It seems that my last blog post was somewhat prophetic. I am currently sitting on a bed, in a psychiatric hospital, recovering from my second psychotic manic episode.
This episode evolved much like the last did, with me becoming so elevated that I lost insight and subsequently stopped taking my medication. I had been hypomanic and compliant with my medication for months, but January and February (summer months in Australia) are still bad months for me regarding mania.
I was enjoying my hypomania and I had safe-guards put in place, such as someone checking in on my spending, no binge drinking during social nights out and a regular sleep schedule. But sometimes the wild beast of bipolar can’t be tamed and I lost control of my beast.
I was feeling good, too good. Everything was effortless, I was incredibly confident within my skin and I sought out fast-paced, adrenaline-filled activities. The more euphoric and optimistic I became, the more unreliable my judgment became and I happily swapped judgment for euphoria. I was like a Turkish Whirling Dervish that couldn’t stop ricocheting from one project to another, but never completing them. I couldn’t see that the intense hypomanic productivity had turned into manic chaos. In my mind, I was still brilliant.
I had visual hallucinations, but also auditory hallucinations. This was new for me, as I had only experienced visual hallucinations in past psychotic episodes. I remember it very clearly. I was playing piano and colours started dancing around the room, outside of my head. They had a tangible quality and blues, reds, greens, yellows and purples all swirled together. It was like being inside a kaleidoscope. When I looked in the mirror I saw a rainbow around me, which I thought was my aura. It felt like the sun was giving me a hug. I thought I could see other auras around people but compared to mine they were just one colour. This cemented in my mind that I was special because my aura was a rainbow. An ethereal female voice told me that I could fly and I believed her.
Unsurprisingly, I was also delusional. I thought that I could travel in space and that NASA would employ me as head researcher. I thought the voice had chosen me to represent our universe in the multi-verse. I thought higher beings (I’m not religious in any way) were leaving clues for me in all sorts of books (physics, chemistry, philosophy, biology, medical texts and history books) I knew I was smart enough to figure out the answers to all the unanswered questions – that I would solve the mysteries of the universe.
It got to the point where my parents had to call the community access team. They came and took me to hospital as an involuntary patient and that night I was put in seclusion for paranoia and being aggressive and violent towards myself. At the time it was very dramatic and exceptionally traumatic for my family, but I recovered quickly. With the appropriate medications the psychosis cleared up and I was moved from the low stimulus area to the main locked, acute adult ward. After some time I was transferred to a private psychiatric hospital, which is much calmer (and is where I am now). This all happened in the space of two-to-three weeks.
Although I was very unwell, this time we were prepared. As I was hypomanic, we made a plan with my family and psychiatrist to minimise the impact of, or prevent a manic episode. I cut down on my shifts at the hospital. I informed my colleagues in my research role that I was hypomanic. They were very supportive and we fitted my hours around my moods. I temporarily stopped making myself available to give presentations for the institute I volunteer for so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Lastly, my family and friends were more aware of signs and symptoms of mania than last time so they knew when and how to get help. We had prepared for the storm and we did it well. I did not embarrass myself in front of colleagues this year, I didn’t spend lots of money and my behaviour was only risky on several occasions.
I’m sure these safeguards led to quicker treatment and are why I’m recovering so well. There will not be a huge pile of mess to clean up when I’m discharged as my impulsive and reckless behaviour was minimal. I know it will be slightly difficult getting back into my routine and getting my head around commitments, but that won’t take long.
The reason I’m still in hospital is because my sleep is very disruptive and we’re working on getting the right medication combination that will allow me to sleep the whole night through. At the moment, if I weren’t on any medication I wouldn’t be sleeping at all. But I’m optimistic. It had been two years since becoming psychotically manic, which I take pride in. Now, I’m aiming for three years between this psychotic manic episode and the next – and anything more will be a bonus!
(Note: This is a drawing a self-portrait I did in hospital while psychotically manic. It’s me with my aurora and the voice. I never usually draw, only when I’m manic).