One of the unexpected benefits of being on antipsychotics is that I’ve not had a hangover since 2011. Being that bizarre hybrid creature “an extravert with a degree of social anxiety”, in the past I often used to find myself drinking more than I meant to at parties or on nights our as an attempt to allay my nerves. I can’t do this now; anything more than a couple of units of alcohol begins to mix with the quetiapine in a very unpleasant way which has put me off having more than one drink in any given evening.
After those occasions when I’d have one, and then another one, and then another, I’d go to sleep fairly easily but at some point in the early hours I would jolt awake, palms sweating and pulse racing, feeling like Uma Thurman in that scene in Pulp Fiction when she’s given an adrenaline shot to the heart. From that point, I would be consumed by a sense of doom. Things I had done or said that at the time had seemed witty, interesting, or fun now looked like the behaviour of an embarrassing “mature” woman who should know better. A sense of sick horror about the way I had conducted myself mingled with the inevitable nausea, pounding head and craving for bacon, and it would often take a day or more to stop beating myself up about my drunken behaviour. And every time I was in the grip of a hangover I would make fervent promises to myself that I would never put myself through this again. (You can guess how that went.)
Today I am suffering from a different kind of hangover. I am consumed with the same kinds of guilt and shame, a sense of horror at how I’ve behaved, and a bunch of recriminations and promises to do better next time. Only it’s not drunken behaviour I’m regretting – it’s the things I have said and done while I’ve been hypomanic.
I was hypo for most of last week and at first it was very pleasant. Recent dread about Christmas (is it just me, or have the Christmas adverts kicked in even earlier this year?) had seen me crying to the Home Treatment Team nurses about how I couldn’t even cope with the idea, but now this miraculously lifted. Suddenly I was ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS. In November! I knew intellectually that the big day was some weeks away but I felt very driven from within to shop for it, and to shop for it now. I scoured charity shops in two towns looking for suitable fabrics for some Christmas craft ideas and searched Pinterest for inspiration. That wasn’t going to be enough, though; I had a strong sense that I must also shop for ready-made decorations because my Christmas tree must have a whole new look this year. Before I knew it, I had spent at least £75 on baubles and ribbon and the like. While I was in shopping mode I also bought a new-to-me sparkly charity shop dress for the Mind Media Awards (of which more later).
Most of the time this shopping was lovely. I felt a huge sense of reward every time I found a decoration or a bit of fabric that was exactly what I wanted. Everyone that dealt with me was pleasant and congenial. I found myself popping into places for a straightforward purchase and lingering for ten or fifteen minutes, chatting to staff. I was tremendously satisfied with all my purchases, right down to the bag for life that protected my new glass baubles.
Whilst in this buzzy mood I had been thinking a lot about the Mind Media Awards. Although I ended up enjoying my first Awards I had found arriving at the very noisy and crowded foyer of British Film Institute quite overwhelming and had almost run away. This got me thinking about people who might be coming for the first time and/or on their own and how to make arrival easier than I had found it. I was also keen to connect with a number of online friends and perhaps meet them beforehand so I didn’t have to walk in by myself. And so I took it upon myself to try to organise something. This, dear reader, is the story of my hypomanic life. If there is something to be volunteered for, I will stick my hand up. If I see a gap, I will undertake to fill it. If someone is struggling, I will want to rescue them. And so I tried to make myself a kind of focal point for people on Twitter to connect in real life, inviting various people I knew were likely to be there to join me for a light meal immediately before the Awards.
There had been a slight irritable edge to this hypo all along, but as the week wore on that unpleasant aspect become more and more prominent. I snapped at poor Tom after he’d had a crappy day yet still managed to get the supermarket to fetch dinner, provoking a needless row. In one charity shop the volunteers refused to see me an item for £1 despite me having picked it particularly because it was on the one pound rail. What started out as a calm assertion that consumer law said they were obliged to sell at the advertised price quickly escalated into me haranguing them about their need for training, the pathetic nature of their understanding of consumer law, and a threat to report them to Trading Standards whilst telling everyone in the borough never to shop there. Overkill, much?
The following day I found myself unable to ignore one of the frequent email “invitations” I get offering me the amazing opportunity to blog about someone’s non-mental health product to boost their business for free. I was particularly irked by the writer’s purported love of my blog given the fact he’d got the name wrong. I knew it was pointless but I felt compelled to send a scathing response asking him to leave me alone. This resulted in two further emails from him and a eventual blistering response on my part involving lots of profanity and a warning that if he persisted in contacting me again when he had already been specifically asked not to, I would begin a file on his harassment of me. Just after I hit send on my final email I held the door open for my downstairs neighbor, who was talking on her mobile and dragging her little dog along. She didn’t acknowledge me, and I found myself calling snottily after her, “THANK YOU. That’s what it’s customary to say when someone HOLDS THE DOOR OPEN FOR YOU!”
As soon as I got in I realised how overwhelmed and overstimulated I was, and that being hypo really wasn’t fun anymore. Feeling physically exhausted I went to bed quite early but struggled to fall asleep as brightly coloured, constantly-changing pictures kept forming in my visual cortex, a kind of exhausting manic kaleidoscope. I didn’t feel I could take much more.
As it happened, I didn’t have to worry about taking more. Over the weekend my mood crashed, as it so often does after a hypo. And with the crash comes the inevitable hypomanic hangover. Why did I behave the way I did? What was I thinking, spending so much money on something so frivolous and unnecessary? What did I hope to gain by behaving in such a sneering, vindictive, self-righteous way? It certainly didn’t give me any pleasure. Why did I buy craft materials I would now feel guilty about my inability to use? Why did I make myself unofficial organiser of the Mind Awards tweetup? As soon as I got up this morning, I know I couldn’t go and be among all those people. I loathed myself for suggesting the idea, picking a venue and publicising it and giving people my mobile number. What was I thinking?
In about half an hour the Mind Media Awards will be getting started. I’m sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas and a huge cardigan. My special outfit has been shoved to the back of the wardrobe and my hair’s unwashed. Tom’s out so it’s just me, my ready meal for one, and the shame and guilt and remorse and self-hatred of another hypomanic hangover.