Inside My Manic Mind
I often think people misconceptualize bipolar disorder. They hear it and think of a person who is kind and gentle, and then, out of the blue, they turn into The Hulk; almost a Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde scenario.
While it’s true during a manic episode some may become angry, I don’t think that is the typical response. Instead, I think it is much more common for one to become elated, euphoric, almost in a constant high state. Those in a state of mania take on a sense of grandiosity, feeling they are invincible. Often they spend money at an alarming pace, sleep less, and make seemingly novel connections to completely unrelated items in life.
That’s the textbook response for manic episodes. As I write this, I’m coming off several weeks of mania, which can offer a much more intimate glimpse of what it means to be manic.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when my manic episodes start, but a good sign is my sleep schedule. I start going to bed later and later. First 12:30 am, then 1:15 am, 2:00 am, 5:00 am, 7;00 am, and finally, by the time I’m in full-blown mania, I’m not sleeping at night at all.
The next sign is I start to think I can pick up old projects that I never finished and accomplish them. I never do restart them though. I move to a new idea too quickly. I may start that idea, or maybe I jump to another one. The ideas could be anything from learning some new web framework to creating a font (as of this writing I still haven’t finished that project) or maybe it’s something deeper. One of the biggest struggles my bipolar has caused is a severe inability to decide on a career path.
Next comes the racing thoughts. My mind starts to race and it becomes very hard to put together any serious, coherent thought. This has affected my ability to complete homework, take exams, or sit still for long. I’ve gotten pretty efficient at writing my professors and explaining what is going on — something I wish I didn’t have to do. I often wonder if my racing thoughts are similar to what those with ADHD experience. If it is, I feel bad for them. I know that, at some point for me the racing thoughts will fade. I can’t imagine living like that all the time.
During my manic phases I often will get up to get a drink and by the time I get to the kitchen I forget why I’m there. Or worse, I’ll get sidetracked before even going to the kitchen and go there without my glass. In the past, I’ve actually gone from my room to the kitchen three times just to get a drink, simply because my mind was racing so fast that I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight enough, long enough to complete such a meaningless task.
I love to read. When I was younger my head was always buried in a book. In the fourth grade, I chose to do a book report on a Wishbone book. I checked out the book from the library, along with the VHS (the precursor to DVDs) tape. When I got in the car, my mom saw both the book and tape and asked about them. I told her it was for a book report. Her response was something like, “oh great, you’ve already figured out that trick.” (Admittedly, I totally used that method in high school.) But at that stage, I had no idea what she was talking about, I just loved Wishbone.