Monthly Archives: November 2017

What is Bipolar Disorder? – The dark side of hypomania updated

Okay this is not really an update, more like a repost with a foreword. I’ve been going through my blog and according to WordPress stats, this is quite a popular post. I wrote it roughly four years ago; a year after I was diagnosed. This month marks 5 years of ‘being’ bipolar, so you can’t help but look back and think. Especially after the spectacularly difficult year 2017 that I’ve somehow managed to survive. Everything I wrote in this post still holds true: people still don’t understand dysphoric hypomania, which is actually very common and the episode I talk about here, was still the worse in my life. I am a lot smarter and wiser than I was 5 years ago, so feel free to ask questions. The post follows below, but if for some reason you want to look at the original, you can find it here. Enjoy!


In my previous post I explored what it feels like to have depression. As we know, that is only one side of Bipolar Disorder. What makes this illness different from ‘regular’ unipolar depression is that you have the lows and the highs.

As with my previous post, I am not going to list the typical symptoms of hypomania and mania; you can find more information about that here. A note on the two though: Mania and hypomania are not the same thing. Even with all the reading that I’ve done, I sill haven’t found a proper comparison between the two. It is generally said that hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Mania is usually experienced as an episode that lasts for a few days or weeks. As far as I know it does not last as long as a hypomanic episode. Hallucinations, delusions, psychosis and severe paranoia  are experienced during manic episodes. This is not the case with hypomania, although I know from personal experience that paranoia and delusional thinking should not be excluded when talking about hypomania (or I might just be more manic than I realise…). Mania greatly impairs the sufferer’s functioning up to a point where hospitalisation is usually necessary. People who experience mania are classified as Bipolar I, whereas people who experience hypomania are classified as Bipolar II. Suffering from Bipolar I is probably much worse than Bipolar II, but don’t think that if you ‘only’ have bipolar II, it is not serious.

My diagnosis is Bipolar II, which is why will only share my experiences of hypomania and not go into further detail about mania. Various levels of manic states are, in my opinion, largely misunderstood and the part of the illness that intrigue people and lead to their misconceptions. When someone joking refers to themselves as Bipolar because they experience a couple of mood swings, or feel really happy, I have to work very hard to keep myself from flying into a state of extreme rage. That is when I have to remind myself that people are just uninformed and ignorant, and that my talking about it is part of the solution. As the title says, this post describes the dark side of hypomania. Most people think that hypomania is flying on a cloud of endless euphoric energy and creativity. A fun feeling. Even though that is often the shape that hypomania takes (and I’ll cover that in my next post), there is a dark side to hypomania that in my opinion does not get nearly enough exposure.

Dysphoric hypomania (mixed state)

My process of being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder started 15 months ago. I had been on antidepressants for about a year before that. I wasn’t depressed anymore, but I was something that wasn’t normal. Turns out being only on antidepressants is very dangerous if you have Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t realise it at the time, since I couldn’t recognise my thoughts and behaviour as faulty. When I look back now I don’t know how I didn’t realise earlier that something was very wrong. I had been going through a very stressful time for about a year, and I thought that what was going on with me was severe anxiety. I didn’t feel the happy, ecstatic states mostly described as hypomania. Not then. What I did feel was a sense of being stuck inside myself. It felt like I had ants crawling under my skin and that I had to keep moving. I was usually tapping my foot or standing up when everyone was sitting down. At home I put my headphones in and I would dance non-stop for hours, giving myself over to the music completely. Colours looked brighter, sounds were louder. I couldn’t sleep#. I only ate because I had to (even though I love food) and most of the time I would just feel nauseous when I ate anyway. It felt like the world was closing in on me.  I needed to get out, but  there was nothing physical to get out of. I still had a painful feeling on my chest, like when I was depressed, but I was pumped up. Frantic. My thoughts were obsessive. I obsessed over people. I drove people away. I was completely irrational and often delusional in my thinking. It felt like everyone was against me, even the people in my life who love me the most. The intensity of my emotions were almost unbearable, and I didn’t understand how people can experience something with me and not have the same reaction. I was unreasonable. I was aggressive and frustrated all the time. I had fantasies about bashing annoying people’s heads against walls. I was angry about everything all the time.

I think that my behaviour resulting from all this was a kind of attempt to get away from myself. Describing my feelings are not embarrassing to me. I felt things that I had no control over. My behaviour because of these feelings I do still feel very embarrassed about. I have to share some of the things I did to let this information make sense, but I do want to say that I deeply regret most of it. I spent much more money that I had and made debt that I am still struggling to pay off. I almost bought a flat! It was only thanks to a small admin error that the deal thankfully didn’t go through. It would have completely bankrupted me. I got traffic fines in the double digits. I drove drunk, late at night and to secluded places. When I wasn’t home, I was drinking. I took whatever pills I could find, just to try to shut down my head. I would go jogging in the icy pouring rain (and I don’t jog!). I sent out messages and emails and didn’t think about the consequences. There were things that I said and did that I had no control over. The obsessions and compulsions took over my mind. Once I established a routine or pattern, I couldn’t break it. Eg, if I got into a habit of texting one person every day and I realised that, I couldn’t break the habit, I just couldn’t. Even if I had nothing to say. Come to think of it, it might actually be what real OCD feels like (not the kind where people think you have to arrange your books alphabetically or clean a lot, the actual misunderstood disease). Even though I’m not promiscuous and not one to kiss and tell, my sex drive definitely went haywire. Theoretically it’s a small miracle that I didn’t sleep around and contract a disease or something. All of these crazy thoughts, feelings and behaviour eventually led to very bad physical and emotional self-harm.

This was an awful time in my life. I now know that it wasn’t my first hypomanic episode, but it was certainly my worse so far and landed me in the hospital. I really is only by the grace of God that I survived it. Personally I’m not sure how I didn’t commit suicide. This state of mind went on for months. I was completely lost in it. I look back with such relief and gratitude. Now that I look back, I know that I was severely ill and that has made it easier for me. I don’t blame it all on myself anymore.

Learn more about dysphoria/mixed states.

Can you better explain the difference between mania and hypomania? Have you or anyone you know experienced dysphoric hypomania? How has it affected you as a sufferer or a supporter?


‘The Diagnosis’ and other people

*Trigger alert: This post is not about, but refers to suicide*

Last week, a friend of my mom’s showed up at her house, distraught. The friend’s one child, who had been ‘going through something’ had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  And thanks to me not shutting up about being bipolar, these lovely, normal people now have other lovely, normal people to talk to. So I made myself available for wine and chats, but will now wait for an invitation. It is an overwhelming business, after all.

It has made me think of what I went through with my own diagnosis and what I would tell this young(er) person should they ask me ‘what the hell now?!’, apart from ‘Seroquel will make you fat’. I realised that what stung the most when I was diagnosed, was how other people reacted. I didn’t have much support because I was far away from home, and my family didn’t really understand. Before my first mental hospital stay, I somehow got myself into the ER with nothing but a few cut-marks, cigarette burns and mild benzo-intoxication, because I was desperate and thought I was literally going BONKERS. I knew depression by then, but nothing of this whirlwind of constant, irrational thoughts, hyper-sexuality, people screaming in my head, inability to sleep, ants crawling under my skin, severe irritability and aggression situation that I was experiencing at that moment. I even have some memory loss. For the life of me I cannot remember ANYTHING about that day apart from getting home in the evening and going on a ‘semi-psychotic’ bender situation.

What I’m saying is that there was a lead-up to my eventual diagnosis and hospitalisation. There always is. You don’t just wake up one morning feeling like the Mad Hatter. So you would imagine that people who know you relatively well, would realise that there is a change in you, and that something is wrong, and that they would lovingly guide you to get help, whether or not you have a diagnosis. Because the bitch about having a mood disorder is that because it makes your mood go weird, it changes your behaviour too. Every single bipolar blog you read will at some point tell you the same thing: If you are bipolar you WILL lose friends and alienate people, more so than stable people. And this is what I will tell this young person first: You will wake up one day, feeling good and ready to go out there and grab the day by the balls and you will realise that you have barely any friends left. This is not me feeling sorry for myself, or being dramatic or negative. It is the simple truth and every bipolar person knows this. It is a lonely road.

People bail for various reasons. I’ll put them in nice bullets:

  • ‘I just can’t deal with this drama’
  • ‘It’s always about you, this is an unequal friendship/relationship’
  • ‘Your CRAZY! I’m out’
  • ‘Sometimes you get really mean’
  • ‘Our friendship was fun, but now it’s too intense and I can’t deal’
  • ‘I can’t be associated with you’
  • ‘You’re just too demanding and clingy’
  • ‘You are so selfish and such a drama queen’

Of course, most people won’t actually give you the courtesy of telling you that they are walking away or why, but the above is why THEY think they do. Here’s why they really do:

  • They don’t want to have to deal with anything that disrupts their uncomplicated, perfect little lives.
  • You make things feel out of control, or out of their control, and they can’t deal with uncertainty.
  • You scare them. They see things in you that they see in themselves, but where you now have to embrace it, they still prefer to live in denial.
  • They can walk away and blame all their shortcomings on you, because YOU’RE the crazy one.
  • Your Crazy.
  • Sometimes you really are mean and intense and irrational and demanding and clingy.

The last one is the hardest, because while those reasons are legitimate, it’s not something you can always help. Maybe my next post will be on how to take some pressure off your relationships.

Me? I’ve hurt lots of people because there comes a time where I can’t stop myself from saying something mean, or inappropriate, or doing something stupid. After my suicide attempt my sister was furious at me, because how DARE I put the family through this trauma. My brother asked me what the hell I was thinking when I wrote my suicide letter, because it didn’t sound like me at all (which is kind of the point of the ‘why’). They didn’t get that I was pretty pissed myself seeing as how I was suppose to be dead but then wasn’t. At least they said it to my face. After each of my hospitalisations I found things out that people I cared about said behind my back that hurt a lot: I’m manipulative, looking for attention, lazy, mean, self-involved, I cannot be trusted etc. Every time people quietly withdraw or suddenly disappear. And it hurts like a bitch every time. Because I don’t understand how they can’t understand how that person, is not me. But they don’t. And they never will. Mostly not because they don’t want to, but because they just can’t.

But have heart little one. If you have a family who loves you, you already have more than most. You probably still have wonderful friends that WILL stick around no matter what, so treat them nicely. And if you feel like you have nothing and no-one, there is a whole virtual bipolar community out there who sometimes feels the same way.

*What reasons have you gotten for why people walked out of your life?*

Bipolar disorder, anger, obsessive thoughts and impulse control – a vicious circle

*Trigger warning: Some mention of self-harm in the last paragraph*

The past few days have been a bit tense in my country in general and my town particularly. We have all kinds of racial hatred, terrible crime and division going on. I am quite liberal, which suited my previous city life well. Back in my hometown, there are a lot of opinions and mindsets that I don’t handle so well. And thanks to social media and my inability to stay off it, I’ve gotten myself into a messy head space. I have been ‘lightly’ triggered, if you will.

I remember when I was a teenager, having obsessive, intrusive thoughts drove me to curl into a little ball and cry. I did not understand it. The more I tried not thinking about something (or someone), the worse it became. I was convinced that I had some kind of demon thing inside me. It was extremely embarrassing. If I had found professional help and been honest, I might have been wrongly diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But the compulsions are not nearly as bad as the obsessions. Thanks to a decent medicinal cocktail, the worse of these thoughts disappeared after my mid-20s. I when I was first hospitalised, the doctor asked me these questions about racing thoughts, hearing voice, delusions etc. I remember that I told him that I didn’t actually see or hear anything outside of myself with my sense, but that in my head it was like my thoughts were being screamed at me. By a man in a tuxedo…. That pretty much locked down the diagnosis.

So anyway to bring these titbits together: we all have our triggers. One of mine is people spewing hatred and intolerance. And whether it is a personality thing or a bipolar impulse control thing, I don’t have much of a filter. Plus, which is definitely an impulse control problem, I can’t stay off social media and begrudgingly waste years of my life on it. And then these people’s backwards views, my inability to keep my mouth shut and then getting involved in arguments where I feel I am banging my head against a brick wall, completely enrages me. And then I obsess over that anger, and the trigger. I have hypothetical conversations with people in my head that just enrage me more, because how can these hypothetical people also not see my point of view?! And so this cycle just goes on and on. I’ve been prescribed Urbanol now (due to my…love of benzos, Drs don’t like giving them to me), and it’s helped, but not enough.

Today, even though the dust has settled slightly, my thoughts feel too loud. I am trying to work and I am also writing an exam on Friday that I have not studied for yet, but I can’t focus. And I definitely can’t afford not to work since I am still busy with the project I’m suppose to pay my month’s rent with. I’m angry at myself for getting so caught up in all the negativity, and angry at the world for being so fucked up. I’m also teary and tired and feeling extremely sorry for myself. And then of course there is the absolute fear of two/three days becoming a full blown episodes. Also, I sort of had a little slip in the self-hard department just over a week ago. Okay, so it totally was a slip, but a small one. That can also count as compulsive behaviour/addiction, btw. At my worse it was so bad that I was literally compelled to cut myself every day. But that’s over. This was the first (and last) time in over a year. I was a little upset and obsessed about something else entirely that I’m not talking about.

One can easily see a little pattern emerge, and it’s not pretty. And once you are totally sucked in, you’re in some real trouble. So I am off to obsess about how to break this cycle. Any ideas are welcome!