I wanted to talk a little bit more in depth about mania, since I am currently in that cycle, and what my personal experiences with it are.
I would like to first qualify this that I have only ever had maybe three full blown manic episodes in my life, and two of them were very recently. I deal, like most bipolars, mostly with depression, hypomania, and mixed states.
And I am going to start by saying something that will make doctors cringe: hypomania is always good. I have never once had a poor hypomanic experience. You need less sleep, less food, you have more energy, you are more creative, you are motivated, you get shit done. It is awesome. I totally recommend it for anyone who hasn’t yet tried it. I have heard bipolars compare their manic states to an experience similar to cocaine. I can see why people get addicted.
Hypomania can increase my anxiety, which isn’t great, but most of that worry is about what is next, am I going to go way up, or crash down?
My experiences with all out mania have never been good, although there are good parts to it, just like there are good parts to depression too.
For me, mania presents itself in very particular ways, every single time: irritability, racing thoughts, excessive spending.
I don’t generally have the ‘kid on Christmas morning’ euphoria that a lot of people experience. I tend to feel exposed, like my nerve endings have pierced through my skin. I feel like I feel everything.
I get irritable and snappy and pick fights a lot, mostly because my brain is working much faster than whomever I am talking with so by the time they respond I am well beyond that part of the conversation and I want them to keep up.
Racing thoughts are constant, and the worst part to be perfectly honest. They make it hard to do anything. You never really understand how peaceful it can be to be inside your own head until you have gone through a rapid thought cycle and felt it end.
I’ve talked on here before about excessive spending. I think it is pretty self-explanatory. I tend to find myself in book stores or electronics departments looking at movies. I have been known to buy concert tickets or get into a gym membership, or buy a large kitchen appliance as well. This is most problematic part of being manic for me. Spending paychecks that haven’t come in yet or maxing out credit cards obviously pose a big problem.
I think the money thing comes from a relaxed sense of inhibition. I’m not really a risk-taker in any way normally, so I guess that doesn’t change much for me when I become manic. But I do love to buy things, even when I’m not manic. So that gets punched up and taken to an extreme where I no longer care about being able to pay for the things I am purchasing.
I have left off an important part of most bipolars experience with mania, and that is hypersexuality. The reason I have left it off is twofold. First, it isn’t a major part of my experience, although it is a part. Second, I’m writing an entire essay on sexuality and bipolar that will encompass all phases of the cycle. I guess I should just say that every bipolar I have ever talked to or read about experienced a state of hyersexuality, where sex was the only thing on the mind and urges were practically uncontrollable.
The final thing I would like to say about mania is that while it can come on very quickly, and you generally don’t realize you are manic until you are already inside of that cycle or already coming down from it, you do feel it coming. You feel depression coming too. I haven’t quite figured out if you actually feel your mood change and you are hyper-aware of it or if you just have some nuanced understanding of where your mood is going. Things tend to follow in a pattern, and once you know your patterns it is easier to predict. But a full blown manic or a full blown depression is almost always out of nowhere, but also very rare.
Mania is the most destructive phase of bipolar. People tend to lose jobs, burn relationships, spend all their money, and drink and do drugs; while depression is the most dangerous phase, due to suicide. For most bipolars, mania lasts less than a month, and few have had more than one cycle in their lifetime. It is an extremely difficult thing to understand or express, even if you have experienced it. I was completely unaware that I had even had a manic cycle until just a couple years ago. And I don’t feel like I’ve done a good job explaining it now.
The feeling you have while manic is basically ‘I am a demigod, no one or no thing can dethrone me’ until you feel completely out of control, and then there is no fear quiet like it.