Guiding the firehose

Trigger warning: hypomania

One of the toughest things for me when it comes to hypomania is resisting the urge to lean into it.

As many bipolar folks can attest, hypomania (perhaps even mania) feels good. Well, it feels good until it doesn’t. Personally, my hypomania is usually filled with euphoria, extreme productivity (the results are sometimes of dubious quality, however), and a drive to do things. When I’m experiencing a low-grade hypomanic episode like I am now, it’s tempting to try and take advantage of it. I have plenty of skills - thank you, therapy! - that help me tame it and stay calm… but sometimes it’s difficult to get myself to use them. Again: hypomania can feel good.

Something that I’ve tried the last few episodes is, at least for a while, guiding the firehose. I often think of my hypomanic brain as firehose that somebody turned on and ran away; it’s uncontrollably shooting out very high-pressure water, writhing around like a caffeinated snake. My brain shoots out a new idea every minute, sometimes more frequently, and I am quickly bombarded. I get started on a project only to have a new, “better” idea. I discard the old project and start the new one… and the cycle continues.

So I try to guide the firehose. I try to take advantage of my hypomania and use it “for good.” Sure, I start some new projects (like this blog) and perhaps learn a new skill or get a new hobby, but I also try to get a grip on the firehose and point it toward more useful things like cleaning or drastically increasing my productivity at work. Just like trying to wrangle a real-life wild firehose, this can be difficult… But it can also be done.

Here are some ways I’ve been able to conciously focus my hypomania:

  • Instead of immediately following each new idea, just write it (or type it) down. I have a huge list of “ideas” that I can turn to once the fountain of ideas has slowed. This also helps me focus, as I’m no longer worried about losing my “best idea ever.” As an added benefit, revisiting these ideas later under less hypomanic circumstances helps me gain some perspective. Not all of my “best ideas” hold up to the light of day.

  • I also apply this “write it down” mentality to tasks; sometimes I’ll have a string of ideas like “oh! I totally need to send in those receipts,” or “ohhh! I think I’m due for a dental checkup.” If I write these things down, it will be easier to accomplish them once my hypomania fades.

  • I harness my energy to clean. Normally I think cleaning is the worst, but when my brain is going a mile a minute, cleaning has three main benefits: it gives me something to focus on, gives me something physical to help burn off some of my energy, and of course it accomplishes a task that would otherwise be much more difficult

  • If I’m learning a new technique/skill/hobby, I make an effort to write everything down, so if I decide to, I’ll be able to pick the hobby up after my episode is over. I’ve found that if I don’t write things down, returning to the technique/skill/hobby later can be very confusing, and I often forget much of what I learned.

These are just a few things I’ve found to work for me.

This is not an endorsement for letting hypomania go unchecked. Embracing hypomania isn’t always a good idea! Inevitably, if I don’t slow the course of the episode, I become super anxious, super irritable, and overwhelmed with ideas and projects. If the episode isn’t managed at all I end up going completely off the rails, forgetting to eat, ignoring daily tasks, and succumbing to my own world of a million thoughts a minute. With my current cocktail of meds, my hypomania doesn’t usually get so intense, and I feel comfortable sometimes harnessing it “for good.” If I notice my anxiety and irritability rising too much, I’ll pump the breaks and use my coping skills.

Last modified on 2021-09-21

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