One day, when I was maybe seven years old, my friend’s father was driving my friend and I to some place. I was clearly having a good time talking when her father said to me “Cindy, you certainly are a very gabby girl.” That shut me up momentarily, but then I went about my happy chatter. When I got home and saw my mother, I told her what my friend’s dad said, and asked her what the word “gabby” meant. She told me it meant that I like to talk a lot. I asked her if she thought I was gabby, and she said “Yes”.
I don’t know if I always seemed gabby to people, but I could definitely talk on an on at some times. I know I would get scolded for interrupting people and not letting people get a word in edge-wise, but I could be quiet at times, especially when I was alone 🙂 . When alone, my thoughts often continued in a constant stream or bounced from one thing to another. Just as I could get excited talking to someone, I often found myself excited just thinking about things. The excitement could be positive or negative.
When in school, I was one of those annoying students that always raised her hand whenever the teacher asked a question. Or even when they didn’t. I raised my hand so much, that on occasion I would not raise my hand out of fear that people found me annoying for doing so so often. When I restrained myself, I believe that the frustration of holding back was clear on my face. If none of the students raised their hands, the teacher would inevitably ask “Well, Cindy, what do you think?” That broke the damn of my silence, and a flood of answer gushed out with great relief.
Surprise! I have always loved to write, too. Even if I initially dreaded having to write a long term paper, when I’d get started, the excitement would build and I’d almost experience a touch of elation as I typed. I guess it was in the ninth grade when my term papers started to be assigned with great frequency and length requirements. When I changed to a private school, the paper requirements seemed to even double. It at first seemed a little overwhelming, but it didn’t take long before I started to love them. The classes were extremely interesting there. I remember writing papers for favorite courses like “The USSR”, “Science Fiction”, “The Transcendentalists”, and “British Writers: Blake to Present”. I was even required to write fairly long papers in French on certain topics.
When I went on to university, I was more than ready to handle the writing requirements, though some of the reading length requirements were a challenge. Yes, I always enjoyed expressing my thoughts and ideas even a bit more than doing heavy reading, but sometimes my written expressions were, as one professor wrote, “too wordy”. I scratched my head at that, trying to think what words I could have eliminated. Over the years I have learned to chop down my writing, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but it always begins as a very long dump of thoughts. Trying to be concise and to the point from the very beginning is kind of difficult for me.
Not too long after I graduated from university, I got a job working in a communications department at a very large pharmaceutical company. I wrote lots of letters, and content for the company’s events and announcements online newsletter. Later, I got a job handling communications for another major company’s Sales and Marketing departments. The writing workload for various brochures, counseling guides, website, and advertisements was extremely heavy. At one point in the beginning, I also answered an average of 100 daily e-mail inquiries. I was the type who would not provide canned or automatic responses if there were questions asked. Often I’d find myself writing a number of paragraphs in each response, including even more information than was asked for.
The responsibilities and pressures of my last job began to overstress me. My brain and typing fingers started to overheat. I started to lose my mental health. I couldn’t wind down at night without a number of drinks, which slowed my thoughts and mental fervor. That didn’t happen immediately, though. First my husband had to hear a major earful about my day at the job, as we ate dinner. You can’t imagine how many times he yelled at me to “STOP!” and lower my voice.
I have bipolar disorder. Pressured and loud speech is a common symptom of hypomania and mania, as is racing thoughts, and sometimes even hypergraphia (the intense urge to write). It’s possible that all my “gabbiness” and “urges to write a lot” could be attributed to that to a degree. I’ve also read that hypergraphia can be caused by temporal lobe changes in epilepsy, chemical causes, and schizophrenia. Some wonder if it might be an OCD symptom for some people. And yet, there are also perfectly stable “Chatty Cathys” out there, and normal people with extreme passions and urges to write a lot. Like many things, when does a tendency cross the line from being just “extreme passion”, to a sign of a mental or neurological illness of sorts? I’ve seen some mighty extreme examples of hypergraphia that have exceeded the length of things I’ve written in a given day, even when manic. Sometimes what is written by people with hypergraphia is comprehensible, other times it is just a nonsense stream of words, or even symbols, mixed in.
Other extreme examples of hypergraphia
I no longer have my old job because of my bipolar illness, but still spend an incredible number of hours writing. Yes, I often write daily on my blog and comments on others’, but also numerous forums, social responses, journal entries, and letters to various people. I try not to go overboard with the length of my blog posts, because I know many of you would stamp “Too wordy” on some of them (perhaps this post is too wordy), but in other places I practice less restraint. On not so rare occasions, I’ll write ridiculously long passages or ones I start to regret, only to delete them and start all over again.
Writing is my favorite thing to do because I need an outlet (leading to relief) for all of the thoughts racing in my mind, and lack of people available to hear my daytime chatter. Why do you like to write? And do you think that your writing may be excessive at times?
Famous people documented as having hypergraphia (some with bipolar disorder, some not):
- Danielle Steel
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Sylvia Plath
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Stephen King
- Isaac Asimov
- Vincent van Gogh
- Robert Burns
- Lewis Carroll
- David Foster Wallace
Though not on the list, I can’t help but think that people like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig von Beethoven may have also had a tendency towards hypergraphia. They may have not have written extreme numbers of words, but they did write amazingly large numbers of musical notes, and supposedly had music playing in their heads almost all of the time.