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Life After Mania: Picking Up the Pieces

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Several years ago, before I was diagnosed, during a particularly difficult bout of psychosis I believed I was a prophet receiving messages from God. I went days at a time without sleep, diligently documenting everything I heard, scribbling frantically and filling up journal after journal with divine whispers. They were strange, grandiose, and commanding messages. I felt what I was experiencing was such truth that I spent all of my energy focused on my mission. 

As I descended further into mania I began to share the messages with some of the intended recipients. Most did not take the information kindly. I destroyed my relationships with many people during that time. But, it was worth it to me because I thought I was doing what I was meant to do. I didn’t realize I was thinking irrationally. I didn’t question my hallucinations. Mania cost me valuable relationships that I was never able to recover. 

During other manic episodes I’ve blown through thousands of dollars, buying things I didn’t really need. Mounds of clothing that still have the tags on them. Books. Far too many books, most of which I’ve never got around to reading. Then there were more lavish purchases, those that left me broken financially and scrambling to get by. 

I even struggled to stay put physically. I would compulsively move residence from location to location, thinking this new place, this new town, would make me happy and I’d want to stay. But once mania came back around – though I didn’t know that was what was happening yet – I was in the same position, packing up my belongings and moving yet again. 

There are other instances of poor choices and behaviors that I’ve made prior to diagnosis (and some after), but I think the picture is clear: mania can cause a world of damage, damage that is difficult to recover from. 

We often discuss the darkness and destruction of depression, and it can be difficult to come out of that bleak place, but what of mania – the other end of the bipolar mood spectrum? It can be just as dark and destructive. When I consider my experiences, mania has caused more lasting damage than depression in my life. Everyone’s experiences will vary, of course, but that is mine. I’ve started businesses only to have them fall through, or taken on too many projects that I could not sustain once the manic energy fades. Then I am left standing with my life crumbling in my hands, unsure of what to do with myself and the aftermath of the disasters I’ve accumulated during an episode. 

How do you pick up the pieces and reassemble your life after a manic episode? How do you cope with the damage incurred from the impulsivity and irrational thinking that are often byproducts of the disease? 

There are no easy answers to these questions, no formulaic solution. It is difficult to stand in the aftermath of mania, to accept responsibility for your actions and deal with the consequences. For years I hid from them, while I secretly felt their weight, beating myself up and saying I was a bad person. But I was sick. I just didn’t know it yet. 

That is not to say I am exempt from the consequences, or that I do not accept responsibility. I do. I’ve obsessed and cried and struggled under the weight of those burdens. The problem is, for the longest time I wasn’t coming out of the other side. 

Now that I know I live with bipolar disorder things are different. I have a responsibility to do all I can to stay well. It may not always keep me stable, but it keeps me grounded. 

At some point we have to release the burdens. We have to let it all go and move on. And we have to extend ourselves some grace. After all, those choices and decisions were not made out of rational thinking, but out of sickness. 

So when mania comes and causes damage these days, I assess the damage, pay the consequences, and move on. I have to. I have to keep going and let go of the past. I learn from it, or at least I try to, and I look to the future instead of keeping my eyes fixed behind. 

Read more from Charlie on her personal blogs, Decoding Bipolar and Accepting ADHD. She has also written for The Mighty and New Life Outlook ADHD. 

Comments

Excellent!

Thank you for your honest and open truths regarding our disease. I was diagnosed 4 years ago after a lifetime of insanity and addiction. After shuffling from rehab to "I'm cured" to numerous near death experiences I found myself homeless. When my wife left me with our 2 children I spiraled out of control. The last 4 yrs of psych therapy, psychologists, mental health and addiction counseling have helped. The biggest change came when I finally let go and trusted god to move me forward. I'm still homeless, jobless and broke , yet I have a sense of wholeness that I was missing all my life.

I know someone who has gone through almost the same as you've described. I am very much in love with them and am bipolar 1 myself. I have found that sense of wholeness at age 44 that I never had since my psychosis at age 17. I hope the person I am I love with can someday feel that wholeness too.

I have bipolar too and it was nice to know I'm not alone! I almost lost the love of my life because of a such a lack of judgement and horrible decision making skills while sick. It's honestly a miracle he has loved me and stayed with me. God has kept a close eye on me and without the Lord as my foundation my hurricanes would cause far more damage. I know what you mean though because when I'm reminded of some of stunts I literally can have a panic attack of I sit and dwell to deep but like you I've learned to forgive myself even when I don't feel like I deserve it one bit! Keep pushing and keep going! Day by day!

My twin sister has experienced exactly what you have gone through, she was originally diagnosed with drug induced psychosis & now finally a diagnosis of bipolar..we have yet to find the right medication or Dr but are trying to get there, she drowns in regret everyday from the things she had done in mania & has been so heartbreaking to watch her world fall apart..we are new to this & are praying for God to help us through, she stays in depression almost all year then goes into mania about the same time every year which is approaching soon, could yall give us tips on medication & ways to help prevent mania?

I have had a diagnosis of bipolar1 for 10 years now with the manic end of the scale being the most troublesome element. I am on a mixture of sodium valporate,lamotrigine and aripiprazole and have been in remission for a number of years.
It is important to find the right meds and dosages; this may take some time. However, it is important to persevere.

Thank you for sharing your story. Mine is so similar to yours...I have been successfully recovering for several months after a lengthy episode, and truth be told, it is the hardest thing any of us will do, I believe. Some messes can never be cleaned up. Great blog and much appreciated again!

Well said and very well written about what many of us have gone through as a result of our mania and then picking up the pieces after a relapse . It is never easy and but being more aware of the warning signs and reaching out for help avoid a full out path of destruction.

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