When I start to feel this way I describe below, or when these symptoms show up, I know that I am either already manic or in the early stages of becoming manic. Hypomania is simply a milder version of mania – but it is still enough to cause problems.
The “Mania is Wonderful” Signs
1. I feel great!
My energy level rises and anything I want to do, I just do. I feel confident about my decisions. Nothing is problematic – I can fix anything. I feel good about myself and I’m happy. I have the best of all possible lives.
This is like the feeling you get when you’ve just successfully pulled off a great project. Except it stays with us all the time. And it’s wonderful – if I could have this feeling all the time, I would.
2. I’m charismatic.
I can persuade people to follow my lead. I can see what needs to be done and will take charge in a group. I have no problems being the chair of an organisation or committee – and will volunteer for the post.
If I’m out partying, I’m a centre of attention. I have no problems chatting with strangers, and I can always pick up someone if I wanted to (well, at least before I added on an extra 20lbs).
I’m your best date – thoughtful, funny, romantic, willing to do unusual or wildly silly things for you. You’ll probably get poetry too – I have a way with words. My world revolves around you.
3. I’m extravagant.
I want the best things, and I’m willing to pay for them. Show me the newest shiniest baubles and persuade me to buy them. I will. And price doesn’t matter.
The Physical Signs
4. All my muscles become tight and tense.
It is particularly noticeable in my jaw muscles and in the shoulder muscles just below my neck because they can become painful, but I often also feel as if my chest muscles are tightening up as if I am getting ready to hold my breath. The jawline tension can also feel like a nasty headache.
My other muscles are affected too, in fact before I was diagnosed, my muscles used to be so tense so often that I never realised that they were tense. When I took medication for the first time, they all relaxed probably for the first time in years.
This is not a stress reaction – I will get tense even when I’m doing exactly the same daily things that are not normally stressful.
5. My heartbeat feels as if it is racing.
Though the one time that I used a heart rate monitor to check, my heart rate was the same as normal. The apparent increase in heart rate combined with the tense muscles can be mistaken as feeling excited, or being enthusiastic, or feeling that something you have to do is urgent.
In all cases, the level of excitement / urgency is out of proportion with what is happening to me or around me or what I have to get done – the stuff is not so exciting, or so great, or so urgent.
Alternatively, the sense that your heart is racing plus the sensation that you chest muscles are tense so that you are holding your breath can make you feel as if as if you are panicking. Unfortunately, depression can cause a real panic attack so you need to be able to distinguish between the two. The way to do that is to compare the other sensations you are having to see which matches up better.
6. I get twitchy.
I shake my feet or tap my hand on the table if I am not paying attention. I may get spasms in my shoulders for no reason, or feel as if my chest area is clenching for a second or so.
7. Driving becomes difficult and hazardous.
I overreact to oncoming or overtaking vehicles and often overcompensate by swerving out of the way. I am distracted by all the cars whizzing by and by things that I pass by.
My memory failure (see item 26) makes it difficult keep a mental picture of traffic around me. At intersections, if I look for cars in one direction, by the time I check the other direction I have forgotten if there are oncoming cars from the first direction.
8. I don’t feel like going to sleep.
I have all this energy and I can go until 3 am without feeling drowsy or muzzy headed. And then I’ll get up at 6:30 am feeling perfectly refreshed.
9. Physical activities become easier.
All exercise requiring full muscle movements (cycling, running, swimming, lifting weights) becomes much easier. When I am manic I have lifted weights weighing nearly one and a half as much as I usually can, swam twenty lengths more than normal, and ran a circuit 15% faster than my standard best time.
In addition, while I am doing all this extra exercise, it feels easier than when I am exercising normally. And any usual aches or pain from accidents don’t bother me as much – they are just not important.
However, the manic edge in exercising will only last for about two or so hours of continuous exercise (so it’s no good for marathons or adventure races).
10. Activities requiring fine motor control in my hands become difficult.
At the same time as physical actives become easier, things like tying shoelaces requires lots of concentration and so I tend to prefer stuff without laces. Shaving becomes difficult, so I used to leave my beard to grow (until I started getting grays, then vanity become more important). Picking up or putting down stuff can become a bit spastic, and can be really irritating.
Handwriting gets erratic and I have difficulty signing my name. In fact I have four separate handwriting styles, normal, slightly manic, pretty manic, and depressed. They don’t look too much like each other. I do get called into the bank frequently to update my signature.
I tend to feel jittery, as if my hands are shaking, but if I hold them up to check them, I seem to be able to hold them steady.
The Verbal Signs
11. Speech speeds up.
And it often can become unintelligible to others (as noticed usually by people asking “what?”). The speech also gets louder – I’ve often been told I’m talking too loudly.
I also get verbally twitchy. I talk to myself, repeating the words to myself. Usually it is quiet, but it’s also fairly common for someone to ask me if I was speaking to them.
I’m making this sound like the mad people you see on television. But isn’t like that. Really.
Usually both the physical twitchiness (item 6) and verbal twitchiness are not intense and I can damp them down when I recognise it is happening.
12. Language becomes a toy.
It becomes something to play with rather than a workman’s tool of communication. I can churn out limericks within minutes on anything that is happening around me.
My poetry comes out fully formed in a burst lasting from two to less than twenty minutes and needs no fine tuning or rewriting.
13. There is a tendency when speaking to have sentences trail off without finishing them.
More frequently, I would be in the midst of a sentence and forget the next word or phrase I wanted to say.
Indeed I forget all the words I need to use to show the point I was trying to make. I would be able to visualise what I want to say, but not be able to think how to say it.
The Social Signs
14. I get the intense urge to do stupid or silly things to people.
Even if I know it will irritate them. I will say inappropriate jokes or comments, or try to poke / tickle people, or interrupt others in the middle of their conversation, or butt into conversations I am not a part of. This seems to be a variation of the twitchiness – social twitchiness, as it were.
I am known as a nice guy but somewhat socially inept on occasion.
The hardest part is that I know that these things are not socially acceptable, but I won’t be able to help myself. In one case I sent an e-mail to someone apologising for rude limerick I was sending, even as I sent it. But I couldn’t stop myself.
15. I may get very expansive and generous to all people.
I happily say hello to strangers in the street. I smile at the things people do. I go out of my way to be helpful, even involving myself in conversations that I am no part of.
It’s a bit like the bonhomie one gets when one is somewhat drunk.
16. I have difficulty being in a crowd.
Every thing that happens catches my attention and I get so confused trying to see and listen to everything simultaneously that I can’t focus on the conversation with the person in front of me.
If the crowd is in good spirits, I pick up the mood and magnify it so that I may become to the most boisterous, funny, witty, daring, person present. I can be either the life of the party or the clown. A family gathering is a big enough crowd for all the problems to appear.
The Anger / Overreaction Signs
17. I react to incidents way out of proportion to what is needed.
I become too excited, or too angry, or too happy, or too anxious.
This is perhaps not a bad thing with the good emotions, but with the negative emotions – particularly anger and anxiety – I can escalate arguments or turn simple incidents into major ones. Not a good thing.
18. I get irritated about the smallest things.
I argue with waiters. I get annoyed with store clerks. I quarrel with the telephone operators. I get short tempered with my friends and my family. I argue about truly petty things at home. I even quarrel because I may find things aren’t being done quickly enough to suit me.
Combine this with the tendency to escalate incidents and I am not pleasant to be around when I’m manic. I seem to be involved in an argument all the time and I can easily become loud and vicious and say mean and cruel things.
Although I rarely get physically abusive, the threat that I will hit or do something mean frequently seems to hang in the air.
The Mental Distraction Signs
19. I get easily confused or distracted if I have more than one thing to do.
Everything become equally urgent and I find myself swapping between doing 5 things at once (and getting none done adequately). I cannot concentrate enough to do one thing because I feel I need to get everything done now!
One of most obvious ways I notice this is I start walking back and forth between two locations to get two things done simultaneously (for example – trying to change on a morning and trying to get breakfast organised).
The actual urgency of the tasks or the amount of time I have left to do the tasks aren’t important – I just feel as if I’m not going to finish in time.
And often, when I finish them all and I realise I still have three hours left, I feel odd, as if I was pushing against a hurricane wind and it has stopped and I’ve fallen flat.
20. Productivity can soar as I think more clearly, move faster, get more things done.
This happens in the early stages of mania. Unfortunately, as the mania becomes more pronounced, this feeling degenerates to…
21. I get ideas on all the things I want to do.
Good ideas. I think this is what the standard texts mean by grandiose ideas, but it doesn’t manifest as “grandiose.” Just good ideas and lots and lots of them.
The number of things I am thinking of can get so numerous and intense that they can halt any functionality I have as I sit down and think on them instead of getting ahead with what I have to do.
22. I will suddenly decide to start a lot of projects.
In a one or two day period I want to put into action all the good ideas I am having. However, very few of the projects I start will be followed through or finished.
There is a strong tendency to volunteer to be in action groups, committees, or to be take a key role in some project.
23. Studying is difficult.
I cannot read documents or write papers because I cannot concentrate. After a few minutes I want to get up and walk around, or I sit and think of unrelated things, or I get excited and head into grandiose ideas (see item 21).
It’s not that I don’t want to study, it’s that I can’t.
24. Alternatively, I can get focused on one project almost to the exclusion of everything else.
I visualise with crystal clarity what needs to be done and I can’t wait to get back to working on the project.
I may even stay at work until late hours or at home until the wee hours of the morning to work on the project.
I take time off other tasks, even important ones, to finish the project. Other work suffers and paperwork from them pile up on my desk. Activities outside work and relationships may suffer.
25. I become impatient with other people’s slowness.
I quarrel with others. Given half a chance I take over even though this might not be the most diplomatic thing to do.
26. Memory about facts or items fail.
I can’t remember dates, names of things, or when I met people, or telephone numbers. I often can’t remember activities that I have done unless strongly reminded. I forget things I have to do, appointments, etc. I am famous among my friends for this.
This also happens when I am depressed, and may be a general bipolar problem.
27. When I do sleep, I get vivid realistic full colour dreams.
I feel as I am actually living these dreams as if they are real life. In real life, sometimes I’m not certain if my memories are from real life or from one of these dreams. (I can never remember these or any of my dreams in detail).
28. My hands and skin feel warmer and I seem to radiate more body heat.
I don’t know if this is because my body temperature (or metabolism) increases, or if circulation in my skin increases.
The rise in skin temperature is so consistent with hypomania that C., my brother, and my friends can simply hold my hand or touch my neck to determine if I am hypomanic. C. likes it because it makes me more cuddly in bed.
If this happens to you as well, please let me know.
29. It appears that I become more resistant to becoming ill.
This is mostly anecdotal as it is difficult to document.
30. I get major carbohydrate (not sugar) cravings.
Bread, rice, and pasta are wonderful. Or, I don’t feel like eating at all.
I thought a lot of these things above were my normal behaviour until I went on medication. After all, most of them aren’t so far out of the ordinary and they can be easily be mistaken for quirks of behaviour.
However, the first time I took an anti-manic, they all stopped. And I don’t mean kinda stopped. I mean the behaviours stopped cold, stopped existing, disappeared from the way I acted.
It was so noticeable that even people who didn’t know there was something wrong with me or that I was on medication commented on the change in my behaviour. They thought I was calmer, and that my speech was less rushed.
It’s a bit scary when qualities that you thought were part of yourself simply disappear. But most of the things above are nuisances and irritations, or make me less well liked by other people, or interfere with my ability to deal with people, or make me less productive.
Quite frankly I’m happy not to have the manic symptoms. They get old when you have to apologise to people everyday for how you acted the day before, or when you realise that you can’t coordinate well enough to untangle your mp3 player’s headphone cables, or when you can’t read more two pages of your class textbook before becoming distracted.
There are benefits too, yes. Because of either my cold logical manic anger or to my super sunny charismatic bonhomie, I have a reputation of being able to get things done when no one else can make them happen. And the manic “feel good” feeling is something I miss when I am normal.
But overall, my productivity is higher when I am closer to normal than if measured over my whole manic cycle. And I’d rather be able to get more done.
To be fair, my ideal is being ever so slightly manic all the time. So I feel good and have slightly higher productivity than normal, without all the nuisances. Or at least with the nuisances at a manageable level. But it’s hard to balance my moods at that point.