What is Bipolar Disorder? – Happy hypomania

For this post, I really had to dig deep. I have found that there are two reasons for why I’ve found it so difficult to isolate emotions and experiences from these times of hypomania, or euphoria. The first reason is that when I am hypomanic, I don’t realise that anything could be wrong with me. How could feeling so good be a symptom of an illness? The second reason is that over the past couple of years, I rarely experienced the highs of hypomania. I’ve mostly found myself in mixed states.

What I do clearly remember from being ‘high’ is that it really feels like you are high on something, without having taken anything. High on life, I use to say. It like being tipsy, without having had anything to drink. I haven’t had any experiences with illegal drugs, but I have heard that the feeling is similar to being high on cocaine. People often become addicted to this feeling, which makes them more likely to quit their medication. After being diagnosed I could look back at my life and I instantly knew when I had my first hypomanic episode. I went to a arts festival with friends for 5 days. It was my first one and I was extremely excited. But looking back I realise that it was more than that. In 5 days, I barely slept 10 hours. I didn’t want to sleep. I partied until the sun came up. I was funnier than usual, more excited than usual, more outgoing, drunker, louder, more carefree, taking more risks with my safety. My friends joked about my two personalities that week. See naturally I’m more introverted, like my sleep, get tired of people and generally a bit shy when I meet new people. That week I really felt like the world was my playground. It was great. After the festival though, I cried a lot. I had a sense of impending doom for months. Even though I was still feeling great, or thought I was, I freaked out because I was afraid that life would never feel that good again. I was scared. My moods were dropping at a rapid and uncontrollable speed.

I remember other occasions where I’d bounce out of bed (a huge deal for the anti-morning person) and feel like my life was the best thing that could happen to anyone. I would write long and meaningful emails to everyone I know, sharing my amazing and profound epiphanies about the meaning of life. I would write fiction for days on end, not typing fast enough for my thoughts to become words. Something would amaze and inspire me, and when others weren’t as excited as I was, I would be furious. How could you NOT see the splendor of this thing, this person, this piece of music? How are you no in awe? I could work and study for days at a time and barely take a break. Poems from my English class, in particular when I was studying Emily Dickens for exams, suddenly came to life.  I would listen to a song on repeat for months, hearing every instrument, every beat, individually and as a whole. Songs would conjure up images and stories in my head. I would write on the train, while waiting in queues in stores, while I was suppose to work, at 5am. Stories would fill my head. I would dance in my underwear for hours, stomping my feet and drinking. Even if no music was playing, I’d dance to music in my head, or bounce up and down. I couldn’t sit still. I told people I had ants in my pants. In truth, it felt like I had ants under my skin. The world looked sharper, colours were more vivid, everything inspired and excited me. I didn’t want to eat, couldn’t eat (big deal for a major food lover). My brain would never shut down, I didn’t stop talking because I had so much to say, and the thoughts and ideas were coming so fast. I was animated and charismatic.

Amazing right? Truly fantastic. Exhilarating and inspiring and passionate and so many other wonderful things. So how on earth can anyone call this an illness? Why would trade these bursts of light and colour for a normal and stable life?

Why? Because it doesn’t last.

As I explain about the title of my blog, your wings catch fire and burn out quickly. Then you start falling, and you fall from a dizzy height and crash spectacularly, either into depression or you go into full blown and uncontrollable mania. The problem is that all those amazing thoughts and feelings become too big. No matter what behaviour you engage in, you can’t get rid of whatever is chasing you from the inside. No matter how many risks you take, how creative you are or how much you self-medicate, nothing gets rid of the excessive amounts of energy building up inside you. I’m not really into exercising except for dancing, but not even jogging in the rain or walking for hours until my body felt exhausted could shut my brain down or help me sleep. Whatever is inside of you grows and grows and your body is unable to contain it. In my case, I resorted to a lot of alcohol to numb and relax me, and self-harm to try to physically release what became, like with depression, a physical pain in my chest. Of course that makes everything worse. For me, once I have reached this tipping point, the descend into dysphoria and depression is rapid, all-consuming, painful and extreme.

After going through this cycle a couple of times, especially after realising that it is in reality a cycle, you get to a point where the cons outweigh the pros. I am so terrified of what my happy hypomania morphs into, that I have now gladly sacrificed it for a more stable and predictable life. Sometimes I feel like I am a very boring person now, and that I have lost my special spark, but since being in remission I’ve realised that when I have ideas now, I can actually follow through. This don’t come as easily anymore, my memory is not what it use to be, which is the worse for me. I don’t have life changing epiphanies and being creative is as much about being inspired as it is about working hard and persevering.

Do I miss those magical times? Definitely. Was it worth giving them up? Absolutely. I said to a friend yesterday that really reflecting on my past made one thing abundantly clear: There was a point in my life that I was stark raving mad. Bonkers. Insane. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Having split depression, dysphoria and euphoria into three separate entities might make them sound manageable. They might be, when experienced in isolation. But all three in a never-ending cycle? Often with symptoms overlapping and an absolute inability to have normal relationships, function in society and keep a normal job? No. Definitely not.

How do you experience hypomania? Have you had to deal with a loved one in a hypomanic state? 

Next post…. How to manage early stages of hypomania.



3 thoughts on “What is Bipolar Disorder? – Happy hypomania

  1. Great post. The words which most jumped out were, “it’s not as glamorous as it sounds”. You nailed it, it must certainly is not.


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