Why Mania May Not Be As Bad As You Thought
We all hear about the unpredictable nature of bipolar disorder - is it really what it sounds like?
When I first got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I expected extremes. I didn't realize that I had already been experiencing episodes of depression and mania for years. Ever since I was a teenager, my moods were always so up and down. My parents always just said it was puberty. Comes with mood swings, right?
I wasn't scared of the depression, because I was hauntingly familiar with it. The mania scared me. I had heard stories about it, how it could make you stay up for days and lead you to the worst decisions. I didn't want any of that, and it kind of didn't make sense because I wasn't doing that at all.
My mania came in small bursts, sometimes bigger. It would look like someone becoming extremely hyper and bounding off of the walls for no apparent reason. Sometimes it felt as if I had taken something, though obviously I hadn't. Like something was injected into my bloodstream that made me need to move.
As I got older, these small bursts became longer. I was still able to sleep, but I would be in a much better mood for a few days compared to normal, and especially compared to the depression.
The truth is, I wasn't experiencing mania at all. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, type II. With this type of bipolar disorder comes something called hypomania. It is just a lesser version of mania. The typical bipolar disorder that you see in the movies is usually type I. With type I, there's a lot of energy that comes in the form of full-blown mania.
Another difference between type I and type II is the ratio of mania/hypomania versus depression. With bipolar type I, you'll have full manic episodes, followed by depressive episodes. With bipolar type II, your energy levels won't get as high as mania, but your depression is more frequent.
But a reminder that bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum, and it's possible that your symptoms could exhibit themselves in ways that I haven't described.
I used to think that when I was hypomanic, it was a horrible thing. I had to be ashamed of myself and hide myself away, and try to muffle everything that I was feeling.
I've learned that it is, in fact, possible to control parts of myself during hypomanic episodes. I can stop myself from spending a bunch of money online or on take out. I can stop myself from doing things that are risky, especially if I have a good support system around me.
One time while I was hypomanic, I wrote a whole book. I got an idea and reformatted about five years of diary entries into a book that was a brief summary of my life. It wasn't a bad thing. It was actually a really good thing. I still slept for (brief) periods in between writing, but I mostly just wrote for about 3-4 days.
When it was done, I liked having something in my hands that I could be proud of. Especially because it was the result of something that I had always been so ashamed of. I had always hated being hypomanic, and I was so terrified of it. But now I had a reminder that hypomania wasn't always bad. It could be productive and worthwhile sometimes, too.
So what if I get obsessed with a video game for three days? So what if I stay up until four in the morning, or seven, or don't sleep at all for a night? I'm learning to lean into hypomania, because I'll always have it. This will never go away.
I try to be gentle with myself during this time, because I can't help being hypomanic. And I'm not hurting anyone. I'll get back to normal in a few days, and I might even go lower than that, so I might as well enjoy this while it lasts.
My family always reminds me that my mental illness is not my fault and that I have to be a little less hard on myself. I'm constantly berating myself for everything that I do wrong, and that's the last thing I need to do when there's already so much negativity in the world.
The thing about mental health is that it looks so different for everybody. If you have bipolar disorder, it may look nothing like what I've described. Or, it may look exactly like mine.
If you can relate to this, I'm really glad. And if you can't, maybe you can learn something, so that you can understand someone with bipolar disorder a little better.
Be gentle with yourself, because we can't always control how our mental illnesses make us feel. However, we can control how we react to these feelings and how we cope with them.
If you need support, please visit this website for resources, regardless of where you are in the world.
About the Creator
Multi-talented entrepreneur, trying to figure out who I am in this world while also running a small business. My business, Happily Mander, offers life coaching services, tarot and oracle readings, and much more. Entering my bad bitch era.
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