A Hypomanic Day: Bliss in the Blink of an Eye
Is painfully fleeting pleasure better than no pleasure at all?
Posted Mar 10, 2019
Yesterday, to my great surprise, I woke up hypomanic. Not manic, where everything is too much, but hypomanic where everything is just right. It surprised me because I’m expecting some bad news which I know is going to send me into a total tailspin, and I’ve been living in absolute dread of the mail. But there it was, despite my expectations: tingly, thrilling happiness I could feel all the way down to my toes.
I knew I was hypomanic because I drove all the way from my house to my therapist’s office, a thirty-minute trip, without changing the radio station once. Usually, I’m always fiddling with it, dissatisfied with what I’m hearing because it doesn’t perfectly suit my mood. There must be something else out there, on some other station, that will make me feel better, I think. But yesterday every song that came on had its own intrinsic merit, be it rock or pop or a ballad. They all sounded wonderful, and it was all good.
When I saw my therapist I had nothing to complain about, so we talked about silly stuff and the hour was over before I knew it. I never once even thought to glance at the clock to see how much time I had left. There was plenty of time for whatever I needed, and it made me feel good to know I hadn’t burdened my therapist with my usual load of angst. We both were smiling when I went out of the door.
By then I was very well aware of the hypomania, and I knew that of course, I ought to be worried because it meant my mood was cycling, and God only knew what was coming next: a wild spurt of mania where I’d end up in dire trouble, or a depression from which I might never emerge? I knew, but frankly, I didn’t much care. I made a mental note of the issue, then promptly ignored it because it was eighty degrees outside and California was putting on a show: the hibiscus and the bougainvillea were in histrionic bloom everywhere I looked.
I had to go pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, which is usually a death trap for my mood. My psychiatric medications are exorbitantly expensive, and every time I refill one of the really bad ones I spiral down into financial shock. But I found a parking space right in front of the pharmacy, which never happens, and I thought: come on, how bad can it be? My refill came to about $150 dollars, and I held my breath as the girl at the checkout counter ran it through my credit card. But it cleared, and I exhaled, and the world was back on track again.
When I got home I started to put the medication in my pill box, but it looked odd. It was yellow instead of the usual white, and oblong instead of round. I checked the label and sure enough, it was the wrong dosage—a walloping three times stronger than I’d been prescribed. I immediately called the pharmacy and was put on hold. Then disconnected. Then put on hold again. This wasn’t like them; it’s a good, private pharmacy and they’ve known me forever. But still, as the annoying background music played in my ear and I continued to wait, and wait, and wait, I could feel the joyous balloon that was my mood slowly begin to deflate. They should have known better. That was a really dangerous mistake. You can’t trust anybody. They don’t even care. And there it was again: my old all-too-familiar voice.
When I drove back to the pharmacy there wasn’t a single song on the radio that really sounded right. They weren’t all terrible, mind you, and that was a blessing. It meant I wasn’t officially depressed. But I’d lost nirvana, and I wanted it back. I cautiously signaled before I turned down the street. Damn it, I had to be cautious again.
Every time I get hypomanic, I think it’s the opening day of the rest of my life, a thrilling theatrical production that will run forever. It’s what I’ve been waiting for, working toward; it’s the ultimate reward for taking my pills so religiously, talking my heart out in therapy, baring my soul on the page. I’ve earned it, and nobody can take it away from me.
That’s why every time it goes away I feel like a love affair has ended—a grand romance with myself. A small but essential part of me dies, the part that felt at home on this earth. And every time, I ask myself, wouldn’t it be better if you never got hypomanic at all? Then you wouldn’t know what it’s like to lose it. But it’s the exact same answer as I’d give about swearing off love: no, not in a million years. Let me love again, and die again, and wake to love some more.