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Bipolar II Hypomania: The Catalog Sweater That Doesn't Quite Fit


Those of us who have battled Bipolar II long enough know the signs of hypomania.  And since a hypomanic episode happens so rarely compared with depression, when one does occur, it feels like receiving a beautifully gift-wrapped present. We unwrap it with frenzied anticipation, knowing the gift comes with an expiration date. Just what we've hoped for, just what we've wanted, but it may not be exactly what we need, like a sweater ordered from a catalog that doesn't fit quite right. We love the looks and how it feels, but it just doesn't match the rest of our emotional wardrobe. The gift of hypomania, enjoyed while it lasts, ultimately must be returned.

For me, the gift of hypomania feels like electricity fluttering through me, like an endless tickle with a feather just below the surface of my skin. When hypomanic, I have no desire for sleep or food. My eyes are opened wider and my senses feel heightened. Remarkably jovial and talkative, talkative to the point of interrupting sometimes, I feel like I need to comment on everything. Those closest to me say they like me hypomanic, but they are more than ready for me to calm down. Hypomania creates a caricature of myself. Invincible. Bigger than life.

One benefit of hypomania for me is productivity. Once my boundless energy is bridled, I can tackle just about any project. At work, my desk is organized, papers are filed, and exciting new lessons are developed. I never slow down and neither do my students. For middle schoolers, a hypomanic teacher is quite a treat. I talk a mile a minute, cracking jokes and pacing about the room, and we bounce from one activity to the next. Not many papers get graded, and tangential thoughts may invade my lessons, but ultimately, my hypomania, in small doses, benefits my students. Back to School Parent Night, while hypomanic, is a bit dangerous, however. One year, while flying high, I gave a multimedia presentation to parents about my course. I hoped the buzz I was feeling translated to teacher enthusiasm rather than wild-eyed crazy. Luckily, there was no fall out from that evening. No parent complaints, but I realize now that there could have been.

At home, my productivity may take the form of organizing every closet in the house, or cleaning out all of the kitchen cabinets. My family finds this helpful yet annoying, since I see no reason why everyone can't unload all of their clothes from their dressers and get organized too. My hypomania once even inspired me to paint my office. Now that was a mistake. Not only did I choose a yellow the shade of an egg yolk, I painted with such unfocused energy and lack of precision that once completed, it looked as though the sun crashed into the corner of my house and splattered all over my office walls. Needless to say, I had to hire my ex-husband to come and repaint it. Talk about humiliating.

One of the most prominent symptoms of my hypomania is this incredible urge to create something and follow it through to completion to the exclusion of anything else. For example, I may sit at the piano for hours composing a song, and until I am satisfied that it's finished, I will not get up unless I am forced to by the demands of family or work. Even then, while begrudgingly meeting my commitments, I feel a magnetic force pulling me back to the piano. It takes all my strength to fight it. Confession: there have been days where I have gone to work and instead of going straight to my classroom to prepare for the day, I've snuck into the music room and spent my half hour prep time playing the piano before the music teacher arrives. Being creative becomes my primary focus. Then, on those same music mania days, I will return to the music room during my free period and see if the piano is available. Again, I'll play until I have to return to my own class.

Being hypomanic has its benefits but it certainly has its downsides too. The biggest negative hypomania brings is the dread of its inevitable end. We know it won't last forever, but we want it to. We want to feel that electric energy and invincibility just one day more. The dark days of depression glare us in the face too often. We don't want to look at them again. We are willing to risk just about anything to keep that hypomanic euphoria, even if our symptoms lead us to do dangerous or careless things like shop too much or drive distracted or worse. We crave that sense of elation so much we are willing to risk it. Nothing bad will happen to us, right? We are invincible!
But eventually, we know the gift of hypomania must be put back into the box and returned and our days must go back to the darkness that is depression. We'll wait patiently for the next gift-wrapped package of hypomania, while flipping through the catalog and dreaming of that perfect sweater. 


I have been in the same place as u, I am like that. I also play, compose on thepiano. When I go into a hypomainaepisode I love it it feels so good from the way I normally. I don't go anywhere, I don't take care of myself as I should I spend most of my time in the bed or my bedroom recently I have been in a really bad depression. I also have fibromyalgre and generative back issues I have had so many TIA they can't even count them. I also had a brain anyuriem at the lower brain stem. I coed in catscan I was in a coma far a few days. From all the meds I have to take gave me dry mouth that causes tooth decay, I'm now in the process of getting all my teeth pulled and I will have the last 6 teeth pulled next week, than I can get my dentures made. I'm hoping and praying that when all of this is over with I will be able to function and have a life again. I believe in God and try to live the best I can everyday that makes God wants to look down and smile. I had lost my smile for a long time, but God is good and he's giving me my smile back. People can smile at you and it cost nothing. It can make someone else smile and it may change there whole day and makes them happy.I'm so close to the day I can give something to other people and feel like life is worth living and you don't have to go back into the depression I've been in for months. It's hard to see any hope that nothing will never get better, but hang on to the good times and try to see as a book that I read long time ago that says nothing last forever. I know the good part of being in the high quality of life where we can fuction normally want last very long, but just think about the good times and just believe you will have them again

Hi Carol, I'm right with u. I've been doing this for a long time.. There's a paper u may like to read by prof Gordon Prakrit. It's called the supersensory life of bipolar 11. He our major expert on mood disorders here in Oz. I live in Sydney. I'll try to send u a link. It's after 12 and I don't want to wake my husband. Be well. Lyn

Hi Lyn. Can you please send me that article too?

Thanks for that Carol. You actually mean Gordon Parker (founder of the Black Dog Institute - whose website is an excellent resource). Gordon (Aussie psych) has a very refreshingly different approach to BP esp BPII. The paper is called the Suprasensory Life of Bipolar ii. Easily found on web using those search terms. American psych Jim Phelps also has an amazing website on BPII (thinks it's called psycheducation). :)

My partner has bipolar and is currently experiencing a hyper mania he unlike above is crazy when he is manic and does things such as spend lots of money drinks huge amounts of alcohol lies irritable unreasonable. He is currently in a psychiatric hospital but there seems to be little improvement because he is not under a section he is still able to continue to spend the staff are amazing but I fear he will not get better, please someone tell me different

When I shift into a hypo I am aggitated and bitchy--more so than usual.

I was told I could be bipolar, not sure if I am or not. Not sure if I have mania or not. Do know depression very well. Recently I have been experiencing bouts of rage, I'll throw anything, scream and shout so loud to make sure everyone can hear me, lose my patience, the agitation, irritation, and annoyance builds up so greatly I lose all control, and want to smash and destroy everything in sight. I was told by a friend to try to think of anything to be grateful for if I feel the anxiety and the twitching of dread come upon me. I will try and I will hope it works.

Hi Monique, you sound like me. I have PMDD please look it up. Sufferers are frequently misdiagnosed as bipolar. Are your symptoms cyclical, triggered by hormone changes? Do you have a run of good days 10-14 in a row most months. I have had my ovaries - and uterus removed to stop it. But seems I may have Bipolar 11 as well. Hypermania can represent as irritability. I'm currently being assessed. Good luck, that sense of extreme anger and rage. Eeeek! I broke so many things. I have not smashed anything since surgery, but do have bouts of extreme irritability. And depression.

Hi everyone. I've never spoken to unknown people who can relate to what I deal with. Saw my shrink again today. I've been seeing him for 6 years now. FOR awhile we had a good combination of drugs. I have been diagnosed with bipolar II and ADHD. I deal with alot of depression more than any type of mania. For whatever reason part of my drug regiment quit working. So of course you try new stuff. Suffer through the side effects to find it doesn't work so off you go and now onto something else. I am married and have 2 kids and they have a mom who just either sits and is crying or yelling or just sits there with no feelings at all. I'm so exhausted with trying. I take so many pills and go to talk therapy but still the depression hits. I am a rapid cycler, to the point my moods can change within the same day. I'm so tired...thank you for listening, I'm grateful I can share without judgement from people who won't judge. Take care everyone.

I related to your story. Have you found a med that has helped yet? I have finally found something that has got me stable for the bipolar 2. I was so agitated and irritable before taking it. It really helped my mood.

I just wanted to encourage you today. Proud of you for sharing your story.

loved reading the comments. I am loving the energy.i can finally get rid of clutter.and try and cteate a minimal home so i dont loose things constantly
but i still want a home and not a showpiece. never h3ard it descibed as u all did, the negative down feelings r around the corner. I would like a happy xmas for once. Lost both my mother and father in december years ago bit still rae. Like to moove on as they say

Just newly diagnosed bipolar2. Started lithium 2 weeks ago.Am waiting for the sadness I want to die & the irritability to start to end. OMG! I am looking looking for "happy happy". Just want to feel less sad.

Hi Rita, I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I want to let you know about some resources that are available to help you. If you are in a crisis, there is a Crisis Hotline or Text Line you can access by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page:

If you are not in a crisis and want to talk to someone online, we recommend the website It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener. 

I never had a clue that I was experiencing hypomanic episodes until I was 60 years old. I have lost many jobs, relationships and ultimately friendships due to episodic rage. Apparently I'm pretty scary even though I never threatened anyone physically. I experienced terrible remorse but fell into the same behavior pattern again and again until a psychiatrist started me on lithium to assist with my long-standing depression. Bingo! New woman within a week. Unfortunately it didn't last but I haven't given up hope. Currently on lamotrigine which is a very good mood stabilizer for my illness. Recently quit Cymbalta due to intransigent joint pain that deeply frightened me about the inevitability of aging right up close and personal. Now, for the first time in 12 years or so, I am no longer on an antidepressant. Will she or won't she survive the experience? Haven't a clue, do you?

Why did you discontinue your Cymbalta?

I too was just diagnosed with bipolar 2 at age 60. My dad had bipolar 1, called "manic-depession" in those days, and I had wondered back in my 20s if I had it too. At that time, I tended to take on commitments when I felt good, but couldn't follow though because the good times were always followed by depressive episodes. I dismissed the idea of bipolar since I didn't experience full-blown mania. I hadn't been aware that there were other types of the disorder existed. I was treated with anti-depressants for many years before my very alert primary care provider recognised symptoms of a hypomanic episode this past September and started me on lamotrigene in addition to my anti-depressant. So far so good. I feel much calmer, not so nervous and tense. I can focus much better, especially noticable in situations where disagreements are occurring. I now do not have melt-downs, fits of screaming, or walking out of the house and driving until I calmed down. I still have bad habits that I developed over the years that helped me cope with my moods. I find them difficult to change since these coping mechanisms were what kept me functional.

Looking back over my life since I now have the correct diagnosis, I remember many times when I was very likely in hypo manic episodes without being aware of them. I was all too familiar with the symptoms of depression.

Blessings to you as you live with bipolar.

You all seem proud of your hyponania, or at least of the tasks accomplished while in this state. Do you all experience hypomania while taking your daily meds? Stigma may still be attached to manic-depression, but it seems fashionable these days to speak of the glories of hypomania--hypomania untreated by, e.g. lamotrigine. No one goes in to see a doctor because of hypomania; we made (or someone else did) our appointment because of symptoms of depression. And if we were truly blessed, the competent medical professional made the correct diagnosis and gave us help in the form of prescription drugs. Drugs that, along w/counselling and dietary changes, can help guide us down a more wholesome life path. Take your meds, and quit sacrificing your sanity on the altar of supposed creativity. Cymbalta is only half of the bipolar medication. Take the mood stabilizer. If UR truly a creative person, it will expose itself w/o you having to go all "Vincent van Gogh." Who prob would have given his right ear to have access to the plethora of bipolar disorder medications we have available 2us today.

I too suffer from bipolar 2, diagnosed in my early 40's. I am on 3 different med's to manage my symptoms, an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med. They generally seem to work well together and now I experience milder versions of hypomania, depression and anxiety. What I miss about my hypomanic episodes are the periods of elation and joy, the feeling that every thing would be fine so long as I could just do whatever happened to be in my mind at that time. I might rearrange the entire house or sing at the top of my lungs while dancing around the house. I talked with my therapist and she suggested that I needed to mourn the loss of that level of euphoria. I know that unless I stop my meds, I'll never have that again. I don't like knowing that, but I am accepting it.

I am a 35 y/o female who's been struggling with depression for many years......I was diagnosed many years ago (15 yrs old) w/ bipolar 1 then more recently bipolar 2. In being more aware of my symptoms, it's truly safe to say that I suffer from bipolar 2 and it seems like it's worsened over the past 2 years. Currently, I'm on lamotrigine and Effexor, which helps to control my mood swings and depression, but I'm like....."I don't like feeling like I live in a constant down state". Note: I've previously taken the following Meds:::: Wellbrutin, Prozac, Zoloft, Neurontin (Gabapentin), Topamax (Topiramate), Klonopin (Clonazepam) and Depakote to no avail. Effexor is a HORRIBLE drug to come off of; however, if you know how titrate yourself off, it's tolerable. I've been on then came off to try another drug, but eventually went back on.

I only experience the hypomanic state once every 2 months or so. This hypomanic period only lasts for a few days and then it's back to constant solemn. I'm literally lethargic, no motivation, no energy, no drive......nothing. It's gotten so bad that I basically stay in my room. I'm not sleeping constantly, I'm just lethargic with no desire to a thing.

What makes matters worse is the fact that I have 2 children that I can't even make plans to do anything with, because 9 times outta 10, I will not follow through. Additionally, I won't even make my therapy appointments because I can't even get myself together, nevertheless drive to the appointment. Therapy is very vital, yet I can't even bring myself to going.....What do you do to help combat this??? Any suggestions??

I'm bipolar type 2 but in my hypomaniac periods i only get angry and axious. It's awful. Yes, i do talk a lot more, but that euphoria feeling is NOT something i experience. Honestly, as far as i know, only bipolar type 1 has feelings of euphoria. It annoys me when i see stuff like this cause not all bipolars are the same. The euphoria thing is commonly attached to what being bipolar is, but that is not the case at all

Me too. I don't like the feeling of getting hypo maniac, it's a feeling of a disorder. For me it's like I want to do everything at once, so I never stop moving and doing things. The feeling is so intense that it drives me crazy and I can't enjoy much, it's disturbing.

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