Isn’t Mania Fun?

Although there are two ‘types’ of bipolar – bipolar I, marked by delusions and psychosis in the manic phase, and bipolar II, in depressive episodes are punctuated by milder hypomania – it seems that most of us have entirely different experiences within those two spheres.

For me mania, or rather what’s classed as hypomania, didn’t ever seem to be much of a problem.  It’s only recently that I’ve begun to recognise that periods or snappishness and irritability, my rather famous spendy episodes or the times that I get mad obsessed with something are indicative of of mania, rather than being, as I had assumed, judging them to be ‘negative’ as opposed to the ‘positive’ of mania, linked to my depression.

Now you’d think that I’d have known better but ever since diagnosis I’ve wistfully looked forward to a nice little bout of mania.  I’ve busied myself reading wikipedia medical research, imagining myself with this fabulous ‘increased productivity’ dreaming of this ‘decreased need for sleep’ and making grand plans for the day that the Manic Fairy finally visits; Redecorate! Earn a million! Clean the stove! Be the best parent EVER! Save the world…

Imagine my extremely predictable disappointment when I finally got my manic.

No amount of research prepares you for mania.  In all of my reading I’d focused on the positive side – I’d feel happy – and ignored the rest.  But once I’d realised that I was in a manic phase (it was my husband’s diplomatic silence in answer to the query ‘am I talking too much?’) all the bad stuff crawled on out of the woodwork and all my vain hopes for an amazing rest from the depression were dashed.

Here’s the thing.  Increased productivity is great if one can be productive one project at a time.  Instead I found myself writing thirty words, getting distracted and doing some online shopping, writing another ten words, then typing an email, going for an aimless walk around the house, another fifty words…I never focused on a single thing for long enough to make use of it.

This wild brain spin made me feel horribly out of control, which was the most unsettling thing about this, my first true hypomanic episode.  I’m lucky in that my episodes are comparatively mild and I’m able to keep myself from growing too grandiose or following through on too many silly plans and ideas, in fact I think the knowledge of my condition has helped me to keep myself on the straight and narrow – I’ve a strong feeling that bipolar could be to blame for an awful lot of my bad choices of the past (it’s as good an excuse as any right?).

The real surprise however was how much mania hurts.  I’ve spoken to many people over the years who, like me, imagined a great ecstasy high and I wish I could go back and put them straight now.

I imagine it’s the tension.  Whatever it is the longer my mania went on the more pain I found myself in – my jaw and teeth were sore and aching from the grinding and clenching, my spine and shoulders were stiff, even my thighs burned from the almost constant shaking of my legs.  Ecstasy high’s about right…but with none of the good bits.

It’s amazing, in a way, that I can still be learning new things about this condition, something that I suppose I’ve had all my life, and it’s sort of scary that I can still be surprised, despite experience and research, by what bipolar can throw at me.  As much as possible I try to treat anything related to my illness as a lesson because, surprisingly enough, there’s usually something to be learnt from it.  In this case: be very bloody careful what you wish for.  And keep a stash of chewing gum just in case.

6 responses

  1. Mania is definitely a high to be unmatched by drugs. It also is unmatched in terms of distractability and irritableness, and psychosis. It’s the point that hypomania turns from being fun and productive into a monster that devours everything in its path. I love how it’s described as an “elevated mood” which is selling it short. It’s like cocaine in terms of elevation. One becomes hyper interested in everything, extremely irritable, and feel like taking on the world in its entirety. I hope yours is not nearly as bad as mine and remains short.

    • Yes, I think much is sold short in mental illness and I’ll often find myself saying ‘you wouldn’t really understand it’, which sounds so patronising but true – it’s impossible to ‘get’.

      It says a lot I think that even those of us who have experienced mania find it hard to describe. Also interesting that both of us compare it to drugs people pay large amounts of money for. I’d pay the same never to have to experience it again!

      Good luck, I hope you find (or have found) a way to deal with your visits from the Manic Fairy!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Lx

  2. Read your comments with interest.

    I have had many relationships destroyed by mania, including my marriage and a successful career in secondary education.

    I have embarked upon a course of treatment, to help the stabilization of my mood (bipolar), called the WRAP. Wellness Recovery Action Plan which is the brain child of an American psychologist called Mary Copeland. It identifies was of keeping moderate but also more importantly the actions to be taken when and if things start to go wrong. Importantly it includes actions to be taken by and the responsibilities that partners, relatives, friends and colleagues have.

    I have not finished the WRAP (it is being written in conjunction with my mental health worker) but I am feeling confident that it is going to help me stay well.

    Another recent development has been to educate my 21 year old son regarding all facets of the bipolar condition and how it relates specifically to my circumstances. I did this via a lengthy E-mail that was supported by references to Wikipedia. I wrote it when I was hypomanic but took the trouble of letting my partner and sister read it first. Interesting that both advised against sending it because they thought that he would not read such a lengthy piece. He has and our relationship has been better for it. It has the additional advantage of being a reference for him when and if I have another relapse (hope not!). The ideal would have been to explain it face to face but as you know taking a conversation to a logical and meaningful conclusion can be nearly impossible when in an elevated mood.

    • Hi John, thanks for reading and for such an informative reply.

      It’s interesting that you mention the relationships that have been affected by your bipolar – this is of real interest to me as you might know if you’ve read my earlier posts. I’m very lucky in that I have a core group of friends who have stuck by since even before bipolar was an ‘excuse’ for my oddness but I have also suffered my fair share of relationship failures along the way too. I do wonder if there’s more to be done to help those with mental illness to better function around others…I’ll have to investigate WRAP, sounds like something worth reading up on.

      I’m so glad your son has taken the time to read your email – I agree that writing things down is more effective, my mind doesn’t take well to face-to-face situations either! And I really hope you’ll be able to work through everything together. Post back to let me know how it goes?


  3. I think for me mania was much more fun and exciting when I didn’t recognize that it was happening. Now that I keep close tabs on my moods, the ignorant “highs” I had previously are ruined by the sheer amount of anxiety I begin having about things escalating too quickly.

    I do experience two markedly different types of highs though, one euphoric and grandiose, and the other agitated and irritable. Though the agitated irritable kind feels like pure hell on wheels, it is the euphoric kind I have to be careful of because I have a tendency to stoke the fire, never wanting it to end.

    That said, it’s never the one that I WANT to show up that actually does. Isn’t it bizarre how sometimes it is just a weird roll of the dice?

    • I know exactly what you mean, the highs feel a lot more dangerous now you have the reasons for them in the back of your head, but I suppose it’s good that you’re aware and that your awareness is keeping you from making potentially dangerous decisions. But yes, it does rather ruin the fun 😉

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