This blog was originally published by Bipolar UK and was reposted by the International Bipolar Federation. I think it is a good explanation for people inexperienced with bipolar to understand this concept of why people can fall back into mania so easily.
Having had to my count now 3 severely hypomanic and 1 bout, which I would class as full blown manic episodes (discounting mixed episodes), most people would, I imagine, be hard pressed to see it’s appeal. After all, the last bout landed me in the Emergency department where I worked as a junior sister, hearing and seeing things, and headbutting the walls through feeling trapped, which lead to a voluntary stint in a psychiatric unit – something I am not overly keen to repeat.
But let us bear this in mind. Bipolar in it’s old iteration was manic depression. And therein lies the rub. For the euphoria of the mania you have to bear the darkness of the depression. Depression is a slowing of the soul. You see in grey and you move through treacle. Even your voice and your responses slow and lose inflection. The tiredness infects your very bones, yet somehow you either cannot sleep or no sleep is ever enough. You either have no appetite and weight drops off you, which in itself has its own dangerous allure, or the lack of feeling moves you to seek comfort in sugar and carbs, trying to break through the cloying numbness you feel, only to find nothing does and now your clothes feel tight and uncomfortable. Everything hurts, the light, the noise, your body, your very hair and bones despite the fact you are hardly moving. Tears either come in floods or sit in your chest unable to find release despite the aching pain. Everything seems too much work – talking to a friend, walking the dog, washing the dishes. You sit, rooted in inactivity completely unable to care. Because nothing matters anymore. And the dark thoughts take hold. That you are alone in the world, unloved and of no use. That the world might be better off without the burden of your presence in it. And you take risks and gambles due to the negative intrusive thoughts. Gambles which do not need to be discussed here.
So depression. One side of the same coin. And then, just sometimes, along comes mania. And in a twisted way it can feel like the reward for the depressive times. Boundless energy. You can clean, and plan, and juggle multiple tasks at once. Your mind comes alive. Never mind this using only 20% of your brain jazz, you can access all 100% of your cognitive functions. You move quicker, you think quicker, you speak quicker as your speech attempts to keep pace with your ever increasing train of thoughts. And life is AMAZING. I have stood outside, arms outstretched, just marvelling at a summer breeze and the feel of my t-shirt moving. Nothing feels better than a manic mood. You are FUN. You laugh expansively, and sing, and make jokes. My kids think I am the silliest, most fun mum ever when my mood is euphoric. Sleep is no longer required and is often a distraction, a 45 minute nap can leave you good to go for an entire day. And nothing hurts, you have the body of superman, pain free and able to go forever. And, though its an embarrassing side effect for most, our partners often reap the rewards of our boundless energy and enthusiasm.
And it seems all too easy at first to ignore the danger signs. The paranoia – I have accused my friends of wanting me to feel tired, and in pain, and depressed when I am having fun. The grandiose thoughts, convinced you can do anything when, in fact, you would probably be a complete liability if anyone were idiotic enough to let you try. The irritability, convinced anyone who does not agree with you is opposed to you, and irritable and disinhibited enough to let fly at them. In my case I swear expansively. As time goes on it begins to snowball. You get faster and faster, and more and more erratic, until it is beyond your control. You may hear noises or voices, or see things which are not there, and your disinhibition can lead to risky behaviours. You can spend and act completely out of character physically and verbally.
Once this happens you are at the tipping point and can end up needing hospitalisation, or intensive mental health support. And, once the mood is treated, it can easily cause a massive crash into depression before it finally levels out. The mood people dread, as the treacle oozes back around your body, your mind turns black and once again you are in pain, exhausted and trying to navigate though a world filled with painful light and sound. And therein lies the appeal of mania, the addiction. Mania feels GOOD. Be damned with the consequences. Worry about those later. After knowing the utter storm of darkness that is a deep depression, just to feel joyous, and alive, and energetic,1q12 is like that summer breeze rippling your tshirt. It is a balm for the soul. It is the addiction.
But the thing to remember is, that like most addictive things, it comes with destruction. Try not to be sucked into its inviting allure. If out of the blue you are mesmerised by the wind on your skin, and filling notepads with random to-dos, disjointed thoughts and ways you can change the world, it is probably time to seek some advice. Don’t allow the addiction to take over. Reach out to someone.