Emily's Blog Post #2
Emily's Blog Post #2
I remember texting my mom “I think I’m going to climb Mount Everest.”
When she replied “Go for it!” I was so glad to have support. Better start getting in shape, training and doing some research.
She followed up a few minutes later with “This is just school stress talking, right?”
I was beyond offended. I was being completely serious. Sure, I had no mountain climbing experience but I could learn. Sure I had no equipment or knowledge of the area, climate, air pressure, elevation and lack of oxygen, but I’m a quick learner. So what, over 200 people have died while climbing it? That just wouldn’t happen to me. Nothing bad would happen to me, no obstacle would faze me. I felt indestructible. I was hypomanic.
Hypomania is most commonly known as the “high” phase of bipolar II disorder, but can also be caused by medication or psychiatric treatment. Hypomania includes three or more of the following symptoms:
- Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
- Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feeling rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
- More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
- Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
- Distractibility (e.g., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
- Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)
Hypomania differs from the manic that those with bipolar I experience. Mania includes psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and can interfere with the individual’s work and social life.
I’m not diagnosed with bipolar, though I was assessed for it after the second antidepressant I tried rapidly sent me soaring into an episode of hypomania that lasted about three months.
Having been through hypomania, I think it is a widely misunderstood part of mental illness. What’s so bad about inflated self-esteem? Being more talkative than usual, more focused and ambitious about goals sounds pretty ideal, doesn’t it? To be completely honest, at times it was. At times I felt incredible. But before it all came to a screeching halt, things got bad - real bad - and fast.
Since the first medication I tried did absolutely nothing to improve my mental health, I was elated when the second one not only relieved my symptoms, but made me feel happy. Happiness was an emotion I’d gone nearly six months without feeling.
At first it overwhelmed me in the best way possible. Music sounded better, colours looked brighter, food tasted better. When I was depressed I’d think of any excuse to stay indoors by myself. Hypomanic, I couldn’t understand why anyone would spend any time alone. I felt connected to everyone I met. Every stranger was a potential best friend, every day was a new opportunity for adventure, to push myself out of my comfort zone and reap the rewards. I wasn’t afraid of anything.
I didn’t think much of insomnia. I only slept about 4-6 hours each night, but I didn’t feel tired so I wasn’t worried. The comments from friends and family that I was acting sort of “crazy” didn’t faze me; I felt they just didn’t understand what it was like to recover from a crippling mental disorder. “You should go off those meds, they’re making you act different,” people would say. I admit that I knew all along something wasn’t quite right – physically, my body was exhausted and begging for a rest. Mentally, I had never felt so awake.
The thing about hypomania is that it feels too good to be true, because it is. It felt like things couldn’t be better – I was already at the top, and eventually there was no direction to go but downhill.
My self-esteem inflated to the point I felt rules didn’t apply to me. “My shoes don’t match a dress code? Well, they look great on me so I’m going to wear them anyway.” “Someone wants to meet me at 10? I can show up at 11 and they’ll still be happy to see me.” This had nothing to do with being conceited and everything to do with being mentally ill. I was on my way to losing touch with reality and social norms.
My grades didn’t recover from the plummet they took while I was depressed – too many big thoughts and ideas racing through my brain at all hours made it impossible to complete a single task.
Feeling on top and like nothing could bring me down eventually caused me to lash out when things didn’t go my way. Something as simple as a friend having other plans when I wanted to hang out would result in an immature temper tantrum, something I thought I would get away with.
After being called “annoying” and “irrational,” one too many times, after several relationships had been affected by angry outbursts, after too many hours of lost sleep, I agreed to have my meds switched. The switch sent me spiralling downward to my second round of depression, more intense and severe than ever before.
Luckily, it lasted just under a month before my mood stabilized. If I had known the downfall was coming, I would have got help for the hypomania sooner.
Now, having recovered I can say with certainty that life after depression is incredible. I have a firm grip on reality, healthy self-esteem, and stable relationships. It is possible to be happy without being hypomanic, living out the natural ups and downs as they come.
Hypomania is just as debilitating as depression, though it is talked about much less. Knowing more about it from the beginning could have saved aspects of my friendships, physical health, grades, and reputation.
Hypomania is real. It’s an intense, concerning whirlwind of irrational thoughts and actions, and like any mental illness, it needs to be taken seriously
I’m Emily, and I’m passionate about mental wellness, fitness & yoga. I’m obsessed with the outdoors and wiener dogs. Most importantly, I’m a peanut butter addict.