Last week, it hit me during my morning ritual of reading email. Despite three digital reminders, I realized I hadn’t taken my daily meds. Up to the kitchen I went, grabbed the day of the week pill strip and discovered it needed refilling. This sent me to the fridge to grab the “All Out Of” list on which we tick off things we’re all out of. I wrote in “krill oil,” then realized we were probably also out of furnace filters. I went downstairs to check.
While downstairs, I realized I hadn’t finished weeding email for the day so I popped into my office and got back on task. I clicked from a job search message to postings for writers. I remembered my son is also looking for a job so perused postings for entry-level jobs, too.
About to check Facebook, I reminded myself that I was supposed to be checking email. In desperation—I still had more than 150 emails in just one account—I scribbled, “You’re supposed to be checking your email” on a post-it, slapped it on a corner of my computer and got back to the swamp of communications. “Select All” and “Delete” got me quickly through the task.
Back upstairs to make a cup of tea, I realized the pill strip was still empty but couldn’t remember if it was empty because I’d taken the last day of pills or if it was empty when I got it out. I risked the later, filled the strip, popped the pills, and waited for the electric kettle to boil.
While I waited, I read through a comic book catalog left on the counter, because I have to read while killing time. The water came to a boil and the kettle clicked off long before I realized it. I went to pour water in my cup and saw no tea there. I added the tea and reboiled the water.
I knew something was going on; I’m forgetful, but this was getting ridiculous. I suspected it might be because of my Bipolar II diagnosis. Back in my office with a hot cuppa, I looked up “distractibility and bipolar disorder.” I got 146,000 results in 88 seconds.
It turns out distractibility is a common symptom of hypomania. Now, generally I like my hypomania. I’m more productive and happier. The kids like it, too; I’m much more likely to say, “yes” to requests for toys and fast food. I’m not alone. Here’s how The Merck Manual website describes hypomania:
During the hypomanic period, mood brightens, the need for sleep decreases, and psychomotor activity accelerates. For some patients, hypomanic periods are adaptive because they produce high energy, creativity, confidence, and supernormal social functioning. Many do not wish to leave the pleasurable, euphoric state.
I am usually one of the many but, who would want to leave a pleasurable, euphoric state? This? This distractibility? Up there with North Dakota on my list of states I’d rather not visit. According to Merck:
In some patients, hypomania manifests as distractibility, irritability, and labile mood, which the patient and others find less attractive.
Thinking back, I realized I’d also been irritable. In fact, my kids had pointed it out, choosing words like “mean” and “cranky” rather than “irritable.” I’d been pretty grouchy with my students, too.
It was hard for me to accept this grouchy distractibility meant I was in the middle of what I usually associate with productivity and calm, but the signs were there.
Now that I know my hypomania can swing both ways simultaneously, I can better prepare. I’m going to try tactics when my mind decides to visit the less attractive state of hypomania.
It’s cold here and though I don’t mind running on a chilly day, 18° is more likely to numb my mind than clear it. Instead, I can challenge my son to a crunch contest. He’ll win the contest, but I’ll win the war.
I was right on target posting the email reminder on my computer. The visual cue was far more effective than trying to make my mind handle the burden.
I have an app for my daily routines. It works well if I remember to use it. When my brain is flightier than a butterfly, it isn’t enough. A paper list is more effective. The act of writing in long hand helps impress the schedule in my brain.
Managing mental disorders and neurodiversities is an evolving process. What are some of the surprises you’ve discovered in your journey? And what do you find helps you cope with them? Let us know in the comments.