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.

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.

I do not whisper. I ROAR.

I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Motherhood transformed me. My identity changed. Now it changes again. I have constantly reinvented myself over my lifetime.

As a pre-med biochemistry major at UCLA, I was miserable and suicidal. Then I studied part-time at a community college, biding time to find my direction. Finding a niche as a legal studies major at UC Berkeley, I tried to reconcile my inner turmoil with very high professional aspirations.

First I worked as a legal assistant, then went to graduate school, earned a master’s in psychology and became a psychotherapist, only to crash and burn. Recovering from that breakdown, I re-entered the workforce as a temporary file clerk in the commercial real estate industry where I had ten years of success.

Trying to balance work with motherhood, I failed miserably, and ended up hospitalized in a psychiatric unit with rapid cycling and mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder. After months of partial hospitalization, I became a reluctant stay-at-home mother on disability.

What does an overeducated and reluctant stay-at-home mother with a recurring sense of calling (or a manic and delusional symptom of bipolar disorder, depending on one’s perspective) do with her mind? Why attend seminary, of course, which I did on two separate occasions and on two separate occasions had to quit due to symptoms.

Here I am writing my story again. To what end? To reinvent myself once again – not as someone who is ill, but as someone who fights and loves and writes and has hope that new chapters of her life lie ahead.

I have a voice that must be heard. I have a message to share and share it I do. I am not just my son’s mother. I am not my diagnosis. I am able. I am able to affect change. I wield power. I am a mover and a shaker. I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Am I Still a Mental Health Blogger?

Self, Wife, Mother, Caregiver, Writer, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

What defines being a blogger, specifically a mental health blogger? Must I write regularly or frequently? Must I always write about mental health? What if that is not my focus ALL the time? What if I’m so busy that living with bipolar disorder is not in the forefront of my mind? What if I’m overwhelmed by my life circumstances? What if I’m simply taking a break?

I’m not the most disciplined writer. Never been one for discipline; though, I do brush and floss my teeth every night. My house is a mess – dusty and cluttered. I bathe or shower (I prefer to bathe) at least once a week. (You are probably disgusted by this admission. I try not to move too much, so I don’t sweat and get stinky. Yes, I know I should exercise daily. And, eat better. Just because I know better, doesn’t mean I do better.)

Followers of my blog say they miss me when I write once a month, and not more often. Not sure if it’s nice to be missed, or if it’s stressful, if I have an obligation to write.

No, I have no obligation to write.

That’s why I blog.

It’s mine. All mine.

Yes, I interact with others here and enjoy doing so. I respond to those who comment.
Recently, though, I’ve been busy with life. My illness, bipolar disorder, hasn’t been the focus of my blog. I’m fairly stable. My symptoms are more or less in remission. But, the concepts of remission and recovery can mislead. Serious mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are chronic, lifelong brain disorders. You can live with them. Medications can help you treat the symptoms. But, the brain disorder remains.

To stay stable, I must be careful. I must plan for how certain circumstances affect me.

Last month I presented and next week I again will present as an individual living with mental illness for NAMI Provider Education at the hospital where over a decade ago (12 years now) I was treated two weeks inpatient and for a few months in their partial hospitalization program until I got bored.f

I get overstimulated in social situations and must recover. I cannot sustain that level of social functioning without paying a high price – psychiatric instability, hypomania and subsequent depression, mood cycling. So, I must keep in mind that I will need downtime afterwards – time to recover.

So… I started writing this piece wondering about the effects of my recent lack of “mental health” blog posts. I’ve also slacked off reading and commenting on others’ blogs. Sorry, folks.

I’ve been too busy doing taxes (scanning tons of receipts), driving my son to and from school and numerous doctors’ appointments (unfortunately, he isn’t motivated to get his driver’s license anytime soon & knows we didn’t get ours until we were 18 & 19), and making sure my parents are happy.

When I haven’t been busy, I’ve been exhausted – too exhausted to write, to read, to do anything verbal. Instead, I took up doing jigsaw puzzles on my iPad – enjoy that they are visual, non-verbal, and engage my mind.