Understanding Mania

The escalation period for Bipolar people is termed as mania. Different people will experience varying degrees of it depending on the type of Bipolar that they are. Type 1’s tend to escalate far, Type 2’s don’t go quite as far (hypomania), Cyclothemic’s tend to not go as far as a Type 2; and an unspecified type diagnosis can vary. My experience stems from being a Type 2; therefore I cannot speak from personal experience about full blown mania. However, I am familiar with it from a clinical understanding and from having Type 1 friends.

”So mania is like being angry and irritable, right?”

I find it difficult to see how this particular thought process got started. Experiencing a manic cycle is much more. Anger and irritability can be symptoms of an escalated cycle, but they need to be viewed in context with how else the person is affected. A combination of symptoms is a more relevant indicator of where the Bipolar person’s mentality may be.

My Example

I experience a wide range of symptoms while hypomanic. There are some symptoms that only manifest during this time period. Arrogance and grandiose thinking are indicators that I am currently on my way up. I know that because when I am neutral or depressed, I do not experience these things.

1 - By nature, I am not an arrogant person. While my presence would be missed by some, it isn’t like people are going to get my birthday off. I’m no better than you, the person next to you, or the homeless guy trying to score some change. I simply am.

2 - Let me escalate into hypomania. Why are you talking to me? If you had a tenth of my mental processing power it would definitely be a step up for you. I bet if you stopped talking, the national IQ average would raise. Shut the fuck up.

Grandiose Thinking
1 - I like to think about and study many, many subjects. That includes some strange and macabre things as well. Making decisions is all about having enough of the right information to form an opinion on a subject. I strive to always take calculated risks.

2. Hypomanic? At the age of 18 I moved to California from across the country because someone offered me a bus ticket. I had no job, no license, no vehicle, and no money except for the 20 dollars in my pocket. My brain assured me everything would work out fine. Surprisingly, it did not.

A Bipolar’s Manic Mind

Identifying the unique ways that the Disorder affects one’s mind is integral to managing the mood shifts. Common symptoms are anger, irritability, arrogance, pressured thinking and speaking, impulsive decision making, unhealthy risk taking behavior, sexual promiscuity, an out of the ordinary sex drive, delusional thinking, and detachment from reality. An unwell person may say they need to jump in their car to go help their father move some furniture, except their father died a year ago. Their mind is feeding them information from the reality it is creating for itself.

That is a fairly benign example. Their mind might convince them that they are not susceptible to knife wounds and that it is definitely a good idea to test that theory. Now you have a person detached from reality, heading out the front door with a knife to go and find someone to stab him. Entirely different result from the same symptoms of a manic cycle.

Using This Information

I believe that the most important part of managing the Disorder is understanding how it affects the person specifically. Mental illness is as unique to a person as their fingerprint. How I experience it will be drastically different than the next person or the person after that. Unfortunately, the best time to figure these things out is after an unwell period ends. I start my own analyzing the moment I look back on an action and say “What was I doing!?” I then look for behavior that I do not experience normally.

The idea is to take those differences and learn to use them to identify unwellness. It is not possible to always identify them in oneself because perception is skewed. However, a loved one with this information can look for these different things if the Bipolar starts acting strange. Then they can ask if the Bipolar is starting to get unwell which can provide a “reality check” and prevent the person from derailing too far.

From A Different Perspective

Janice is a Bipolar woman, married with two kids. Enjoys a moderately quiet life with few out of the ordinary circumstances. Most of her days are well planned out, weekends she attends the kids’ extracurricular activities, and she just landed a promotion at her work. This quiet Bipolar woman takes her medication regularly but does not realize that she is growing resistant to the mood stabilizer. The antidepressant pushes her up and up into mania until finally, she is possessed with the best idea she ever had.

Now it is time for Janice to pursue her dream of being a performer. She grabs a change of clothes, tosses them in her car, and does 90+ MPH on her way to Las Vegas. Janice manages to make it there without getting arrested and drives to the Strip because she knows she is supposed to perform. Since it is still early, she decides to do some gambling. She puts it all on Double Zero at the roulette table because “Today is her lucky day.” and promptly loses all of her money.

But it’s alright, Janice still needs to perform and she can use that money to win it back. Unfortunately, management doesn’t agree and ejects her from the casino. She wanders distraught to another casino where she gets talked up by a patron and ends up in bed with him. Janice has no need for protection because she knows that Larry.. Barry?.. Terry? would never lie to her.

After a day or two she realizes her mind is not well. It is staring her in the face knowing that she lost her job, slept with some guy she did not know without protection, drove recklessly to Las Vegas, maxed her credit cards, and lost the family’s savings. Why? Why would Janice do these things? For the same reason that you get a bowl of cereal in the morning when hungry for breakfast; her brain convinced her it was a good idea. That not only was it a good idea, but the best idea she ever had.

That one manic unwell period could end up costing her everything. Quite likely, it will be followed by a suicide attempt as her mind crashes and the reality of what she did sets in. Being able to forgive, and knowing what one is capable of forgiving, is absolutely essential with a Bipolar loved one. They will do things that neither they, nor you, will understand. They will not have answers for every one of their actions.

I have been asked more than a few times why I did something while unwell. The only answers I could offer were either “I don’t know” or “it seemed like a good idea”. Under normal circumstances, the Bipolar person would not have made that decision.