Exercise benefits on mental health

Hypomania Interrupted


Yesterday felt like the beginnings of a hypomanic episode. These were some of the signs present:

• 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 (e.g., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)

• Increase in psychomotor agitation

This is how these symptoms manifest for me:

• Insomnia kicks in and I wake up after one or two hours of sleep,

• Even if my body is still tired, my mind just jumps from one thought stream to another,

• I feel an insistent and urgent need to communicate – since no one is usually present for me to talk to, I feel a compulsion to write.

• If I can write, I wind up with five or more tabs open while I “rabbit trail” with the different streams of thought and trying to link to this idea/concept or find a new quote, then try to create an image to illustrate what is going on in my head and emotions, all while Facebooking.

• If I can’t write, my agitation and irritability increase and I will find myself wandering in and out of the various rooms in my apartment, picking things up and putting them down.

So, when I woke up around 1:30 in the morning yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep, after an hour and a half, I risked waking my daughter up and got on the computer to write. I spent an hour writing then an hour editing and rabbit trailing while I got ready to hit the publish button on the post. By then it was around 4:15-4:30 and I still couldn’t sleep. So, another hour or so was spent on Facebook, until my body crashed again around 6 am. I slept for 2-2.5 hours then had to get up and get Luna ready to go to her respite care program. Once she got on the bus, I went to the pool and swam laps for an hour and a half. The perfect place to get out the psychomotor agitation and let the thoughts just flow.

Some other things were happening for me as well:


• Sadness or hopelessness

• Anxiety or tension

• Extreme moodiness

• Marked irritability or anger

When I got home, I discovered I was locked out. The anxiety and panic tried to take over and I began feeling really frustrated with myself for not taking my key and with those who locked the door without realizing my keys were still hanging in the entryway.

I remembered that the kitchen window had recently been opened and figured it hadn’t gotten locked again. So, I removed the screen and was able to slide it open. The next task was to figure out how to haul my 266 lb body through it and avoid all the boxes and bags of stuff stacked in front of it without causing injury or creating a mess.

I did it! It was a huge accomplishment to get through all of that in the way I did. However, it was also a LOT of energy and effort, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally, because all I wanted to do was throw a tantrum, go into panic, and be pissed off.

I soon got my wish. I went in the kitchen to cook myself some eggs only to discover that despite all the cleaning that others had done in there the previous night, the sink was full and the counters were covered, as was the stovetop, with an accumulation of unwashed dishes.

Then I discovered 2/3 of the myzithra cheese, which I had been saving for a special pasta dish I’ve been craving, was gone!

I. Was. LIVID!

Within 30 seconds, it seemed, the one responsible for me having been locked out, the likely culprit of the cheese theft and major contributor to the kitchen mess, returned my phone call.

Uh huh. What followed was less than pretty.

She laughed at my description of what I went through to get into the apartment then turned the cheese thing around on me, raising her voice in the process, deflected and told me I was yelling, talked over me, then hung up.

Over the past year and a half or so, I have worked hard to create a different response when this sort of thing happens. I usually just let the matter rest until everyone is calm again. Often, that means the apologies are said later and the issue just blows over.

This time, however, my mental and emotional state was so overwhelming and I was so agitated and righteously pissed, that I just kept hitting redial while she kept sending me to voicemail, until she answered the phone, talked at me and hung up again.

By that point I was in a fury and so frustrated, hurt, and angry that I started pacing around muttering and crying. I even slapped the wall at one point, which hurt, stinging my hand so bad it made me cry harder.

The feelings of not counting or being treated with the effort, courtesy, consideration, and acceptance were swirling and roiling like a tempest through my heart, mind, and body. The depression started trying to rise and all the fears and worries about our financial circumstances started. My throat constricted and all the energy just drained out of my body.

That’s when I remembered that there were a couple of friends I could call, whom I’ve been reconnecting with. I got voicemail with the first one, but the second one answered. We talked for probably an hour.

The conversation started with me stating that I hated the life I’ve created for myself. We talked through what had happened and the history and established patterns of my family relationships. She empathized with me, validated my feelings, and sought to understand what was really going on. I shared about the things I’m learning in my Circle of Security parenting group and the realizations I’ve been having about some key things about how I grew up and how those things had carried through into my parenting, especially with my adult children.

The best thing about the call though, was that I was able to not make it all about me and my stuff. We talked about her experiences in these matters and I asked about a health issue she’s been having. That may not seem like a big deal to many, but it is a huge indicator of how much I’ve grown and healed.

After that call, I was able to cope better and follow through on scheduled activities, which, even as recently as a week or two ago, I may have wound up canceling because of how crappy my day had been.

That evening I was able to talk through the issues that had happened earlier in the day with the one(s) who had contributed to my earlier distress. Eventually, Luna and I made it to bed.

Miracle of miracles, I slept . . . Through the night with minimal waking moments which I was able to return to sleep from.

I think that a few things were key in the disruption of what otherwise would have turned int a full-blown, four plus period of hypomania:

1) I’ve been exercising. Everyday during the month of May, I have walked a minimum of a mile or exercised at least 20 minutes. Whether I felt like it or not, regardless of what else was happening or who else was in distress, even when it was the very last thing I wanted to do, I exercised Every. Single. Day. Since Tuesday, May 21st, I swam three miles and today I walked over 4.5 miles.


So, physically, my body needed the downtime of sleep to rest and repair, regardless of what the neurochemistry and hormones were doing to my brain and emotions. The exercise also satisfied the psychomotor agitation and allowed space for the thoughts to just flow through and not get stuck.

2) Community support. In addition to knowing I had three different people I could call and safely talk things through with, there are some online communities I’m consistently engaging with where, not only can I get encouragement and support, I am actively participating in the support and encouragement of others.

3) Practicing presence. As painful, frustrating and difficult as it was to go through yesterday’s experiences, I stayed in the moment and didn’t short circuit the process by numbing out on television and/or food.

I’m not out of the woods and there is still a long and winding path ahead. However, I finally can see and am realizing that I am growing and changing. I am now able to recognize that I am a new me and while things like PMDD, Cyclothymia, and Fibromyalgia may always be factors in my life, they no longer have to fully define and dictate the person I am.