“Well, it was good while it lasted.”
That’s what I found myself thinking the day I slid off the cliff of hypomania into depression. My brain is frozen solid, and I don’t want to do anything, feel anything, be anyone to anybody. I want oblivion again.
Hypomania is so sneaky. I wondered why I was managing so well over Thanksgiving and Chirstmas—shopping, wrapping, addressing Christmas cards, decorating, hosting a party—and balancing all those spinning plates with an ease I had not felt in some time.
And after Christmas, I went on a mission to clean up the house—putting the decorations away, packing up all the presents. I bought a new laundry organizer and a new CD storage organizer, a new bookcase, new paint and window treatments for my daughter’s room for her upcoming birthday.
I cleaned out my laundry room, getting rid of old dance costumes and socks without mates.
I replaced all my shoes with new ones, sorted through my old ones, and threw away so many pairs of shoes it was embarrassing. I now have fifteen pairs, organized in a hanging unit.
We donated old dresses that my daughter couldn’t wear anymore, and I threw away blue jeans that had holes in the knees and no longer fit me or anyone else.
I reorganized my purse collection and hung them back up in my closet instead of letting them sit on the floor.
I read ahead in my classes, one week, two weeks, three weeks ahead over the semester break trying to get a jump on school. I worked my way through the class I’m teaching until I got the schedule in my head and how I was going to teach down pat to be prepared for the first week of school.
Me, me, me, me and me by myself did all of this work from November 23 until January 24, when brain freeze set in and I did not want to do anything anymore but lie in the bed. Even then I got busy—I called my psychiatrist, my counselor, and my husband and told them what was going on. So I had a schedule set to go to class, see my psychiatrist, and see my therapist all in a row the next day.
The next day, my psychiatrist said it wasn’t unusual to suddenly switch from one mood state to another, especially from as long a hypomanic state as I described. He looked back and saw how well I had been doing in previous appointments. I told him my appetite had disappeared—I hadn’t eaten breakfast in over a month. I ate when it was mealtime and I had lost three pounds.
Well, that seemed to point him in a certain direction. He replaced Buspar with Effexor, which I know will make me gain weight if I don’t do something to contain it. It has helped my mood in the past so I am hoping it will do so without sabotaging my attempts to lose weight.
I talked to my therapist about how I had wondered at my burst of energy, how I had wondered at writing such large checks—paying in full the clearance price for the bookcase, paying for my five pairs of new shoes, paying for my daughter’s room to be painted, paying a deposit on new curtains, paying my tuition for school—how I had likely cut through about five thousand dollars in twenty days. All of it sanctioned by my husband, all of it for things that needed doing, but still an amazing amount of money to the me I normally was. We talked about balance and doing what needed to be done until the depression passed, as it always does.
Signs to watch for in sneaky hypomania:
Nothing goes wrong that you can’t handle in your own strength. Over-confidence.
Going through a lot of money without thinking twice about it. Over-spending.
High energy and laser focus. Over-achieving.
Wanting to socialize constantly. Over-stimulated.
It took two weeks for the Effexor to kick in and for me to feel human again. But this time I’m on the lookout for hypomania as well as depression, knowing they’re just two sides of the same coin of illness for me.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.