Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dispelling the fear of Hypomania

I sit on the rocks overlooking the Tasman Sea as I write this, watching the waves come in, crashing below me.  Some swells reaching several feet, others a mere ripple, all of them though are amazing and powerful in their own way.  Nature directs their path and intensity, in a similar way our minds guide our modds and how the cycle we are in will affect us.  Hypomania, mania and depression - they come and go, each moment in time.

Do a search about Bipolar disorder and you’ll find thousands of results explaining every aspect from depression to mania, medication, depression and the lesser known hypo-mania.  My partner recently read an article about hypo-mania and how it is often a prelude to either a severe depression or more sever mania.  The beginning of the article reads like a warning label, “Hypo-Mania – Danger Alert,” and while the symptoms listed are correct, it should not be written as a warning of impending doom for those who may be just learning about Bipolar Disorder, whether it is the individual or their friends and family.
The reality is hypomania, yes can be a pre-cursor to a full blown manic episode or a depressive episode, there is no denying that; however, let’s look at it from another point of view.

·       Learn what hypomania is and how it is different for each person.  A blanket description only tells you what could happen.  You have to discover for yourself, with the help of a partner, friends and your doctor, what triggers your mood and what symptoms are dominant.      

·      Make a list of your symptoms, how they affect you and those around you.  Both the good and bad.

·      Keep track of how long the cycle lasts and what happens as it dissipates.  This is important as it will give you the information you need if you then become depressed or actions become more intense leading to a full blown manic episode.

a.    To monitor my moods I use a daily chart and track my level of depression, anxiety, mania and sleep.  By looking at these numbers I am able to see when I was up or down and can then correlate that with a particular event or see a pattern evolve over a couple weeks, or if the seasons have changed.  The seasons can play a large part in our mood cycles. 

·      The symptoms of hypomania without a doubt can be harmful, but that does not mean you should be protected from life and kept sheltered.

a.    If you have a history of spending money while manic, have a limit set on your credit cards and bank card, so you can only spend a certain amount.  If you are in a relationship and have a joint account, let your partner know how you are feeling.  This can be one of the hardest things to do, as when mania hits it feels good and the last thing we want is someone to take that feeling away. 

b.    Anger and irritability are common.  Try yoga to relax or writing to help clear your mind.

c.    If there is a tendency for promiscuity, have someone you trust be an accountability partner. If you go to a party, don’t go alone and have someone else drive who is aware of you illness and will be your “wing man” for the evening.

d.    Projects are probably one of the most common signs.  I can’t tell you how many I have planned, started and never finished.  On a good note it shows creativity and that we are alive and capable of many things, however, ideas can get away from us and accumulate quickly, leading to being overwhelmed and confused.  Make a list of your ideas and the steps it would take to achieve them and if you would be able to do it, even after the hypomania ends.  As hard as it may be, pick one or two to focus on for a week.  This makes it more manageable.  If after a week you want to try something else, stop one or both of the previous projects before starting the new one. 

It is important to not look at hypomania, or even mania itself and the ideas and projects that can come from them as all bad, they are things that you are obviously passionate about and are important, the problem is we want to do them all at the same time.  Learning to harness the excitement and energy is key.  It is possible, to use hypomania to your advantage as you get to know your symptoms, triggers and how you react to the cycles.   
As with most things, there is the good and bad, what it important here is to look deeper into the information you are seeking, there will be numerous articles all claiming to have the answer and telling you what to expect, take them at face value and see what works for you.  You are the one who matters and needs to educate not only yourself, but those around you as well. 

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