Recovering from Hypomania

Cut Back Taking it Easy

Recovering from hypomania and subsequent low energy which could be called depression. Honestly, I do not experience the fatigue following a hypomanic or mixed episode as depression. Now, rarely do I experience depressive thoughts during these recovery periods. I simply need to relax. I need to heal. The low energy, the fatigue, calls for me to slow down. My body can no longer sustain hypomania.

In January, I overdid it. I took on too much.

My Son Began College

My son began community college, which I drive him to and from.

My Freshman Experience

Yes, when I was his age (and younger), I could get myself to and from college, sometimes commuting by bus from Hermosa Beach to UCLA. Honestly, though, as my dad worked in Westwood, I’d usually catch a ride with him for summer school classes and hang out in a library or volunteer in the medical center for the rest of the day.

During the school year, I lived on the seventh floor of Dykstra Hall facing the fraternities lining Gayley Ave. I despised dorm life. Too much noise. Not enough privacy. I couldn’t sleep, went home most weekends, ended up suicidal, turned to cognitive psychotherapy, and quit UCLA.

My Son Isn’t Me

My son is not like me. Yes, we both have struggled with depression. But, ever since he was a toddler, he’s suffered severe debilitating migraines (involving headache, nausea, and vomiting). His migraines are much improved with medication, but he still gets them, just less often and less severely.  He also gets motion sick and catches whatever virus is circulating. When he gets sick, it takes him down hard. So much for taking the bus to and from college.

Going to College is a Huge Achievement

Now, it’s a major achievement for him to attend class at all. For those not familiar with my son’s struggles, his migraines, getting sick often, depression, and social anxiety, prevented him from finishing high school. He decided to take the GED, instead.

Unfortunately, he was sick last week (all three of us were), throwing up, not eating, sleeping all day… I hope and pray that he pulls himself together and gets back on track this upcoming week.

Still Visiting My Mom

Remember, I still visit my mom about once a week. Doesn’t sound like all that much. I wish I had the energy to do so more often. Visiting her or taking her out for a meal is challenging. Draining. Emotionally exhausting.

Her stroke in 2015 severely damaged the left hemisphere and frontal cortex of her brain. She has global aphasia and can no longer communicate using language – verbal, written, drawn, or symbolic. She understands facial expressions and emotions. She communicates using face expressions and pointing. She lets me know if my driving makes her uncomfortable with a simple sound, clearly expressing disapproval and warning. (The syllable clearly translates to slow down or watch out.)

Still, I to speak to her, narrating our time together, gesturing and animating what I’m communicating (luckily, I’m a drama geek, very theatrical), and treating her as if she can understand. She’s still a highly intelligent woman who knows what’s going on.

We enjoy visiting diners with photographs on the menu. She chooses what she wants to eat with my help in navigating the written portions of the menu.

Over-Enrolled, Over-Extended

Same week my son began his classes, what did I do?

Creative Writing Course

Started taking a creative writing course through our local community college emeritus program. Great class, but I need time to relax, solitude, not more demands on my time.

For me, social stimulation and demands on my time trigger hypomanic symptoms. I get “energized” in a negative way. My mood cycling begins.

I prefer and need SOLITUDE!

Qigong

As someone living with bipolar, I’ve experienced hypomania and mania with energetic, euphoric, spiritual symptoms. Enrolling in Qigong backfired.

The instructor had us visualize taking the energy of the universe (that’s a LOT of energy) in through the top of our heads, channel it through our bodies, and then into the ground.

Now this may be great for someone else, but I’m highly suggestive. I can imagine the energy of the universe, and it’s simply way too much for me to channel. Needless to say, the exercise triggered hypomania.

I experience hypomania energetically. I’ve had hypomanic and manic episodes where energy filled me up, pushed through my skin, and cleansed me, and I’ve experienced energy that was deceptive, tried to tell me that it was good for me, but felt scary, false, and threatened my sanity. Some of these experiences, I’ve framed as mystical. Some, dangerous. Because I cannot control which way the experience takes me, and because they come at a cost, I no longer seek them.

I MUST BE GROUNDED IN REALITY.

Personal Training Contract

In my hypomanic spree, I signed up for an expensive annual personal training contract with a gym. Gyms are not good places for me. Again, overstimulating.

Overspending, over-committing, over-zealous activity — all symptoms of hypomania and mania — all factored into my signing that expensive contract.

Now, I’m trying to cancel it…

Invested Too Much Money in a Venture

In my hypomanic state, I invested WAY too much money in my friend Sarah Fader‘s publishing house, Eliezer Tristan Publishing (ETP). I’m a HUGE supporter of Sarah and the work ETP does. Sarah did not solicit the money from me.

Riding the high of hypomania, I offered an angel investment that was ten times what she thought I was offering. Think of that. Someone thinks you are generous offering an investment of x. Then you say, “No, I meant x times 10.” For those not algebra inclined, move the decimal point over once to the right:

If x = $100, x times 10 = $1,000.
If x = $250, x times 10 = $2,500.
If x = $500, x times 10 = $5,000.

She was thrilled with an angel investment in the hundreds. I made an investment in the thousands! Yikes!

Honestly, though, Sarah and ETP need the money more than I do. The money is going to good use. It’s doing good things for the writers published and for the world.

ETP’s co-founders, Sarah Fader and Sarah Comerford, are mental health advocates. The publishing company specializes in publishing “nonfiction and fiction works largely focusing on survival, in its many iterations.

Still… Didn’t think it out. Was impulsive.

Yes, I’m impulsive, especially when hypomanic.

Oh, well.

Trying to Do the Right Thing

All these activities, in and of themselvs, seem to be good. I was trying to do the right thing. Writing. Relaxing, meditative exercise. Exercise to improve my health, my cholesterol and triglycerides, which are high in spite of taking medications for them. Still, none of these things were, in fact, good for me. Maybe, if I had taken just one on. Maybe, if I wasn’t exhausted by caretaking responsbilities.

But, as I age, I find more and more, that solitude suits me.

Solitude is Not Isolation

Solitude is not isolation. I am not lonely. I am not alone. I am very much a part of a family. I am very much a part of a community. You are part of my community.

I am loved.

I love.

Creative Writing Prompt: Rainstorm

Irainstorm

Prompt for first creative writing class: RAINSTORM

Rainstorm

The torrential rain kept her awake. She couldn’t sleep. Wasn’t rain supposed to be relaxing? What was it that disturbed her? Why could she not sleep? The rain didn’t lull her, it irritated her. Reminded her that all was not well. The hills may slide. The mud carrying all away. But she was safe. Wasn’t she?

Was it anxiety? Was it caffeine? Was it simply the din amplified by hypomania? Yes, when in this state any noise irritated her. What the hell did she think she was doing this week? Starting to rewrite her book, take a creative writing class, and work out with a personal trainer on the same week her son began college.

He wasn’t away for college. Oh, no. He was attending the local community college and didn’t yet drive. So, on top of everything else, she remained his chauffeur. Fuck. He was getting better. He was more independent than before, but he still relied on her to drive him to classes and to doctors’ appointments. He still didn’t prepare his own breakfast and lunch. He’d just eat a protein bar and banana. At six feet tall and 125 pounds, he needed to eat more.

Caring for him, worrying about him, wore on her. She had hoped that he’d be eating more by now, that he’d make a sandwich or eat a bowl of cereal. She had hoped that he’d feel ready to take his DMV written test, so he could learn to drive.

Though, really, the time that they spent in the car was their special time. Often he wore his headset and cut her off from him. But, there were times when they talked, when they laughed, when he shared his thoughts with her

Back to the storm. Crap transition, but the rainstorm felt like her life. Stormy, but cleansing.

Hypomania aka Fried Brain

My Brain on Overdrive. Totally Fried.

Those who know me well would hardly be surprised to hear (or read) that my mind is fried. Focused? Who me, focused? Nope. Instead, one project or comment gets me going in one direction, another in another direction. I end up juggling multiple projects, with my mind racing and jumping all over the place.

So here’s what’s going on. I’ve intended for a few years now to publish a collection of my blog posts as a book. Not able to import my posts into Scrivener, I labored to cut and paste them back in 2014 and later in 2017.

Recently, I hired Sarah Fader as a book coach, and with her help realized that I have a memoir in me. I’m starting to see them as two separate projects — a memoir and a collection of blog posts or short essays — and am itching to get the posts I had copied and pasted published. I want them off my back, out of my mind. They want to be collected and published. What can I say? The writing demands it!

At the end of May, I’m attending a writers summit where I will workshop my memoir (or post/essay collection, or both). In the meantime, I’m going off in multiple directions, as is like me when overstimulated. Overstimulation, social and intellectual, triggers mood cycling and hypomania in me.

Here’s an example of how reactive I am: In real life and on Facebook, I’m a member of OC Writers. Last Wednesday, writer and group admin Greta Boris posted this question:

It’s Wisdom Wednesday. Keyword: mailing list. Do you have one? If yes, how are you growing your subscriber base? Do you send a monthly newsletter? Inquiring minds want to know.

My first reaction was: “Nope. I’m really bad about it because I find mailing lists obnoxious.” But, then I went ahead and created a MailChimp email list (click on link to a my fancy sign up page on MailChimp), which now has a total of five members. Creating this list involved a crap load of work.

To protect my personal privacy and for basic professionalism, I didn’t want to use my personal email or my personal address. To create an email account using my URL, kittomalley.com, I signed up for G Suite as the owner of my URL. Sounds simple, but I jumped through hoops to verify that I owned every iteration of my URL (kittomalley.com, http://www.kittomalley.com, kittomalley.wordpress.com, etc.).

For a mailing address, I rented a local mailbox. Luckily, the owner knows me and I was able to handle the transaction over the phone and by email, because I was sick when I was doing all this work online. The new mailing address has the added benefit of protecting my privacy online, for I’m licensed with the state of California as a Marriage and Family Therapist. (Recently completed CEUs to renew license.)

Once I had completed all that, as the graphic nerd that I am, I went through several design iterations for the mailing list pop-up, ending up with the least obnoxious: a simple white footer with no graphic design elements that allows readers to scroll my content without clicking to close the form. I’m just asking for email addresses. Don’t want to ask for too much information.

Honestly, I’m not sure what exactly I’ll use the list for. Not to send notifications of blog posts. People can sign up for those through WordPress.com. Rather, to let people know perhaps on a monthly basis the status of my book(s). Perhaps to write a monthly newsletter. Who knows? Just don’t want to inundate anyone with email. Hate email spam, thus my initial reaction.

Oh, I almost forgot. Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, my parents’ fifty-sixth anniversary. My husband and I visited them at their memory care community. Yes, they both have dementia. My father due to alcoholism. My mother secondary to a stroke. Visiting them is always emotional for me. My father asks the same questions over and over. My mother cannot speak and at best understands 40% of receptive speech. She doesn’t understand symbolic language either — the part of her brain responsible for language has been destroyed. Her frontal lobe, too, was damaged leaving her with behavioral complications on top of underlying undiagnosed mental illness predating her stroke. As I’m her daughter and not her psychiatrist, I can’t really diagnose what was going on with her, I can only say that she could be emotionally abusive. Those stories I’ll save for my memoir.

Upon returning from our visit, I decided to take on finishing our income taxes. I had completed most of the return on TurboTax. Just had to go through a pile in my inbox that dated back to my mother’s stroke. Seems that’s what I had put on hold. Going through the papers triggered painful memories. As I look at the dates on documents, I recalled what we were going through at those times.

My mother had her stroke one month after my son started at a new private high school due to his health problems and frequent absences. My son still struggles. Honestly, as the parent of a son struggling with multiple complex intertwined health issues, I feel like a failure. I do not have a magic wand. I cannot take away his suffering. I cannot make him get up out of bed. I take him to doctors. I try to get him to eat, or at least to drink.

Sounds like a lot? It is. I rely on my husband. We order take-out. I write, I blog, for I can. It’s something I can do. Something I can control in the midst of so much I cannot control.

Thank you.

New Year’s Resolutions

Love more, Worry less, Exercise more, Eat better, Laugh more, Stay stable, Finish my memoir

Thank you, BipolarOnFire.com, for inspiring me to borrow and amend her resolutions for myself.

  • Love more
  • Worry less
  • Exercise more
  • Eat better
  • Laugh more
  • Stay stable
  • Finish my memoir

Bipolar on Fire‘s list included:

  • Find a job [she] can enjoy
  • Find a place [she] can call home that is peaceful and safe and affordable.

Thank You, My Love, for All You Do

Wedding Kiss Close-Up
Our wedding day kiss at Cal-Neva, North Lake Tahoe.

Thank God my husband, a civil engineer, provides for us well. He makes life much less stressful for me. Honestly, he shoulders that stress. He does a lot around the house — too much, for which I feel guilty that I’m not doing my fair share.

Over a decade ago, I kept our house immaculate, like something out of Architectural Digest. I was an overachiever at home and at work, but didn’t take care of myself and was not available to adequately care for our son. Since overworking led to voluntary psychiatric hospitalization, I’ve made caring for myself and our son a priority, and put housework on the backburner.

I’m truly blessed to have my husband in my life. He’s my caregiver, and I’m grateful for all he does. Thank you.