Manic episode symptoms: The symptoms of mania include: elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention, increase in goal-directed activity, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. These manic symptoms significantly impact a person’s daily living.
Source: Steve Bressert, Ph.D., PsychCentral
“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long… ”
This will not be a tell-all of my escapades while in the grips of mania. Suffice to say they were not at all epic, in fact i’d say they bordered on the pathetic.
But of course that’s only in hindsight.
To me, the world had suddenly become more exciting, more enticing, and much, much more accessible. I was pretty and i was crazy and i was fun and i was hungry for experiences. I’d shut myself off from being very social for most of my life. It was difficult, and i knew i wasn’t very good at it, although i tried hard and with sincerity. Being shunted to the bottom of the social pile in nearly every school i attended taught me that i would never be cool. I didn’t have the family standing, i didn’t have the clothes or the toys, and i was never able to talk like they talked or act like they acted. I had nothing going for me and zero chance of getting any of it.
As i’ve mentioned before, once i got away from the judgmental hell of school, i did find some acceptance and favour in certain social circles. I could have more friends if i wanted, but i discovered a lot of life situations still foster an atmosphere that’s no more emotionally developed than high school. It was less acute, but there were still pecking orders and hierarchies in places like work and church. I still flopped and floundered around like the proverbial fish out of water a lot of the time, but it wasn’t the intense microcosm of human social behaviour that school can be.
Weight loss provided me with a little more attractive packaging, and mania dished me up a heaping helping of thoughtlessness masquerading as confidence, like eating a bowl of chili that you never know was actually made with TVP.** I went where i wanted and did what i pleased with whomever i wished. I overindulged in everything except food. I was -yeah, you guessed it- the life of the party, the centre of attention, the belle of the ball.
I was wanted.
I was liked.
I was accepted.
I was popular.
Of course it was all an illusion, brought about by the grandiose thinking and fearlessness i feel when i’m manic. Oh and if dissociation dulls self-awareness – mania makes the blade utterly useless.
It’s mania that almost cost me my children.
Not depression and suicide attempts, not anxiety or panic attacks, not PTSD, and not borderline agoraphobia. Because mania made me selfish, and it blinded me to the effects my behaviour was having on anyone around me – even, and especially, my husband and my children. I repeatedly put myself in high risk situations, doing harmful things to myself with dangerous people.
When the mania finally wore off i’d paid a terrible price. I’d lost loved ones and things that were precious. I was empty and beyond mortified and fully penitent. My thinking still wasn’t terribly coherent, but i knew i needed to stop and start over.
Sometimes a change in geography can help facilitate a cure of sorts.
A new town provided the emotional cytotoxins.
The depression irradiated every thought in my head.
I spent months hiding under my mother-in-law’s gentle and protective wing, and longer still in my brand new Little Crooked House, but my brain was percolating. I had no defenses left to protect me from either the truth of my upbringing, or what my brain had done in order to keep me alive. My brain got very full. Very LOUD. I call it “bursty”. I’ll tell you why. Because one day, my head got too full and i exploded.
I’d been drinking too much for weeks, months, trying to shut my head up. Trying to find peace and quiet. Trying to sleep. Trying to avoid the hangover the next day. Trying to laugh instead of cry. Well one day it all came crashing down around me and i wrecked one house, smashed in another, terrified my loved ones, attempted suicide, and got put away for a couple of months in a special mental hospital. Not a ward, not a floor, but an entire hospital dedicated to VERY crazy people.
I was in the big leagues.
I got help… kinda. I got more diagnoses and conflicting diagnoses and shrinks who would tell me the last one was wrong and take me off all the old medications and put me on new ones. I got thrown out of a couple of programs that the p-docs at the hospital signed me up for, and that’s when i started seeing the “You again?” look on the nurses’ faces.
I’ve been in and out of The Bin for the better part of 20yrs, but after this last big blow out that happened in front of my family, something happened inside me. I decided i’d had enough of running away from who i am and what i’d been through. So i made a 180 and instead, i ran right into it. I threw myself head first into whatever the hell was gonna happen. I’d had enough of trying so hard not to be fucked up and being fucked up anyway.
I slid around inside my head – not gone, but not totally there. I was so tired. Two and a half years of pedal to the metal mania will do that to a person. I was used up inside, emotionally and physically.
Then i lucked out and got a really good social worker. (It’s happened a couple of times – they’re out there.) She accepted my diagnosis and actually knew a lot about it. She treated me like a person and not a case. She helped me make a plan and set goals. Most of all she helped me feel good about who i was as a human and especially as a mother. She helped me get my feet underneath me and take more than a few steps in the right direction. I even had a little momentum going.
Eventually my husband convinced me to go out and meet people.
I don’t actually have much to tell you about that time.
I know we met people, but i don’t know who, or how. I think some of it happened through going to the bar and singing karaoke, but beyond that, i have no idea. I don’t remember very much. The problem was, i could feel another explosion building inside my head, and i was so afraid and still so very tired from the last one that i was dissociating to avoid… everything. Relationships, feelings, my past, my mental issues. All of it.
I already knew what i had to do in order to avoid yet another major meltdown. I knew that i had to disclose and i knew to whom. I sat my husband down and told him that i had to purge it all, that it would likely take a couple of weeks, that i would be a slobbering, jibbering mess throughout, and i was pretty sure that afterwards i would be useless at best and dangerous to myself and others at worst.
He said Okay, let ‘er fly. I’ve got this.
I was right and he was almost wrong.
Let me see the dark sides as well as the bright
I’m gonna love you inside out
I’m gonna love you inside out
~Inside Out, The Chainsmokers
* The title is a reference to a children’s book by the great Stan and Jan Berenstain
** Textured vegetable protein. It’s actually great, and i use it in place of hamburger often.