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.

What I’ve Done Recently

Hypomania, Self-Care, Success!

Frustrated, Defeated and Hypomanic

The weekend before last, I was frustrated, overwhelmed, feeling defeated, and mildly hypomanic.

I felt like a failure as a mother, for I hadn’t been able to get my son to take his high school equivalency exams. Told that I make it too easy for him to stay in his bedroom compounded my feeling of guilt.

How could I balance compassion for my son’s severe migraine pain and social anxiety with consequences that forced him to take more responsibility?

Repeated what I’ve told him before (without a hard date): He had to move forward – with school, with helping around the house, with addressing his anxiety, or with work – or he would have to move out.

Now that he’s a legal adult, we’re no longer legally obligated to house and feed him. We don’t intend to kick him out. But, he must move forward and take responsibility as an adult member of the household.

Provider Education, Take Two

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Orange County (NAMI OC) chapter asked me to retrain for the new two-day Provider Education curriculum.

I had served on the Provider Education team that first structured the five-week course content into a two-day format, and we had done it in two days numerous times.

Turns out the “new” curriculum varied very little from what we were teaching. By lunch on that Saturday, I lost my temper. I was insulted.

Explaining that I had a lot going on in my life (mother’s stroke, dad’s death, son’s anxiety), I left with the “new” two-day curriculum binder in hand.

Self-Care

After losing my temper at NAMI OC, I knew I needed a break to pull myself together and bring myself down from irritable hypomania before the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) Women’s Mental Health panel discussion on the following Tuesday.

How did I recover? I left. Booked myself into a hotel in La Jolla Sunday through Wednesday and relaxed. Not everyone can do this. I realize that. But, it’s cheaper than psychiatric hospitalization.

Women in Mental Health

On the International Bipolar Foundation’s Women’s Mental Health Panel, I represented the mature woman living with bipolar. Mental health activist and actor, Claire Griffiths, represented the perspective of a teenager. Aubrey Good, the Social Media and Program Coordinator of IBPF, represented the young adult perspective.

I had a wonderful time meeting IBPF staff and volunteers and loved being a part of their panel discussion. I hope to do more public speaking events in the future.

Success!

When I returned home Wednesday, my son had showered, dressed, fed himself, and was ready to take his first high school equivalency test. He passed. I never doubted his ability to pass the test.

BIG DEAL: He overcame his anxiety and didn’t get a migraine. Two days later, he took the next test despite migraine symptoms. He took migraine and nausea medications and faced his fear. Again, he passed.

Two down. Two to go. Moving Forward.

Connecting with Online Friends in Real Life

This weekend, Sarah Fader came into town. She managed to connect with several mental health advocates and writers over the weekend.

Sunday, we met with:

I never would have tried to visit so many people in such a short time!

Mini-Family Reunion

Sunday night had the pleasure of meeting my uncle, two of my cousins, their spouses and kids in Anaheim. Family. Love. Great food. Fireworks in the sky. Thank you!

I CAN Do It

Lesson Learned: If I take care of myself, I can achieve more AND so can my son.

Irritable. Hypomanic. Parenting Fail.

Fighting Hypomania. Parenting Fail.

Fighting Hypomania

Irritable. Hypomanic. Overwhelmed?

Unfortunately, social stimulation triggers and worsens hypomanic symptoms in me.

Upcoming events that may overstimulate me:

Parenting Fail

Frustrated with my newly adult 18-year old son who struggles with social anxiety and migraines. Though highly intelligent, he has not completed high school, nor has he taken scheduled high school equivalency tests.

Anxiety. Migraines. Reschedule. Repeat.

Yesterday, he did not go to his scheduled cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) evaluation. The CBT psychologist told me that we must make structured household changes in which we design and implement consequences. As is, he lacks motivation to change.

Self Care

After drafting this post, I went to the pharmacy to fill my clonazepam prescription. I rarely take clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, for it’s a potentially addictive controlled substance. But, today I need it.

Treated myself to chicken enchiladas mole for lunch. I love Olamendi’s mole sauce. Chocolate and spices in the over 50-ingredient sauce help. Magic.

Now, I chill out.

Quick Update

What’s Up?

What’s Up with Me?

This morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. Unlike my son, feeling crappy doesn’t keep me from eating nor do I sleep all day. Even though I was nauseated and loopy, I managed to finish my first chapter of my book. Working with Sarah Fader as my book coach starting last week, I’ve drawn up character sketches, a book outline, and a draft of the first chapter. The first chapter focuses on childhood up to eighth grade: born in San Francisco, five years in Saudi Arabia, two years in Massachusetts, ending the chapter in Rancho Palos Verdes. The second draft will begin with our move to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. My goal is to have a working draft by the time I attend the Sunriver Writers’ Summit in late May.

Parenting a High Needs Chronically Ill Teen

My 17-year old son’s been sick and suffering from migraines (again, still, nothing new). He frequently gets ill, has had migraines since he was a toddler, and struggles with anxiety and depression.

Honestly, I’m exhausted trying to care for him, trying to take him to doctors’ appointments when he won’t or can’t drag himself out of bed, trying to get him to eat when he doesn’t feel well, trying to get him out of bed and to school. He’s been a very challenging kid to parent. Now he’s a young man — a sweet, highly intelligent, and handsome young man — but difficult to help, difficult to parent. I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried.

Recently my husband took him to his psychiatrist (my son has an army of specialists). They agreed on lowering his topiramate dose. My son doesn’t like the negative cognitive side effects of topiramate, nicknamed “Dopamax.” When I took it as a mood stabilizer over a decade ago, I was a complete idiot. My son can’t find words or understand concepts as quickly as he once did. He complains that he used to read his Spanish vocabulary once and had it memorized. Now he has to read it multiple times. I told him, “Welcome to everyone else’s reality. Most people must study harder than you do.”

My son keeps hoping that he’ll outgrow the migraines, which he still may, for testosterone protects against migraines. He had asked to see an endocrinologist hoping he’d be prescribed testosterone, but the pediatric endocrinologist wouldn’t prescribe it. He just told Matthew that he had delayed puberty (late bloomer), and that he’d catch up.

When I heard that the psychiatrist again suggested lowering the topiramate dose, I emailed his neurologist who responded that it was a bad idea, for his migraines return whenever the dose is reduced. Got him back up to his therapeutic dose, but he’s still not 100%. Last night he threw up, as he did once last week. Migraines + viral illness = miserable son sleeping 24/7.