What does Mania look like for me?

by Tammy Ozolins

In case you were not aware of what Bipolar was, the medical terminology is called manic depressive disorder. This means the person can experience mania (extreme highs) and depression (extreme lows). Now, everyone varies on the extreme, and keep in mind some may also only have manias or depressive episodes.

What do I experience? I experience mixed episodes

So, for me what happens is sometimes I will experience mania symptoms then later that same day I will experience symptoms of depression. Other times it will be one or the other.

I have mentioned before after accepting the fact I will need to manage and cope with bipolar, I have become so in tuned into my body I can tell if I am going to have a good or bad day that day. I can sense if my body is going to have an episode and I am able to read my symptoms to know if it’s a mania or depressive episode.

But what I want to focus on is the mania episode. When some people hear the word mania they might think, the person has a lot of energy, out of control, and up all night. Now, in some cases, this may be true, but not everyone’s “mania” is like this. For me, my mania episodes vary. I do get a lot of energy where I do not sleep. One time I was up for five days straight (not even taking a nap) it was downright MISERABLE. Not, only was I not sleeping, but I was so irritable. I felt like was going to hurt myself and others. I remember calling my parents every day just crying uncontrollably and just begging them all I wanted to do was sleep. That episode I had to go into the hospital for, I needed medication for me to get some sleep. I remember doing many different things throughout the house during that episode. Sleep is such a key part of my recovery when it is disrupted it does affect me a lot.

My mania also has a lot of irritability to it

I find myself becoming very short with people and even the littles things that normally would not get to me do. I often find myself not wanting to deal or talk to people, I avoid them because I am not sure what will come out of my mouth. During this time, I feel like its me versus the world. Plus, I will cry because I am so angry and explosive. Tears will come down my face with little to no effort.

I often noticed when I am in a manic episode my OCPD (Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder) disorder comes out more. I must write down everything that comes to my brain because I am so afraid, I am going to forget. To be honest sticky notes are my best friend. One time during a mania episode I counted 85 sticky notes written. Now, do not get me wrong, I write a lot of things on sticky notes in general anyway, but they triple when I am in a mania episode. Now, one might think well that’s a lot of sticky notes, which it is, but I do not read them right away. Why? It becomes too overwhelming to read them at that time. I find myself reading them after the mania has stopped. When I do read them, I notice I wrote the same thing 5 times (which is where the OCPD comes into play). I end up throwing more than half of them away.

Another aspect of mania for me is my racing thoughts

The best way to describe it is I am a hamster on a hamster wheel that just keeps spinning. I have so many thoughts going through my mind that it does not shut off. I find myself talking at a fast rate of speed and sometimes I cannot complete the sentence because I am going on to the next sentence. I often will think about the future, but I am talking like 20 years into the future. Try to accomplish things, that would be a big NO, I find myself trying to start something but like 5 minutes later moving on to something else. Or what will happen my thoughts are so overwhelming I get a headache and then I get nausea because I have NO idea where to even start. The result for that is NOTHING gets done, but sometimes when that happens, I get upset with myself because I will just lay around all day and I feel like a “failure” for that day.

Lastly, spending becomes an issue when I am in a mania mood

I just LOVE to spend like I have all the money in the world. I remember when I was younger (’20s) I went into the mall during a mania episode (was not diagnosed yet) and I charged $1,000 dollars on my credit card. I just felt like who cares I want it. The thing I remember the most I got out of it was a different color toothbrush for each day of the week, that was the most exciting thing for me at the time. During those episodes, I tend to buy a lot of clothes and just have a hard time controlling myself. I usually am a frugal person, and then later when I realize what I have done I get so upset. At the time the stuff brings me joy and I am so happy. Amazon was becoming one of my good friends during that time later in my life. Sometimes I did not know why I bought the things I bought, I just wanted to buy them. It felt so good and rewarding to me (it put me in some debt too).

How long does my mania episode last? There is no magical number on that. It can last for a day or a few. The bottom line is that I recognize when it does happen, and I use my coping skills to help me get through it. Some of those include patience for myself (let myself be okay with not getting things done), staying at home and avoiding people if I feel irritable, reading, locking my credit card up (if I have the urge to spend), talk therapy. Everyone is going to be different when it comes to their coping skills and what works.

Mania episodes are not fun for me, because what goes up needs to come down as well and when the episode is done, that is when I CRASH! Sometimes, it takes me a day to be back to my normal self. I find myself I must sleep longer and more for a day just because I lost that sleep. But the most important thing I must remember is that it will not last forever and I will need to fight through it, which I can now say I am strong enough to do just that.

And today, I’m a middle school teacher who has been an educator for 18 years.

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