Friday, June 29, 2012

What Mania is Really Like

I talk in general terms about being bipolar, but I don't go in-depth about it a lot, because aside from my friends who have worked in or are in the mental health field, it's generally a very uncomfortable subject, especially for my family. There's also a certain vulnerability and stigma involved in opening up about something so personal as mental illness. Mental illness. Roll that around in your head and tell me you don't come up with some blathering crazy person or an old-school sanitarium hosting lobotomy parties and electro-shock therapy. Bipolar disorder is one of those things that people talk about casually ("that person is so bipolar") without really knowing what they're talking about. It's not just a mood swing. It's a debilitating mental illness that, while I'm medicated and am at therapeutic levels of my medications as of my last blood test (I have a lab slip for new blood work this week though)  it is still a struggle. I think enough people have covered depression. Not enough people are talking about how difficult mania is.

My official diagnosis is Bipolar I. That link to WebMD is very basic information. Pretty much my diagnosis means I've had at least one manic period offset by depression. Typically my periods of depression outweigh my periods of mania, so my therapist kind of gave me a diagnosis hovering somewhere between Bipolar I and II; the actual diagnosis sheet says "Bipolar I with periods of hypomania." I should actually drop her a line because I recently had a full-blown case of mania (I haven't been able to visit because with no insurance, I can't afford the $90 office visit). So even with 900mg of lithium carbonate a day, I was highly manic for the entire month of May.

If only a prescription of heavy metal included Metallica and Megadeth and not pills...

Commonly, when you look up the symptoms of mania, you will find euphoria, hyperactivity, insomnia, rapid speech, hypersexuality, excessive spending, grandiose thoughts, inflated self-esteem and the like on the list. You know what else is on the list, hidden, like a dirty little mental health secret? Irritability, anger, rage.

Somewhere in the month of May, maybe the end of April, I'm not entirely sure, my mood shifted. I was pissed off at everything. I hated with a passion. I've always had a temper and I've always been vitriolic, prickly, and negative, but man, I was angry. My heart was constantly racing to the point that it felt like I was mainlining adrenaline. I had the hypersexuality and when I got a chance to express it, it was angry, possessive, biting and scratching and making sure I left marks (but awesome sex, nonetheless). I was ready to absolutely fly in the face of any woman who even looked at my man. Every little thing, I was ready to fight. I even got into a verbal altercation with a neighbor and threatened to take his toy car if it landed on my lawn one more time. Everything set me off. Every little noise set me into a rage. I was constantly overstimulated. Have you ever felt like you could just run into the street and beat the everloving shit out of a perfect stranger because they were scuffing their feet and you just couldn't take the fucking sound any more? I felt that every day. For a month. I was up all night, sometimes not going to bed until 8 or 9 in the morning.

I used to describe my bipolar disorder as either a dragon mood (euphoric mania) or a cat mood (deeply complex, depressed). The dragon was always my mania. This time it was a scary, snapping, aggressive wolf.

I'd never felt this way before
 I would have given anything for a "dragon" mood. A euphoric mania is so much more fun. I haven't had one of those for about 1 1/2 years. That was my slutty phase. Remember that hypersexuality part? Yeah. I'm not going to write about my "dragon" mania, because it's pretty text book. I shopped a lot. Dressed up, looked good, flirted a lot and had fun. People thought I was normal. It was actually an extreme. Anyway, these days I hope more for a baseline, a balance between the extremes where I'm not wanting to cry all the time but I'm not flying off the walls in some extreme rage/euphoria. The lithium is supposed to help balance that, but it can't prevent the mood swings from happening, it just prevents rapid-cycling and provides stability. Stability, in mental health, is always the goal.


  1. Very cool of you to speak about something that is unfortunately too often taboo. I have a friend who is going through something similar and you don't need societal stigmas adding to the pressure of what you're already dealing with. It's good to read about real experiences and not just what textbooks have to say because they don't talk about the human side of it in a way that provokes empathy. <3

    I like your dragon, cat and wolf descriptors. They're really helpful to get a sense of where your head is at. It sounds very intense. Wish I could do something...

    I like how you turn your energy to cooking though. :) Looks like that is a nice outlet for you. <3

    1. Thanks hon. Cooking is good therapy but I like it better when I have people to cook for because I tend to cook way too much!

  2. So well written and informative. I feel woefully ignorant.

    1. It's different for everyone. That's why I share my story.