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I’ll start with the good news: I officially do NOT have depression!  The bad news: I am instead bipolar type II. Oh…

So what the shit is “bipolar II?”  Good question.  The DSM-IV defines it thus:

  • The presence of a hypomanic or major depressive episode.
  • If currently in major depressive episode, history of a hypomanic episode. If currently in a hypomanic episode, history of a major depressive episode. No history of a manic episode.
  • Significant stress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

As it has been explained to me, BP2 is a cycling from major depression to hypomania.  I’ve described depression at length in prior posts, but here are the symptoms of hypomania:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity.
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep).
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking.
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
  • Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli), as reported or observed.
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation.
  • Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).

Hmmm.  Sounds a lot like your standard bipolar disorder.  So what’s the difference between BPI and BP2 then?  As I understand it, in BP2, hypomanic states are milder that the mania experienced in BP1, and most importantly, they do not cause dysfunction in one’s life the way they do in BP1.

Looking back on my life, I can definitely see where I was probably in a hypomanic state.  Some examples:

  • Got a tattoo without telling anyone.
  • Went back to school to study math/chem/physics…and then promptly, and without any warning or discussion with anyone, dropped out after a year, mid-semester.
  • Got REALLY into the idea of learning to sail, buying a sailboat, quitting my life and sailing the world.  I procured tons of books on the subject and even learned to tie a bunch of knots! Then lost interest.
  • Various projects that I dove into head first with GREAT enthusiasm, only to lose interest at the drop of a hat.
  • Bought a very expensive home gym and got really into lifting…and then lost interest.
  • Bought a very expensive guitar that I rarely use.
  • Countless random purchases on Amazon.  For example, I recently bought like eight pocket knives on Amazon.  Who needs eight pocket knives?!
  • Got really into running and even did a half marathon…and then lost total interest.
  • Countless examples of being depressed one day and then feeling great the next.
  • Having days where I’m in an inexplicably good mood and uncharacteristically chatty.
  • Having great interest in sex; and then virtually no interest.

The list goes on.  Thing is, hypomania feels good.  I never thought that I was hypomanic, I just thought that’s what it was like to feel…not depressed.  I never questioned my behavior when I was feeling good; why would I?  “Dear doctor, I’m feeling very energetic and creative…what’s wrong with me?!” – said no one ever.

The hard part for me to wrap my head around now, is that I don’t know where I begin/end, and where hypomania takes over.  How am I supposed to ever do anything or make a decision in the future without worrying that I’m doing so under the influence of a hypomanic state?  How does that not just lead to paralysis of action?  I want to get some pretty serious tattoo work done; is that me talking or the hypomania?  It feels genuine.  I have other tattoos that I love and I’ve wanted this one for a long time, but how do I know?

I’m new to this, so I’m trying to be patient with myself.  Hopefully with time, the answers will come.


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