My Love Affair with Hypomania

14 Feb

You wake up feeling great. You down a couple of cups of coffee, maybe eat a light breakfast, although you aren’t really hungry. You arrive at work bright-eyed and eager to take on the day’s tasks. You shoot through your to-do list in no time and begin a new project with gusto. You’re bursting with ideas and excited to begin implementing them. Your boss compliments you on your productivity. When it’s time to give a presentation, your energy and wit captivate your audience. You barely need to look at your notes and give insightful, lightening-quick responses during Q&A, wowing your superiors.

Before you know it, ten hours have passed. You realize you haven’t eaten all day and cheer yourself with the thought that this is as good a time as any to embark on the fitness and diet regiment you’ve been planning. You peel yourself away from your desk and drive home while singing along at the top of your lungs to an equally loud, upbeat playlist.

Perhaps best of all, the fear, shame, and intruding memories that regularly plague you seem manageable, even petty. Today you are invincible. While you’ve spent so much of your life feeling on edge and victimized, today nothing could bring you down. Bad things happened, but so what? Bad things happen all the time and the world keeps spinning. You’re still here, and you’re stronger than ever.

All day and into the night, ideas and connections bloom and crystallize in your mind: inspirations about work, your personal relationships, the poetic beauty inherent in life itself. You feel, you know you can do anything. Your instincts are buzzing. Everything makes sense.

Now remind me again: why would I want to give that up?

I’ve listened to people with cocaine addictions wax poetic about their love affair with the drug: it gives them limitless amounts of energy; it maximizes their ability to think and create; it sky-rockets their sense of charisma and confidence. Well, shoot, I don’t need a drug for that. All I need is to follow my mind’s natural progression. Hypomania is amazing.

If you’ve gone through most of your life experiencing these ebbs and flows of energy, focus, and cognitive/creative abilities, it makes sense that you would construct your work process around them. When you are on, it is go time. You have to take advantage of that intoxicating burst of life, and you don’t mind doing it. You’re more productive. You’re more likeable. You’re all the best parts of yourself cranked to eleven. Put on some coffee and roll up your sleeves. Let’s do this.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before the upward trajectory careens out of control: you begin to become agitated, no one can keep up with you, and you CANNOT SLEEP. I’m bipolar II and haven’t had a bull-blown manic period in over ten years, but I still pay the piper in the days and weeks to follow with crippling depression, a predicament exacerbated by the fact that all the projects I put into effect when I was flying high now come crashing down as I lack the energy and focus to follow through on them.  That delicious sense of relief from my trauma recedes and the symptoms recrudesce, feeding my inexorable frustration and leading me back to the inevitable conclusion that Things Will Never Get Better.

And I still. Can’t. Sleep.

I started this blog as an attempt to gain a better understanding of my mental illness, but in the process of brainstorming, researching, and writing, I unwittingly tapped into sweet, sweet hypomania, which was exhilarating until my husband clapped his hands in front of my face, told me that twelve hours had passed, and forced me to unplug and eat something. When it came time to shut my mind off and go to sleep…

“FUCK THAT!!!” My brain shrieked. “I HAVE FIVE MORE AWESOME IDEAS FOR ARTICLES!!! THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE SYMBIOSIS OF COMORBIDITY AND CREATIVITY ARE ENDLESS!!! IF YOU STOP NOW YOU’LL LOSE MOMENTUM!!! DRINK MORE COFFEE!!! EMBRACE THE WIKIPEDIA WORMHOLE AND IMMERSE YOURSELF IN RESEARCH!!! ORDER MORE BOOKS!!! YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD!!!!!! PREPARE TO LIE AWAKE TWITCHING AS YOU TRY TO RESIST THE FLOODING FECUNDITY OF INSPIRADO!!!!”

(And this is after I was properly medicated. Imagine the zany, madcap adventures I used to have.)

The things I love to do the most–writing, researching, performing, teaching–are immeasurably enhanced by my hypomania, and I’ve become so accustomed to tapping into that rich vein of energy and inspiration that I balk at the more humdrum, monotonous way that “normal” people work. Pace myself? Manage my time? Clip my wings, why don’t you.

After you finally get properly diagnosed and treated, after you realize why life’s been so unmanageable and what you need to do to function, this is the hell of mental illness: it pits you against yourself. Boundaries aren’t solid and stable. How much of you is your personality and how much is madness?

Do I want to give up the parts of myself that are fueled by my bipolar disorder?

Wouldn’t that abnegation just increase my depression?

I like my speedy parts. I actually pride myself on them. And I’m starting to think that shunning this part of myself runs counter to my recovery.

to be continued…

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3 Responses to “My Love Affair with Hypomania”

  1. Laura K Kerr March 5, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Beautiful writing. And why would you want your wings clipped?? And yet something still leads to an upward trajectory that gets too high, and the lows too low. But then maybe one day you will find the yet-to-be-seen trajectory that preserves the heroine’s path without the distracting turbulence. I am a believer in happy endings.

    • evewc18 March 5, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks. I’ll keep trying; I’m going back to meditating this week, which I think will be helpful in finding and maintaining an organic equilibrium. I think you have to believe in happy endings to be so dedicated to researching trauma!

  2. Estee August 2, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Very Beautiful writing..Thank you for showing me this.

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