What Bipolar Mania Really Feels Like: A First-Hand Account

After just a few weeks in Tom Wootton’s Bipolar IN Order course over at Bipolar Advantage, I have already learned so much. One important lesson I’ve realized is the difference between bipolar behaviors, which is what you see, and bipolar symptoms, which is what we experience and feel.

Let's take a look at some of the symptoms of mania as I experience them. You may be surprised at how complex they really are.

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World Mental Health Day 2015: We Belong Together

I’m a big fan of the singer/pianist Gavin DeGraw. As a writer, I tend toward musicians who write compelling lyrics, and he does that and puts compelling melodies with them.

World Suicide Prevention Day was about a month ago. About a month before that, I spent some time in a psych hospital, trying to recover from a mixed episode. That’s a special piece of bipolar hell where you’re manic (bouncing off the ceiling) and depressed, often suicidal, at the same time. I maxed out two credit cards -- overspending is a hallmark of mania -- and yet told the ER doctor that while driving to the hospital, I kept thinking about opening the door and playing in traffic on Highway 52. Time between checking in at the admissions desk and getting a security escort to a bed on the mood disorders unit? Two and a half hours, shortest ever.

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I Am My Own Bipolar

Hi there. If you are reading this, please know everything written is coming from my brain -- which means these thoughts are all real to me, but likely unrealistic or potentially disturbing to “normal” people. I consider a “normal” person anyone that advises me not to act on everything I think and feel. How annoying is that? They must be the crazy ones, not me!

Everything my mind conjures up seems so brilliant in that moment. My feelings seem appropriate and valid in my head. How dare someone else tell me otherwise? But, alas, these nut jobs do deserve credit as they have kept me alive, stood by my side, taught me to be strong, and there is a special place in my heart and mind that loves and appreciates them more than words can say. So, thank you crazy people -- stay nuts.

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Bipolar Girl in a Unipolar World

There are two types of bipolar disorder listed in the DSM-V. Bipolar I has one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (both manic and depressive). Bipolar II has at least one hypomanic episode and major depressive episodes.

I have bipolar II. I have a specific cycle and triggers that can create a very precarious situation. It is almost impossible for me to tell whether the mania or the depression comes first because it’s so cyclical. It flows into one mood and then into another. I also have a rapid cycle so I can have mania and depressive cycles multiple times in one day.

The danger is in the depressive episodes for me. I get so consumed with a darkness that suffocates me. The relief came from either self-mutilation or prescription drug abuse. I needed to mentally check out because I couldn’t cope with the emptiness.

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Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in Psychosis

In the midst of a psychotic episode, whether the result of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the main motivating factors in our jilted decisions is the imagined symbolism in meaningless circumstances or objects.

I can remember when I was out on the streets of New York and Boston, deep in the midst of a major psychotic episode. I was convinced I had a mission to bring peace to the world, and though I was destitute, I wandered around following signs and colors and motions of passersby convinced there was some deeper symbolism or meaning in these insignificant things.
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The Importance of Having a Friend to Talk You Down

I’m stable. At least that’s how I usually am.

In the eight years I’ve lived with schizophrenia I’ve managed to find a pretty strong footing for my life. I take my meds and go to therapy and practice my social skills and hell, I even have a job, which is more than a lot of people with schizophrenia can handle.

That said, there are times where the stars align for madness and you lose yourself in being overwhelmed with feelings or thoughts that confuse and delude you.

This past week was one of those times for me.
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Vanity Came Knocking: Being Safe with My Bipolar

I nearly checked myself into the mental ward recently. I’ve been once, and it is no vacation.

But, one ordinary day in September, I was in that much pain. And I didn’t trust myself enough to be safe -- all over some vanity and pride.

For the most part, over the years, my bipolar disorder has been tamped down with medication, therapy and stress reduction. And, until that day, I thought I was in remission.

But I was wrong.

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How I Use Mindfulness to Help with Hypomania

I wrote in a post titled Using Meditation to Diagnose Your Mood that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early. Well, I’m in one.

It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the 30 minutes I meditate each day. I find myself agitated and fidgety. My thoughts are all over the place.

This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in. I’m thinking of buying stuff. I’m thinking of trading stocks. I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones.

All of my thoughts are about getting and doing. Anything. Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do. That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.

And here’s where mindfulness meditation really helps.

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Insight is Key: My Journey with Bipolar Disorder

"Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide."
~ Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

When a person hears the word "bipolar," his or her mind usually immediately jumps to the depiction of roller-coaster mood swings and lashing out.

Yet, this is not always the case with bipolar disorder. Bipolar can also affect your thoughts. Some people -- like myself -- experience a different version of the mental illness where many of your symptoms are internalized.

My illness varies from depressive apathy to euphoric mania which can be accompanied by a delusion or hallucination. I have not had the more severe experiences in about five years, thanks to therapy and medication. Though my journey to recovery was a difficult one, it is not an impossible feat.

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Using Meditation to Diagnose Your Mood

It would be wrong to say that the mentally ill are undisciplined.

Yes, I have been scattered, unkempt, flighty, undependable, and absent. But I have also, at times, been able to carry out with incredible focus to minute detail tasks that I could never stick with if not at least mildly manic.

While the energy to work and the attention to detail did not always congeal on a reasonable or desirable task, the results were often impressive.

But then, I’ve also spent an awful amount of time lying around doing nothing. Not contemplating, not planning, not even daydreaming. Just depressed. Could there be a way to predict moods? A way to harness and apply a disciplined approach to managing symptoms?

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Anxiety and Panic

Top 10 Mental Health Apps

With so many apps on the market, it’s hard to know which are useful.

Many are designed by software developers instead of psychologists, without scientific testing. They range from beneficial, to harmless but useless, to bordering on fraudulent.

The apps selected for this list make no hucksterish claims and are based on established treatments. Progressive Muscle Relaxation, for example, has been used for a century and is likely just as effective in this new medium. Knowledge from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy enrich two apps on this list. Others mix solid information with ingenuity.

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