October 09, 2021

What Hypomania Feels Like (to me)

I was going to take a "mental health day" from blogging today; my anxiety has been really bad ever since I started feeling the onset of a hypomanic episode, and today I just wanted to work on a project with all of my focus so I don't think about anything else. But that is classic hypomanic behavior...

"Hey I'm just gonna stay up until 4 AM so I can fine-tune this miter saw until the 90 degree angles are PERFECT because right now they are at least 0.003 inches off of square and how am I supposed to make anything at all if the cuts aren't precisely 90 degrees? I might as well just pitch the whole thing in the fire pit and forget about woodworking altogether because how am I ever going to be good at it with angles that are off by a titanic 0.003 inches? That's shoddy work and I don't want to be known for doing shoddy work and if I just work on this tonight I know I can square up the cuts by morning!"

(I hope you know that I am saying this with tongue-in-cheek... but that's basically how hypomanic/manic thoughts work.)

Which leads me to this post. I may have written about this before, but since this is what's going on with me right now, I thought it appropriate to write about how hypomania FEELS. For the 99% of the population who don't have bipolar disorder, here is a description of what it's like for me. (It varies from person to person. I'm just writing about MY experience.)

If you're not familiar with the term "hypomania", it's an episode of bipolar disorder that is a slightly milder form of mania. Hypomania does not involve psychosis or delusions or require hospitalization. (I wrote a lot about bipolar disorder on the post where I "came out" with my diagnosis--you can find that post here.)

I'm SO ANNOYED by absolutely everything right now (by "right now", I mean much of the time during an episode of hypomania). When I'm hypomanic, my senses go into overdrive and it makes me crazy (well, crazier than I already am). Every single noise is magnified and trying to concentrate on something is impossible with all the noises going on.

Right now, just trying to write this, I hear Eli in the kitchen getting ice water--the ice cubes clanging around--while Joey's nails click on the floor as he follows Eli around. I hear the hum of the refrigerator and one of the cats walking around the living room. I hear the fan from my ice machine. I hear Noah across the house talking to his friends online. And I even hear my own heart beating.

The worst part is that all of the noises are at the same sound level--I don't know how or why this happens, but each of those noises is 10 times louder than normal and I couldn't even tell you which is the loudest.

Noah has a cold and he's been blowing his nose a lot--it is all I can do not to rip my ears from my head and throw them in the garbage disposal just so I don't have to hear that noise anymore.

My sense of touch is also heightened, and not in a good way. My clothes irritate my skin, but even my bare skin is irritated by the air around it. (I know how weird that sounds.) 

I also can't focus on anything. I know that contradicts what I wrote about wanting to work on a single project; basically, I get super focused on one thing at a time and I put all of my energy and effort into it, but at the same time, I can't focus on anything other than that. And then I get really annoyed when something distracts me from what I'm TRYING TO concentrate on.

This morning, for example, Eli showed me his geometry homework and said he thought it was dumb--that it didn't have anything to do with geometry. He was given a worksheet of logic puzzles (you know the ones that you read clues and you have to fill in the grid to solve the puzzle?). Well, I LOVE those things. I have even bought books of them to work on back before playing games on my phone and stuff like that. Eli said it was extra credit so he didn't have to do it, but I told him I wanted to do it.

So I grabbed the paper and was excited to work on it (at first, I was going to show him how to do it, but he had no interest in learning). Within 15 seconds, I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it because of all the noises. The house wasn't any louder than usual, but because of the hypomania, all I could focus on was the noise around me.

Another symptom that I experience with hypomania is anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder and anxiety is always there, waiting below the surface, but when I'm hypomanic it decides that it's a great time to mess with me. So I feel really uneasy and anxious without knowing why.

There are some good things about hypomania (although they don't outweigh the bad, in my opinion): I have lots of energy; I get in the mood to clean everything ten times over; I feel a higher sense of self-esteem; and I get super talkative. As a quiet, shy person, sometimes I really wish I was more outgoing and talkative. Hypomania makes me feel like I need to tell someone all the ideas and thoughts I have.

A lot of times I'll be talking to Jerry for a while and he's just staring at me with an amused look on his face. I'll finally ask him why he's looking at me like that. And he laughs and tells me that I'm talking a mile a minute and where on earth are all these thoughts and ideas coming from?

I also get very excited about all sorts of new projects and plans. I make lists of all sorts of things--as fast as I can write them. I come up with lots of plans and ideas (and sometimes I actually do them). 

In that sense, hypomania can be kind of fun. If it didn't involve all the other stuff I mentioned, I'd really enjoy it, actually. But the anxiety and the hypersensitivity cancel it out.

I'm on medication to manage bipolar symptoms and the meds actually do work wonders. Having episodes of both hypomania and depression are pretty much inevitable, though. The medication makes the episodes milder and much less frequent, but they do happen. Sometimes an increase or decrease in the dosage of my medication helps, but usually I just ride it out. 

Another big benefit to the medication is that I recognize what is happening now and I can also control my reactions. The noises, for example--when I'm trying to concentrate but the noises are totally overwhelming, I don't overreact and take it out on other people. I just deal with it silently, knowing that it will go away eventually. Before medication, I most definitely did not stay calm. 

Before my diagnosis and medication, my hypomanic episodes would last for months; then they were followed by depression, which lasted just as long (if not longer).

Now, though, the episodes usually last less than a couple of weeks. I can't wait for my irritability to go away! It would be nice if I could keep my excessive motivation and energy, though ;)


  1. I cant Express just how much I appreciate you sharing. Mental Health is something that needs to be talked about. It's like any other health challenge. Thank you for sharing and your honesty! We did a walk for NAMI and then I read this and it just made my heart happy!

  2. I tried calling you the other day - I was feeling anxious and a bit hypomanic. Fun stuff, right?

  3. I can't imagine. I have had anxiety disease with panic attacks since I was 22. So that part, I do know how it feels, and it sucks! People who don't have it, don't understand at all. Like how could somebody be scared of a bridge?

  4. I really don't know anything about hypomania, except what you've related to us. I was wondering though, if noise cancelling headphones would work during those times where sounds are at their worst? I'm sorry you have to go through this.

  5. Katie, I totally get you about the sounds -- misophonia is so incredibly annoying. For me, it also can include visual stimuli, especially if the movement is rhythmic in any way (so many pop up ads drive me up the wall!). I also have the skin sensitivity as part of my fibro.

    Note to Eli: Many geometry/trig/pre-calc/calc teachers (including my own, back in the day when we had telephones with dials 😉) give out those logic puzzles to prepare students for writing proofs. The same thinking processes that you'll use to solve those puzzles will help you understand a proof when you read one and eventually will help you to logically organize your own proofs. I love those logic puzzles and my favorite part of geometry and calculus were proofs. BTW, full disclosure -- algebra and I were NOT good friends. 😹

    Take care,

  6. Thank you for this searingly honest portrayal of how hypomania affects you. I can only imagine how many people you have helped with this post. Those people no longer feel so alone. This is your gift....

  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for normalizing my life, again. You're just the best.


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