I don’t entirely remember what regular happiness feels like. I’ve experienced regular depressive episodes split up by periods of hypomania or feelings of emptiness instead for a long time now. I’m sure I’ve had brief moments of happiness during these times, but I don’t recognize it enough to know how to describe it.
In depressive states, I tend to spend the majority of my time sleeping. I’ll stay in bed for weeks or months because I lack the energy or motivation for anything more. When that shifts to hypomania, I’m suddenly productive and active. I have had periods of pure mania before as well, but those were more exclusive to before I was medicated.
When I’m hypomanic, I wake up early and take showers every day. I am more than willing to run errands and go outside. I spend hours of every day gaming. I write for hours on end, I work on puzzles. I pursue all of my hobbies with ceaseless energy and intense focus. It sounds like a good state of mind.
This last time, I somewhat impulsively ordered an exercise bike and started working out every day. I spent a bunch of money – more than I should have – on healthy food to improve my diet. I found myself having to check myself when doing things like driving because I was more careless and dangerously confident. I overwhelmed myself with social interactions, reaching out to people I hadn’t talked to in years, even some people I probably shouldn’t have. It wasn’t a particularly dangerous episode, but it did only last two weeks. It would have gotten worse, especially with the overspending and impulsive behaviors.
The thing about manic and hypomanic episodes is that experiencing these intense emotions comes with a downside in the neurotransmitters inside the brain. They get overworked and burnt out, then they have to recharge, hence the crash at the end of the episode. This crash tends to get worse the longer the episode goes on.
My crash was bad enough after only two weeks. I spent the first few days with incredibly strong suicidal urges, fantasizing about how I would go about it. Then came the rapid mood cycling – bouncing from high to low and back again, usually several times throughout the day, with little to no trigger. I’m still working through the mood cycling, but unfortunately there’s not much to do except wait for it to stabilize. Medicating an actively changing mood situation just complicates things, adding medication to a state that isn’t consistent already.
Another possible effect around mania or hypomania is psychosis. This psychosis usually occurs during the episode, but it’s possible for it to affect you around medication changes too. I’ve been having brief hallucinations, and my paranoia has been more pronounced as well. This is expected to even out as I recover from the hypomania.