Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dealing with Mania and Hypomania (Part 1)

Years ago, when I was first diagnosed as bipolar II, and I was reading everything I could find about the illness, I quickly learned there was a lot written about mania, but every little written about hypomania. In my local library, I picked up a video about being bipolar, and when I started watching it I began crying.

The interviews with four bipolar people were so depressing that I was overcome with sadness. As I remember it, and I'm not sure this was all on the same video, one bipolar man talked about some sort of money scam he'd run when he was manic. A married woman talked about buying an entire living room of furniture (in one day) that put her family in financial jeopardy. A mother discussed how she'd strike out at her children for no apparent reason. And a married man talked about taking a woman he barely knew (not his wife) on a trip to another country.

Years later, I read about Sol Wachter, the Chief Judge of the New York State of Appeals, stalking a former lover (he was married at the time), by writing a series of explicit letters and making menacing telephone calls, and ending up in prison. And there have been so many other stories about uncontrolled mania, and the havoc and heartbreak it causes.

The bipolar people in the video, Judge Wachter, and so may others seemed to suggest they had no control over their behavior, and their bipolar illness was to blame. I, who had only experienced hypomanias, found it difficult to believe.

When Wachter's prison memoir came out, I remember being so upset about it that I discussed it with my psychiatrist. "Do you truly believe that Judge Wachter couldn't help himself?" I asked. "He's writing that everything he did was against his moral code and yet he blames his undiagnosed illness, for which he didn't seek help, and self-prescribed medication."

All these years later, I don't remember my psychiatrist's exact words, but he reassured me that he didn't believe Wachter's bipolarity was to blame. And neither did I.

Since I've only experienced one "manic episode" that was medication-induced, and my doctor immediately took me off Zoloft and put me on lithium (which didn't work but I still returned to "normalcy"within a few days), I don't have any idea what full-blown manias are like.

During my brief manic episode, all I remember is that I had too much energy, which I tried to dissipate through exercise, I diligently cleaned my house, played a lot of video games with my son (who was about five years old at the time), and flattened two tires on my mini-van because my judgment was slightly impaired, and our driveway is narrow and steep and has a concrete lip off the fireplace that is problematic at best (although I'd never hit it before). There was some other slightly "off" behavior, but I did nothing that was inconsistent with my morals and values.

What I decided early on was that unlike the bipolar people who blamed their untoward behavior on their illness, I would take personal responsibility for mine. (more to come)


naturalgal said...

So many people have done things that they are so ashamed of while in a "manic" episode. Many people do things against their own morals. I am truly curious for you explanation on this.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Naturalgal,
First, I want to welcome you to my blog. I just peeked at yours and can't wait to go back. The question you pose is a good one, which I plan on researching today, and addressing in tomorrow's post.


Paula Joy said...

I have never had a manic episode either. I used to get super-excited about things, and talk quickly, stuff like that, but never to any kind of high extreme.
However, I do find that I do things when I am depressed that I don't have much control over, so I can try to understand how manic must feel. I shared some thoughts about that actually in my post yesterday.
I'm interested in tomorrow's read!!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
The difference between bipolar I and II is supposed to be that bipolar I folks experience manias and bipolar II folks experience hypomanias. I'll try to stop by your blog tomorrow to check it out. I'm swamped and haven't had much time to check out many other blogs these days!


JayPeeFreely said...

I guess it wouldn't be right if I read this and didn't comment.

I read the interview of the judge. I guess he got an eye opening look at the system - I had read of that case before, in a book on stalkers, after I was released - and has come around slightly on the attitudes we should have about crimes & punishment.

I don't know whether I was ever completely against morals and values, but I did express myself in unhealthy ways.

Something snapped, unparalleled in my life, and it really looped me. During the hypomanic oscillating to depressed side of this loop, I wrote pitiful letters, demeaned myself, and was stuck in an ever present feeling of guilt over my tirade. I wanted punishment, but didn't always feel I deserve it.

It didn't matter really - as much as I felt bad, I also felt bitter and betrayed, jilted and joked about.

For my efforts, you know the rest.

I don't think there is a clear cut analysis of what might happen to you while in a part. mode of this/other disorders.

I mean, there are certain things that crop up, but others are related to people's reactions, what events take place, meds, drastic changes in environment - I moved immediately and travelled alot for 3 months, and knew no one - and various other things.

My best friend skated on me. Finances were not bad, but I was going back to the bottle. Lonely...that did the most damage.

Once arrested, I really got a rude awakening. (I turned myself in.) That first 45 days turned me inside out. And I think what was worse was "my victim" was turning the screws, lying and creating a story of far,far,far worse preportions, and I was totally off guard.

Since then, I had to decide that no person is worth the trouble I indeed caused...myself. Really, no one is worth it. A relative, a wife, or even an offspring cannot be put above your sanity or well-being. Sorry. I just don't think I can give anyone that amount of commitment.

Selfish, but necessary. I cannot trust anyone. What they know is usually far, far less than needed to understand me. And since I have nothing of value (tangible) to offer, it is easy now.

Unlike Mr. judge, who at least could write his memoir and make a buck, my story is not that thrilling or unusual to garner that. And I couldn't do the personal thing because of lifetime restrictions that could be used against me by someone looking to get more pounds of flesh.

Long-winded, but it is that time of year. (It happened around this time 7 years ago.)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
This time of year must always be difficult for you. I can't imagine the pain and suffering you experienced before or since. I'm not sure if anyone ever acknowledged the factors that led to what happened, and apologized to you, rather than just blamed you.

Since I'm an eternal optimist, I somehow hope that some day you'll find love and happiness.


astramillie said...

I've been going through a major med change (first in 8 years) and have had thus the first mania cycle in the same amount of time. I forgot what they were like. It was the paint the bathroom with the toothbrush time.
Luckily, I know the signs and was able to start writing and am not adverse to cleaning (properly, not throwing bleach on the walls) this time around. It was still uncomfortable. Its always nice to know that you aren't alone.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear astramillie,
So sorry to hear that you're going through a change after eight years of stability. I can't imagine how difficult that must be for you. Of course, you're not alone.

It must be heartening to know the signs, a relief to be able to write about it, and is at least a healthy and productive way of dealing with too much energy.


Ganny said...

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II or hypomania last year and was prescribed Lexapro. Has anyone else used this drug for this condition and did they have good results with it? I only took it for three weeks and stopped it because I became too fatigued to look after my family.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Ganny,
What you want to do is to visit sites where people discuss medication. I'd recommend Dr. Bob, and Crazy Meds. They have continuous "threads" about medication and all you have to do is type in Lexapro to find out what others feel. Both are listed in my sidebar in two different categories.