bipolar disorder

Am I Happy Or Manic? A Common Question When You Have Bipolar Disorder

From November until the beginning of May, I was stuck in a severe depressive episode due to my bipolar disorder. It was miserable and significantly impacted my life. I missed work, I didn’t contribute around the house and it took a lot of energy to engage in activities that I previously enjoyed. I spent most of my days in bed and avoided all responsibilities except for taking care of my mental health. I somehow still managed to make it to therapy and psychiatrist appointments. But I was sleeping 11-12 hours a night, I had decreased appetite and I had difficulty concentrating.

However, a few weeks ago, I started a new bipolar medication, lithium. (You can read my initial thoughts on the drug in my recent blog post entitled “I’m Taking Lithium Now: My Bipolar Medication Has A Song Named After It“).  I don’t know if it’s actually because of the medication, or because I read an inspiring book (How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh) but I actually feel a lot better than I used to.

In the past week or two, I have been waking up at a normal hour and it is extremely easy for me to pop out of bed. Usually, I would snooze for 30 min to an hour (or even longer if I have nowhere to be). But lately, I am just up and at ’em. It’s pretty amazing.  I am also extremely productive and I don’t seem to run out of steam too easily. Most days, I work on this website, it’s associated social media channels and other mental health advocacy. I also go to medical appointments and do therapy and I try to exercise when I can. I’ve also been cooking meals and doing laundry and feeling like a contributing member of my two-person household.

This all sounds good, right? However, it all begs the question: am I feeling better (am I happy?) or am I hypomanic? There are also some warning signs that indicate I might be on the verge of a manic episode. Which is why my psychiatrist wants me to wait a few weeks before I re-enter the workforce. Mostly, I am just really energetic and ambitious. 

For my 28th birthday on May 4th, I wrote a list of 29 items I want to accomplish before my 29th birthday. While there is nothing wrong with setting goals and it’s quite common for people to create bucket lists, it is possibly an indication that I am starting to get grandiose ideas and notions in my head. People with hypomania are often extremely productive, euphoric and have tons of creative ideas, so it’s only natural that a friend even approached me and said they were worried about mental health symptoms and asked me to be careful. I really appreciated their concern and kindness. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m actually just happy and healthy and that my behaviour is not due to symptoms of my mental illness. Last time I saw my psychiatrist, he asked me a bunch of questions and I answered “no” to all of them. So I’m pretty sure I don’t meet the requirements for a manic or hypomanic episode. I’m not engaging in harmful behaviours like going on spending sprees or gambling excessively. My judgment seems to be pretty stable. I’m not very irritable or hostile. I don’t have a high sex drive (sorry, partner!) and I don’t have an inflated self-esteem.

Even though I have been feeling a lot better, I still need to be careful to monitor my symptoms and take care of my mental health and physical needs. I need to be EXTRA cautious about drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated. I think that is smart to wait a few weeks before I try to integrate myself back into work life. I want to be extra careful that another depressive episode is not on the horizon. I also need to wait for a little time to pass before I celebrate “feeling better” because the high energy might tip into something serious. My last manic episode required me to be hospitalized.  (You can watch me discuss the time I was an in-patient in a psychiatric ward here).

It is pretty darn difficult to distinguish right now what my symptoms mean: am I happy or hypomanic? Am I just really motivated or am I on the precipice of disaster? When does happiness become illness? All I can do is track my mood, my symptoms and express myself honestly with my support system so they know if they need to help me. I just desperately hope that this good feeling is a new normal for me and that it sticks. For now, I’m going to try to enjoy how I am feeling. Because I know the darkness and lows that I have hit before and I am grateful for this opportunity to appreciate and savor life.



9 comments on “Am I Happy Or Manic? A Common Question When You Have Bipolar Disorder

  1. So happy to hear you are feeling better. Enjoy it, try not to stress too much about what might/might not be. You sound like you have an awesome support system in your corner and they will be a gentle reminder that all does not seem well if you find yourself in a situation where you might not notice if something is amiss. Enjoy this newfound happiness, you deserve it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Chrissie – I’m glad you’ve been feeling better. Good for you (and I’m glad you’ve got a support system around you) for being aware of the potential realities though. How long are you into your diagnosis? I’m still only three months in and have already been down the inpatient route during a manic episode so I’m trying to be careful of hypomania right now. Thanks for helping bring out awareness of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you are doing good! I’m happy the lithium helped. It didn’t do much for me but every “body” is different so you find what works and that’s all that matter.


  4. Getting out of depression can be such a joy, especially when you’re motivated and energetic. I hope, though, that you have people around you that know you have bipolar to monitor you. That is very helpful for me.

    In the meantime, like the others said, please savor the happiness.


  5. Samantha Melvin

    Reblogged this on Learning to Walk the Tightrope and commented:
    Something that is so relatable.


  6. TheNutFactory

    Hi there, I’ve nominated you for the Bloggers Recognition Award. I love reading your blog. The announcement post can be found her 🙂


  7. I am in a similar position. I just started Cymbalta for anxiety, depression, and bipolar as well as pain and I cannot tell if I am feeling better or if it’s just hypomania because I have been depressed for a very long while. Thank you for this post. It reminds me I’m not alone.


  8. Thank you for sharing your gift. I just nominated you for a new award I created called, The Growing Self Blogger Award. Thank you for “Being the Change…”


  9. Wow! I’ve been on your site following you for about 1/2 an hour and totally connect with your stuff!!!
    The question of whether I’m hitting early hypomania or just actually feeling really happy is so hard to distinguish! Something I’ve always pondered over with my team.
    You and I have spent the same amount of months depressed in the same way just now – literally November 16 to May 17, completely non functional…. I’m just back at work though and boy it’s hard, I feel a slight slip the last couple of days…
    Anyhow, back to you, do you keep a mood chart? I like the bipolar uk mood diary and chart (but forget to fill it in lol). I think when you have been so low in a severe depression that when a good day/days come one becomes so hyper-vigilant – like you describe… am I going high? Or am I just feeling good? It’s no wonder when we’ve felt shit for so long that feeling good we question. Sometimes I find the super good that appears suddenly feels like it’s climbing high but seems to be my body and mind capitalising on the good feeling then it settles. That’s my theory anyway when it doesn’t continue….
    It’s rather annoying lol. I bloody hate bipolar. I’d really like to be a hypomanic happy 7 all the time. I’d get so much shit done.


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