Psychomotor Agitation

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I don’t want locomotiary substitution
Or remote intransitory convolution
Only one precise solution is the key
Substitutiary locomotion it must be
-Eglantine Price

I can’t sit still. It’s not that I’m so hyper I can’t sit still, like in hypomania. I’m not. Not really. I’d say that I’m still experiencing a seasonal mood episode, but I wouldn’t necessarily label it “hypomania”. It doesn’t necessarily fit the classical definition of hypomania.

Perhaps you’d call it a dysphoric hypomania, as there are definitely depressed symptoms here, but without the lack of energy that comes with a depressed mood. You could call it a mixed episode, I guess, but that doesn’t feel right, either. That’s the issue with labels. Symptoms just never line up perfectly with the rigid boxes labels try to put them in. So let’s just call it a general “mood episode” and leave it at that.

Whatever you want to call it, I can’t sit still. I’m restless. I don’t feel right in my own skin. That’s  hard to explain. I could say that my body just doesn’t feel right, but that’s a very ambiguous statement. My body doesn’t feel comfortable; it doesn’t feel like it’s mine. It’s as if my soul wants to just climb out of this body and find somewhere else to live. Some place that fits a little better. Some place that feels a little less confining.

There’s nothing wrong with this body, per se. It’s fine, I guess. I’ve been working out roughly an hour and a half per day, four days a week, working on strength, balance, and flexibility. I’ve slimmed down and added some muscle mass. I’m in better shape than I was throughout most of my 20s, and I’m pushing 40. That’s a heck of a thing. I’m proud of that. When I say that this body doesn’t feel right, that’s not really what I’m talking about.

There is a phrase: psychomotor agitation. Saying that aloud I am reminded of the “substitutiary locomotion” spell in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. But psychomotor agitation is not a spell cast by Angela Lansbury. It is a symptom of bipolar. Psychomotor agitation makes you feel restless constantly. You fidget. You move around. You make repetitive, involuntary, compulsive movements. It is an external expression of a kind of internal tension, internal anxiety, internal restlessness that makes the body feel almost like a prison. I think that describes the way that I feel right now pretty accurately.

I’ve been through this before. It’s actually a fairly common symptom for me, although I never had a name for it until this week. My skin crawls. It’s too tight, or it’s too loose. Every single part of it feels wrong. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel like it’s mine.

At times I will catch myself rubbing my skin repeatedly in places. I catch myself pulling hairs out of my beard, involuntarily. It’s a little bit like a nervous tick. I’ve always associated it with hypomania and mania, as there is a kind of hyperactive, fidgety feeling that accompanies it. But that hyperactivity isn’t really pronounced right now, at least not in the way that I would expect for it to be. And yet this restlessness persists.

I feel like a prisoner trapped in my own body. The thing with bodies is that there’s really no way to escape them. Just like you’re stuck with your own mind, you’re stuck with your own body.

I had a panic attack at church this week. There was some paranoia involved, as I constantly felt like there were people behind me talking about me and judging me, despite the fact that I sat in the very back of the sanctuary. There was nobody behind me. Not during the service. Not when we went up for communion. Not at any time. And yet I felt their presence.

But more so than that I felt wrong. I felt trapped. I felt ill at ease. My body did not feel like my own, and I couldn’t escape it. You can’t escape yourself. Not your mind. Not your body. There is no way out, or at least no good way out.

So here I am, panicky, trapped, tense, and agitated. I know this will subside. It always does. That’s something that I am reminded of all the time. Even as I am recovering I still experience symptoms. I still experience mood episodes. But they don’t last as long as they used to and they’re not as pronounced as they used to be. I keep telling myself that, and I think it makes experiencing the symptoms more bearable. I’m starting to have some hope, at least.

It seems a little odd, but constantly telling myself that it could be a lot worst is perversely comforting. No, I don’t feel good today. My spirit is longing, dying to escape this body, this bag of meat. Everything feels wrong. But this won’t last forever. And it’s been a lot worse.

And that’s what passes for comfort today.