I’m going on day 5 of being manic. To most people who have a basic understanding of bipolar disorder, you understand that people with this mental illness experience periods of extreme mood swings. What some people don’t know is that these extremes are intermingled with periods without symptoms. Friends, believe it or not, I am not in a continuous state of either depression or mania. Sometimes I am “normal”. I mean, I’ll give it to you, it’s not often but I do have my good days. Something else people may not know about these bipolar “episodes” as I call them is that they can last weeks or months. This doesn’t just go for depression. Mania can also be a longer state.
Most people who have a basic understanding of bipolar disorder understand mania to be a “euphoric” state. This is NOT correct. Yes, sometimes we do feel euphoric and like superheroes that can’t die which is super dangerous. But there is so much more to it than that.
To help you better understand, I am going to give you some doctor quotes and people’s experiences for you science people. Then I’ll give my fellow empaths something you might understand a little easier with my personal experiences.
Bipolar mania is defined as a period of mood elevation that is generally characterized by high energy and activity levels. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says, “When a person with bipolar disorder is experiencing a manic episode, they may feel “up,” or jumpy or wired”. One psychiatrist, Igor Galynker, said, “Mania is a state of high energy, high activity, and less of a need for sleep. People engage in unusual behavior and may have an inflated opinion of oneself.” In severe manic episodes, someone can actually experience psychosis and possibly hallucinating. Research is showing that sleep deprivation can actually trigger a manic episode.
Now we move onto another form of mania, irritability or anger. Wendy Marsh, M.D., director of the Bipolar Disorders Specialty Clinic describes it like this, “You’ve got this extra energy, your thoughts are moving fast, you’re trying to do ten things at once, you’re easily distracted, but you’re agitated.” She explains that many of her patients express mania with irritability as feeling as if things are taking too long. She says, “You can’t sit there at the red light; it’s taking too long. You can’t wait for someone to respond to what you just said because you have three other ideas you have to get express to them ASAP. Your brain is racing, and you don’t need to sleep because you’ve got so many ideas and so much energy to do all these activities, and you’re frustrated things aren’t happening even faster.” Dr. Galynker adds, “It’s a common experience for people with bipolar disorder to spend a ton of money during manic episodes. I’ve had patients waste their fortunes or go into debt.”
Dr. Marsh adds that creativity or confidence can be a result of manic or hypomanic episodes. She says, “Mania can feel like a wonderful, exciting, productive place to be when it is going on, that absolutely does happen. But it can also be extremely disconcerting or even dangerous for a person when they still feel this sense that something is not right, that they are not fully in control of themselves.”
I want to be very clear here: everyone experiences mania differently. Manic behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are different for everyone.
Here are some stories of mania that I found. Each is different and each is valid.
- A 20-year-old woman experiences a form of mania called hypomania (just less severe mania). She feels high on life like nothing can touch her, nothing bursts her bubble. She doesn’t need sleep, she doesn’t even need to eat. She is living at hyper-speed.
- A 66-year-old man says his mania feels like he is on top of the world. He feels like Superman, nothing is impossible. Even his most unrealistic goals seem attainable.
- Another man, 54 years old, loses touch with reality during his manic episodes. He experienced psychosis. “I thought I was teaching English to millions of Chinese people telepathically. How did that feel at the time? Normal.”
- A 25-year-old woman says, “You feel like you want to spend money and have as much sex as possible,” she says. “It feels almost as if you have taken Adderall or cocaine. You feel confident, like anything you do is right, and there will be no consequences for your behavior.”
- But it’s not all negative. A 46-year-old woman says her hypomanic episodes give her bursts of energy and lead to lots of creativity.
ALL THE FEELS
Now that you have all that information, let me make it a little more personal for you. Luckily, my extremely manic episodes usually last about 24-48 hours. These are those episodes where I’ll clean until my fingers are nubs and my back breaks in half. I’ve been doing better with manic shopping. For some reason, a lot of bipolar people will feel this relentless need to buy things when they are manic. I usually just give Ben my credit card when I feel that coming on. Those things are what I classify as my “impulsive manic behaviors”.
I do get the “angry and irritable” manic episodes. They are probably my least favorite because I can tell something isn’t right and I can’t fix it. They’re also my least favorite because I can get really mean and defensive for no reason. I hate how I treat my family during these episodes. I just shut down or act up. These types of episodes are probably the most unpredictable. I have all this energy but I also am angry and usually thinking about all the reasons I hate myself or shouldn’t be here and unfortunately I usually end up trying to hurt myself. That’s the thing about being bipolar if I was just depressed I wouldn’t have the energy to try and hurt myself or even take my own life. But with the mania, it adds this extra energy you wouldn’t usually have during a depressive episode.
Recently I’ve experienced longer episodes of mania. The one I’m currently in is going on day 5. Sleep is probably the biggest issue. I have gotten little to no sleep in the past 4 days. I know my body is craving it but my brain convinces me that I don’t need it. I literally feel fine in my brain. I feel almost good. Energetic. I have a million things running through my head and I want to do them all right now, at once, perfectly.
I experience psychosis on a regular basis and I have spoken about it publicly before. I get what I call “flashes” where I can physically see, hear, and smell something happening that isn’t really happening. Usually, it’s someone I love being hurt or dying. I also have apocalyptic ones. Those happen regularly. Now with this current manic episode, they are happening A LOT more. I am pretty sure it has a lot to do with my lack of sleep but I have been seeing my house catching on fire, Daisy escaping, people breaking in through the door and windows, etc. when none of that is actually happening. But for me it is and it feels real and it’s terrifying. I also have been having moments where I feel like I’m not real or the world around me isn’t real. That is more frustrating for me than scary.
I’m not cynical (maybe just a little) and I’m not trying to be a downer. I don’t do resolutions I think they’re dumb and I just feel terrible when I break them. But I have spoken to Ben and I do want to have more voice in 2019. I want to help people understand my mental illness.
Let me start with these images. The girl on the left is mentally ill. She has bipolar and is experiencing an episode of psychosis in this image. The girl on the right is also mentally ill. She has bipolar and is having a nice period of “normalcy”. What’s my point? Mental illness is sometimes an invisible disease. That means it is quite easy to hide. So TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES! They might look like the girl on the right when you see them but be the girl of the left behind closed doors.
That’s why I’m moving my domain and trying to get my blog to more people. I want to help people, mostly bipolar people. I want to help people know they aren’t alone. Know they aren’t “crazy”. Be someone they can talk to if they feel like nobody else understands. I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist. Don’t ask me what meds to take or what therapy to try because I don’t know. But I will be your friend and I will send you pictures of my cat if you’re sad or angry. 2019 is going to be insane, just like me. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all.
*I got a lot of my science information from SELF https://www.self.com/story/bipolar-manic-episodes check them out they’re awesome.*