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Mania: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I consider mania to be the forgotten orphan of the two poles of bipolar disorder – with depression being the most discussed. Depression gets all the attention, all the talk, all the focus and mania is left out in the cold. On the International Bipolar Foundation’s (IBPF) website, the IBPF’s bloggers have written 77 articles about depression and only 15 about mania. 

The disparity makes sense. Depression is not a pleasant mental disposition to experience. It is life and energy draining. Furthermore, depression can interfere with daily routines and activities. Mania, however, can be just as disruptive and destructive. 

I have mixed feelings about my own manic episodes that I’ve experienced over the years. I’ve been manic four times since 2007 and every episode has resulted in my hospitalization. As a result of the mania, I’ve spent a total of 40+ days hospitalized. At this point, I consider myself an expert on my mania. 

My manic episodes haven’t all been negative experiences. For instance, when I am manic I feel incredibly smart, much smarter than usual; the grandiosity has me feeling like I’m the smartest person in the room. Additionally, while manic, I am incredibly productive and creative. It was during a manic episode that I started blogging about my experiences with bipolar disorder and even managed to get published on a few different outlets. I also started writing a memoir about my experiences shortly after a manic episode. I devised three business plans: one for an all boys’ school, another for a life coaching company, and a social justice curriculum consulting company. I made a beautiful collage during an art therapy session that I had professionally framed. And beyond the productivity and the creativity, the hypersexuality can be fun too (if it can be managed responsibly and safely). 

Conversely, mania has been a destructive force in my life. I ruined an 18+ year friendship by posting mean and hurtful things to social media about my friend and her family. I have been irritable and short with family and friends. The shopping sprees have left me tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. In fact, last year, while manic, I followed through on two of the business plans. I created websites and even incorporated the businesses with the government. When the dust settled, I had spent about $8,500 on two businesses that I have not done anything with. 

So yes, mania can be fun and exciting and the rush of it is incredible. And truthfully, I miss the energy sometimes. However, I can see the wake of its destruction when I think about the ruined friendship and the credit card debt. Then the mania doesn’t seem as desirable. 

While my depressions have not necessarily been extraordinarily easy to deal with, manic episodes have always caused more damage in my life than any of my depressive bouts. I’ve never been hospitalized for my depressions, but I have for every mania. Additionally, although I’m not operating optimally, depression does not interfere with my completion of daily responsibilities, whereas mania throws a major wrench in my life. Manic episodes make me extremely productive, but impulsive and scatterbrained. 

Over the years I’ve come to accept the pitfalls and glories of my disorder. What I’ve learned to be true for me is that bipolar disorder is both a gift and a curse and as a result, I no longer say that I “suffer from bipolar disorder.” Instead, I say that I “live with bipolar disorder.” Sometimes I am living functionally and sometimes not. All in all, I have made peace with the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

See the rest of Krystal's posts for IBPF here. She also blogs at Manic Monique's Meanderings and for the Huffington Post.

Comments

Every depressive episodes always leave wanting the mania. And then the mania comes, the irrational never ending thoughts, the need to accomplish something, especially if someone's proud that I completed the task. Both depression and mania leave me sleepless and often with inappropriate outbursts fueled by the lack of sleep. I love that you said you live with bipolar disorder. It makes it sound so much more hopeful. And as my meds work better I become more hopeful of having a more stable life. Thank you, stay strong <3

Hi Krystal,
Thanks a ton for your article on mania, i have done some nutty stuff too.... But have found a balance these days, getting the sleep i need with stretching and meditation helping big time as well as a healthy diet.
You will be fine i reckon, God bless you.
Best Regards,
Grant Simpson
Christchurch
New Zealand

I walk a tight line when it comes to mania. I LOVE hypomania that actually puts the wind in my sails. But if I let it go, it will inevitably turn into full-blown mania.

My first mania was at the onset of my BP. I was absolutely nuts. It was all about me and I cared not one bit about what it may be doing to my family and friends. My husband took me to a pdoc and I was sent for my first hospital visit.

I wasn't properly diagnosed there, but was at the 30-day program I went to after. Saw a pdoc 3X/week and a therapist 2X/week. My pdoc was very gentle and soft-spoken. At that point, I was still "sitting" with my knees up, hiding my face. It took a few visits when he gave the diagnoses of BPI-rapid cycling-w/psychotic features, PTSD, and ADHD.

I had a few other hospital stays after that, all for mania. Full-blown would just come on so fast. I had an affair, lost a career that I really loved,I lost all of my friends, my extended family were scared of me. My only rock was my ever-enduring husband, trying to balance that while taking care of our son who was 4 at the time.

I'm more aware of myself and my moods these days, and don't risk going back to that place. Mania is definitely more scary and damaging to me than my depressive episodes.

I've recently been diagnosed as bipolar and and and I'm in a manic or hypomanic period right now. IDK. It could be either one because this is the first time I've recognized it as such. Looking back on my life, I never understood why I would go on these big spending trips even at times when I had no money. Or why my severely depressed periods were so energetic. I think they were mixed manic periods but I'm really not sure. I experience dysphoric mania more than euphoric and I only rarely experience the grandiosity claims (though I did recently which led to a broken YAY!) Fortunately this leg is keeping me grounded and I'm not really able to run around the house like I normally would starting projects and doing things. I'm still struggling. I'm still fighting against my illness like I can will myself out of mania, all the while maintaining contact with my therapist to call the time if I need to be hospitalized.
I only sleep a few hours a night and thats only because I take sleeping medications. I haven't eaten more than 2 meals this week (it's Friday). And my body is fighting me. I'm in physical pain because I can't get up and pace around the house. My eyes are burning, but not the kind were you haven't slept or there's smoke hitting them. More like they are fire from the inside. Along with my skin.

I don't like mania. This is awful, and I just want to be able to live without these swings. Depression makes me sleep all day and eat constantly, but with no energy to cook. Every single one of my suicide attempts have been during manic episodes. These up swings are 1000x worse than down swings.

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