While there are some aspects of hypomania I enjoy--the boundless energy, great enthusiasm, joi di vivre, and a interest in talking to a wide range of people--there are other qualities I despise. The following are three things I dislike most about hypomania.
1. A lack of patience. While I'm ordinarily patient with people--and have gotten increasingly so since my illness, when I'm hypomanic I have very little patience. I try to overcome it by recognizing it's a problem and consciously trying to count to 10 before I speak.
2. Talking too much. I used to feel that talking too much during a hypomania wasn't so problematic because, after all, I went through long periods of depression when I didn't talk at all. So, it kind of evened itself out.
I have since realized that excessive talking is unappealing to others, and I work hard to control this. If I'm with my husband, we have a sign when I seem to be dominating the conversation with others. He kind of nods at me, although it's my decision whether to quit talking or not. I wish I had figured this out years ago. I'm still not great at dealing with this when I'm alone, although my mantra is "Less (talk) is more."
3. Increased irritability. I wish I could say that I've got this under control, but I don't. I recently had a fight with a dear friend. I can't seem to truly apologize or empathize with her position, because I can't get beyond my own hurt feelings (which came out as anger) at something she emailed me. (Please no more lectures on forgiveness, but if you've got other advice, I'm willing to listen.)
On the positive side, over the years I have reduced or eliminated the following hypomanic symptoms:
Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity. I try to listen to myself and stop behaving this way. I realized that I used to talk about "big plans" because I felt so bad that I wasn't achieving anything positive during my depressive episodes. But these days I try to focus more on who I am than on what I achieve.
Decreased need for sleep. This was always a medication-induced problem for me. Still, since my doctors made it very clear that a lack of sleep fuels a hypomania, I'm careful to get eight to nine hours of sleep a night. If I can't do it naturally, I take sleeping pills (which I stop taking the moment I'm no longer hypomanic.) Getting off the pills is always a problem, but staying on them is far worse because I know they contribute to depressive episodes during low energy periods or during the fall and winter months.
Flight of ideas. This still creeps up on occasion, but I've gotten much better about refusing to pursue ideas during a hypomania that don't interest me when I'm normal.
Increase in goal-directed activity. Again, I try to watch my behavior and identify problems before they occur. While I consider it okay to garden for long periods, or do home improvement chores, I only start one project at a time, and I finish it before I move on to the next one.
In years past, I would spend months working on book proposals that didn't interest me when I was well (This can still be a problem although I try to disengage myself more quickly.). I try to stay off the computer (which was a problem when I spent years researching this illness and downloading reams of materials that I diligently filed).
When this symptom seems like it's rearing its ugly head, I get out my Day-Timer and start accounting for my time in 30 minute segments so I can record how I'm spending my days--and make appropriate adjustments.
So, what hypomanic symptoms do you dislike the most? What tips do you have for diminishing their impact on your life?