Inside Hypomania

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[creepy grainy photo courtesy of my 4 year old]

It’s a Tuesday and I’m knee deep in the contents of the closet I have just emptied.  Everything is wrong.  The entire apartment is out of order, disorganized, a complete mess.  I have to redo everything.

I’m mentally cataloguing everything, sorting, sorting, sorting.  I need more bins, I think.  A trip to Target.  Everything in its place.

I walk–although, in reality, I’m practically jogging around the apartment from room to room, mess to mess–to place the blankets I’ve refolded into the other linen closet.  They need to go there.  But what are these doing in here?  I pull out two swimsuits that have been shoved in, refold them, take them to the boys’ rooms.

This closet is a disaster.  I drop to my knees and empty the drawers, sorting, folding, putting everything right.  I hang up the shirts and start to rearrange all the toys.  What was I thinking, putting the train tracks in this bin?  Where is the lid for the blocks?

Two little people come bounding in.  “Mom, can we watch another show?”  It takes a minute for their words to penetrate the ceaseless, racing thoughts that have overtaken my mind.

“Mhmm,” I say distantly, already onto the next task.  I have a growing pile of things to throw away or donate near the front door–I’ve filled three kitchen-sized trash bags already.  Every time I drop something into one of those bags, a little tension is relieved.  I get a momentary high, a thrill–I’m casting off the unnecessary, freeing myself.  I feel a pull, a compulsion, a need to keep going.  There’s more to do.  Always more.

I’ve felt this before; I should recognize it. And I do–vaguely, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, behind all the thoughts that are swirling around right now.  But I’m obsessed, my focus is laser-like and cannot be broken.  I can’t just snap out of it.

The baby starts to cry, but I don’t react immediately.  In fact, it takes almost fifteen minutes for me to really hear her, for the programmed mom response to kick in.  I pick her up, comfort her, but I’m distracted.  There’s so much to do.

I keep going, wee one on hip, singly focused on my mission.  Later that evening, I make dinner, read stories, get all three kids to bed, but it’s as though I’m in a fog–everything is muted, a little vague.

I stay up late that night.  By the next day, it’s gone.

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My “ups” don’t typically last very long; maybe a day or so.  And they’re not always like this–although the compulsive cleaning definitely crops up more often than anything else.  I once organized an entire year-long homeschool science curriculum from scratch–twelve months of units broken down into weekly topics complete with lesson plans, book lists, and activities–in one day.  I never ended up using it.

Sometimes it manifests as boundless optimism, trips to the park and days filled with clever activities–I have so many ideas!–and really engaging with the boys like the mom I wish I could be.  It’s lists, categorized sheets of goals and plans and a perfect life in bullet points.

I remember searching websites, blogs, forums for accounts of hypomania.  Personal anecdotes, not the dry list of symptoms on WebMD or psych websites.  It’s different from the intense mania of Bipolar Type 1, and a little harder to find information on.  I’ve written on depression before; but today I wanted to touch on the other side of Bipolar Type 2.  If you stumble on this blog looking for something to validate this aspect of your recent diagnosis, or in a desperate search for someone else who gets it, I hope you find it.

As always, I welcome emails and comments.  Connecting with you guys makes my day.

 

The Spectrum

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“So how was this week for you?”

“It was…surprisingly good.  I’ve actually been feeling really normal for the last few weeks.”

“Define ‘normal’.”

“Well…not, you know, crazy.”

“And what is ‘crazy’?”

 

Therapists.  Always with the questions.

 

Crazy, meaning manic cleaning sprees and compulsive decluttering (RIP, toys and clothes that I found on the floor in my mad dash to toss anything superfluous), and that overwhelming feeling that my space does not feel ‘right’ and that chair needs to go.  Right now.  I have to throw it away.  There are too many pillows on the couch.  I need them gone.  There’s a plate in the sink WHY IS THERE A PLATE IN THE SINK WHY IS EVERYTHING FALLING APART THE HOUSE IS A MESS I CAN’T TAKE IT

That kind of crazy.

Crazy, like the rootless anger surging just below the surface, searching eagerly for an outlet.  Crazy, like the lighting-quick switch flip that takes me from semi-rational to out-of-control rage, as though some cruel demon has decided to take my body for a spin.  Crazy fists pounding, broken glass.

Crazy.  Pacing the same quick path around the apartment, my mind stuck in a mad monologue that keeps going going going without reprieve.  Crazy, when every sudden movement or sound makes my body tense; when everything seems so loud and someone is talking to me but the words are just filling my head, making no sense, and I can’t remember how to answer.

Crazy–reading the harsh judgment in every gaze I meet, flooding my mind with the invented criticism of others.  My heart beats faster and I go on the defensive, encasing myself in walls because everybody is bitches* today.  Paranoia, convinced that my neighbor thinks I’m a negligent mother and is going to call CPS because one of my children is crying.

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And then there’s the other side.  The endless tears with no source but the bleakness that has permeated my mind.  The numb, blind staring–mind unable to cope, body unable to move.  The heaviness, the utter bodily weariness, yet the dread of sleep because the thought of a new day is too much to bear.  The kind of days when the slightest request feels like an impossible demand, and being asked to find a shoe or push a swing can reduce me to tears.  Eating on autopilot, mindlessly munching not because there is any hope of filling the void, but because it’s something to do and doing things is so hard right now.  Knowing how pathetic, how teen-angst all of this sounds on paper, yet feeling so hopelessly lost that it doesn’t matter.

The isolation, feeling lonely so lonely and wishing hoping praying for something, someone, to come and relieve me of this despair. But God is not a genie, apparently, for no midnight caller appears to bring comfort.

And yet, in spite of all that, those days (weeks, months?) of ‘normal’–sad but not immobilized, angry but not out of control–those times when you get to step off the ride and just cruise along for a while…

Those times are glorious.

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*’Everybody is bitches’ is my favorite phrase for those days when I just can’t stand to be around people.  It amuses me when little else will.  I want to put it on a t-shirt.

 

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What is your ‘crazy’?