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What Mania Really Feels Like

Being an account of someone with Bipolar 1 Disorder

If you take the time to visit my profile, you'll notice there are pages of odd poems and nonsensical selections from my notebook. These were all posted when I was recovering in the hospital from my first, and hopefully only manic episode. Most of them make no sense to me looking back, but I know the headspace I was in when writing them was that of a driven artist trying to convey some sort of message and longing to find peace in his mind. See, before it happened to me, I couldn't define the words "manic" or "mania". Though sometimes used as a generic descriptor for an over-excited mood, mania is a symptom of certain mental health issues. In my case it's Bipolar disorder. The following is a description of what I went through (and still am dealing with residually) mentally, physically, and spiritually during my manic episode.

Obsession to Obsession

One of the common traits of someone who is manic is this switch that flips every so often from obsessed to forgotten about. As a musician, I got really obsessed with songwriting and busking around my town at first. That isn't the worst thing, but I had completely unrealistic expectations of blowing up online, and did everything poorly out of a need to do it quickly. Though I managed to write a few songs that made sense before things got too bad, it has become difficult to put pen to paper, or even pick up my guitar as often since recovering. It feels traumatic because there's this fear of going back to a manic obsession and spiraling again, but the acknowledgement of this fear has helped me keep trying a bit at a time.

I got really into twitter for some reason. Tweeting upwards of a thousand times in less than 3 days if I remember correctly. These tweets gradually descended into absolute gibberish, and inexplicably most of them featured the duck and Easter Island statue emojis.

I don't know if it's just me, but I also got unusually attached and obsessed with anyone who gave me the slightest attention. In particular there were a couple people I developed strong feelings towards I can only describe as romantic obsessions. This happened in a matter of a week or two for both people. It got out of hand. I was completely unlike myself. I had no patience, and ended up ruining what could be good friendships by spewing out any and all feelings I had and expected them to return the sentiment. I didn't physically do anything to harm them, but from what was relayed to me after the fact, I had definitely scared them. I had met and developed an obsession for the second person less than a month before I was hospitalized, and it definitely peaked just before I went in. It took months after going home for the residual obsessive thoughts to subside.

No Sleep, Super-Human Energy, and the Meaning of God

It was a slow build up. Long nights and early rises gradually built up to an hour maximum to no sleep at all for close to two weeks (Around that much. The timeline is really blurry closer to hospitalization). I was going to the gym every morning at 6:30, and had an energy I had never had before. That's manic energy. I thought I was on top of the world having figured out the key to life. I became obsessed with a philosophy I thought of which was that "god" is a placeholder term for your own life's purpose, and that if you follow that you follow "god". It's half-baked (I was too for a few months) and isn't anything to go screaming to the masses, but I felt the need to. If you want to see just how energetic I was, I happened to have documented it while it was happening. The video at the top of this post is the last episode of a podcast I came up with while I was manic. I didn't intend to, but the five episodes actually captured a bit of all sides of the manic and extreme bipolar states. Because of this, I am going to leave it as is. I will not add to or take from it.

Absolute Anger Towards My Mother

My mother and I have a great relationship actually. Since before the manic episode, and since recovering at home. During my manic episode however, I was convinced of things I can't quite remember. Whatever I was thinking made my mother out to be the devil-incarnate, and I did everything I could to find out all her so-called flaws and throw them in her face.

I do know I was mad at her for returning the $2500 worth of things I had ordered on Amazon in one week. I forgot to mention that one common link in people with mania is a terrible spending problem. Because of the loss of reality, it is common that people spend they're life savings on random things, or develop bad gambling habits.

Once hospitalized, I got even more aggressive towards my mum. I don't remember it all, but I am told that I was only able to spend a couple minutes at a time with her before getting too worked up. Apparently my dad got a get-out-of-jail-free card though. Can't tell you why. This was especially hard to come back from because I felt guilt that I now know wasn't anyone's to feel. The feelings I had are inexplicable and don't remain so all I can do is be grateful for returning to earth and building up the good relationship that was there before I left.

Acceptance and Recovery

Understanding that you are manic during a manic episode isn't easy. Especially when you think your mother is just trying to stop you from being happy or fulfilling your purpose. It is also hard to accept a diagnosis when you think you were fine in the first place. But once I settled into taking a medication each night to help the actual imbalance in my brain chemistry, I was able to look back at the last year and a half or so with a different lens. I'm now able to go "oh yeah that was a depressive episode" or "oh yeah that explains why I had that particular meltdown." Needing to sleep at a certain time, but staying awake anxious about how I should be asleep and won't be able to wake up early the next day.

It takes time and perseverance. Getting better means putting one foot in front of the other each day. It means knowing that what happened during the manic episode is not all your fault. It especially means developing a healthy self-awareness to know when you need to relax, when you need to spend time with loved-ones, or when you need to challenge yourself a bit.

That's what mania felt like to me. It wasn't pretty, but I made it out a better version of myself. I know others can too.

Zachary Boulanger
Zachary Boulanger
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Zachary Boulanger

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