Trigger Warning: The end of this piece describes generalized thoughts of self-harm.
Hypomania isn’t always a positive experience. Sometimes a hypomanic episode is combined with symptoms of depression, and the result can be extreme irritation rather than euphoria. This is sometimes called “dysphoric hypomania” or a “mixed episode.” Agitation and irritation can turn into anger, and worse—thoughts or instances of self-harm, or even suicidal thoughts or actions—over the course of a day (or even an hour). Here is what that kind of hypomania can feel like:
Everything you do today is annoying. The way you chew, the way you fill your glass, the way you don’t push in your chair. All I feel is irritation. I wring my hands, jiggle my foot. I try not to pick a fight. You leave for work, and I am relieved. Until I spill some milk out of the side of my cereal bowl, onto my favorite jeans. This small blunder feels like an earth-shattering disaster. I know that the smell will remain, even after I blot up the spill. As I try to wipe the liquid away, water drips from my damp paper towel onto the kitchen floor. Already, things are piling up.
In the shower, the way the water hits my body is driving me crazy. I feel as if I am being pelted with tiny bullets. Frustrated, I smack the showerhead aside, which stings. When I stumble a little on my way out of the tub, I am no longer irritated; I am angry.
I slam the bathroom door shut and the sound hurts my ears. This makes me even more angry. I stomp toward the dresser, where I accidentally catch my finger in a drawer. Now I am crying angry tears. I wipe my face and take a deep breath, gathering the will to just get dressed and start the rest of my day, which I am already dreading.
Fully dressed, I slip under the covers, which somehow, I hope, will contain my sobs. They are coming rapidly now. I cast around in my mind for things that might make me feel better, that could relieve the painful tension in my body and my brain. I imagine a vase shattering against the wall, and it seems so satisfying to break something, to smash it. Not that one, though; I like that one. I think about smacking myself on the head, as if somehow that might cause the tension to escape.
I want to scream, but I don’t, not even into my pillow; I’m not in a movie. Inside I feel as if I can’t stop moving, but my body is still. I feel as if I could run for miles, but I won’t. This must be what it feels like to be crazy.
I don’t know why I am feeling this way; I don’t understand. I don’t blame myself. But all of a sudden, for no particular reason, I want—no, need—to hurt myself. Not because I want to feel pain, because I don’t. Not because it will solve anything, or make me feel better. Not because I think I deserve it. Not even because I want to die. It’s just because I need to do it. It doesn’t really matter how, although I am beginning to have some ideas; it’s just something that has to happen, that is going to happen. It’s inevitable. It’s an itch that I desperately want to scratch.
Instead, I reach for the phone.