Monday, October 11, 2010
Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Mania (3)
I headed north up the interstate to the barn where I boarded my horses. By this time, for the first time in months, I was feeling energized and happy as a lark and found myself singing at the top of my off key lungs.
I’m a pretty timid rider. Years before, when I used to jump I did so only with my eyes shut and prayed to God that the horse knew what he was doing while I hung on for dear life. On this particular afternoon I rode like the wind and tried things that only my older daughter has the courage to do.
On the way home I decided to stop by the Press Club and share my excitement with my buddies and, of course, have a Jack and branch water. While blatantly bragging about my exploits and laughing my fool head off, I suddenly felt this very warm kind of euphoria wash over me. The lights got brighter and the sound of ice cubes didn’t just tinkle, they sang. I decided to head for home to enjoy this new feeling of ecstasy all by myself and to listen to a good opera. By the time I reached the house I could have danced on the ceiling ala Fred Astaire.
The next morning I awoke to a really weird phenomenon. I had only had those two drinks the night before (I wasn’t always a marathon drinker), so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I started to feel my spirits sag through the floor and then suddenly I’d feel like dancing on the ceiling again. And then I’d sag. And then I’d want to dance. This went on for several hours. Really, really bizarre.
Bizarre turned into downright fear as I sat on my stairs and felt myself sagging and dancing all at the same time. And crying and shaking. I got myself together enough to call the doctor who ordered me to his office right then and there. I wasn’t even sure I could drive.
Needless to say, he told me in his unflappable way not to take it anymore. Gladly, said I, but thanks for the ride. He explained that this particular medication wasn’t only used for treatment, it was used as a diagnostic tool as well. To this day, I don’t know what the heck it told him that was so exciting beyond what we had already figured out. I was definitely bipolar but at that point I was beginning to think I was a stark-raving maniac.
But now he had this little pill to back up the DSMV criteria for manic depression and we began examining my most innermost secrets, desires, escapades, actions, reactions, non-actions, depressed moods and manic moods. No wart would be left unturned.
While depression causes a person to turn inward, mania causes them to turn outward. When depressed, an individual usually receives support, love and hugs to help ease the pain and suffering, not that these attempts meet with any great success. A manic person runs rough-shod over anything and everything that gets in his way and he usually manages to infuriate everyone around him, including his loved ones.
When I started attending those AA cult meetings several members told me that since I had stopped drinking I wouldn’t need those medications anymore. Like the majority of bipolars, I hate the daily ritual of swallowing pills. I momentarily forgot that AA doesn’t have much use for mental health professionals – it’s a control thing. Hell, they don’t even like members to read material that isn’t authorized by them!
Admittedly I was a bit fragile at the time but I was beyond stupid to listen to them. But I did. I went into a full blown manic episode that lasted for seemingly months and was the most intense I’ve ever had. I destroyed friendships that I had thrived on since high-school. Became hyper-intense and drove everyone nuts with constant emails and phone calls. Became angry and irritated at insignificant nothings. Thought I was the Queen of the Mountain. Started all kinds of projects that are to this day scattered around the apartment, none of them finished.
A few of the signs and symptoms of a manic phase are:
Poor judgment: Could write a book on this alone. I think impulsivity falls under this heading, something my mother was always lecturing me about and something I’ve never learned to suppress. I’ve always tended to make snap decisions without thinking them through and not always, but all too often, with dire consequences.
Rapid speech: Sometimes I refer to it as the blurts, but what it means is that words come gushing out of my mouth so hard and fast I can’t control the content or just simply shut the heck up. Sometimes the words can be cutting and harsh; sometimes they’re just inanities.
Racing thoughts and ideas: Think of a slide show set on fast-forward with each slide representing a different thought, a different idea, a different but entire scene played out in your mind. Click, click, click. No pauses. No longer than several seconds each. Forget trying to sleep with this rapid fire slide show going on. Night after night.
Agitation, irritation and rage: This is more than just feeling out of sorts. This is uncontrollable restlessness and an inability to stay still. It can be out-of-control rage. It is snarkiness, bitchiness, and eye-squinting acid-tongued jibes that could make Attila the Hun sink to his knees in gut-wrenching sobs. It is out-of-the-norm impatience with drivers, traffic jams, lines and Tea Partiers.
Spending sprees or unwise financial choices: Already mathematically challenged, this one aspect has caused life-long trauma. To make matters worse, my husband – despite other issues and being a conservative – never said “NO.” He was actually too generous, so I became used to being able to fly anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted, rent motor homes, buy horses, eat in five-star restaurants, buy a different house as soon as I remodeled the one we were in or grew tired of it, and in general buy anything I wanted without much regard to cost. And I would be remiss if I complained about the divorce settlement. My bipolar and inability to add and subtract, my alcoholism and his generosity was a lethal combination.
I don’t care anything about shopping for clothes, jewelry and other adornments. I just like gadgets and stuff. I don’t have to be manic to spend money. I buy stuff when depressed thinking it will make me feel better. It doesn’t.
Increased sex drive: More sensual. More electric.
Some of the other signals are poor school and work performance, frequent absences from school and work, careless use of drugs and alcohol (self-medication), inability to concentrate and decreased need for sleep (three hours but still very energetic), risky behavior, extreme optimism and euphoria. Remember, these feelings are far more extreme in intensity and longevity than the average person experiences.
Despite all the downsides of mania, there are upsides that are worth experiencing. Bipolars can be highly intelligent, creative and innovative. We can be so fine-tuned that we are extraordinarily sensitive to sight, sound, touch and even smell, which may be the ingredients that feed the creativity and innovation. We often possess an uncanny intuitive sense, which basically means we can see through people right off the bat. The accusation of making snap judgments about people may be true but we’re usually right on the mark.
I enjoy these times. I’m more creative and energized. At least until my behavior gets out of control and I can't focus or that little black cloud starts hovering over my head. And then all the pleasure goes away until the next manic episode.
Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Introduction
Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Bipolar 101
Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Depression