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    Posted January 2, 2014 by
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    The Icarus Effect

    Waking up after only four hours when I normally need at least ten is a telltale sign. I can feel the changes in my mind and body. That normal sluggishness in the morning is replaced by an ample energy. Creativity comes to me naturally but when I enter a hypomanic state the creativity can become overwhelming. The mind moves faster than the hands most often. Ideas that seem to have been stuck in my brain, like stalactites hanging from the ceiling of a cave, are jarred loose and sent cascading towards the entrance. This is a good time and a dangerous one. The slightest upward tick too far of my mood can send me whirling into a self destructive frenzy. This frenzy immediately followed by a disastrous plummet into deep depression. The fear of this sits at the back of my mind however, often hiding altogether. For someone who thrives on energy and creativity this is my most powerful time. I am Icarus, the son of the craftsman Daedalus, from Greek legends of old. My hypomania is my wings of wax and feathers. Fly too close to the sun and they melt.

    Many may wonder, “What is hypomania?”, as they never heard of it. Hypomania is a symptom of Bipolar II, which falls on the Bipolar Spectrum. This spectrum just like the light spectrum that creates the rainbow is one of many hues. In Herman Melville’s famous story of Billy Budd, he poignantly describes these spectrums: “"Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity." The Bipolar Spectrum is an arrangement of varying “levels” of mental illness. On one end you have Cyclothymia and on the other, Bipolar I. Bipolar II falls somewhere in between. As modern psychiatric medicine progresses we are beginning to realize that these illnesses are in fact very different and surprisingly, may not be related at all. For instance, while someone with Bipolar I may suffer from a crippling “mixed episode” where they barely can control the flood of thoughts and varying moods, the person with Bipolar II does not have these experiences. Hypomanic, normal mood, depressed. That’s all we get.

    It is important for me to point out that not all hypomania is made equal. Not all are given the boon of wonderful happiness. Some suffer from a hypomania that is characterized by increased levels of irritability. Growing up, I saw this many times in my father. An intelligent but often troubled man in my younger years, he would suffer from a terrible irritability that often manifested itself in angry outbursts. It wasn’t until I experienced hypomania and researched its symptoms that I realized that his demeanor was not of his choosing.

    For me, the hypomania is exhilarating. The increased energy and creativity and very little need for sleep is accompanied by a change in mood. This change in mood for me is characterized by feelings of elation, profound importance of even mundane events and a feeling of being in close contact with God, nature and the universe. This hypomanic state can last for days or even weeks cycling within itself through various states and stages of these feelings and moods. They whirl about like gusts of wind in a gale and like the sailor Billy Budd all I can do is hold on for the ride. Inevitably the storm ends but the end of this storm gives way to a burning hot sun and no air and like Icarus my wings melt and I fall into the sea.

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