Hypomanic Episodes: My Triggers
I wish I had more hypomanic episodes - I think a lot of us with Bipolar II feel the same. Experts agree that in general there is much more depression than hypomania in Bipolar II, and while hypomania certainly can cause some serious problems, for many of us, well - it’s glorious.
I’ve done some dumb things during hypomania - notably spending way too much money - but because my depressive episodes are often mixed, I’ve done that when I wasn’t hypomanic, too. (For instance, this past January - sigh. Sometimes it seems like I never saw a flowering plant I didn’t like, unless it was magenta. I mail-ordered 197 plants.)
My longest hypomanic episode, lasting a full year, was brought on by my first-ever experience with an antidepressant. I felt better than I’d ever felt in my life. Decisions? Easy to make. Smiles? All the time. Energy? You bet. Efficient? Absolutely. Life? Wonderful.
And I had no idea it was hypomania. I just thought the antidepressant had made me normal at last.
Before and after that, though, my hypomanic episodes were mostly triggered by special things going on in my life. While I’m sure there are some I can’t remember any more, the first obvious one came when, after being out of the theater since a college production, I got the part of the Fool in a community theater production of King Lear.
As rehearsals went on, I became giddy. I worked ten hour days, rehearsed for 3 hours at night, and sailed through it all on 6 hours of sleep (far too little for me normally). Then 5 hours. Then 4. Starting opening night the cast partied almost every night and I was always one of the last to leave, getting 3 hours of sleep and feeling terrific the next day. I drank a lot, too - something I didn’t normally do.
The mood might have lasted after the production was finished, but my body couldn’t take the abuse. On the last day of the production, I began feeling terrible. That night I coughed horribly through the show. (Fortunately, the Fool dies after the storm scene in Act III, so I was able to play it that I had a weak chest already and the storm did me in.)
After that, I was very sick in bed for five days and recovery took three weeks.
I’ve had other triggered hypomanic episodes since then - the big ones were when I quit a job I’d come to hate after working there 23 years, and when I bought the house I now live in 2 1/2 years ago. Nowadays my moods shift frequently from fairly deeply to mildly depressed to average to pretty darned good and back again - without apparent triggers. I guess I’ve become a rapid cycler, but so far without any severe lows or highs.
I’m under a lot of pressure, though, so I could really use a good hypomanic episode for a change
Are your “up” moods triggered, or does your mood swing upward for no apparent reason? Talk about it in the comments.
Marcia wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Mental Disorders.