Happy or Hypomanic?

Author: Angela McCrimmon

“I’d give anything to feel like you for even just one day”…..I smile because I realise they’re trying to compliment me but I also want to shake them and make them comprehend what it’s really like to be me in the middle of a hypomanic episode. The reality that when they joke (although perfectly serious) that I’ve worn them out within 15mins…..try having that manic energy, creativity and obsession for 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.  I can’t tell my brain to go home or hang up the phone and if I’m lucky enough to have even had any sleep that night I wake up next day at 4.30am. My eyes PING open wide and it’s like someone has put me in a supercharging cradle overnight and I’m up and ready to race through another 20hours at 100mph. I  have amazing friends but I also know at several points in the day I’ll have to apologise for having absolutely no filter on what comes out my mouth right now.  The incredible urgency I feel that I MUST share whatever I’m thinking/feeling or I might burst. Things I would usually have the capacity to retain in my thoughts I literally hear  coming out my mouth and it’s like I’ve lost the ability to know when to say something aloud or when to silently contemplate it. That’s not me, that’s the illness.  My head races with so many thoughts and ideas and sometimes 3 or 4 words attempt to come out at once and hence I make no sense whatsoever. Family/Friends ask me “Do you think you could try to speak in syllables” because they’re watching the speed of my lips alongside hearing my manic, somewhat newly invented vocabulary desperately trying to pick out a single word that would let them feel we were in the same conversation.  I can see it and I can hear it but I feel absolutely helpless to control it.   “Turn the volume down” one will say, or “I’m not fluent in your language” and while we all chuckle, inside I’m getting frustrated. Why can’t they keep up with me? Why do they have to be sooooo slow and no wonder I can’t wait for them to get to the end of a story.  I’m bursting at the seams because I’ve worked out what they’re going to say and it feels like they’re taking forever to get there so I have an urgency to step in and finish the sentence for them.  Even with Drs, Managers….no filter remember!

I’m generally a positive, optimistic person anyway but with the presence of Hypomania I feel absolutely unstoppable and I kind of am. My ideas are never usually wild enough to class as full blown mania so often they wouldn’t be in the lens view of a Health Professional but that doesn’t mean they can’t end up being damaging. On one occasion my Dr was trying to explain that possibly one of my ideas was a symptom of being unwell. I was very quick to reassure her “Don’t worry Dr, if I was fully blown manic I’d be trying to start a Religion but I’m ‘just’ hypomanic so I’m only trying to start a Worldwide Campaign”   There wasn’t much she could say to that because I hadn’t lost a grip on reality, it’s just that my own reality had become very exaggerated and accelerated. There’s also no reasoning with me because the truth is I don’t want anyone to burst my bubble! Each day things would arrive in the post and most things I couldn’t even remember ordering. Eventually that will hurt my bank balance.  It’s almost like hypomania is a sneakier form of Bipolar than full mania because it allows me to LOOK as if I’m coping with everything and almost doesn’t alert people to the fact that we actually have a problem here. I didn’t see that waking up and deciding to go to Rome after breakfast was any part of unusual and I certainly didn’t feel the need to tell anyone I had jumped on a Tour Bus in the City and accidently listened to the whole tour in Japanese believing I’d finally found people who spoke as quickly as me. I hadn’t even registered I was listening to a foreign language!

I flew home after a few hours, had an exhilarating time….why would I pick up the phone to tell a Dr I’d had such a wonderful day? Hence it’s so easy to miss this utterly crucial part of the Bipolar puzzle! However, experience has taught me what will be at the other side of this if I don’t manage it properly and that’s what comes to my mind when people say they’d give anything to be me, even just for a day.  They don’t see that it’s impossible to sustain my level of thinking/feeling/seeing/speaking/activity and it will inevitably lead to burnout and burnout when you are someone with a mental illness is never pretty or straight-forward. I walk a vey fine line between the excitability becoming overwhelming agitation and if I don’t work with Dr’s to re-adjust my medication it’s almost guaranteed that I will reach the point where I can’t function, saying a simple “hello” to someone will feel too distressing – the same person who couldn’t shut me up last week when I was going on and on 100mph.  I’ll be unable to get out of bed, won’t wash for days/weeks, calls go unanswered, appointments missed and I’ll feel yet again, was it worth it? Rather than my brain having no filter, I will watch the world through another kind of filter. The kind that makes me feel I don’t belong here, I don’t fit it, I’m different and the kind that makes me feel horrific guilt for being unable to control my brain chemistry. I will also feel incredibly foolish when I realise I can’t even cope with sharing the same oxygen as the people I forced to listen to all my grandiose intentions for conquering the entire universe.

So before you look at all the fun I’m having and stare in awe as I try to change the world with my energy and ideas, pause for a moment. You can wish for it if that’s what you still choose…..but just be very aware there are 2 sides to this illness and that actually, being “too happy” is still a state of unwell. Have a day in my life by all means, but be aware there are usually consequences.

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