My experiences of mania are quite varied, but I will share here a few prime examples of the types of behaviours I engage in when I am manic.
I should note here that I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and my OCD goes into overdrive when I am manic, so many of my symptoms of mania are OCD in nature.
- Personal Hygiene – when I am manic my personal hygiene tends to go up. In fact I can become obsessive about taking regular (every few hours) showers, making sure my hair is perfect (even if I am just at home), doing my nails (getting them done professionally regardless of the cost), shaving, waxing and plucking everything, brushing my teeth after every meal and sometimes even after a drink.
- The URGE to spend money. I don’t necessarily have a list of items that I want which I then buy. Rather, I have an urge to spend money and I go looking for things that I can buy to appease that urge. This is usually in the hundreds of dollars range, but has on occasions gone into the thousands. This was devastating when I was younger because I had substantially less disposable income, but it is still very dangerous to this day because now I am in a situation where due to my illness I am unable to work consistently and consequently the disposable income that I have is actually my husbands earnings. This can lead to friction in the relationship while he tries to get me treatment and curb my spending to protect our financial interests among other things.
- Dieting is a strong sign that I am heading towards mania and I don’t mean eating healthy. I am referring to extreme very low calorie diets that I stick to. I have in the past eaten as little as 500 calories a day for months on end during a manic phase and I have not felt tired or run down doing this because the energy from the mania is keeping me going.
- Exercise, once again I am not talking about healthy exercise, I am referring to extreme workouts. For a period I was running my own business (2 shops), eating a very low calorie diet, volunteering about 5 hours per day and doing water boxing and actual boxing training (2.5 hours total per day) three days a week, plus jogging on my spare nights and the list goes on. I was extremely fit, extremely thin (too thin) and full of energy despite everything I was doing. I was manic but at the time I just thought I was unstoppable.
- Taking on new responsibilities or starting new challenges. It is of course perfectly reasonable to do both of these things when you are of sound mind and have the capacity to weigh up the risks versus the rewards and when you can intelligently identify whether you are capable of actually fulfilling the requirements of the new task. When you are manic however your mind is racing and you ‘seem’ to be able to think faster, process quicker, decide more easily, but what you’re not doing is truly assessing, weighing up, judging, being careful or considerate. So you see an opportunity and you jump in, and with your high energy levels you do well to start with but then your true disorganisation begins to show and eventually as you regain your senses you realise you have bitten off more than you can chew. I must make a note here that it is so helpful for me to have a husband, a carer, because he is always on the lookout for signs of mania and can prevent me from falling into this trap – even if he has to have a fight with me to stop me jumping in.
- Sex Drive this is the one aspect of my mania that my husband likes! My sex drive goes through the roof. I also become very flirtatious though which I have to be careful of if my husband isn’t around. In a strange way I also find myself liking my own body more, I feel more attractive than I usually feel, which also helps my sex drive.
- Organisation – I find the desire to organise things overwhelming. I will re-organise the household filing (bills, paperwork etc). I will re-organise the kitchen or the walk-in wardrobe. I will re-organise the files on my computer, especially the emails and so forth.
- Decorating becomes a pleasant pass time, printing photos and mounting them on the walls, re-organising ornaments (or buying new ones) at home, making flower arrangements even though I have no where to put them, generally making pretty things but without really having anywhere to display them. I should also note here that while I really like what I have done or made at the time, later when the mania wears off I often am less than impressed with my efforts and often discard what I made.
- Cleaning becomes an obsession. I will clean and reclean all areas of our house constantly. I become super aware of every speck of dust and I can’t help but get rid of it immediately. This is not a healthy cleaning regime it is far above and beyond the normal range of cleanliness required.
- List making – I love making lists at the worst of times (even when I’m depressed) but when I am manic I become obsessed with lists. Every tiny thing I do or want to do gets noted on a list. It is also very important to me that the lists are kept up to date and that completed items are marked off but saved so that I can see the progress I have made at any given moment.
- Socialisation, when I am depressed I become reclusive. When I am ‘normal’ I am shy but have a few close friends. When I am manic I will be friends with anyone and I will go out more often to socialise. I think this comes from a feeling of confidence within myself that I only have when I am manic.
- Sleep or should I say Insomnia – I do not sleep when I am manic, I can go for days without getting more than about 1 hour sleep each day and eventually I will crash and sleep for a long time and then it is back to less than an hour a day again until the next time I crash. Insomnia is often the first sign that I am shifting into mania.
Dissolving into Depression
For me, mania almost always dissolves into depression eventually and it is a guilt ridden depression fuelled by all the things I’ve done wrong during my mania and the people I’ve hurt, especially my husband. I must say these aren’t usually the deepest of depressions, with help, I can crawl out of them within a few months, but they feel terrible because they are coming from a place of guilt and there is usually very little I can actually do to make up for whatever I’ve done. As you can imagine, my husband is a saint, supremely forgiving and he loves me very much; he hates my disease however and is determined to help me fight it. He always has my back as long as he knows I am doing everything in my power to fight my bipolar, if I give in to it even for a little while, he is right there pushing back onto the road to recovery and I love him for it.