Hypomania: What My Disorder Taught Me

Hypomania.

Noun: A mild form of mania, marked by elation and hyperactivity.

It is amazing how many new words I stumble across now that I’m constantly in and out of the doctor’s office. Hypomania was the word of the week this time. Apparently, during a hypomanic episode, the need for sleep is decreased and it is characterized by happiness and racing thoughts.

For the last week or so, I’d been experiencing some pretty awful insomnia. This was nothing new to me, as my medications often cause fits of sleeplessness. I’d be up until one or two, then be up by 7. Usually, even if I get 8 or 9 hours of sleep I’d still be groggy throughout the day, so five or six hours to me is extremely unusual.

I also started some pretty out of the ordinary behavior for myself. I’m normally fairly busy. I work full time and I go the grad school part-time. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for other activities. However, when the insomnia started, I began to look for activities to fill the extra hours of the day I now had. Knowing that we have a vacation coming up in the next few weeks, I started looking for ways to earn a little extra cash. As dumb as it sounds, I started taking surveys for money. Day in and day out, you’d see me with my phone glued to my hand answering marketing and research questions for a few cents (You laugh, but I’ve made close to $50 on the side… that’s a whole meal for four at Disney Land, people!). I also applied to a few transcribing companies. Listen to the audio, type what they say. It didn’t sound so hard. Plus, I had the time to do it! So, if you’ve kept up, at this point I was working, taking surveys, transcribing, AND doing homework. On top of cleaning, cooking, and keeping up with the girls.

I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing. My husband told me he was worried about me. I didn’t understand why. I was making money. Everything was getting done, and I had started a nice little account for vacation. If I could keep going with the surveys and transcribing, I could actually pay for my family’s groceries every month. If that wasn’t contributing to the budget, I don’t know what is. Why on earth would he be worried about me? Saturday started off with a bit of a headache, but no other complaints. I jumped online and started another transcription project while the girls played. Sure, I was a bit snippy with my husband when he got home, but he just didn’t understand what I was doing. I had a giant list of things to do, and getting up to make him breakfast just wasn’t on the list.

Then came Sunday. I had picked up a pretty big file to transcribe the night before and wanted to get an early start on it before the girls got up. I’d gone to bed about two and was up by 6. I didn’t want to admit it, but I didn’t feel ok. I was shaky. More than the side-effect of my medication shaky. I could hardly talk to the dogs because I didn’t have control of my voice I was shaking so bad. I laid on the couch while my coffee brewed, and covered my head with a blanket. Maybe I was just hungry. Some caffeine and something to eat would make me feel better, I thought. So I drank my coffee and downed a Poptart (nutritious, I know). I still felt shaky, and by this point, my head was throbbing so bad I could have cried. I took my morning meds and grabbed another cup of coffee. I jumped in the shower, and for a while, I felt better. I thought of about forty different things to do that day while I was in there. I was a planning machine. By the time I got dressed, the kids were up. I fed them, got them dressed, and we had a mini dance party in the kitchen. I was super happy. I didn’t know why, but I felt SO overjoyed that I was going to get so much accomplished that day. My husband came home, and I chatted his ear off while he was in the shower. I couldn’t even remember the last time I did that and I wondered why I hadn’t in so long.  I felt like I hadn’t seen him in ages, and couldn’t stop talking.

By the time I finally started working, it was about 9 am. The husband and one kiddo left for football Sunday at his mom’s house. At about 10:30, I stopped typing. I couldn’t follow what was being said on the audio file. I kept rewinding, but my mind kept wandering. The pressure that had been building up in my head had settled right between my eyes. My brain felt like it was spinning and I wanted to throw up. I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. I didn’t understand what was happening. I immediately messaged my husband. “Something is wrong. I don’t feel right.” He called me immediately.

I tried to explain what was wrong, but my brain was rushing so fast that I couldn’t piece a sentence together. I started crying. Not just a tear or two, but good old-fashioned, hyper-ventilating crying. The shaking got worse. I could barely hold the phone. I didn’t want to call my doctor because I knew the answer would be the ER. I could just picture being strapped down to a hospital bed getting pumped full of sedatives. I’m not that crazy, I thought. I’m just having a bad day. That’s all this is… A bad day. My husband kept asking what I wanted him to do. “I want you to fix me!” was all I could say. It felt like the world around me was a puzzle that my four-year-old was hastily breaking apart. I could see the pieces falling around me, and everything was a blur. “Put me back together. This isn’t right, something is wrong.”

In the end, I gave in and called the doctor. He was an on-call doctor and didn’t know my medical history. But, he said he wouldn’t send me to the ER just yet. He called in some Xanax to help calm me down. He instructed that if I should still feel the symptoms within two hours of taking the pills, to go ahead and go in. My husband (right in the middle of a football game) brought home my meds, along with a chicken sandwich, French fries, and a diet coke (he knows the way to my heart). He took the other kiddo with him and left me home with a blanket a the remote. He told me to relax, and sleep if I could. No phone, no computer, no nothing. So I settled in for the first time all week and tried to stop thinking.

Thankfully, the Xanax helped settle my mind. I watched a few hours of HGTV, and then a movie or two.  I still felt different, but nothing like I had before. For the first time in over a week, my mind wasn’t racing between thoughts. I didn’t feel compelled to be constantly moving or doing something. I didn’t have kids to chase after, the family was eating dinner at my mother-in-law’s, and I gave up the thought of even looking at my homework.  I called out of work the next day in order to get used to the Xanax. The last thing I needed was to be high out of my mind at work, let alone risk getting stressed out again.

There is a moral to this story, I promise!

Having a mental disorder doesn’t mean I know what’s going on inside of my own head. I can be headed down a path of total self-destruction and never know the difference. Having someone close enough to notice changes in your behavior is SO important! That person can be a friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse… anyone who knows you well enough to know when you need to call your doctor. Don’t wait! If you are experiencing out of the ordinary behaviors or symptoms, call! Make an appointment or talk to a nurse. Get the help you need before you end up Xanax’d out on the couch eating french fries like your life depends on it!

So yes, I learned a new word. I learned a new, fun symptom of being bi-polar. I learned it so that I can learn FROM it. Going forward, I have to remind myself that my brain is running at full-capacity anymore. I can’t push myself to do all of the things I think I need to be doing. It’s ok to slow down and give up on something if it means holding myself together.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Your mental health is worth more that.

 

 

Ok, I Have a Mental Health Disorder. Now What?

If you are anything like me, the initial diagnosis is somewhat of a double-edged sword. First, you are excited because you actually have a name for what you are feeling. You can ask questions and get help. FINALLY. But then, panic sets in. I have WHAT? What does it mean for your family? Work? Does it mean a life filled with doctor visits and medication? While these are all valid questions, there is no need to rush to every conclusion you can in the first 48 hours. So what should you do?

SLOW DOWN, BREATHE, AND LET IT OUT. First of all, try to remember that your diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. Plenty of others have been exactly where you are: terrified and confused. Your mind is running a million miles a minute, and you can’t concentrate on anything. I may or may not have let a few tears slide at work the first week after my diagnosis. And guess what? Totally normal. You have the right to feel every emotion going through your head. And trust me, it will get emotional. It is important to let those emotions out! Your life as you know it is going to change, and that idea itself is enough to send anyone over the edge. You have a long road ahead of you, and recovery can only happen once you are open to the idea of it. Letting go of all of those mixed feelings is the best place to start.

DON’T GOOGLE IT (AT FIRST). We all know how the google black hole works. First, you are casually looking up symptoms of the flu, then the next thing you know – BAM. You have a brain tumor and three different kinds of incurable infections. Googling a mental health disorder is no different. The symptoms of many disorders are similar, but only a doctor can make a specific diagnosis in your case. I googled until the point I was 1000% positive I was autistic. True story! And do you know what it accomplished? Not a dang thing. That was probably the longest wait between doctor visits I have ever had. Don’t put that unnecessary stress on yourself! Get your information from your doctor. And once you are comfortable with your diagnosis, seek out a few RELIABLE sources of information. Sites that end in .gov, .edu, or .org are usually the safest bets! A few of my favorite legitimate resources include:

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

US National Library of Medicine – Medline Plus

And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT get involved in message boards! Nothing will scare you more than reading about thousands of un-medicated individual’s experiences with their disorders!

*** None of these are paid mentions. These are simply some great resources available to you online.***

REACH OUT TO SOMEONE. Being diagnosed is already hard enough. Trying to handle it on your own makes it harder than it already has to be. Reaching out to someone other than your spouse or significant other is imperative. Your spouse is in the thick of it with you, and can’t give you a good, fresh perspective that can come from someone outside your marriage. Reach out to your best friend, your sister, or even your mom. Tell them that you don’t need sympathy, just support. You need a shoulder to lean on when it feels like you don’t know where else to turn. Someone who will treat you as they do any other day, especially when you are having a tough day. Someone who is going to grab you by the shoulders, shake you a bit, and tell you to get your shit together because your kids need you to be on top of things. This relationship is going to be the one to get you through the dark days ahead.

WRITE DOWN YOUR QUESTIONS. This was my biggest stumbling block when I was diagnosed. I spent countless hours in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering just how the hell I was supposed to function anymore. I came up with more questions during those sleepless nights than your average three-year-old does before breakfast. Put a notepad next to your bed. Start a list on your phone. Email them to yourself from work. Text them to your husband. Just do something to get them down! Before your doctor’s appointment, get them all organized into one document. It doesn’t matter if they are typed or handwritten. What matters is the fact that you have them, and they are going to be answered. Will my medication affect my birth control? Should I take them before or after operating heavy machinery? How will I know that I’m having a manic episode? Should I tell my boss? Don’t worry about sounding dumb or uneducated. If it is important to you, it is important to your doctor.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTORS. You are going to need to have a great relationship with your doctors. Your general practitioner AND your psychiatrist. They need to be communicating with each other, and you need to be communicating with them. Chances are, you are going to be starting the medication rollercoaster, and it is going to put your body through some not-so-fun experiences. Being able to discuss side-effects and effectiveness with your doctors is key to finding the right medication. Don’t agree with something just to get it over with. If you want to try something new, say so! If you don’t like a side-effect, talk about it! If you begin feeling overly depressed or have thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to call! Call immediately or go to the emergency room. You have to be upfront and honest at all times. If you can’t talk to your doctor, you are only going to be hurting yourself in the long run.

 

Most importantly, don’t lose hope. This is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. But look at you! Here you are. Fighting. If you have little ones looking up to you, show them how hard you are willing to fight for yourself. Make them proud of you! And I promise – one day they will be.

 

 

This is Mommy Needs Meds.

Hello! I am the mommy behind Mommy Needs Meds. And yes, I NEED meds. Not Benadryl, not Tylenol, or any of those other medicine cabinet staples. I need the good stuff that you can only get after spending a few hours in an uncomfortable chair at the psychiatrists office. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar – Type I. If you found this blog, chances are that you suffer from the same (or similar) diagnoses.

I am the mother to two girls, ages 6 and 4. I work full-time for a local college, and I am currently enrolled part-time in an MBA program. Needless to say, I am a pretty busy person. But, I happen to have the best support system at home. I have a husband who can cook AND clean (and look damn good while doing them). He makes my hectic lifestyle possible, and he is the one who encouraged me to start blogging my experiences. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without him.

My goal for this blog is to provide you with a view at my life, my successes, my failures, and my journey to better mental health as a mother. But most of all, I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You don’t have to suffer in silence. We exist, I exist. And I am here to build a system of support that you can reach out to.

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on social media, and join my mailing list for updates and new content! I am SO excited to get my hands dirty and start pumping this page full of my thoughts!  On the plus side, I’ve been told I have an amazing sense of humor, so at least give me a chance until that has a chance to shine through 😉