also abandoned my research and writing for a sequel. I still have problems recognizing the actual merits of my writing, or lack thereof. I try to keep my expectations in check. I have some successes and some failures, though none nearly as monumental as the mystery. I live with my limitations instead of flying with my fantasies. Have I lowered my horizons? Well, yes. But I like to think that now, at least most of the time, I view the horizon where it really is.

    I did love the exuberant feelings that I experienced. They gave my life a sense of meaning. If I learned anything from the experience, it was that I couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, pin my sense of personal worth on something that isn’t real.

    Of course, when I’m in the grip of #Mania, it’s hard to realize that.