Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hypomania (Part 2)

Please read yesterday's post for continuity.

6-7 A hypomania of this magnitude begins to scare me. And this is when I feel things are spiraling out of control. There is a moment when I know that whatever skills I've developed for self-regulation aren't working so I go to my doctor and see what my alternatives are.

Since none of the mood stabilizers work for me, it's difficult to find a quick-fix. But sometimes, taking Depakote for a day or two will stop the episode. It also makes me physically ill (it doesn't matter what dosage I take, I get flu-like symptoms that don't go away). As I've said before, neither Lithium, Tegretol, or Lamictal work, nor do a long list of other medications.

Again, I must say that prior to taking medication, my hypomanias (and I use the term loosely) were very low level. These days, I no longer experience any that are above a 3 or 4 on a ten point scale but in the past, I remember talking so fast that it must have been difficult for others to follow me. I was so enthusiastic about whatever my passions were that it wasn't "normal." I had feelings of grandiosity that were more than just being optimistic or excited about the future.

As a freelance grant writer (a former profession), I had difficulty writing grants because my thoughts were racing. Rather than narrowly focusing on the task at hand, I would involve myself in all aspects of a client's business. While my time management skills are ordinarily excellent, I would find myself spending way too much time researching potential donors, or talking to a client about issues that had nothing to do with the grant. I won't bore you with the details but there were a few disastrous years that I try not to think about.

During a hypomania that was a 6-7, I found myself more irritable and less patient than usual. Since I was aware of my behavior, I tried to take a deep breathe before I responded to people who annoyed me. If I needed a moment to compose myself, I would say, "I'm sorry but I need to go to the bathroom." I felt it was better for them to think I had a bladder problem than to know that my behavior was "over the top."

If I was at home, I would try and do deep breathing exercises or do physical exercise. If things were moving too fast, I would take a small dosage of Ativan (which I use to sleep at night during hypomanias).

I don't have episodes like this any more because as I've mentioned before, I'm off the medication merry-go-round. I only take medication during depressions, and once they're over, I go off it. While I sometimes experience a low-level hypomania following a depression, I am well-aware of the symptoms and I won't allow them to disrupt my life.

But when I look back, there was certainly behavior I exhibited that embarrasses me. When possible, I have apologized (years ago) for offending people during these episodes. I destroyed some professional relationships and it was unfortunate. A few years later, I decided that grant writing as a profession isn't for me because it exacerbates my illness (and I had stopped enjoying the work). I reinvented myself as a freelance writer (I'd been doing that work for the last 20 years as well).

These days, I no longer think about the bad times. They're over. I no longer experience those kinds of hypomanias. I'm grateful. It's history.


marja said...

I can remember some pretty embarrassing occasions too. One time I went to a friend to apologize for the way I had behaved the night before when she and her family visited. She said that her family had probably only thought I'd had too much to drink. That didn't make me feel any better.

You mention freelance writing as a career. I think freelancing is one of the best ways for bipolars to work. You can turn down or accept jobs depending on how you are. I used to do freelance photography and that worked out well.


I'm on a daily regimen of Depakote, Seroquel, and Lamictal. For a very long time, I was on these drugs but with massive doses. As a result, for three years, I went into a horrible decline of memory failure, increasing inability to walk and see, and falling. A mis-diagnosis by a radiology clinic said I had suffered a stroke. Finally, one evening, I collapsed and could not move. Well, after a week in the hospital, it was determined that I was heavily over-medicated to a toxic levels. I was kept on the same drugs, for without them I really go psychotic, but at a tremendously lower dosage. I never felt so mentally balanced, hopeful, and competent in my entire life. Also, physical exercise, diet, and part-time work are excellent therapies. I love your blog!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gay Bipolar Guy,
What an unbelievable story! Actually, I believe that most bipolars are probably over-medicated.

The prescribed dosage is usually based on no "studies" related to bipolar disorder. Since much of what's prescribed for us was actually developed for other "diseases," the pharmaceutical companies never determined the proper dosages.

And since there have been so few studies on the clinical application of medications, other than the STEP-BD (which I'll discuss in another post), people are being poorly medicated at best.

So glad you've found something that works for you. So very glad you "love my blog."

Welcome to our "village."


P.S. I love the art on your blog! And I've genuinely enjoyed what I've read as well!