Dancing on the edge of a knife

For the last few weeks now, I’ve been dealing with something called hypomania. This is a state between normality and actual mania, which starts slowly with an increase in energy, motivation, creativity and ideas, and gradually evolves over time until it becomes a state in which you can be quite unwell. It isn’t as serious as mania by any means, and luckily I have insight, but it is still extremely difficult to manage. At first I felt great, in fact a little hypomania is extremely useful when you have three small children! After a while though, the problems with sleep that come with it, the exhaustion from the constant racing thoughts – almost falling over each other, and so diverse that it’s hard to focus on any particularly train of thought, and the fear of getting really ill is taking its toll. It’s a constant state of adrenaline, but when that has been pumping through your system for a while, eventually you just burn out and feel like you have nothing left, but part of you is still trying to drive forward relentlessly. Where I had had a relatively balanced view of myself for a while I’m now swinging between having over-inflated self-image, and thinking I’m the worst person ever. I rationally know that both aren’t true, but it’s very very hard to be consistently rational at the moment. I’m having trouble reading social situations and interpersonal nuances, and am disinhibited and regularly saying stupid things, or just being overly blunt and not managing to take in to consideration the effect that the things I say have on people – I have no filter again. Because I do have insight, even if it’s difficult to control this behaviour, it’s so embarassing and I feel like an idiot much of the time which makes me want to crawl in to a cave and temporarily give up on social interaction, yet I desperately need social contact to keep me sane.

There are lots of circumstantial things which have contributed to this happening I believe, as well as the cyclical nature of living with Bipolar Disorder, and I’m hoping that now the kids are back in school that in a week or two things will stabilise and even out and that I won’t get really ill. I had a similar episode in June, but it only lasted a couple of weeks, and responded really well to a small increase in mood stabiliser. This time it has lasted longer and I’m scared, although I saw my prescriber and had another small medication increase this week, and I have a really good therapist here which is an extra safety net. I miss England and friends who I have known for many many years, who I wouldn’t be afraid to go and have a meltdown with. I miss my family, and I miss my husband who is working unbelievable hours at the moment and is struggling himself. It’s extremely hard for close family to know how to react when their loved one is in a phase like this, because the fear of them getting really ill again makes it feel easier to distance oneself when what a hypomanic person needs is unconditional love, stability, reassurance, and help orientating themselves properly in the world. What doesn’t help with this is that one of the difficult things about hypomania is that even though in many ways your mood is elevated, it can also make you extremely irritable, which is very difficult for spouses and children. I feel so guilty about this, and have been trying so so hard, but I am finding it so difficult. I think having people to bear witness to the struggle it is to be vaguely normal all the time is important too.

The steps that I’m taking to manage this episode is that along with working with my prescriber and therapist, I’m trying to get back into eating more healthily and exercising again. I also need to work on my sleep and self-care much more. I’m rubbish at self-care, and it’s a hard lesson to learn in your 30s. I’m hoping that I can learn it properly in order to be able to be a good example for my kids so that they learn to work very hard but they don’t burn themselves out in life.

Most of all I feel vulnerable, and it’s an unpleasant reminder of how unpredictable living with serious mental illness is. A couple of weeks I felt great, now I just feel unstable. It’s so hard being scared that you’re going to do something idiotic or overspend or offend someone or damage your children when you’re just trying to stay as balanced as possible.

I hope this makes sense, I’m not sure it was worth posting about, but maybe it is,



~ by jennkeast on August 28, 2015.

2 Responses to “Dancing on the edge of a knife”

  1. Hi Jen, is makes complete sense to me. Being unstable is a very vulnerable place to be. I think that writing down what you are experiencing and feeling is very helpful in actually seeing before your own eyes what you are going through. I also think that while you are doing this it’s good to remind yourself of the very positive things you are achieving daily. You are bringing up 3 children, hugely demanding. Your are working on looking after yourself and that sounds good. Your are acknowledging the challenges you are facing and working hard at being in a better place through them. All of this takes strength and courage. I think I understand a little of this because I have had to do this sort of thing on behalf of Dave, we have had to work together to get through his most difficult times when all he experiences is anxiety and pain. Unconditional love has got to be the hardest thing to achieve for anyone I think, such a demand on us. Hope you keep writing down what you are experiencing, it helps I think to establish what is real, and what is a result of the hypomania. When Dave was at his very worst Richard and I wrote down each day the tiny achievements we had all made, sometimes we looked at that list and although short it reminded us that some good had been there. Seeing the list get a little longer on good days also helped us through. Best wishes to you, Alison

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