Last year at this time, I was soaring high with my first full-blown manic episode. I was feeling better than I’ve felt in my entire life. Colors were brighter, music sounded better, and my talents came out like never before. I had recently taken up painting and my work was amazing. Music sounded incredible. I swear I could hear each and every note from every individual instrument that was playing. I’m not a singer, but I sang loudly with songs and I was on key for a change. I had superpowers and was invincible. At least I thought I was. I saw the concern in my doctor’s eyes when I told her I’d reached 100 mph on the highway on my way to see her. I felt the confusion my 15-year-old son had when I was babbling on and on, unable to stop talking. I chose to ignore them.
It was all spectacular! It was all phenomenal! Until it went bad. My thoughts started racing faster and faster. My mouth could not keep up with the words spinning through my head. I started stuttering and no one could understand what I was saying. My exhilaration turned into anxiety. Nothing made sense. It eventually led to psychosis and I was hospitalized for several days.
So why, when I think back to last year, I only think of the wonderful part of mania? Why don’t I also immediately think of the fall? The crash? The impact it had on my family?
Usually, my mind tends to go straight to the negative aspects of a situation. Its part of the illness, but it’s also just who I am. Why then, doesn’t my mind immediately go to all the destructive parts of mania?
For me, the pain of mania is not what readily comes to mind. I once read a quote that made my experience crystal clear, it said, “Take your best day and multiply it by a thousand, that’s mania. However, take your worst day ever and multiply by a thousand, that’s the crash.”
Eventually, I decided I needed to do something to stop romanticizing mania. I made a list of all the bad things that happen after the revered part of mania is over. I also made a list of my warning signs. A few warning signs I’ve learned over the past year, as I’ve been rapid cycling, are urges to drive too fast, constant cravings for alcohol, and wanting to exercise more.
You can also do this. When you find yourself wanting to stop your meds or continue on the hypomanic path, ignoring the warning signs and not seeking help, find the list and review it. Force yourself to read it if need be. If you don’t think a simple list will be enough, write yourself a letter reminding yourself how unwise it is to seek out mania.
This past year hasn’t been easy for me, but I’m doing my best to make a commitment to myself and my family to be the healthiest person I can be despite the challenges of having bipolar disorder. I hope you will too.