Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Humbling Hypomania

Marja posted on this topic a few days ago. Her post is called "A Bit High." It caused me to think about my own behavior.
* * *
As much as I've taught myself about hypomania, I still sometimes surprise myself when I feel I have behaved badly. And it's a humbling experience. Two days ago, when I was at the event for my friend's child, in retrospect I talked too much. Without my husband to monitor me (we spent years working out a system), it's sometimes difficult for me to recognize the "Chatty Cathy" behavior until afterwards.

It's not like my behavior embarrassed my friends. And certainly there are people who aren't bipolar who talk too much, but it still bothers me. With most other things in life, once I've learn a new skill (whether it's playing a sport or a musical instrument) or figured something out about who I am (whether it's that I'm an introvert by nature or hypersensitive), I take what I've learned and go with it.

But hypomania is different. For one thing, it's seasonal--for me. In the last number of years, if it's June or July, I'm hypomanic. For another, it's not easily controllable, not matter how hard I try.

The positive side is that I've gotten much better at it. The negative side is that I've still got a ways to go. While I've developed a number of methods to slow myself down--including breathing, meditating (after a fashion), and taking an adult "time-out"--it's not always easy for me to remember to do these in a group situation.

I'm far better at utilizing these skills if I'm alone or in a small group. I wonder why it's so difficult to say to myself, "Susan, be quiet. You've talked enough." And when I forget to do this, there's an aspect of it that's quite humbling.

While I understand the importance of humility, it's not always easy to deal with.

16 comments:

Danielle said...

I find myself sometimes going into 'hypomanic mode' during my lectures. I can spot when it is happening...at those times I use my chair rather than pace around the front and take a deep breath and ask the class 'what do you think?".

Jazz said...

Susan,
It's the very nature of hypomania to rob us of our judgement...so don't beat yourself up about it! I can't believe some of the things I did while hypo/manic, which all, every single one of them seemed like a good idea at the time.

It is only in retrospect that I realize how awful my behavior was...and yes, it is humbling.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Danielle,
Thanks great advice! "When I find myself talking too much, I need to remember to take a breath, turn to the person I'm talking to, and ask a question." Thanks for the suggestion!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
Actually, I'm not beating myself up. I believe it's important to figure out behavioral patterns that bother us--and might bother others--and to change them.

So...I think it's okay to sometimes feel a "little disappointed" or "humbled" by my behavior because that means I'm paying attention to what I'm doing.

As long as I continue to evolve, and not dwell on it, it's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

Susan

Jazz said...

Susan--
I fully agree...It's very important to me to believe that I have control. But it is also very clear to me that there have been times when I have not...or at least, my judgement has been compromised.

I think it's important to cultivate the kind of awareness you are talking about. If I'd had that kind of awareness a few years ago, I might have saved myself a lot of pain.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I believe many of us feel the same way. If our doctors had concentrated on discussing hypomanic symptoms, how to develop an awareness of them, and made suggestions on how to lessen their impact--our lives might have been changed. And the impact of this illness might have been significantly diminished!

Susan

Jazz said...

Susan--
I notice that my psych appointments have always been billed to my insurance company as "medication management," but I think there is far too much emphasis on "medication" and far too little on "management."

I was never taught any skills for managing the illness, other than calling the doctor and getting the medications adjusted upward for every little bobble in my emotional state.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I was never taught any skills for managing bipolar symptoms either. And as far as I'm concerned, that's the problem in a nutshell.

If you've got a good doctor and you get diabetes (adult onset) as my mother did, the first thing her doctor did was enroll her in a three-day nutrition and diet class at a local hospital, and encourage her family members to attend.

If you've got high blood pressure and you've got a good doctor, the first thing he/she should do is enroll you in a stress and relaxation class, discuss your diet, and tell you that Dr. Dean Ornish has reversed heart disease without operations.

In fact, the mindfulness meditation classes at many hospitals are geared for people with chronic physical problems, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

If you're diagnosed as bipolar, they throw medication at you, and in my experience say, "There's nothing that helps this illness but medication, so it doesn't matter what you do."

Is there any wonder people don't get better? Of course, we've had this discussion before, and now I'm going to get a slew of comments about the value of medication, which isn't the point of our discussion.

So, if your medication works, please don't leave a comment about it. What Jazz and I are discussing is education as a way to reduce bipolar symptoms and achieve wellness.

Susan

Annie said...

Susan, Nice post, very helpful to review my own experience too. I have two ideas that work sometimes for me. I find that I need to periodically look down and break eye contact for a few seconds-or so. It helps me regroup.I have also tried touching my hand as a cue. It doesn't always work but sometimes. Hope this is helpful, your post was for! Annie

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Annie,
I'm always grateful for new ideas to try. I have broken eye-contact in the past and it does work, but I forgot I used to do that. Touching my hand isn't something I've tried, but I will! Thanks!

Susan

Jena said...

I find that when I'm hypomanic there are many positive traits for me that come with that, more so than negative. But my biggest problem with it is my tendency to say TOO much. It's the "foot in mouth" syndrome. I've written about it on my blog before. I usually try to remember that it is wiser to say less and listen more during those times. Bite my tongue. Shift my talking energy into productivity.

Bradley@howisbradley.com said...

Being more on the depressive side, I am most driven crazy by the responses I get when I'm hypomanic. People experience me being chatty and tell me they are glad at how I'm doing or even that they are glad I'm well now.

I am a recovering speed addict and I can tell you that the experiences are almost identical. My pdoc and I refer to it jokingly as the Mountain Dew effect.

marja said...

I agree with you, Susan and Jazz. Psychiatrists don't seem to know, or care to know, anymore than what kind of meds to prescribe. I sometimes get the feeling that they expect you to go home, take the meds, and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for them to work.

But what do you DO while you're waiting for them to take effect?

What you DO and how you LIVE and what kind of attitude you bring to it is where most of the recovery comes from.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jena,
I'm so glad to hear from you. I read your post today and was terribly concerned, but I guess I didn't read it carefully enough because I thought you were already in the hospital. Just know that my thoughts and prayers are with you for a full and speedy recovery!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
The "Mountain Dew Effect" may be something I "steal." What a great description! Yes, I could imagine that if depression is your primary problem, it might make you uncomfortable if people think "manic" is "normal" for you!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
To me, this is the greatest problem with so-called treatment. I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed. The doctor said I was atypical bipolar II, she said it would take 14 days for the medication to kick in (if it worked at all), and that was it.

I was severely depressed and I felt as if I had been diagnosed and abandoned, and I wasn't sure which was worse.

Susan