Starry Night

I look over the balcony and see the tracks of the subway that runs by the side of my apartment. I think to myself: “I’m not capable of flying. I am capable of just about every other damn thing.” It’s 4 in the morning but sleep is far, far away. I’ve been up reading. I get back to my book. Then I decide that I’d rather spend some time coding. I end up settling on practicing my Spanish. Then I want to spend some time learning a programming language. I feel as if I’ve been pumped full of adrenaline. There is both clarity and chaos in my thoughts, and it feels like I cannot have one without the other.

I’m on the balcony again, listening to an audiobook and looking towards downtown without really paying attention. It’s 4 AM, 2 days since I felt like Superman. Now I’m starting to feel more like Clark Kent. I’m still energized, but I’m not quite where I was. Focusing feels even harder now, and I try to fill my days with about 15 things too many. I’m also more irritable, especially with friends. The most random things that people say make me seethe. Don’t get me wrong, Clark Kent is still a badass, but I’m losing energy and not recovering fast enough. Sleep is still elusive, and now what seemed like a gift has become a curse. Life is feeling more difficult by the minute.

It’s 2 days later. I’ve barely slept in the last week. It’s 4 in the morning again. I’m agitated and upset. I’ve been thinking about a friend for hours – all the ways they’ve wronged me. The last conversation was particularly hurtful, and it has left me shaken. I text them at what feels like a decent hour (6:00 on a Monday morning before work is decent right?). I tell them I need to speak to them urgently, to call me right after work. They see a text at 6 AM and they’re concerned, so they call me right away. I spend the next 3 hours berating them for all they’ve done wrong. We’re on a video call, and they’re in absolute shock. They can’t get a word in, because I have too much to say. The call eventually ends, an uncertain and uncomfortable detente (at least from my perspective).

It’s 2 days later, and I’m absolutely destroyed. There is no clarity anymore – there is only chaos. It’s 4 in the morning, and I’m devastated by all the things I said to my friend. Could that really have been me? How could I talk to someone I love so much that way? I’m alternating between crying and hyperventilating, and it goes on for hours. I hate what I did, I hate that I did it, I hate myself. My poor friend – they must’ve been devastated. I record a 10 minute video message apologizing for what I’ve done. It’s disjointed and doesn’t make much sense, but I hope my regret and remorse are clear.

It’s 2 days later, and I’m in bed. I have completely crashed, and a long depression is about to begin. It’s 4 in the morning, and I’m afraid to sleep because I’m afraid of the cold light of day, where everything feels so transparent. I’m afraid to sleep because I’m not sure when I’ll wake up – 10-12 hours of sleep isn’t out of the question. I don’t want to sleep through the whole day, but the way I’m feeling, I know that’s what will happen. Everything feels dark. Everything feels shaded. There is no joy in me, no hope left. There is only the dread of now. There is only the remorse of the past and the fear of the future.

Hypomania is the gift and curse of bipolar II disorder. Bipolar I patients experience a severe high called mania, which is a feeling of incredible elation. It can lead to incredible periods of productivity, but also incredibly destructive behaviors. It is very difficult to deal with.

Bipolar II patients like me experience a condition called hypomania, which is not as severe as mania but can still lead to destructive behaviors that impact your life (like I wrote about above). Hypomania is a very slippery fellow, pretending to be your friend by giving you an energy spike like you’ve never felt before, and then taking it away with the worst kind of emotional destruction. It starts with a high that makes you want to do dozens of things, transforms into losing steam and becoming irritable, and ends with the crumbling of everything around you.

When the bottom falls out, I enter a severe depression that can last weeks or even months. The mood shift between the highs and lows is so severe that  it feels almost as if  I’ve fallen twice as far, because the highs were so damn intoxicating. Add anxiety disorder to the mix, and it makes life more difficult during  both the highs and lows (but that’s a topic for another time). My crashes tend to be some of the worst periods of my life, where it feels like the sun has set and won’t rise again, for a long long time.

I wouldn’t wish hypomania on my worst enemy, but it leaves me feeling very alone. It’s hard to convey why being high energy can be the most awful thing in the world, and I’m planning on writing more about it. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Nothing Good Happens at 4 AM”
  1. Thank you for sharing your experience, teaching us what hypomania is, and giving us examples of what it looks like. One can easily assume hypomanic episodes are just full of productivity and being on top of the world but it is so important to understand the downsides and the looming crash at the end.

    I’ve been looking forward to a new post and this one did not disappoint! Proud of you and in awe of your bravery and courage, Sanat!

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment! You nailed it- hypomania is difficult because it feels like it’s doing something good for you, but it’s honestly just so damn destructive. I’m hoping that sharing more about it will help people understand what it’s all about.

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