Overcommitting While Hypomanic (And How to Avoid It)
When I'm hypomanic, I tend to overcommit myself. Yet, when I tell people that I have bipolar II disorder, I often hear "Oh, I'm sure the depression sucks, but I wish that I had a little taste of mania! You must feel great and be so productive when you're manic." While not intentionally harmful, such comments display an ignorance of the realities of living with bipolar mania (or, in my case, hypomania). Many people have the miconception that hypomania puts one into a hyper-productive state. But the truth is that hypomania more often than not hinders performance rather than aids it.
I'm filled with boundless energy when I'm hypomanic, it's true. I also come up with a lot of creative ideas (it feels like I can't "turn off" my brain) and it feels like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Sounds good, right?
Actually, this is wrong. I'm not thinking clearly when I'm hypomanic, and I overcommit and jump into a bunch of projects and activities all at once. It feels great in the beginning, but after a while I realize that I can't in fact do all the things that I want to. I end up falling behind on important work, or flaking out on commitments because I'm completely overwhelmed. I become irritable and unfocused -- and almost inevitably, I'll slide into depression that can last for days or weeks.
Overcommitting While Hypomanic Never Feels Good
It doesn't feel good to overextend myself and let people down. I'm not productive when I can't sit still long enough to finish a project because it doesn't offer enough stimulation for my overactive mind. And while mania and hypomania are often conflated with being overly happy or optimistic (which, admittedly, can be a part of it), they often manifest as irritability and irrational anger for me, especially when my focus is interrupted.
Fortunately, I haven't struggled as much with hypomania since I began taking psychiatric medication. However, the most helpful strategy I've developed to avoid overcommitting while hypomanic is simple: learning to set boundaries around my labor and time. At the beginning of each month, I sit down with my calendar and plan ahead for what all I need to accomplish to give me an idea of what I can and cannot commit to withing the next four weeks. I also have weekly check-ins with myself to make sure I'm on the right track, which makes it easier to say yes or no when a request or idea comes my way.
Planning Ahead While You're Well Makes a Difference
It's important for me to plan ahead like this when I am well so that I'm prepared for when the hypomania strikes. Nobody likes having to arrange his or her entire life around managing a mental illness, but ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. The only way towards recovery is to meet bipolar disorder head-on. While hypomania might give me a temporary "high," what really makes me feel good is the sense of pride and accomplishment of achieving my goals, forming healthy relationships, and being the healthiest person that I can be.
Do you have experience overcommitting while hypomanic? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.
Rose, N. (2020, July 22). Overcommitting While Hypomanic (And How to Avoid It), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/workandbipolarordepression/2020/7/overcommitting-while-hypomanic-and-how-to-avoid-it