Author: Kim Barnett
I have Bipolar I Disorder, which causes manic and depressive episodes cyclically. I’d like to share with you some of my experience with Bipolar Mania, in hopes to explain the difference between insomnia and a Manic Episode, and how this topic has affected me personally. The lack of sleep caused by mania, is not a joke, and can have detrimental effects on my mental health and sanity.
So you may be asking, why is this such a big deal? I’ve had many friends say to me, “I have trouble sleeping and have mood changes too. Does this mean I may be bipolar as well?” I’m not a doctor, and cannot answer that question for anyone with absolute certainty, but I can offer my experience with the disorder, and help them decide if they need to look into their own mental health with a professional. I usually share the following with my friends to help them decide if they need to look further into their sleeping and mood changes.
When I am in a Manic Episode, I need very little sleep or no sleep at all, and can function normally for some time, without being tired at all. My moods are to the extreme. If something makes me happy, I’m ten times happier about it than normal, and I feel like I’m on top of the world, where nothing can bring me out of my happy and euphoric state. Everyone is my friend, including strangers. I talk a lot, to the point to where I even annoy myself at times. There is no fear at all of people, places or things. I could go into a room of 500 people, and give a speech about anything, and not be nervous one bit. For example, at a church retreat when I was a teenager, I gave a speech in front of 300 plus teenagers, about Christ and what he had done in my life and in the lives of other teens that I had shared the word with. This sounds great, but I usually do not like to speak in front of large or even small crowds, so it’s not in character for me. I feel like I’m rich, both literally and figuratively, which means I feel like and usually do, buy anything I want, without regard to my budget or how much money I have. I bought so much stuff in a Manic Episode one time that I went to fill up my car with gas, and was denied at the pump, due to insufficient funds. I had no idea I had spent all of my money. I ended up, having to beg for change from strangers, and had no shame in doing so. Eventually, after 4 or 5 days of no sleep at all, or about 2 months of less sleep than normal, I start to have psychosis. This is where the fun stops!
Psychosis for me is scary. I don’t know who I am, sometimes believing I’m famous, and even one time believing I was Dave Chappelle. It’s funny now, but for a long time it was scary to me that I thought I was a man. I get really paranoid, thinking everyone is talking about me, or that people are following me. One time, I drove in my car for hours, across multiple cities in the valley, believing random strangers were following me. I become a different person and somewhat uncontrollable, for myself and others. Eventually, It gets really bad, and I have to admit myself into the Behavioral Health Unit (AKA Psych Ward). I’m one of the lucky ones, and always take myself and do not get 5150’d (Involuntary Commitment).
The point of telling you all of this is so you can be more informed on Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar Mania as a whole. So many people throw out the term “Bipolar” to explain other people’s behaviors, but a lot of times have no idea what the disorder actually entails. My hope is that my experience can help shed some sort of light on the disorder, help people to understand it, and decide whether or not they believe they may have the disorder. You may know someone who has Bipolar Disorder, who may need to seek professional help, and maybe what I’ve explained can help you see some of the warning signs. Just remember that not everyone is the same and my experience/symptoms of my episodes may differ from others with this disorder.
For me, the only way I combat mania, is through talking with my Psychiatrist about medication adjustments and following through with his suggested changes. Also, I participate in conversations with my therapist, who provides coping tools to aid in controlling the manic behaviors. Sleep is vital for anyone, but especially for those in a manic episode. It helps calm my brain and bring it back to some normalcy. Sometimes this can be done through medication management, but unfortunately at times hospitalization at the Behavioral Health Unit is required for me, so they can manage my sleep for me.
I hope this explains a bit about the disorder, as it pertains to mania, and hope it helps someone find the help they need.