The Brain on Mania…

My Parents and siblings had moved to another State so my father could attend Seminary and I moved in with the grandparents. My grandparents were wonderful people and I wish my living with them had been better but my bipolar train had already jumped the tracks and was hurtling through space on course to collide with something and it eventually did.

I have mixed or manic episodes and therefore no one really assumes that something is wrong just that I am either rebelling or obnoxious, (or if you are my mother, God just answered another prayer and that sullen, oldest daughter just came out of her shell). I imagine that to the rest of the world me during an episode is a little bit like watching one of Jim Henson’s Muppets on speed and acid, going, going, going and never stopping. To add insult to injury, what is going on in my mind is 1000 times worse. Little hamster on its wheel spinning endlessly churning out a non-stop procession of thoughts, which eventually becomes a verbal onslaught that annoys everyone around.

At the beginning of an episode, it seems as if everything is all lined up in a big bundle of perfection. You feel euphoric, cognitively everything just clicks and you feel like you just fell through a portal that made you a genius. Your creativity peaks, and you are popping out masterpieces like they’re candy in a Pez dispenser. That pesky twenty pounds you’ve been struggling to lose…GONE! You didn’t even have to do anything. Your productivity is up, you are getting more accomplished in a twenty-four hour span than most people achieve in a week. Life is glorious and you are the shit!

Synapses in the brain are mis-firing though and that perfectness is about to implode. The body can only handle lack of sleep and proper nourishment for so long before it starts trying to override the brain. This next stage is known as “tired but wired,” and I hate this stage. You are physically exhausted but you can’t turn your mind off, you can’t even slow it down. You can’t stop. Your motor skills get a bit wonky. I dropped things constantly and lets just say dropping a piping hot cup of coffee in a State Troopers lap is not advisable.

Cognitive functions also diminish but hey at this point you are experiencing delusions so you are only aware of people telling you that you jumbled that last sentence beyond recognition and getting extremely irritated with them; you are a friggin’ genius after all. You are still losing weight and nothing in your closet fits, which prompts a shopping spree. At this point in the game I am usually so ticked off with people telling me to slow down and annunciate that I start communicating using music; from chorus lyrics or song titles in response to questions to humming a tune to evoke a mood. I have even been known to assign people their own personal soundtracks all compliments of BPXM (bipolar satellite radio).

Physically your body just can’t keep up with the spinning hamster wheel in your head and you crash…literally and you are no longer the shit. Nope, now you just feel like shit. If you are lucky, you actually get some much needed sleep that makes your friends and family wonder if you are in a coma but the fun doesn’t stop there because you eventually wake up. Delusions are gone and sometimes friends are too.

You are left with the aftermath. Half your friends are mad at you, the other half were picked up along this crazy bipolar ride and you can’t recall who they are and you realize you don’t want to. No worries, once they realize you’re lucid again they will move on. It might take some heartfelt apologies and time for the friends that left. They left for a reason, either something you said or did to them and if you are lucky they will come back and tell you what the offence was.

That shopping spree…well…you are now the proud owner of 30 copies of the same book and you are only vaguely aware of why you bought them. Your favorite pair of jeans? Gone! You now have cute little sequined mini-skirts in a rainbow array of colors, snazzy little tops and high heels. A serious hit to your bank account which isn’t going to get better soon because you need to replace those minis with jeans, practical tops and sensible shoes. In short, that speeding, derailed train finally crashed and you have one heck of a mess to clean up.

Until you get diagnosed you spend a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out this special kind of crazy that happens periodically in your life. I was so ashamed by these anomalies that I would go through periods of radical self-improvement and blaming my parents, or whoever was in my life that I associated being “just like” my parents. They were either/or scenarios. It was either completely my fault or completely theirs.


Photo: Blue, Pushkar, India. Nikon DSLR 5300 by Pamela

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