Not enough is said about the mania of bipolar disorder and more should be. It did, after all, put the manic into manic depression. There are many misconceptions about bipolar disorder and too few people talk in a personal way about mania. Someone has told me recently that they didn’t know that manic was about the upper range of moods, they thought it was about being wildly depressed. It’s hard not to see the link between misconception and misinformation so perhaps it’s time we started being brutally honest about mania in the same way we have become brutally honest about depression.
So, to begin with, mania is a feeling of wonderful highs, all the world is rosy, you’re capable of accomplishing everything far better and in a far shorter time than anyone else. Right? Wrong. Mania is a monster that lives in the mind.
I think of mania as the flip side to the magnifying glass that is depression. A magnifying glass will enlarge and magnify that on which it is centred and distort those things around the edge of the glass. It distorts and disrupts in both mania and depression.
Depressive phases will magnify those feelings of unworthiness and hopelessness and distort, in extreme cases, the feeling that you have no right to be alive. They enhance, within our minds, all that we feel is worthless and negative about ourselves. Depression is a self-feeding monster.
Manic phases will magnify all those positive feeling in a strange kind of way; almost as if you’d been pumping iron on one arm only and had one huge set of biceps and one tiny set. It distorts reason and common sense leading to reckless behaviour without thought of the consequences. A woman I know bought a house in Spain without telling her husband. People talk about how they are incredibly promiscuous whilst in a manic phase. It takes away your reasoning and removes the part of you that that puts on the brakes. Mania is a self-feeding monster.
I don’t know my depression has arrived until it is here. It is sudden, violent and unpredictable. On the other hand mania gives me some warning signs and is over very quickly. It begins with a small bubbling of delight that borders on hysteria, a massive rush of energy that I can’t contain. Energy that has nowhere to go and nothing useful to do so I sit, jump, hop from chore to chore, place to place until I am shot skyward into irritability and anger cursing the world for not being able to keep up with me. Arrogance and impotence born of the goodness knows what that inhabits my mind. I can’t control my temper when this happens and, being a short fused person, the fuse becomes almost non-existent. I am quick to fire up and slow to calm down. Then I plunge back down into the depths again.
Manic episodes for me take no more than a few hours to pass over. If you didn’t know me well you would think I was just another unreasonable and irrational idiot. I am at times I suppose but the point is that mania isn’t about having a really great time and then becoming a bit glum. I am, in reality, as likely to become suicidal during a manic episode as I am during a depressive episode. Mania for me is not a high it’s an extreme.
Mania is about behaving in ways that we are ashamed of when we are well. Because we can be reckless financially we pick up debts along the way. Some people, as a result of their promiscuity, will pick up sexually transmitted diseases and women can land themselves with unwanted pregnancies. The bottom line is that we all lose a little bit more of our dignity and little self-respect each time.
Mania kills the soul.