The Ups and Downs of Manic Episodes

I’ve been trying to write this post for two months now, with little success. Since my last post, I have had three manic episodes. That means I have been through three bouts of mania, three crashes, and three bouts of depression. It’s been tough going through this cycle of chaos, and if you don’t have bipolar disorder, then you don’t know what it’s like. So, I’m going to try to explain it, but be patient with me because there are time gaps in my memory from the mania weeks.

Before I get into my story, I just want to inform everyone that I am in no way a medical professional. Everything I say is from my own personal experiences and research. Some things are just summarized facts from articles, books, and websites, and then some things are my own opinions about what I have read. So, please, do not think that I am giving medical advice, and if you relate to my own experiences then seek a professional to help you out.

From my research into my disorders, bipolar disorder doesn’t have an exact cause, but a chemical imbalance in the brain, your environment, and genetics are factors in being affected and then diagnosed with this disorder. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, the symptoms can be controlled with different types of treatment. Medication and therapy are the most common of treatment plans, but it takes a matter of time to find the right medicine and therapist. In my article that I posted, I mentioned that I spent almost a year going through different medicines to find the right ones. It wasn’t until my psychiatrist suggested a DNA test called GeneSight, and all my medicines changed, then I started responding to my treatment.

I was hospitalized when this medicine change happened, which was June of 2018. My life started changing dramatically, I started becoming more stable for the first time in years. I had almost forgot what a manic episode felt like until the last week in March.  The only major mood change that I have had in a year was in December around Christmas time, which is understandable when you are trying to find the resources to give three children a decent Christmas morning. My psychiatrist just adjusted my antidepressant a little and I got better.

One thing that you must understand is that all of this is just dealing with my bipolar disorder, but I also have borderline personality disorder. This disorder cannot be treated with medication, and therapy can only help with changing your learned thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that you have cemented in yourself since childhood. With BPD, moods and feelings are amplified by a hundred, and most of the time I have a hard time identifying what I am feeling. BPD is a constant, daily, and hourly war within myself, so when you add bipolar disorder which is cycled episodes of mania (the “high”) and depression ( the “low) you are dealing with a person who is experiencing racing, chaotic, and sometimes delusional thoughts, feelings, and moods.

I have heard that everybody’s experience with “mania” in a manic episode is different, but most of the symptoms are the same. I have a list of symptoms for mania, which are: * High, “elated” mood, * Less need for sleep, yet not tired, *Exaggerated optimism and self-confidence, *Exaggerated feelings of self-importance, grandiose thoughts, *Racing speech and thoughts, easily distracted, *Doing reckless things, like spending a lot of money, *Feeling irritable, agitated and “touchy”, *Feeling jumpy and restless, * Feeling like you can do lots of things at once.

In my experience with mania, I don’t realize that I’ve been manic until I crash. My mania is so great and euphoric to me that I dismiss any stressful situations. My mind can work double time so that if a situation does come up, I have the solution in under a minute. I love being manic, but I absolutely dread and am scared of the crash afterwards. When I say crash, I mean that because I’ve been manic, which usually lasts five to seven days, I haven’t slept in that whole time.  I get extremely motivated to finish my many projects laying around the house, to read a book, to write in my journal, or to make lists of whatever I’m obsessing about, usually my music libraries. I’m so focused on whatever I’m doing that I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel hungry or thirsty, and I don’t pay attention to time. I can stay up all night for days, working on something, then my body takes over my mind, that’s when my living nightmare begins.

The average days I’ve stayed awake during the last two months is five days at a time. When I finally do realize that I’m tired, I have these fits where I want to lay down and sleep. But as soon as I lay down, a million little pricks of electricity attack my body.  I toss and turn trying to get comfortable, or at least make the tiny pricks stop. It’s so agonizing that I eventually just get back up. At the same time, I am feeling so thirsty that I drink at least two gallons of water. I know that during my mania trip I have become dehydrated, and I’m starving. I usually eat some soup, or canned ravioli, and when the food touches my lips, I moan in pleasure like it’s the best thing that I’ve ever eaten.

I suppose that after I have drunk enough water, and satisfied my appetite, that’s when I can sleep. When I lay down and can fall asleep, I sleep a total of eleven to thirteen hours that first night.  When I wake up at eleven in the morning, I feel like my whole day is shot. I feel it’s too late to take my morning medicine, so I don’t take it. I then just lay around the house watching Netflix, eating, and drinking more. Usually when I go to bed on that second night, I lay down at nine and by nine fifteen I am out. The next morning, I have woken up at a decent time, which is anywhere from around seven thirty to nine. I have a whole new set of problems now.

When I am manic, and I’m working on projects or whatever, I am sitting at my desk in my office chair that I bought a year ago. I didn’t know at the time that I bought it, but my kids told me that it is a gaming chair. I am unable to work at my desk and sit all the way back in the seat, so I have no back support. So, you can imagine that when I stay up for five days straight, working at my desk, sitting forward in my chair, and without the feelings of what my body is going through, that I am going to have extreme muscle pain. It isn’t until after I have slept enough, ate enough, and drank enough, that my mind registers that my back, hips, and neck is in stiff pain.  At this point, I feel and look like I have been run over by a freight train, at least that is what my friend has said to me. It takes at least two days for the pain to subside enough for me to resume my regular daily activities.

When my body starts working right, my mind catches up with what I have just been through. I start analyzing why I was manic, and then I have trouble remembering everything that I have done in the previous week. During the first manic episode, I was awake for four nights and five days. I know that I had an appointment with my therapist in the next town from mine. I still have no idea how I got there and back home, which scares me. After my crash, which lasted two days, I became severely depressed. I was angry at myself and feeling very guilty for putting people in danger. In my eyes, because I couldn’t remember the last week, I was reckless for getting in a car and driving in that state of mind. That bout of depression lasted six days. Then two days later, I was manic again.

This second manic episode was the scariest I have been in a very long time. I was awake for five nights, and I was more impulsive than ever. I remember getting a small cash loan and spending every dime on Wish. My husband was on my back about doing nothing, and in my head that meant that he wanted me to get a job and start making him some money. Since my last job, at Arby’s, ended with me wrapped in a blanket, shaking from a panic attack, and just not showing up or calling; I decided that I wanted to start my own business. I started a thought process that goes like this: Both of my daughters are artists, they have made gloves, snow globes, paintings, sketches, and other amazing crafts and works of art. My sister and her daughters are the same way, and I make jewelry when I can muster the energy and motivation to make something.  Back in 2000, when my mother, dad and I moved to Florida, my mother and I were going to open a thrift shop and stock it with knick knacks, paintings, frames, and crafts that we use to make together. I thought about how my major problem with working at Arby’s was working with people face to face. Then I had the idea of creating a webstore, stocked with handmade arts and crafts, and unique things that we may find at yard sales or flea markets.

I was then determined to do it, but I wanted to investigate how much it was going to cost to purchase a website. I got a book on how to start up a business and make it successful. I have a little experience with designing a website, because I have this blog. During this episode, at this time, is when my memory of things I’ve done gets fuzzy. I do remember that my husband was ignoring me, not talking to me, and just leaving without saying anything. That bothered me, because I didn’t understand or know what I had done to deserve that treatment. On the fifth night, I finally confronted him and wanted to know what his problem was. As usual, he turned it around on me and told me that I was ignoring him, that he was mad that I have spent all week on my computer doing nothing else. He knows that I have a compulsion where I can not take anyone being upset or mad at me. I now think he used this to his advantage to hurt me. He then gave me a look that I determined was full of disgust and loathing. It was like a knife to my heart.

When you have been awake for so long, you start becoming delusional, and that’s exactly what happened that night. I knew I was about to start crying, so I walked through my bedroom, through my bathroom to my walk-in closet and closed the door. The instant the door clicked closed I dropped to my knees and sobbed uncontrollably like I have never cried before. In that moment, for the first time in over a year, I wanted to hurt myself. I thought about cutting, suicide, or just disappearing and running away. My best friends voice came into my head then, my friend told me that if I hurt myself again, my friend was going to kick my ass. This person said it jokingly but firmly at the same time. I wish it had worked this time, instead of cutting my wrists, making a suicide plan, or running away, I did the one thing that I work daily on not doing. My anxiety usually runs high at any given moment during the day, because I can’t control my thoughts. When it gets to a certain point, I have a habit of scratching my head. I make sores, pick the scabs, and try to dig out the hair in the sore, until I make the whole thing a bloody mess. I don’t just pick at one place; I make sores everywhere.

While I was sitting in my closet floor, I knew I was going to keep my promise to my friend. But as I was settling down, I became very angry. The kind of anger that makes your face red and steam come out of your ears. I wasn’t angry at my husband; I was that angry at myself. I felt worthless, empty, and I couldn’t stand myself. In that hatred, I viciously scratched my head with my nails, until my fingers came away bloody. I felt out of control, and when I was done, I went back to my husband and let him know everything I have thought and felt that I keep bottled up to protect his feelings. Thirty minutes later, I passed out on the couch. It took another two days to get my body working right, but the depression was debilitating. I didn’t talk to anybody, I stayed in my own little world for four days.

Then, once again, I was manic. This time I took the business idea one step further and asked my mother to partner with me. She loved the idea and said yes. I went to GoDaddy.com, started a free trial, and got started designing the website. We decided that I would take care of the business stuff and she would take care of inventory. I worked on idea on top of idea for five days. The more manic I got; the more ideas popped into my head. I couldn’t stop myself, and I was so excited to get started that I was trying everything I could to get another loan so we could go get supplies to make our products. My mother was about to leave for a week long trip, and kept telling me to wait until she got back. I really tried to work on something else. By day four, I felt off, like something was building hard and fast inside of me. I had never felt it before, so I was getting worried. Then, after I supper on the fifth day, my chest started hurting, my left arm was aching, I was having trouble breathing, and I couldn’t focus on anything.

My sister is a trauma nurse, so I texted her with my symptoms, and she assured me that I was not having a heart attack. I was having a major panic attack. I’ve had panic attacks before, but they were nothing compared to this. I really thought that I was dying. I then ate a small bowl of ice cream, and believe it or not, it calmed me down enough that I went to sleep. I was expecting a lot of depression this time around, but the only thing I have felt is emptiness and loneliness.

I still don’t understand why I am going through this rollercoaster ride through hell, but my psychiatrist adjusted my meds a little and my therapist is giving me tips on how to reduce some of the stress in my life. I am back to normal now, after this last round of mania. I feel paranoid and anxious, because I’m scared that another cycle of mania and depression is behind every thought, action, feeling, mood, and circumstance. I’ve been trying to avoid my known triggers just in case that is the cause, and I’ve been trying to stay calm no matter what is happening around me. It’s been difficult, but I’m determined to try to keep the mania at bay. I hope this explained why I have been missing for the last two months. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or comments! Thanks for reading!!

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