Stress Leads to Bipolar Hypomania

I’m not sure how your average person deals with stress. Bingeing? Talking? Ranting? Raging? Running? I just don’t know. As far as I can see, people do all those things when they’re stressed.

But for a person with bipolar disorder, stress can lead to hypomania. And one has to deal with the stress and deal with the hypomania combined – which is kind of stressful in and of itself.

I’m Stressed

Tomorrow I’m being filmed for a documentary by Andy Fiore of Fiore Films. It is for a documentary about people who have learned to successfully live with bipolar disorder. As many of us do, I successfully live with bipolar disorder type 2 even if it’s a rocky path much of the time. And one might argue, I have turned my bipolar disorder into a positive by becoming a mental health writer and helping create a positive path for others living with bipolar disorder.

OK. Fine. But I kind of can’t breathe.

But I admit, I’m nervous. Stressed. I’m stressed about appearing on camera. Even though I do a video spot for HealthyPlace once a month, I still don’t feel particularly comfortable looking into the black abyss of a camera lens.

Stress Leads to Bipolar HypomaniaI’m Stressed. I’m Hypomanic.

What do I wear? What do I say? What do I not say? How do I not sound like a shmuck? I just don’t know these things. These are unanswered questions for me.

And they sure the heck are eating away at the back of my brain. And maybe the middle of my brain. And maybe the front. So sayeth the fragments of brain I can scrape together for a consensus anyway. Many other fragments are off doing random bits of flittery that keep distracting me from writing.

My brain is taking the stress, that would make an average person feel, well, stressed, and turning it into hypomania. A fast-thinking, fragmented-moving, cluttered, shaky world view.

Bipolar Hypomania is Useful?

And all this hypomania is kind of useful in that it’s helping me get a lot done before I’m off to do the filming (it’s going to eat a whole day). I appreciate that. But hypomania also seems to turn the stress volume up to 11, makes sleeping impossible and makes following through on a task extremely challenging. It’s like pumping 110 volts into a 100 volt socket. It’s powerful but one could argue the usefulness of lighting your wiring on fire.

Using and Not Abusing Hypomania

Hypomania then, is pretty dangerous. It’s a sharp knife, good for slicing carrots but deadly on the fingers. So I try to use it for what it’s good for – producing energy and getting things done – and yet try not to let it get out of control. I won’t drink coffee or eat a tonne of sugar and I’ll force sleep on myself through whatever means necessary tonight. I won’t encourage the hypomania, I’ll try to work with it accepting that I’m not going to be able to make it go away completely.

Hypomania Passes, and Not Usually in a Friendly Way

And if there’s one thing I think it’s quintessential to remember it’s that the higher you fly in hypomania the farther there is to fall when you’re done. A hypomanic Wednesday, due to excessive stressors will probably lead to one heck of a Thursday coming back from an impact crater.

So, wish me luck, deep breaths and good hair. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  1. Lately I’ve been feeling so irritable, stressed , on edge and panicky and been having trouble getting asleep and staying asleep that my doctor prescribed an anti anxiety med for me along with all the other ones I currently take. I hate it when I get like this because I know what’s coming, another manic episode. So to combat this I usually try to eat a little healthier, cut back on the coffee, go for a walk in nature, listen to soothing music or meditation tapes, take long hot bubble baths in candle light or complete darkness. All of which helps to some degree. But recently I’ve also come across another tool for my tool box, colouring. Colouring books have become more and more popular and acceptable for adults these days. This trend started in France and has recently come to Canada. It’s creative, mindful and has a calming effect on me. The pencil crayons come in a dazzling array of colours and the drawings are so beautifully detailed and complex that I can sit there for hours and colour to me heart’s content

  2. Well you certainly hit that one on the head…for those of us that suffer from bipolar 2 and GAD, it just makes it that much worse…Great blog and good luck on the filming…keep us updated so we can watch for it! :)

    • Hi Lucien,

      Thanks. The filming is done and the film maker is editing the footage now. He says it’s a great interview and I’ll just have to take his work for that :)

      – Natasha Tracy

  3. I am glad things went well in the end. Yay! :-)

    There are a couple of references to ‘tools’ that help you with hypomania.
    I have had two incidents in 3 months and I could really use some suggestions/advice on coping with it on both ends, but especially that inevitable fall.

    I would appreciate any adice you have as I feel alone, a little on the failure side of things because I haven’t found a way to really work through it and remember that it will pass, and unable to share with friends or family. I would appreciate whatever you would be willing to share.


  4. Perfect timing for me read this article.

    After a mandatory two years away from my area of expertise for health issues, I am rejoining my business.

    The primary concern for myself has been the hypomania and rapid cycling that I will inevitably be subjected to. There is not a blue print as to how, when, why, or where my challenges will come from. However, there are great tools and advice that I can utilize to manage through the hypomania, the residual depression aftermath, and the obsessive reflection on what the trigger was.

    Thank you Natasha and to all who comment – your sharing helps me.

    (@Sarah- btw – I’ve considered the overthrow of an industry and the health care system on multiple occassions:))

    • CT,

      Good luck rejoining your business. You’re right, there is no blueprint but there are tools to be utilized so you can manage, hopefully, well.

      I’m glad I could help.

      – Natasha Tracy

  5. Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes. I think the interview went really well and the director got what he needed. There will be a trailer posted here once one is available.

    Thanks for all the support :)

    – Natasha Tracy

  6. Oh I can totally understand. I get asked to speak occasionally, sharing my christian testimony, and as much as I enjoy it and am pretty good at it I get totally hyper throughout the process. By the time I finish speaking I am pumped and the next day will collapse.
    I don’t get it so much ahead a time as afterwards.
    I hope and pray that all goes well with you.

    • Funny you should mention that: When I am sometimes pumped up talking about something I feel passionate about, all of a sudden, I become tearful, like a switch has been thrown to push me from hypo to depressed in a matter of a few minutes. I never know when it’s going to happen. I hate it.

        • Hi Sheila,

          I’ve had this too in fact it almost happened during filming. It just feels like a complete overwhelming of emotion that comes from nowhere.

          – Natasha Tracy

          • Yes, exactly that – it comes from nowhere. Maybe it’s something that comes with Ultradian Bipolar, which we both happen to be. What about you, Sheila? Are you also Ultradian/Ultra Ultra Rapid Cycling?

            It’s so good to find you both experience this because, like you Sheila, it felt like I was alone in experiencing this! I’ve never seemed to get any of the pDocs or psychologists to take this seriously even though it’s a major issue for me, something that drives some of the fear in going back into the work place: It gets too embarrassing when I’ve been in a meeting with the most senior mangers (in the bank where I used to work) and the tears suddenly well up! I’ve a hand full of excuses (“something in my eye”, “hayfever” etc) but I’m sure they didn’t always bite those excuses. It also puts me off helping out at local schools, which I was doing, because it seems rather inappropriate to start being weepy in front of the kids! One psychiatrist – a brilliant consultant from India (he was actually an academic taking a sabbatical in the UK – he would say “There is nothing wrong with being emotional …. I am often emotional …”; I know that but for it to look normal there has to be something to be emotional about!!! He didn’t get it!

          • Hi Graham,

            Doctors don’t always understand the importance of some issues. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bipolar disorder is normal human emotion turned off the scale. And so while everyone might be “emotional” that’s a far cry from what a person with bipolar experiences.

            You’re not alone there. We hear you. Believe me.

            My only suggestion is to try to take deep breaths and think about something unemotional. Try to switch topics momentarily in your mind. Take a sip of water. Say you’ve “lost your train of though” just for a second so you can collect yourself. Sometimes that works for me.

            – Natasha Tracy

  7. In such a situation, I do calming things — e.g., lying down in a dark room, playing with worry beads.

    I tell myself that fundamentally all is well.

    I may adjust my meds with the help of my psychiatrist.

    Good luck. If it’s too much, maybe give yourself permission to pass this time.

  8. Bad stress can trigger in me a dysphoric hypomania, when falling back into a depression can actually be a relief!

    Good stress (stimulation) can trigger a euphoric hypomania in me, and the depression that follows is a disappointment, not a relief.

    • Hi, Graham, in response to your question, I’ve been told I have bipolar 1 and rapid cycling. Not ultradian.

      • Hi Sheila,

        Not everyone uses the term “ultradian” because most patients wouldn’t know what it means. Officially, rapid cycling is more than 3 episodes a year, ultra-rapid cycling is cycles that last several days at a time and ultradian is cycles that might happen in a day or so.


        – Natasha Tracy

  9. I’m sure you did great. That hypomania-stress example is pretty much what I experience. I always pick it up now, and if I do that means a few ‘quiet days’ of no stimulation. Usually it’s enough to calm me down. Otherwise, I will spiral out of control and start planning to overthrow the health and education systems and completely reform them. Or something of that magnitude. My warning signs are many and varied, and include an increased annoyance at poor punctuation. Once I wrote back to a sales letter offering to fix the grammar, and also become a marketing consultant for him, since he was obviously not doing a good enough job.

  10. Wishing you luck but you’ll be great. Take a deep breath and trust your talent. It won’t leave you when you need it most! That’s a promise.

    Best wishes!