5 Ways I Keep My Fall Hypomania in Check

I’ve always wondered if I have reverse seasonal affective disorder. Although spring and summer bring more light with longer days, I don’t struggle with the same hypomania many people with bipolar disorder experience during those seasons. I usually find myself less motivated to go out and socialize in the warmer months. Maybe it’s because I live in the south. I’ve always hated the heat and humidity that accompany summertime here. I just want to stay inside in the air conditioning until it’s over.

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Traveling with Bipolar Disorder

It’s summertime! This is usually the time of year everyone goes on vacation. I love to travel. The reason I work and earn money at all is so I can go new places and experience different cultures and vistas. Unfortunately, because I have bipolar disorder, I have to be careful when I go on vacation, because travel can trigger my mania.

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How Yoga Helps Me Stay in Recovery

Being depressed feels like being trapped under a heavy wool blanket. I can’t breathe, I can’t see, I can’t move. The immense weight of the world around me is almost unbearably oppressive. I get lost in my own mind as fearful, anxious thoughts overtake my brain. My muscles and bones ache, and I feel stiff and immobilized. I just can’t seem to move my body enough to get myself off the sofa or out of the house.

When I’m manic, blindingly bright electrical impulses fire rapidly through my head. Things that normally feel good are intensified tenfold. Food tastes incredible, music sounds melodious and meaningful, and colors appear more vivid. Like the rush of dopamine that comes with the high of a powerful drug, it’s pretty amazing. Sounds great, right? The problem is, ideas dart around in my mind so rapidly that even in the middle of a pleasurable experience, I can’t simply enjoy it, because I’m focused on chasing the next one.

In both scenarios, my body gets lost in the whirlwind created by my bipolar mind.

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5 Reasons I’m Thankful For My Bipolar Diagnosis

I grew up with a bipolar dad who committed suicide when I was 24. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years after he died, when my delayed reaction to his suicide triggered my first depressive episode. Before my diagnosis, I struggled with unexplained racing thoughts, impulsive behaviors, and conflicted relationships. I always knew there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until I had a psychological evaluation, underwent therapy and found the right mood-stabilizing medication that I was able to finally find peace within myself. I’m thankful to finally have an answer as to why I made so many bad decisions. Here are five reasons I’m grateful for the insight my bipolar diagnosis has given me.

    1. I can explain my behavior.
      From sleeping with strangers to getting arrested for shoplifting, I struggled with impulsive, destructive behaviors for years. I’m not saying my bipolar disorder was an excuse, but it’s given me an explanation as to why I compulsively made so many mistakes that hurt myself and those around me.
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Meds

meds

 

I’m really lucky the meds I started in 2009 are still working like little champions to curb my mania and depression. Not everyone finds a drug cocktail that works. Wellburtin and Trileptal have been my saviors.

I’ve tried so many antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics it’s been hard to keep count.

 

So let me see if I can remember all the meds I’ve taken and what they did for me:

Neurontin (when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder).
Effects: Nothing.
Result: I stopped taking it because I didn’t notice a difference.

Concerta (my doctor thought I may have ADD – I was diagnosed ADD when I was a kid).
Effects: I was cracked out, like I had taken speed.
Result: Since my doctor only gave me 1 pill as a test to see if I had ADD, and I reacted the way I did, he deduced that I didn’t have ADD, so I only took that one pill, once.
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: I’ve heard from both doctors and people who suffer from bipolar that bipolar kids are often misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

Depakote
Effects: None.
Result: Stopped taking it under my doctor’s supervision because it did literally nothing.

Zyprexa
Effects: It just made me really sedated and sleepy, and I gained fifteen pounds. I can’t put up with weight gain. I get so upset that I’ve gained weight (hello lifelong eating disorder) that I just refuse to take the meds. It helped my mania a teeny tiny bit but not enough to make me OK with gaining fifteen pounds.
Result: Stopped taking it under my doctor’s supervision.

Paxil
Effects: I was suuuuuuuppppppeerrrr slow and sedated on it and I gained weight. So nope.
Result: Only took it for 2 weeks and then stopped on my own.

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This Hypomanic Moment

This is an old diary entry of mine from 2009, and it really captures what’s going on in my mind when I’m hypomanic:

I went out to a club last night where a friend was DJing. I had a blast but forgot to take my anti-mania meds. I also had a flask full of vodka that I poured into the $3 cokes – 3 of them.

I did have a great time and lucky for me, only drank that vodka and it was good quality. So last night was a nice, clean drunk with no blackouts and no hangover today.

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Another Manic Moment

I came across another old diary entry from 2009. I keep talking about how I’m not manic, I’m hypomanic. Going back and reading it, I was manic as hell.

Everyone, I give you the manic me:

A week ago my friend did his music video night. The plan beforehand was to go on a bunch of art galleries with a good friend.

I knew I was going to drink but I’d planned to not have too much. I can’t resist red wine (especially free) at art galleries. People just get looser with their money when buzzed, so it sells art. I know my wallet falls open wider with a couple drinks, but I don’t have the money to buy artwork.

My fiancé signed us up to participate in the yard sale they were having in our neighborhood in which all participants had to arrive no later than 7 AM Saturday morning to reserve a space. He told me I could sleep in, but I didn’t want him to be stuck there by himself all day if he had to get water or pee. Plus I wanted to spend time with him and be a part of it.

I knew I’d be out late on Friday but I didn’t want to miss the club night. It’s torture for me to miss social events. Being an extreme extrovert. I almost knocked my stunned psychologist out of her chair when I tipped the scale on that part of Myers-Briggs. ENFJ with the E in bold. Is being a manic extrovert doubly bad? Are manic people just extroverts anyway? So, I thought, if I got 2 hours of sleep, fuck it.

I ended up getting an hour and a half.

Before even getting curling my lashes Friday night I had to weigh my options in my head for my mood stabilizer: do I take the pills before I go out, knowing I may get drunker having just taken them, and my hangover, should I have one, could be amplified the next morning? Or should I wait until I get home, no matter what time it was, and pop the 3 pills at whatever time in the middle of the night? UGH. This happens every time I go out. If I’m at an art gallery, I want those plastic cups filled with cheap Cabernet because it’s there and it’s free. I’m not supposed to because I’m on these mood stabilizers. But I want that wine so I have it anyway.

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Hello From 2009!

Yes you read that right. I’m typing this in 2018, 9 years after 2009, but I actually started this blog in 2009.

In 2009, 7 years after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and 9 years after my bipolar dad committed suicide, I decided I should write a memoir. So I started working on it. And with it, came a little blog called Darkness and Light.

And so much happened. I wrote hundreds of pages of the book. I wrote dozens of blog posts. I submitted query letters to agents and went to writing workshops and writing conferences. I contacted publishers and wrote more blog entries.

And somewhere in there I got married, divorced, started a new career, moved around a few times, lost my 2 beloved kitties, adopted 2 new ones, attempted suicide, survived, was hospitalized, and came out on the other end a much stronger person.

And I didn’t get agent representation. I didn’t get published. So what did I do? I gave up.

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