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Today’s Forecast: Manic, With A Slight Chance of Batshit Crazy

July 23, 2013

As you may have guessed by its title, this post is all about mania…….at least as I experience it.

Now is actually a very good time to discuss this defining characteristic of bipolar disorder, as I’ve recently come down from that particular end of the “pole” and thus I can do a better job of describing what happens to me during these wildly delicious, yet often distressing mood shifts.

Even as an older adult, I have to admit that it is SO tempting to play with fire. I am not kidding about this. I told my p-doc the other day that I never worry about my highs because I know he worries enough for the both of us; after aspirating approximately a third of his latte, he admonished me to take the subtler signs of incipient mania seriously so that I can intercept them before things get out of hand.

I am not good at this, to say the least. Part of it is admittedly because I like my highs and I’m ever-so-reluctant to give them up entirely. But a lot of it is simply a lack of insight—according to observers, I’m usually well into hypomania before I even suspect I’m ramping up, and by the time I acknowledge that I could be a little hypo, I’m completely off my rocker.

Most of the time I have the euphoric type of mania, meaning EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL and the people I love are the MOST WONDERFUL PEOPLE ON EARTH and every day is THE BESTEST DAY EVER!! I go for the gusto whatever the experience, whether it’s a walk on the beach or an especially good meal. I’m expansive, generous, breezy……in short, life is grand and I’m ten feet tall and bulletproof.

This is why I’ve never been sure that my mania rises to the level of crazy as seen on TV. I don’t do things like walk down the street naked or have hallucinations, although I’ll admit to a certain degree of paranoia (“They just want to spoil my fun!!”) and I’ve done some incredibly reckless and stupid things. Like dropping a thousand bucks in Wal-Mart. Or going out of the country without telling anyone. Or drinking like a fish for a solid six months at a time. But what I consider to be hypomania, my doctor flat-out calls mania. Period.

Now, if it stopped with the spending and the silliness, I don’t think it would be half the problem it is. Unfortunately, however, it often turns on me toward the end of an episode and I begin to have serious difficulty playing well with others. My attitude goes in the crapper and my mouth goes off, rapid-fire, completely without permission from my brain. I’ve been asked to leave parties and sent home from work, thrown out of bars and once narrowly escaped arrest for disorderly conduct (if you’ll pardon the pun). I’ve also hurt my family and friends countless times with pointless accusations (“You just want to spoil my fun!!”) and snarky comments that hit their marks with deadly accuracy.

The hell of it is, once the manic spell is over I don’t remember a lot about it, so I wind up apologizing for things I did or said, and even some that I didn’t  because I honestly don’t recall whether I did or not. I’m often reminded of what my grandfather used to say about trying to take back things one says in anger or defiance (“if you hammer a nail into a wall, you can take the nail out, but the hole is still there”), and I still feel ashamed of remarks I made three episodes ago. Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful for my loved ones’ graciousness and forgiveness……I only wish I could guarantee that it would never happen again.

This is why mania has its reputation……it draws us in like the proverbial moth to the flame, seducing us with its energy and its boundless possibilities, and then WHAM! it turns on a dime and becomes a monster, devastating relationships and bank accounts alike.

In my next post, I’ll talk about mania’s opposite number, even though I’m superstitious and I tend to be fearful that even mentioning its name will cause it to appear. But in all fairness, depression needs to be discussed too, because not only is it a more common occurrence than mania in most bipolars, it’s the part that non-bipolar people understand the least, even as well-publicized as it is in the media.

To be continued……..

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