Here’s What It Feels Like To Experience Bipolar Mania, Because It Isn’t Just ‘High Energy’

I am normally not an outgoing person. My social anxiety is off the charts, I think small talk is the worst, and I’m nervous whenever I’m put in a situation I don’t have full control over. Yet there I was, talking to strangers, making jokes at all the right moments, talking fast and exerting energy I didn’t know I had.

I felt on top of the world, with an elevated sense of confidence. I ate up attention like it was the only thing keeping me alive. I was all about myself, convinced I was the best thing ever, impulsive in all of my choices throughout the day.

In photos, my smile almost splits my face, and there’s a certain look in my eye — I’m crazed and overstimulated. Everything was moving so fast, and I was trying my hardest to keep up while simultaneously trying to avoid the inevitable crash and burn until I was back at the hotel.

By the end of the day, I was running on fumes. I was tired. I was cycling at the worst possible time, when I would have to face yet another group of people I didn’t know. The world stopped moving rapidly, and as it slowed its spinning, I started to slow down as well. When Siri came back to the hotel room, she found me sitting in the bath tub, having completely forgotten to plug the drain, letting the hot water pour down on my feet and not even questioning why the water never rose higher than my ankles. I slogged through the parties with minor shmoozing, and when it came time to take my medication, I passed out almost immediately.

The next day, I awoke feeling sane. I pressed Siri for details about the day before — for whatever reason, I could only vaguely remember the fast talking, the hyperawareness of stimulants, the calls for attention. It felt like a dream, something I could only imagine in my sleep — not something I could experience in real life.

Mania is wonderful, crazy, and, at times, terrifying.

The mania ate away at my sense of self, leaving only the very best and very impulsive parts of me – a dangerous combination when you are convinced you can do anything you want to at that very moment in time.

I spoke to my psychiatrist about the situation, and she upped my meds. It always feels like a step backward — the medication should be helping, yet there I go again, needing to up my medication for the third time in six months.

But the fact of the matter is that bipolar is a constant roller coaster ride, a constant adjustment of meds, a constant cycle, a constant in my life. My mood swings do not indicate failure — they indicate that my brain needs a little extra help, because I’m only human. I don’t believe in the term “normal” — everybody has their own definition for it. Bipolar is my normal. And even though mania can be fun and bring out an idealized version of myself, there’s nothing better than feeling sane.

To end this, I’ll quote Carrie Fisher again, for she always seems to say it best:

“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m surviving it, but bring it on.”

Well put, Carrie. Well put. 

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